Editorial – 18-18

By Mark Henderson, Managing Editor

Just what was the federal government thinking when it proposed cutting the budgets of the granting councils and other science-based agencies? Last week’s lead article in RE$EARCH MONEY generated a groundswell of concern that the Liberal government is faltering in its commitment to innovation and its investment in basic science.

Although the cuts have so far been minor and the majority of budget reductions are still proposed, the senior ranks of industry and academia are uniting in their opposition to any fiscal tinkering with Canada’s basic science funding. The perception of wavering government resolve could wreak far more damage than the impact of chopping dollars from budgets.

There’s a growing consensus that Canada is entering a golden age of knowledge. Outside our borders, the image of Canada as a nation that values knowledge, research and science is growing. The economy is strong, there’s surplus tax revenue to invest and our universities are increasingly successful in attracting the world’s best and brightest.

The decision in the mid 1990s to re-invest in basic science was a wise one and has already reaped considerable dividends. To veer off that path at this critical juncture is nothing short of ill-informed and could have long-lasting negative consequences.

The current emphasis on commercialization is necessary for government to realize a return on its investment on behalf of all Canadians. But not at the expense of basic science. When it comes to expenditure review, give science and research a pass and continue to expand the base.