Thursday, December 2, 2010

Harper Government: No Money For Scientific Research ...

... but plenty to spend for perks and political consultants (emphasis added):

Conservative ministers kept the spending taps open for themselves while telling Canadians to tighten their belts, Liberals charged Wednesday.

"At a time of recession, when we're faced with a historic $56 billion deficit and a government eliminating or reducing important programs and services, our prime minister and his ministers have increased their own spending by 16.5%," Liberal treasury board critic Siobhan Coady said.

Office spending for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his ministers jumped from $58,111,003 in 2007-2008 to $67,677,927 in 2009-2010.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson's spending climbed from $1,848,493 in 2007 to $2,188,802 in 2009. Spending in the minister of tourism's office went from $602,869 to $740,890 in two years.

Chief government whip Gordon O¹Connor increased his small office's spending from $56,939 to $190,240.

Jay Denney, spokesman for Treasury Board President Stockwell Day, said the feds have cut ministers' office budgets by$11.4 million so far this year.

But Coady said Harper had set a bad example by quadrupling his own spending on consultants and contractors. Harper's office expenses ballooned to $9,894,370 in 2009 compared to $7,582,690 in 2007.
Then, the Harper government also wasted another $100 millions (emphasis added):
The Conservative government is defending spending $100 million on polling over the past five years by saying at least they're spending less than the other guys did.

Documents tabled in the House of Commons in response to an official question show the feds forked over $99,924,234 to ask Canadians their thoughts on everything from fish to museums to what should be in the budget. The staggering figure doesn’t include Statistics Canada's polling as part of its regular statistical duties. However, the department did spend $258,762 on public opinion polling.

The polling was conducted between January 1, 2006, and September 22, 2010.
In the meantime (emphasis added):
Federal budget cut money for research councils, made no new investment in key areas

Without more investment in science and technology, "Canada's future will start looking perilously like Russia's present — a country that has vast resources but outmoded technology," warns a Canadian Medical Association Journal editorial on the 2009 federal budget.

Canada's medical research community needs to speak up in protest because the country risks a repeat of the brain drain of doctors and scientists that occurred in the mid 1990s, says the editorial posted in Thursday's online edition of the journal.

In the Jan. 27 budget, Canada's three research councils collectively had their budgets cut by $147.9 million, or five per cent, the editorial said. Neither Genome Canada nor the Canada Research Chair program, which allows universities and research institutes to attract top scientists from around the world, received any new money.

"As a consequence, we fear that our patient, Canada's economy, will remain on life support," the editorial writers said.

In contrast, the U.S. government is pledging $11.9 billion–$13 billion US for scientific research, and the United Kingdom is continuing its investment of 1.7 billion pounds ($3.1 billion Cdn) for applied health research in 2009/2010, although both countries have been hit hard by the economic crisis.

"In saying yes to deficits and stimulus, yet being lukewarm to science, the unmistakable message from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is that science is unimportant in Canada's economy," the editorial says.
And that is not counting this, that, this, that, this and that.

But don't just take the word of this scientist (emphasis added):
Criticism has come not only from expected corners such as CAUT (Canadian Association of University Teachers), but also from university faculties and researchers across the country, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and the French Canadian Association for the Advancement of Science.

They warn Ottawa's stand on research will make it tough for Canada to recruit or retain top talent; that the Conservatives are investing in bricks over brain power; that they nurture commercial ventures but neglect basic research; and that funding comes with strings attached. To some, this suggests a new era of political interference is afoot in Canadian science.

In a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, French Canadian Association president Pierre Noreau charged that the “stagnation” of research budgets “condemns us to paralysis, pushes universities towards disastrous budget cuts and threatens the future of research for the coming 30 years.”
Be also mindful of this:
PM urged to restore science funds
More than 2,000 scientists galvanized into 'Don't leave Canada behind' campaign

More than 2,000 researchers, including some of the country's most respected scientists, have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister calling the funding cuts in the January budget “huge steps backward for Canadian science.”

“When U.S. researchers are being actively approached for ideas to use the stimulus money to think big and to hire and retain their researchers, their Canadian counterparts are now scrambling to identify budget cuts for their labs, while worrying about the future of their graduating students,” the letter says.
As well as this (via here; emphasis added):
Canada is falling behind other countries in its level of university participation and postsecondary investment (...) many nations have surpassed Canada’s level of university participation. Canada ranks 24th of 25 countries – ahead only of Japan – in PhD graduates per million population, according to OECD data.
Also that (via here; emphasis added):
The Conference Board of Canada has tabled a blunt assessment of Canada's place in the world. In a new report, it argues Canada is falling behind its industrialized peers when it comes to innovation and its "mediocre performance" in six key areas is a recipe for future problems.

The Conference Board's report -- entitled "How Canada Performs: A Report Card on Canada" -- graded Canada's performance against 16 other industrialized nations in categories such as the economy, the environment, education, health, society and innovation.

While Canada performed well in four of the categories with grades of "B" or better, the Conference Board gave it a "D" in both innovation and the environment.

And relative to other countries, Canada placed in the bottom half in a majority of the categories. When it comes to the economy, for example, Canada was listed 11th, and on the environment it placed a dismal 15th place.

The authors state Canada's performance in the innovation category is especially worrying because of its impact on the other categories.

"Our performance in innovation is stunningly poor," the authors write in the report.

"This poor showing is a serious weakness in Canada's overall performance and an alarming portent for the future."

(...) The authors note, European firms are deriving more than 25 per cent of their revenue from innovative products and services -- a significantly higher proportion than their Canadian counterparts.

The report states Canada isn't just competing against industrialized countries. The global economy means it can't take solace for long in being ahead of the developing world.

"China, India and Brazil, among others, are knocking on our door," said the report.

(...) The Conference Board's report did have some good news. Canada placed only behind Finland in the education category. But even here, the report states it could do better by producing more doctoral graduates, and more graduates with math, science, and engineering degrees.
And how about this (emphasis added):
Experts warn research lacks adequate funding and the government a coherent vision. While the U.S. invests heavily in science as an key part of its economic revival, Canada is spending less and putting scientists out of work.

(...) at a time the U.S. is hoping to make scientific research an integral part of its economic revival -- and investing heavily in it -- Canada is spending less and putting scientists out of work.

- This year (2009), the three granting councils that fund the bulk of research in universities -- the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research -- got no extra money from the government, amid a big-spending stimulus budget.

- Worse, under the guise of "strategic review," the three councils have been asked to cut about $148 million over three years from their budgets -- at a time comparative bodies in the U.S. are getting billions from President Barack Obama's massive stimulus package.

- The National Research Council, which shed more than 100 jobs, including scientists, in 2007, has to cut $27.6 million over three years under a government-ordered "streamlining." More jobs are under threat.

- Today, "well below 20 per cent of grant applications" for academic research can be funded, says Jim Turk, who represents 65,000 academics and other staff in more than 120 colleges and universities across the country as the executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.
Or that also (emphasis added):
(According to the STIC Report) Canadian companies do not invest as much as their key competitors around the world in research and development. In a world where talent is everything, other countries are improving their education results and their support for innovative activity more rapidly than Canada. Low literacy and numeracy skills limit the ability of a significant group of Canadians to innovate and benefit from innovation. Low levels of collaboration among companies and between companies and researchers in universities, colleges and government laboratories limits business potential.

While Canadian universities and researchers are conducting cutting-edge research, for the most part they lack international visibility and recognition. In addition, when Canadian companies work to commercialize such research, they often have difficulty accessing sufficient investment capital to develop and sustain innovative new products and services.

Seizing opportunities to strengthen Canada's innovation performance will help develop a stronger economy and enhance Canada's potential as a leader in science, technology and innovation. Specifically, the Report points to the following areas for collective action.

  • Focus science, technology and innovation in areas where Canada can leverage its strengths to achieve global leadership
  • Markedly enhance business research and development
  • Renew efforts to attract, better educate and cultivate highly skilled people
  • Encourage, recognize, and reward the science and business innovators of tomorrow
  • Aggressively pursue strategic international science, technology and innovation partnerships to advance Canadian interests
And in between (emphasis added):

Canada’s $4-billion infrastructure stimulus program was launched with a single focus in mind: jobs.

Now, after surveying those who actually received the federal cash, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page gives the program poor marks on that goal.

The survey reinvigorates an unresolved debate that has long pitted the free-market disciples of classic liberal economic thinking against the post-Great Depression view popularized by British economist John Maynard Keynes that government intervention and deficits in hard times work.

(...) Canada’s political parties all came to endorse the notion of stimulus spending when the program was launched in 2009, but the survey raises questions about whether the federal cash could have created more jobs.

The survey by Phoenix Strategic Perspectives was done in the midst of the 2010 construction season and was commissioned by the Parliamentary Budget Office.

It doesn’t score well on the employment side,” Mr. Page said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “You’re spending a lot of money and it’s not creating very much in terms of jobs.

The survey found the program was largely viewed as well run, but a summary report concludes only 33.3 per cent said the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund had a beneficial impact on unemployment. Its impact on unemployment was assessed as neutral by 43.3 per cent and negative by 20.6 per cent.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended the program in the House of Commons on Wednesday, pointing to the rise in overall job numbers in Canada since the worst part of the recession.

Unlike other advanced industrial economies, Canada's economy has recouped almost all of the jobs lost during the recession,” Mr. Harper said when asked about the PBO report by NDP Leader Jack Layton. “In fact, there are 430,000 more people working today than a year and a half ago. ... I think this is a record to be proud of.”

And what did I predict regarding the infusion of "infrastructure stimulus for science research" (just talking about this specific item, here) - aah, yes:
For indeed the blame lies squarely and entirely on the government and, specifically here, on Harper and his Harpies.

They'd rather dish out billions to our banks who did not really need bailouts here in Canada.

They'd rather spend billions in keeping our troops in Afghanistan for absolutely nothing.

But because they are anti-science ignoramuses, they won't inject a mere 10, 25 or 50 millions in the federal funding agencies as they keep putting scientific research way down on the priority list - if not actually considering scientific research as a non-priority.

And now that we are in deficit, it is especially in science research funding (i.e. operating grants) that they will further slash into.

And in case you don't care about any of this, let me remind you of the following:
Without basic research, there can be no new ideas, findings, discoveries to fuel applied sciences - whether technological or medical.

Also, investing in infrastructure alone does not help scientific research - because you spend more on reagents and salaries (students, research personnel) when scientific research is being done. No money for these means no research done. You end up with shiny new/renovated research buildings with no one to work there - not even scientists.

Because typically, if you are a scientist at a university (and thus a professor), no research grants means no graduate students (professor-scientists have an obligation to train grad students - it is part of their job description) and, in short order, likewise means that said scientist-professor is fired.

No basic research therefore means, in the end, a massive loss of working highly skilled folks, a lack of formation of the next generations of highly skilled folks, a loss of novel ideas/findings/discoveries to fuel applied sciences, and therefore a stagnation - if not degeneration - of Canada's position among other industrialized nations with regards to advanced scientific developments.

It is indeed as simple as 1+1=2 or, rather in the present case, 1-1=0.
Incidentally, six collegues in my Faculty were fired just last year - care to guess why?

So in other words:
What are brand, shiny new science centers good for without scientists being paid, research personnel being paid, and no expendables (biological tools, chemicals, etc.) being bought to actually do research because ... there is a growing attrition of science research funding?

Whether it is about climate change, biomedical sciences, physics, chemistry, astronomy, astrophysics, et al. - Harper and his Theocons are effectively killing scientific research in our country.
So - investing, instead of cutting, in actual science research funding in Canada in order to remain competitive as a country in this 21st century and ensure the training of tomorrow's highly trained technicians, research personnel, health care professionnals, physicians, engineers and scientists - not counting the implicit technological/biomedical innovations procured through the advancement of scientific knowledge at large?

Forget about it.

Let's instead spend hundreds of millions on things that really matter ...

... to our Prime Douchebag and his Harpies, that is.

I thank you not.

And why don't you go fuck yourselves big time, while you're at it.


  1. Brilliant post my friend and welcome back. You've been missed. I suspect this is the result of overt hostility to science and inquiry common to any theocracy.

    Harper's is a faith-based, not fact-based government. He made that clear in discussing his crime and punishment agenda at a caucus meeting. Harper told his MPs to ignore research showing a continuing, steady decline in crime and, instead, trust his contrary instinct. He'll be breaking resisters on the wheel next.

  2. As always, I agree 100% with you, MoS my friend.

    (and thanks for the compliment) ;-)

  3. there was an article on how Canada is becoming a security state. I thought of you because it's the type of thing you have been writing about for years. The harper government, it said, deliberately underfunds science among other things.

    Keep us dumb, keep us in the dark, keep us scared, pour everything into law and order, the military, and security.

  4. Exactly what I've been sayin' here in APOV indeed, 900ftJ, exactly what I've been sayin' here ...

    (what article was that, by the way? Is there an URL to it?)

  5. sorry this took so long. Hill Times article:

    let me know if you have problems linking to it. HT is funny sometimes


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