Thursday, February 25, 2010

... And That's Government-Run Health Care For Ya!



It all began some eight years ago ...


... when my mother was diagnosed with a cancer lesion in her left lung. After numerous tests (PET scans, bloodworks, biopsies), it looked at the time that there were no metastases. So, the whole of her left lung was removed - because the tumor was nonetheless already invasive and thus could not be simply excised from the lung. She ended up staying at the hospital for about two weeks after the surgery and then was sent home. From there, my mother would have to undergo further regular monitoring tests (again: PET scans, CEA blood levels, etc.) every six months.

A year later, two of her peripheral lung lymph nodes showed signs of having been invaded by a (very) few metastasing cells that had somehow avoided prior detection. Consequently, she swiftly underwent a regime of radiotherapy (targeted at her two problematic lymph nodes) coupled to a regime of chemotherapy - if only to make sure that any and all of these few metastasing cancer cells were wiped out once and for all. Of course, she ended up at the time losing all her hair, along with the additional digestive, skin sensitivity, fatigue and nausea problems that inevitably come with chemotherapy.

At least, she could immediately return home after each radio- and chemotherapy treatment.

To cheer her up, her silly elder son (i.e. moi) kept calling her Lieutenant Llia (you know - from ST: The Motion Picture. Hey - my parents happen to love ST as much as their kids, so what can I tell ya?).

Then came a complication from her radiotherapy - of all things. The skin where the rad beams had to pass through in order to attack the cancer cells in the two lymph nodes began to inflamme badly and "burn". At the same time, her lower esophagus began to swell from inflammation to the point of closing up almost completely. So my mother had to have a gastroenterologist "open up" her esophagus again with some contraption, along with a prescription of anti-inflammatory meds. Her radiologist also prescribed her an anti-inflammatory/healing cream for her skin burns.

But in the end, the combined radio- and chemotherapy did their work and she managed to come through it well enough, all things considered. Including the return of her hair.

Of course, she would still have to undergo regular monitoring tests (yet again: PET scans, CEA blood levels, etc.) every six months.

And so it went, without any further problems or complications.

Until three years ago.

That's when my mother caught a bad case of pneumonia in her (remaining) right lung, consequently hampering seriously her lung's ability to take in oxygen. She had to be hospitalized for some three weeks under critical care, being pumped up with antibiotics while having to lie under an oxygen tent (for about a week) and thereafter having to breathe under a ventilation mask (for the other two weeks).

Unfortunately, she ended up contracting C. difficile during her hospital stay, which meant more antibiotics - not counting the pain and diarrhea.

But again, she pulled through and all ended well, nevertheless.

Until two years ago, that is, when blood began appearing in her urine, along with recurring pain in her bladder area. As it turned out, my mother happened to be one of the very rare cases where lung cancer occurs at the same time with bladder cancer - so, the "good news" was that this tumor did not result from metastases of her former lung tumor. Unfortunately, bladder cancer is very difficult to be spotted by PET scans, because the bladder always lights up brightly under this diagnostic procedure (you see, the non-metabolising, radiolabelled sugar analogue used for PET scans is taken up by cancer cells and not normal ones - hence, the bulk of what is ingested by a patient ends up quickly in the bladder ... this applies somewhat similarly as to why her past chemo did little to kill her bladder cancer cells). After further tests and biopsies, it was revealed that this bladder tumor was already big and invasive enough as to require the removal of the whole bladder. Just to make sure, all peripheral bladder lymph nodes were also removed, even if they did not lit up under PET scans. Also, this meant at the same time "rewiring" surgery in order to hook up her kidneys to a small piece of her own ileum, so that she would hook up urine collection bags to her side - in lieu of a bladder. She ended up staying about two weeks and a half at the hospital.

From there, she would have to continue her regular monitoring tests (yet again: PET scans, CEA blood levels, etc.) every six months, in addition to also seeing her urologist to monitor the well-being and well-functionning of her urine evacuation. Also, she would have from then on a specialized nurse available on call (to speak to or to come over) should any little problems occur with her urine collection bags.

And thus again, my mother pulled through it all and is now rather used to her small urine collection bags (for the day), as well as to the "big bag" she has to hook herself up with, for when she sleeps at night.

In between and through it all, my father had undergone his regular annual check-ups, including monitoring his prostate. Sure enough, the prostate reached a "minimum critical size" last year. After undergoing tests (PET scans, biopsies), he was diagnosed with prostate cancer - albeit at a very, very, very early stage. His oncologist discussed options with him: either have the prostate removed - which seemed like a too radical treatment considering how early the cancer was caught - or undergo a rather new procedure which involved inserting small radioactive beads into the prostate, leaving them there to do "their thing" for a year, at which point they would have completely disintegrated. In other words: harmless and painless. Oh - and with a 90+% success rate, at that.

So after a mere three months following the original "hmmm, it looks like your prostate has reached a minimum critical size, here" announcement, my father's prostate was inserted with them radioactive beads.

Of course, his mischievous, ingrate elder son (i.e. moi) spent the better part of the following year dispensing jibes and taunts such as "Hey, look! It's Radioactive Man to the rescue!", or "Let's shut the lights out and see Radioactive Man glow in the dark!" or "Here comes the Six Million Rads Man!" along with making the famous "bionic" sound whenever he would walk or move (disclosure: my father cheerily went along with that last one, purposely moving in slow-motion as in the tv series, especially when he would come at me for a pretend slap-up-the-head for my annoying naughtiness. You see, when I was a kid, him and I would never miss an episode of Steve Austin's exploits). In any case, my father will also have to undergo regular exams (PET scans, CEA levels, etc.) every six months to monitor the regression of his cancer - just like my mother.

Hence, in the end, everything ended rather well for both my mother and father, after all...

Not so fast. I forgot to mention that through every step of the way of their treatments and/or compications, there were undue delays because the treating physicians had to get approval from bureaucrats at the Régie de l'Assurance Maladie du Québec (our provincial government-run health care). But I suppose one gets used to this enough. However, just this past summer, my parents got a visit from one of these bureaucrats, one who was "in charge, in handling" their health care files. As it turned out, my mother had not only maxed out her "health care quota", she had in fact overshot it due to bureaucratic error. Nonetheless, either she had to get private insurance to reimburse the government (which was impossible, considering all of her "pre-existing conditions"), or she and my father had to pay out of their pockets (I won't tell you how much - let's say that the amount ended up in the mid six figures). But because this was a bureaucratic error, an alternative was offered: that my father, and/or me and/or my brother, "give up" some of our health care quotas in order to balance everything out. So all three of us did, and even more - because we had to make sure that my mother would continue to have her regular monitoring exams, while at the same time making sure she would get more care should she need it, and while making sure that my father did not end up short-changed for his possible, eventual needs. I was not there during the initial visit from that government bureaucrat, but my father told me that she even went as far as to mention that my parents, especially my mother, should begin to think about doing the "right thing" for our family and society in general, so as to help preserve health care quotas for everyone. It wasn't hard to understand what the "right thing" was. In any case, my brother and I ended up letting go of a sizeable portion of our respective health care quotas, for the well being of our parents - especially our mother. I guess I will have to have kids someday, so that they may do the same thing for me, eh? Well, that's our government-run, universal health care system for ya!

******************************

Everything described above truly happened to my parents - except, of course and obviously, for that very last paragraph.

And to make sure: no, never a single bureaucrat ever got involved in the medical decisions made by physicians regarding the treatments of my parents, and there certainly was never a "visit" from a government bureaucrat regarding non-existent "health care quotas" and other such nonesense.

And to drive the point home: all my parents ever had to pay out of their pockets were the rented, private hospital rooms. Medicines (or urine collection bags)? All either fully reimbursed or, at least, have sizeable portions reimbursed - by that very same government-run, universal health care system.

I concede that I should've written a post as this one a long while ago, especially when the health care debate was raging hot in the US last summer - a debate that inevitably spills on over to our country, because those idiots who seek to dismantle our universal health care system invariably jump eagerly into the fray in order to further muddy the debate and make it somehow a "valid one" in Canada as well. Furthermore, every once in a blue moon, some Canadian decides to go to the US for treatment - for whatever reasons, either personal or, rarely, actually valid medically - which in turn reignites the bogus debate about the efficiency and quality of our Canadian universal health care system ... which also in turn is giddily used as canon fodder by those on both sides of the border who wish fervently for no universal health care system.

This happened again recently.

Hence, the present post.

Also, because the "public option" has been essentially abandonned once and for all by President Barack Obama, and considering the sham that is the current so-called "health care summit" as well as the further scaling-back of whatever health care bill that is to be someday voted into law, I decided to illustrate what my parents have gone through medically over the past eight years in order to make plain and simple the following final points:

A) in a private health care system, my mother would have been denied coverage and/or dropped a long time ago - most probably during her pneumonia because having the one lung left constituted a "pre-existing condition" or somesuch, or even more likely following the diagnosis of her bladder cancer (here's a similar example here). Or, her rates would have been hiked insanely. Hell, anything goes in this regard where the insurance companies are concerned - so there.

B) it is a certainty that my father would have had to have his prostate surgically removed, as opposed to the radioactive beads treatment, because the former procedure is much simpler and cheaper than the latter. As it regularly happens in the US.

C) even in the unlikelyhood that my mother would not have been dropped already, chances are that whatever private insurance my parents would have purchased would've fallen far short of covering/paying everything (co-pays, maximum coverage, loopholes and whatnot, anyone?) - thus leaving them either drowning in debt, with my brother and I along with them, or outright bankrupt and forced into poverty. As it happens regularly in the US.

and D) every treatment, every exam, every everything, performed by physicians in the treatment of my parents would have had to get approval by private insurance bureaucrats - including disputing/denying of procedures for more cheaper ones, if not outright denial of treatment. As it happens every day in the US.

If that is not enough to close this bogus debate once and for all, then how about this:
Thanks to our universal health care system, my parents got state-of-the-art, high quality care whenever they needed, all the while continuing to live comfortably, and affluently, in their retirement years.
As a matter of fact, my parents went to Europe for 2 weeks last summer, as they try to do every two years (which they haven't been able to lately, considering my mother's complications of two and three years ago. The previous time they went over there was the following year after my mother's radio- and chemotherapy).

So just go back to point C) above to finally get the whole point.

And if you still don't want universal health care, then fine by me - because if you are that much stupid, then you just don't deserve it.

Period.

And good luck with your private health care insurance anyways, eh?


(Cross-posted at The Peace Tree and DKos)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Once Again: Don't Worry, Be Happy


Still busy as hell, but I just could not let this one pass (emphasis added):


Ottawa says housing bubble not a concern

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty appears to have no immediate plans to tighten Canadian mortgage rules despite the advice of senior bankers concerned about surging home prices.

Mr. Flaherty said he sees no evidence of a housing bubble in Canada.

Easy access to risky mortgages was at the heart of the global financial collapse. Some are calling on Canada to err on the side of caution in ensuring the economy is protected from an American-style wave of mortgage defaults by homeowners.

The Globe and Mail reported Saturday that the heads of the country's six largest banks privately told Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney in November that they fear a potential collapse in house prices and the ensuing potential for economic damage.

The banks reportedly want Ottawa to mandate tighter rules on mortgages so that buyers will need a larger down payment - as much as 10 per cent. They also want Ottawa to reduce the maximum amortization period of a mortgage to 30 years from 35.
There is just no evidence of a housing bubble in Canada.

Hmmm ... just what Flaherty's response reminds me of?

Aah, yes ...
1) Harper proclaimed to not accept the conclusions of a report issued Wednesday by Merrill Lynch Canada economists David Wolf and Carolyn Kwan, which warned that it's only a matter of time before the "tipping point" is reached and the housing and credit markets crack in Canada.

2) After the supremely hilarious "trust us" gag from John Baird, Harper himself absolutely kills with his follow up "get out of the way and let that money flow" guffaw-inducer. Harper's economic hilarious routine keeps on going.

3) Abott and Costello meet Harper and Flaherty.

4) Harper's tap dance around deficits.

5) Deficits: Flaherty joins his Mini Leader in the tap dance.

6) The fundamentals of our economy are strong ...

7) Harper disagrees with pessimistic report on Canadian housing market.

8) Harper on the economy: You don't say?!?
Better yet - allow me to reproduce the following from a past post:
Our Prime Poseur and his Harpies on the economic crisis:
Harper in April 2008: "Canada's economic fundamentals and the oversight of its financial system remain strong."

Harper in July 2008: "Canada's economic fundamentals remain strong."

Harper in Sept. 2008: "The only way there is going to be a recession is if (the Liberal Party of Canada is) elected."

Harper in Sept. 2008: "At the moment there are problems in the Canadian economy, but we aren't in a recession."

(Finance Minister) Jim Flaherty in Oct. 2008: "This country will not go into recession next year."

Harper in Nov. 2008: "There might be a technical recession at the end of this year or the beginning of next."

Flaherty in Nov. 2008: "We may well be in a technical recession."

Flaherty in Dec. 2008: "The economy is weakening significantly."

Flaherty in Dec. 2008: "The economic picture continues to worsen."

Harper's Jan. 2009 Throne speech: "Canadians face a difficult year — perhaps several difficult years."

Harper in Jan. 2009: "We're entering the recession later."

Harper in March 2009: "Canada was the last advanced country to fall into this recession (...) we will come out of this faster than anyone and stronger than ever."

Harper in March 2009:"We are in a global recession principally."

Harper in April 2009: "Today the world faces the greatest economic crisis of the postwar era."

Flaherty in May 2009: "We are going through a deeper economic slowdown than anticipated."

Harper in June 2009: "These are trying times for many Canadian families, those who have been affected, directly or indirectly, by the worst downturn in the world economy in half a century (...) The effects of the recession are beginning to ease."

(International Trade Minister) Stockwell Day in July 2009: "I'm not kidding. The recession is over."

Flaherty in August 2009: "No (the recession is not over)."

Harper in August 2009: "Canada is not yet out of this world recession."

Harper in Oct. 2009: "We’ve got (Federal Reserve) Chairman (Ben) Bernanke and others saying the recession is over but I think that’s only in a technical sense."
So - we went from "there won't be a recession" to "we have some economic problems" to "there's a recession in the technical sense" to "the worst recession in a half-century" to "several years of hardship" to "recession is beginning to ease" to "the recession is over in a technical sense".

It's all about technicalities, you see. And (of course) it's been worse than anticipated.

Now let's hear Harper and his Harpies on deficits:
Harper in Oct. 2008: "Our position in this election is we're not going to run deficits."

Harper in Oct. 2008: "If you don't want a carbon tax and tax increases and a deficit and recession, the only way to ensure that is the case is to vote for the Conservative party."

Flaherty in Oct. 2008: "We're sure not going to run a deficit ... We will maintain a surplus in Canada and we will continue to pay down debt."

Harper in Oct. 2008: "There’s nothing on the horizon - notwithstanding the storm clouds, and they are significant - (that) indicates to me that we should immediately go into deficit (...) I know economists will say we could run a small deficit, but the problem is that once you cross that line, as we see in the United States, nothing stops deficits from getting larger and larger and spiraling out of control."

Harper in Nov. 2008: "If we do short-term deficit spending as a deliberate policy we will have to be able to demonstrate to Canadians that those deficits will genuinely be short term."

Harper in Nov. 2008: "The government of Canada today is not planning a deficit. But if the government of Canada decides . . . that we do have to engage in fiscal stimulus, that government spending is essential not just to shore up economic activity but investment markets, that would be the occasion we would go into what would be called a cyclic or a short-term deficit."

Flaherty in Nov. 2008: "We're on track to run a small surplus. For next year it's more challenging (...) So that may mean that we will run a deficit next year."

Flaherty in Dec. 2008: "We will ensure that spending that puts us into deficit is temporary, is for finite purposes, so that we will not be into a permanent deficit."

In Dec. 2008, Harper said that Ottawa is looking at a deficit in the $20 billion to $30 billion range next year, suggesting that his government is preparing to introduce stimulus of between $15 billion and $25 billion.

In Dec. 2008, Flaherty said the 2009-2010 budget he presents Jan. 27 will show "how we’ll come out of deficit, so that it’ll be clear to Canadians that as the economy recovers the deficit will disappear and we’ll be in surplus again."

Harper in Jan. 2009: "There’s nothing unconservative about running deficits during a recession (...) but what we’ve got to be sure of as we enter a deficit [is] that those spending measures are short-term."

Flaherty in Jan. 2009: "Our government is making a deliberate choice to run a substantial short-term deficit (...) a temporary deficit cannot be avoided. As a result, our government projects a budget deficit of $34-billion for the next fiscal year; and $30-billion the year after that (...) There will be no long-running or permanent deficit (...) By 2011 we project the deficit will fall to $13-billion; by 2012 it will fall to $7.3-billion. By 2013 we project a return to surplus — for that year, a surplus of $700-million (...) We have chosen this course because it is necessary, and because we know it will be temporary."

Flaherty in May 2009: "We will run a substantial short-term deficit this year which I would estimate at more than $50 billion."

Flaherty in May 2009: "I expect we will have a larger deficit than anticipated in the federal budget . . . the deficit will be substantially more."

Harper in May 2009: "Our deficits will be large, but they will be temporary. In fact, in the short term, they will be as large as they have to be to help us weather this recession (...) But only if these deficits are temporary and our stimulus spending ends when the recession ends."

In Sept. 2009, Flaherty revealed Canada's budget shortfall will swell to a record $55.9 billion this year, but pledged that the Harper government will trim the deficit to a manageable size within the next five years (...) the finance minister pledged that the government will reduce the deficit to $5.2 billion by 2015.

In Sept. 2009, Flaherty said the severe economic recession means that, between now and 2014-15, Ottawa's budget shortfall will total more than $160 billion.

Harper in Oct. 2009: "I actually do think we are in a rare period, one that as an economist I didn't think we would see again in my lifetime, where deficits are not only necessary but actually advised."

Harper in Dec. 2009: "And within four to five years (...) we should be back to a balanced budget."
So - we went from "there won't be a deficit" to "we can't cross the line of deficits because they can't be stopped from growing" to "we will have a small deficit" to "deficits cannot be avoided" to "there will be deficits but only temporary, short-term" to "we will have substantially larger deficits" to "deficits will be as large as they need to be" to "it will take much longer to return to balanced budgets" to "deficit spending is actually necessary and advisable".

Recognize the pattern?

From denials to obfuscations to contradictory spins to backtracking/grudging acknowledgments to contradictory position updates to outright reversal of initial denials - only in order to return back to square one afterwards.

Rinse and repeat.

On fighting climate change? Same damn pattern.

On Afghan detainee abuses? Again the same damn pattern - over and over again.

Hell, even on the loss or misplacement of official documents! On everything and anything, for that matter.

That is hypocrisy all right - that is the behavior of outright incompetents.

Case closed.
Case closed and bis repetita indeed.

Wanna bet that there is a housing market bubble and that it will bust soon?

Harper and his Harpies - still making shit up as they go along.

Because they are utter incompetents.

And that's what incompetents do - deny, deny, deny reality ... until all Hell breaks loose and utter catastrophe looms just around the corner, if it has not already descended upon our sorry heads.

That's why.

Nothing new here.

That's what the 7th Principle of Incompetence is all about.

Wake the fuck up, fellow Canadians - eh?

It's Now Official: I'm A Victim Of Anti-Science Harper


(Updated below)

Those few folks among you who are regular readers of APOV know that I'm a professor and research scientist. Specifically, I'm a cellular biologist working on further understanding the intracellular signals which regulate cell survival and death in intestinal/colon epithelial cells. Furthermore, my research aims to better understand how the deregulation of such "life and death" signaling contributes to intestinal/colon tumorigenesis, as well as in chronic inflammatory bowel diseases (like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis).

Throughout my 12-plus years career as an independent scientist, I've been regularly funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

The CIHR holds two operating grant competitions per year: one in September (so funds awarded begin on April 1st of the following year) and one in March (funds then awarded begin on October 1st of the same year). Typically, funds awarded have a duration of three years, with having to apply for renewal about two years and a half into their duration, in order to meet either one of the aforementionned competition deadlines.

Back in the September 2005 competition, I applied for and was awarded another operating grant from the CIHR for the typical duration of three years. My application scored in the excellent range, I was ranked 11th in my peer review committee (Experimental Medicine) and twelve applications were approved by the CIHR within my committee that year. Incidentally, the funding began April 1st of 2006, a couple of weeks after Harper and his Harpies "took office" for the first time.

Jumping forward to 2008, when I had to apply for renewal of my operating grant in the September competition. My application scored in the excellent range again and this time was ranked 10th within the same peer review committee. Furthermore, the committee recommended that I be funded for 5 years! However, the CIHR approved only nine applications within said committee and therefore I was denied funding. Fortunately, the Institute to which I "belong" (the Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes Institute) "rescued" my application and gave me funding for one year nevertheless.

So, I had to apply again in the September competition of 2009. This time around, I scored (yet again) in the excellent range and ranked 9th within the very same peer review committee. Furthermore, the committee recommended that I be funded for 4 years! And guess what? The CIHR approved only eight applications within my committee. And because I was "rescued" last year, my Institute can't rescue me again this year.

This means that once my current funding ends on March 31 2010, I will have no research funding.

Despite being scored in the excellent range.

And no research funding means many things: a) I can't take in undergrad trainees or grad students (M.Sc., Ph.D.) because I have no money to pay their salaries; b) I stand to lose my research assistant for the same reason; c) I have no money to actually do research, since I can't pay for reagents, expendables and materials required to do, you know, experiments; and d) overall resulting in a sharp drop in research productivity (i.e. research articles published); which means e) increasing the likelyhood that any application of mine be turned down by any peer review committee because of ... a drop/lack of productivity.

That's why operating grants are critical for research.

Sure - I will once again reapply for the coming CIHR March competition (I am actually busy doing just that, hence why I hardly blog, aside from today's exception). But what else can I expect? Being scored again in the excellent range? Maybe end up being ranked 8th this time around? And for what? For the money-starving CIHR to award only seven applications within my committee and thus be denied funding yet again?

I hope that you see the obvious downward trend as much as I do.

All thanks to anti-science Harper and his Harpies.

I blogged often enough about it here at APOV - as well as many other progressive bloggers elsewhere.

I even recently predicted that things are likely to get even worse.

But what about other funding organizations, some of you may ask. Well, because of the current economic times, private funding agencies are even more cash-starved due to catastrophic drops in donations. Organizations like the Cancer Research Society (CRS), the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada (CCFC), and so many others, have already shipped letters last fall to research scientists in order to warn us that either they: a) expect to award very few grants in 2009-2010; or even worse, b) won't accept new grant applications in order to ensure they can keep funding as much as possible those grants already awarded in the previous years.

To this effect, I received one such a letter from the CCFC (also from other similar organizations) shortly after I'd send in my CCFC operating grant application last fall (the funding decision of which will be known in August of this year). Need I say that I do not expect a postive outcome?

Again - the economic times dictate what private funding organizations can and can't do with regard to research funding. They can't be blamed. No one can be blamed here.

But with regards to federal research funding agencies like the CIHR - well, it is not really their fault as well.

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.
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.
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
Meanwhile, all we get is the usual, hypocritical lip-service on the matter from Harper and his Harpies (emphasis added):
The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, and the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology), today received Canada's Science, Technology and Innovation System: State of the Nation 2008, the first public report by the Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC). The report charts Canada's progress and compares Canadian performance with that of the world's science, technology and innovation leaders.

"Our government places a high value on the advancement of science, technology, innovation and commercialization," said Minister Clement. "This report is important feedback on the Government of Canada's science and technology policy; it provides a valuable baseline to track our progress. I would like to thank the Council members for their hard work and for lending their expertise to Canada."

(...) "Since 2006, our government has been committed to investing in research and development in order to improve the quality of life of all Canadians and strengthen the economy for future generations," said Minister of State Goodyear. "Investing in science and technology is crucial to developing highly skilled people and improving the long-term competitiveness of Canadian firms."
Yeah. Right. Gotcha. Absolutely.

So once again: Welcome to Harper Land.

I hope you're at least enjoying it.

Because I sure don't.

And so it is with my research assistant as well.

And so it is as well for way too many Canadian scientists out there.

And so it will be for those eager, bright undergrad trainees and grad students I will have to turn away.

Unless, by a stroke of luck, I get funded again by the CIHR ... against all odds.

Still - it does say something about a country when excellent research now gets to be funded only through circumstantial happenstance, instead of being funded because it is considered excellent.

Indeed - this does say something about our country ...


Update 15/10/2010: well, better late than never, the saying goes ... my institute finally decided to "rescue" my Sept. 2009 application after all. So, I'm "good to go" again for a year. We'll see how the March 2010 will turn out somtimes in late July ...