Canada is the nation that discovered insulin and plate tectonics. Canadians invented the Walkie-Talkie, the pager, the snowmobile, the Canadarm, and table hockey. We have contributed many great advances to the world of science. But it would appear that talks about Canada’s funding for scientists have been going on for quite some time now, and that over the past year people are beginning to take action.
“Our government is firing scientists,” said Victoria MP Murray Rankin over the phone, moments before Parliament began talking about the crisis in the Philippines. Rankin is taking issue with the firing of some scientists and the muzzling of others. In Parliament on Nov. 6, he said, “There is a pressing need for better integration of science in ocean management and use.” He referenced a recent report by the Canadian Council of Academics (CCA) that was put together for the CCORU [Canadian Consortium of Ocean Research Universities], and added, “Industry, governments, and universities must work together, to ensure a healthy ocean ecosystem for generations to come.”
“The CCORU universities do world-class research, including at the University of Victoria,” says Rankin. Canada has four universities in the world’s top 100 schools (University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, McGill, and McMaster). But Rankin says, “We’ve had a deficit in research in the private sector.”
The report Rankin mentioned while speaking in Parliament is called “Ocean Science in Canada: Meeting the Challenge, and Seizing the Opportunity”, and it takes a look at the current state in Canada’s ocean research, and to it’s future. Considering Canada’s proximity to three large ocean basins, and “Canada’s history of strength in ocean science,” as Kelly Loverock from the CCA says, the CCA felt it important to ask what the future of Canada’s ocean research will look like.
Loverock wrote in an email that the report “determined that with no single organization responsible for managing ocean research in Canada, scientists face challenges in co-ordinating activities and pooling ocean science resources.” Canada is highly ranked in both the output and impact of ocean science papers, but with a loss of direct funding since 2008 and an aging fleet of research vessels, the report concluded that this position is in risk.
Since the Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage strategy, put in by the Conservative Government in 2007, the science and technology community has lost funding from the government. As stated on the website for the strategy, “The private sector in Canada needs to do more of what it alone can do, which is to turn knowledge into the products, services, and production technologies that will improve our wealth, wellness, and well-being.” Then, in 2008, the Office of National Science Advisors was eliminated.
As Rankin says, “Science requires money.” Money that Harper is looking to the private sector to fill with the Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage strategy.
“While we face real challenges, I believe we can build a modern, balanced Canada and create good jobs without sacrificing our environment,” said Rankin. “The path to achieve that goal should be guided by the best science and research possible.