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Science in Budget 2010

What does science get from the 2010 budget, after funding cuts of $147 million in 2009?

First, a promise about creating The Economy of Tomorrow [p.55]:

In designing Canada’s Economic Action Plan, the Government incorporated measures to help create the economy of tomorrow. In 2010–11, the Action Plan will invest almost $1.9 billion in post-secondary education, infrastructure, research, technology innovation, and environmental protection. This builds on 2009–10 investments of over $2.1 billion to support these strategic investments.
In 2010–11, the Government will provide $1 billion to support deferred maintenance, repair and construction at Canada’s colleges and universities. This investment will help keep Canadian research and educational facilities at the forefront of scientific advancement and will help to ensure that high-paid jobs are maintained and created in Canada.

New shiny labs, jolly good. Operational funding would be even better.

Funding to create the economy of tomorrow will also extend access to broadband Internet in remote communities, develop carbon capture  and storage technology, and fund other strategic investments in science, technology and research.

That’s a bit vague. CCS gets a mention: a technology investment that promises to mitigate the tar sands. Never mind if it doesn’t work.

The Canadian High Arctic Research Station gets a push:

Canada’s Economic Action Plan laid the groundwork for delivering on the Government’s commitment to build a world-class Canadian High Arctic Research Station by providing $2 million over two years for a feasibility study for the proposed facility. Budget 2010 is taking a further step by providing $18 million over five years to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to commence the pre-construction design phase for the station.

So that’s still more infrastructure funding, and it is still some time away from even being constructed.

“Arctic research infrastructure” overall has $35 million committed under the 2009-2010 economic action plan, and $52 million committed for 2010-2011 [p.247].

There’s “$126 million over five years to strengthen the world-leading research” at TRIUMF, which is something for the operational funding side. And for more like that: the research councils NSERC, CIHR and SSHRC get an additional $32 million per year [p.79]. It breaks down as follows:

  • $16 million per year to the CIHR to support outstanding health related research and development.
  • $13 million per year to NSERC, including $8 million per year to strengthen its support for advanced research, and $5 million per year to foster closer research collaborations between academic institutions and the private sector through NSERC’s Strategy for Partnerships and Innovation.
  • $3 million per year to SSHRC to support world-leading research in the social sciences and humanities.
  • $8 million per year to the Indirect Cost of Research Program. This enhanced funding will help institutions support the additional research activities enabled by the new resources provided to the federal granting councils through Budget 2010.

Small dollar amounts compared to what is going in to infrastructure, and this after last year’s budget cuts.

Genome Canada gets a mention, after being omitted from the previous budget; they get an additional $75 million in 2009-2010 “to launch a new targeted research competition focused on forestry and the environment and sustain funding for the regional genomics innovation centres.”

The Economic Action Plan directed funds toward “Clean Energy and the Environment” [p.245]. And by funds, I mean a staggering $1 billion for the Clean Energy Fund, which includes “$150 million for clean energy research and $850 million for clean energy demonstration projects.” These include the following:

  • $120 million for a Shell Quest CCS demonstration project
  • $315.8 million for the TransAlta Keephills Project to attach CCS to a coal-fired power plant near Edmonton
  • $30 million for the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line project.

I remain to be persuaded that these are good investments. A better investment was made through the ecoENERGY Retrofit-Homes program, which disbursed $205 million under the Clean Energy Fund to finance 120,000 retrofits for Canadian homeowners.

Notable omission from the budget: The Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS). Their funding ends in 2011 and research projects are already being dismantled.

There’s a good argument to be made that with this budget, the government is trying to pick winners, rather than the hands off approach of letting the research councils direct funds. The emphasis on funding practical research with profit potential rings alarm bells; the UK is heading down a similar path, and the scientific community rightly has concerns.

3 Responses to “Science in Budget 2010”

  1. Kate says:

    It’s great that Arctic research gets more funding. I recently attended a presentation of the Circumpolar Flaw Lead Study by Dr David Barber….truly amazing stuff that they’re working on, but the amount of helicopter rides to get up there eats up a lot of government money.

    As expected, no mention of mitigation or adaptation, except CCS research! Now he’s really sounding like Danielle Smith, the leader of the AB Wild Rose Party……On Rick Mercer she remarked that the science of gravity is settled while the science of climate change is not. That one really made me laugh.

  2. CAM says:

    More precisely Arctic infrastructure gets more funding, but one hopes that will lead to funding actual researchers. In the meantime CFCAS desperately needs renewing or replacing, and there’s no sign of that happening.
    CCS gets a heck of a lot of cash, doesn’t it? Can’t help but think it could have been better spent elsewhere.

  3. Gerry says:

    The quality of discourse is only exceeded by the stunts used by both sides to draw attention to themselves. Today, the British are pushing a meeting of Olympic athletes in Toronto to discuss climate change! Yeah, that should be science based — not.
    Of course, the British High Commission in Ottawa is the same bunch that hired a cancer fund raiser to replace its media outreach on climate change. Media could only take so much exposure to gossip and social news before tuning out completely.