Despite Public Support For More Funding, Spending On Federal Science Is Lower Today Than Under The Harper Government
As the federal Finance Committee prepares for cross-country public hearings on next year’s Budget, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) has released a fact sheet showing 72 percent of Canadians agree that “in the next federal budget, funding for federal government science programs should be restored to what it was in 2011.” The finding, by Environics Research, is significant since overall funding for federal government science is in fact lower today than it was under the Harper government, in particular for research and development (R&D).
72 percent of Canadians agree that in the next federal budget, funding for federal government science programs should be restored to what it was in 2011
While Statistics Canada figures show that overall funding of government science has increased from $10.4 billion in 2015/16 to $11.3 billion in 2018/19, actual spending is projected to be $112 million lower in 2018/19 than in 2014/15.
Worse, spending on R&D by government scientists has declined by $891 million, compared to 2010/11 under the Harper government. While some science funding has shifted to the private sector to encourage innovation, R&D by federal scientists has declined steeply.
“The strength of Canada’s R&D network depends on a robust federal government presence,” says PIPSC President Debi Daviau. “We cannot rely increasingly on the private sector alone to provide needed innovations. Often the very innovations we most need – for example, better weather forecasting, more resilient crops, improved pollution monitoring – result from R&D in areas of direct federal government responsibility, which is why we’re calling for more funding in next year’s budget.”
The StatsCan numbers reinforce the findings of a 2017 survey of federal scientists, which discovered that well over half (58%) believe their departments do not have sufficient resources to fulfill their mandates. The problem is particularly pronounced in the Canadian Space Agency (79%), Natural Resources Canada (64%), and even Environment and Climate Change Canada, where 60 percent do not feel their department has sufficient resources.
The public opinion survey by Environics Research, commissioned by PIPSC, was conducted by telephone among 1,000 Canadians between July 3 and 8, 2018. The results can be considered accurate +/– 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Invitations to participate in the online survey of federal scientists, also hosted by Environics Research, were sent to 16,377 scientists, engineers and researchers in over 40 federal departments and agencies. Of these 3,025 (18.5%) responded between May 29 and June 27, 2017. The survey is considered accurate +/– 1.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
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