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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 1997

Research & Development - The Parties Respond

Research and development (R&D) efforts are important components of continued economic growth adn competitiveness, as well as social and cultural development. Universities play a significant role not only in performing research, but also in providing the specialized education needed to train the next generation of researchers. The federal government has supported university research for many decades through the three federal research granting councils (Medical Research Council, National Science and Engineering Research Council, and Social Science and Humanities Research Council). Since 1990, the funding for research through these councils has diminished significantly, while most of Canada's trading partners have increased their investments.


  1. Will your party commit itself to the restoration of funds for MRC, NSERC and SSHRC to 1990 levels during the mandate of the next government? If not, does your party have any other plans to increase the direct funding for university researchers and graduate students in the short or the long term?
  2. Would your party support a target of a percentage of GDP devoted to R & D efforts? If so, at what level, on what basis and in what time?
  3. The federal government has in the past created chairs in universities in areas of national interest (i.e. environmental studies), usually through a system of matching grants. Would you continue this tradition and if so, in what areas?
  4. There are currently federally funded chairs of Women’s Studies in five provinces. Would you consider funding chairs in the other five provinces?


The federal government plays a significant role in the direct funding of university research through its granting councils. In recent years, however, it has became apparent that the research facilities at our universities, colleges and hospitals — have not kept pace with what world-class innovation and education demands. Much of our current research infrastructure is unable to keep pace with the demands of world-class research and higher education, and require new investment. For this reason, the Liberal government announced the establishment of the $800 million Canada Foundation for Innovation in its 1997 budget.

The focus of the Foundation will be to support research infrastructure in the areas of health, the environment, science and engineering. It will be set up outside of government and will operate as an independent corporation at arm’s length from government. Through partnerships for individual projects, be it with research institutions themselves, with the private sector, or with the provinces, the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s resources are expected to lead to up to $2 billion in needed investment. This fund will help provide our universities, colleges and research hospitals with the laboratories and equipment they need to complement their own efforts at innovation. This in turn will encourage more young researchers to pursue their careers in Canada, and enable our institutions of higher learning to produce more graduates with an advanced understanding of the most recent developments in science and technology.

New Democrats

1. Canada's NDP would reverse this year’s $550 million cut in federal support for community colleges and universities, and increase capital and research funding to restore and renew our post-secondary institutions and research agencies. Beyond restoring the ability of the MRC, NSERC, and SSHRCC to carry out their roles effectively, we support technology transfer programs at post-secondary research institutions, programs which will promote economic benefit from Canadian research activities and improve employment opportunities for young graduates.

2. While we are not proposing a target for R&D spending as a proportion of GDP, Canada’s NDP would make it priority to improve Canada’s performance, both in the public and private sectors. With business spending on R&D in Canada at only one third the American level, Canada’s NDP thinks that mechanisms must be found to encourage more responsible private sector behaviour.

3. Canada's NDP endorses the future creation of chairs in areas of studies of national interest.

4. Yes.

Progressive Conservatives

The transition to an information economy and the need for specialized skills are transforming the workforce of tomorrow. The new jobs of the future will almost all demand training beyond secondary school and require us to build a culture of life-long learning.

A Jean Charest government will reinvigorating the federal "Centers of Excellence" program by working with government, private sector and academic experts to develop new partnerships for high-level teaching, research and development, investing an additional $25 million in this vital program.

Reform Party

1. A Reform government would increase federal- provincial transfers for post-secondary education and health care by $4 billion per annum. If provincial government chose to devote some of this extra funding to new research funding programs, or to redirect some of this funding to MRC, NSERC or SSHRC, this would be entirely satisfactory to us.

2. A modern economy can remain competitive only if a substantial proportion of its efforts are devoted to R&D. Government should develop tax rules that encourage private-sector spending on R&D. Setting a percent-of-GDP target may be a useful guide to the form and level of the appropriate tax expenditures.

3&4. Our preferred approach would be for provincial governments to make the decision as to whether to use a portion of the $4 billion annual increase in post-secondary education and health care transfers proposed by Reform to create such chairs.