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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2014

Political agenda mars UBC event

I attended an event at the University of British Columbia March 28 that was meant to be celebratory, but was hijacked into spreading a Conservative political agenda. The event was the announcement of UBC’s successes in the most recent competition for Canada Research Chairs. I was invited because of the renewal of my Tier 1 Canada Research Chair. The announcement was delivered by Kerry-Lynne Findlay, who serves as the Conservative government’s Minister of National Revenue, and who apparently flew from Ottawa to take part in the Vancouver campus event. I understand there were simultaneous announcements at other universities, also with government ministers specially flown in.

If the purpose was to celebrate the excellence of UBC researchers, I would have thought it appropriate to have named the eight professors appointed or renewed as Canada Research Chairs. But among the UBC contingent, only the two of us present at the event were named. That is insulting to the rest.

And the gathering clearly had a political agenda, at least in Minister Findlay’s eyes. She delivered an entirely inappropriate speech in which she praised the Harper government for supporting Canadian research and criticised the Liberals for their inability to understand how to balance a budget. I should have walked out at that point.

I consider it outrageous for Minister Findlay to praise the Harper government for its support of Canadian research when the federal government is spearheading the dismantling of so many resources that support research in this country.

But it’s even more outrageous to criticise the Liberal party. Minister Findlay forgets (or perhaps doesn’t know) that the Canada Research Chair initiative was the work of Paul Martin, before he became prime minister. He had the vision to create a scheme to attract the best researchers to Canada and to retain them: 2,000 chairs launched in the year 2000. It’s a disgrace the representative of the federal government could not see beyond an opportunity for political grandstanding.

Susanna Braund
Canada Research Chair
in Latin Poetry & Its Reception
University of British Columbia