The new liberal government took office on November 4, and they are already looking at ways to improve Canada’s Research & Development (R&D) opportunities. The first signs of change come with the introduction of two separate science-focused ministerial appointments, along with the release of a long awaited report on Canada’s international performance in R&D sectors.
Kristy Duncan is the new Minister of Science, succeeding Ed Holder who was the Minister of State (Science and Technology) under Stephen Harper. She served on a Nobel-Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and is a former associate professor of Health Studies at the University of Toronto.
Navdeep Bains is the new Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development, succeeding James Moore who was the Minister of Industry under Stephen Harper. Bains comes from a business background. He was a distinguished visiting professor at the Ted Rogers School of Business at Ryerson University.
“In contrast to the Stephen Harper government’s commercially oriented take on the role of research,” says one profile by The Globe and Mail, “the members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet are being told to bring ‘scientific considerations’ into all aspects of their decision making.”
Ms. Duncan goes on to explain how the two roles will be differentiated.
“‘His area is really innovation and driving the economy,’ she explains during her first sit-down interview as minister. ‘Mine will be support for research and ensuring evidence-based decision-making.’”
One of the first moves the cabinet has made is to release a report from the Science, Technology, and Innovation Council. The council is an independent advisory body formed under Stephen Harper’s government to provide “confidential advice on science, technology, and innovative policy issues.” The 2014 report was originally slated to be released last spring, but was delayed until after the election. The report says more needs to be done to support R&D in Canada.
“Despite efforts to improve Canada’s lagging business innovation performance,” the report says, “it has continued to deteriorate. Canada has fallen further behind comparator countries on key business innovation performance indicators, and the gap between Canada and the world’s top five performers has widened.” The report also notes that Canada relies more on indirect government support (namely SR&ED) than other countries for R&D.
The SR&ED program will continue to evolve as the new government investigates Canadian R&D practices further. With each new cabinet, there is sure to be new perspectives for how best to support innovative Canadian companies.
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