Canada’s Conservatives Make a Terrible Mistake

Science is reporting:

After 2 years of flogging the need to transform Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) into a toolbox for industry, the Conservative government announced today that the 97-year-old agency is “open for business” under its new philosophy.

‘If Canada is going to continue to compete internationally, we must do it through new ideas, new products, and opening new markets. In other words, through innovation,’ Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear told a press conference in Ottawa. ‘The NRC will now focus on the identified research needs of Canadian businesses. It will be customer pull.’

Ridiculous. Commercially viable research programs can and do attract private investment. There is no need for the public to fund such projects.

Unless, of course, the aim is not research but novel ways to funnel public money to the corporate donors that own your political party. Why should a business have to pay for their own for-profit product development, when they can milk the citizenry? The new policy is corruption, plain and simple. Canadians should be outraged.


7 thoughts on “Canada’s Conservatives Make a Terrible Mistake”

  1. No, not all Canadians are outraged. Canadians knew they were anti-science, anti-environment (insert expletive) before the last election, and they were voted in with a majority. The outrage will come from segments of Canadian society that the Conservatives don’t give a damn about.

  2. As a Canadian, I am utterly appalled at what our Conservative majority is doing to Canadian research. We will have a lot of cleaning up to do when they lose power.

  3. I don’t see them losing power anytime soon. the Liberal leader refuses to consider a strategic partnership with the NDP to oust the Conservatives. So we may have a minority “majority” for quite a while.

  4. Most of this is spot on, but just to be clear NO corporate donations are allowed to political parties on this side of the border. It’s still done due to lobbying and pro-market bias, but it’s less direct.

  5. Adrian is right. Conservatives (or what passes for them) have come to see the publicly funded scientific establishment as their enemy and the public seems to agree with them. Non-conservatives (can’t really call them ‘liberals’ since they tend to be very illiberal) see science as a subservient interest group (who else are they going to vote for?) and a convenient bloody shirt to wave. Neither end of the political spectrum actually understands or supports fundamental, curiosity-driven science, but politicians of all ilks want more control over the direction of publicly sponsored research. The same thing happened in Australia under both Coalition and Labor governments and is happening in the US. Once government starts telling scientists what research needs to be done, you might as well flush most of the results, no matter what your political philosophy or good intentions.

    The respect that the public held for science in the last half of the previous century has been smothered under the pall of agenda-driven, taxpayer-funded mega-science. And no wonder – who wouldn’t grow tired of paying for unending gloom-and-doom predictions (that never come true), sack-cloth abasement (‘scientists say people are destroying [fill in the blank]’), ever-shifting results (is caffeine good or bad for me this week?) and mounting evidence of widespread corruption (Retraction Watch anyone?). Science used to be considered the way to a better life for all: now it seems mostly about telling people what they can’t do and can’t have. As a result, the Canadian public seems to have moved to the middle of Abraham Lincoln’s aphorism about who you can fool and is tending toward the most skeptical state. I don’t suppose that it bad thing, but they should be equally skeptical of letting the Government open up its coffers to Industry.

    1. This is well said & actually on target. I often wonder if government can ever dispassionately fund science without the money becoming some sort of plum to dispense to cronies and have concluded that in the long term it can not. Scientific research has now largely become a captive of government and is used to reinforce the memes employed in government control.

      Government is not your friend – it is a coercive necessary evil and like any necessary evil, the less of it the better. There are better ways to fund basic research and leaving more money in the hands of a wider variety of people of all philosophies encourages more diverse philanthropy and other possibilities.

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