Budget 2017 focuses on skills, talent and innovation

March 22, 2017

OTTAWA, March 22, 2017 — The Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences welcomes the government of Canada’s long-term plan to help position Canadians for a changing economy and society. Placing Canada’s skilled, talented and creative people at the heart of a more innovative economy will be key to retain and attract talent, develop new ideas and knowledge and keep Canada globally competitive and influential in the years to come.

Many of the details of the federal government’s plan for research and innovation remain unclear. There was no announcement in the Budget of new funding to the base budgets of the federal granting councils, nor to the Canada Foundation for Innovation. This follows substantial new investments made by the federal government last year in discovery research. Last year’s Budget provided an additional $95 million per year to the budgets of the research granting councils starting in 2016–17 — the highest amount of new annual funding for discovery research in more than a decade. 

Details on the government’s plans for university research will likely be included in the report and recommendations of the independent panel reviewing federal funding for fundamental science, chaired by David Naylor. Budget 2017 confirmed that this report will be made public shortly.

“We look forward to the report of this panel and to a discussion about the important role of university discovery research and knowledge infrastructure, across all disciplines,” said Stephen Toope, President of the Federation and Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. “Sustained long-term increases in federal funding for university research — including in the humanities and social sciences — will be essential to maintaining and enhancing Canada’s role on the world stage.”

A new program announced in the Budget will award 25 Canada 150 Research Chairs to attract top-tier international scholars and researchers to Canada over the next eight years. This program is encouraging as a recognition of the importance of research excellence. The $117.6 million set aside for the new chairs comes from a reallocation of existing resources in the Canada Excellence Research Chairs program.

“Solutions to many of the problems facing Canada today can be found in the classrooms, labs and collaborative spaces where humanities and social sciences faculty conduct research and teach,” said Toope. “Researchers in the social sciences and humanities are helping Canadians deal with a complex and deeply interconnected world.”

The Federation recognizes the federal government’s approach in Budget 2017 must, by necessity, be cautious, given world events and Canada’s economic and fiscal outlook. The Budget announced a number of government reviews, including an examination of its own business innovation programs, and the creation of six “economic strategy tables” to identify innovation opportunities in areas such as clean technology, digital industries and agri-food.

Underpinning the government’s approach to innovation in Budget 2017 is a recognition that Canada’s ability to thrive in a rapidly changing world will depend on our capacity to innovate, adapt, communicate, acquire new knowledge and continue to produce world-leading research.

University researchers in the humanities and social sciences are helping to build new creative industries; to preserve Canada’s cultural and linguistic heritage; to work with Indigenous communities on such issues as self-governance; and to identify ways to make Canada a more inclusive and welcoming country, the Federation notes. “We are encouraged by the federal Budget’s openness to continued progress in making Canada’s research capacity globally significant,” Toope added.

Budget 2017 takes important steps to help ensure that Canada’s future growth is inclusive. The Budget includes investments in Indigenous access and success, with a pledge by the government to undertake a comprehensive review, together with Indigenous partners, of all its current federal programming for Indigenous students seeking post-secondary education.

Announced today were increased funds to the Post-Secondary Student Support Program: $90 million over two years beginning in 2017-18. This increase will support an additional 4,600 students in those years. The Budget also pledges $5 million over five years starting in 2017-18 for Indspire, a charitable organization dedicated to supporting bursaries and scholarships for Indigenous post-secondary students. Funding to support the preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages is also included in the Budget.

“New funding to enhance access and success for Indigenous post-secondary students is a welcome step forward,” said Toope. “These funds can be expected to make a contribution to the process of reconciliation.”

The need for greater investment in work-integrated learning experiences for university students has been recognized in Budget 2017 in the expansion of opportunities for students to benefit from meaningful work-integrated learning and mobility experiences. Beginning in 2017-18, $221 million over five years has been allotted to Mitacs, which provides Canadian and global research opportunities and training, including in the humanities and social sciences.  

"The federal government’s emphasis on skills, talent and creative people is a vital step in making Canada more innovative and globally competitive,” Toope concluded.   


About the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
The Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences promotes research and teaching for the advancement of an inclusive, democratic and prosperous society. With a membership now comprising over 160 universities, colleges and scholarly associations, the Federation represents a diverse community of 91,000 researchers and graduate students across Canada. The Federation organizes Canada’s largest academic gathering, the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, bringing together more than 8,000 participants each year. For more information about the Federation, visit www.ideas-idees.ca.

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