So we’re down to it – only one day left until the Canadian Federal Election, although many who are more organized than I am have already voted in the advance polls. As usual, our beloved national broadcaster has aggregated a lot of content on a dedicated set of webpages, so if you’re really interested in following this, that’s the best place to start that I know of.
Most of the rhetoric so far seems to have centred around the integrity of the existing Conservative government, and about broadly-painted statements about families, taxes, and jobs – no surprises there. Despite some assertions I’ve heard, science funding has been a complete non-issue. Concerns over funding for Geome Canada, for example, which were a big deal following being shut out of the 2009 budget, seem to have largely disappeared. Unsurprising really, in an environment where this election is more about the existing government positioning itself to transition from minority to majority rule, and the two second-runners (the Liberal and confusingly-named New Democratic parties) jockeying for that important “Official Opposition” designation, and maybe, just maybe, sneaking in to power.
Still, I’d thought I’d look at the major parties and see if there were any hints as to their positions on science funding, especially given all the recent activity around this topic on the other side of the Atlantic. This is what I found out… or, as you’ll see, for the most part, didn’t find out.
First off – we have lots of political parties in Canada. Some are reasonable, some less so. I can’t be bothered worrying about most of them, but if you’re interested, the official list is here. The major players, in no particular order, are these five:
1. Bloc Québécois. Their policy document makes only vague allusions to being supportive of research, in particular industrial research. No mention is made of science or basic research per se. Not surprising, really, since separation from Canada and self-rule is their major raison d’être.
2. Green Party. You can debate all you like about whether this is a party worth worrying about. Their platform‘s only references to science and research are in the budget portion, and involve proposals to cancel research by Atomic Energy Canada, and stop federally funded GMO research.
3. Conservative Party of Canada. The incumbents’ platform has the most detail – not surprisingly, since they were able to propose a detailed federal budget recently. There are rather modest budget allocations, of $44 million per year, going forward. The recent budget, which is now tabled pending the election, included lines for the government-funded research councils, Genome Canada, and some other initiatives – nothing earth-shattering, but at least something defined. All indications suggest that if elected, the budget will stand as previously presented.
4. Liberal Party. Until very recently, the major threat to the incumbents. Their platform, which you can find in summary here or in much greater detail here, essentially says nothing about science and research funding, but namechecks similar target areas to the Conservatives, including environmental concerns and neuroscience.
5. New Democratic Party. Don’t be fooled by the name, they’re socialists, and depending which poll you believe, may be ahead of the Liberals. A “costing document”, in essence a mini-budget-proposal, makes no mention of science or research at all. The expanded platform document uses the term “science-based” for monitoring of oil sands mining impact, and of medical “formularies”, mentions a “Green Bond Fund” for green research, “moving towards more publicly funded research and development” for medicines, and research into the Status of Women (their capitals, not mine). None of this is mentioned in the costing document, however.
So there you have it – vague in the extreme. Of course, science and research funding isn’t any kind of platform issue in this election, so we shouldn’t really be surprised by this lack of detail. And arguably, Canadians have many more important things to worry about at the moment. But at least I’ve established one thing for myself – looking for guidance on which way to vote based on science policy is pretty hopeless at the moment, at least in this country.
For more whimsy about the last time Canadians had to go to the polls, by all means read my previous post.