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History of Innovation in the Federal Budget Part 1: 1995 – 2001

R&D and Innovation in the Federal Budget

Innovation in 1995 – 2001 federal budgets = research initiative focused.

Recently, we outlined the place of R&D and innovation in the 2012 federal budget proposals from Canada’s major political parties. With the upcoming federal budget announcement on March 29 by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, we’re taking a look back at R&D and innovation in past federal budgets since 1995.

The 1995 – 2001 period saw federal budgets that strongly supported greater research initiatives, skills development, and the role of the Internet in innovation, among other things.

1995 Federal Budget

Liberal Party

The Liberal Party’s 1995 federal budget aimed to concentrate on strategic actions that would foster “innovation, rapid commercialization and value-added production.” The Party pointed to the Medical Research Council as an example of a federally-supported body that formed a partnership within the academic science community in order to create successfully marketed products and support job creation.

Despite pushing for continued progress, the Party also recognized the influence of popular opinion:

Constant renewal is what this country is all about. Indeed, it is the essential ingredient of a dynamic federalism.

The inter-play between the federal government and the provinces has led to remarkable innovation and experimentation.

But, as we act to reform government and restore responsibility to our finances, there are those who would argue that this country, this federation, cannot change that Canada is about the status quo.

(Reference: February 27, 1995 Federal Budget Speech – The Honourable Paul Martin, P.C., M.P.)

1996 Federal Budget

Liberal Party

The Liberal Party’s 1996 federal budget called for increased investment in Canadian technology and innovation to the tune of a $270 million reallocation from budget savings. In addition, the budget outlined the creation, expansion of, and/or increased support of the following:

  • Technology Partnerships Canada (no longer in existence): Fund to grow from ~$150 million to ~$250 million to “encourage partnership and risk sharing with the private sector and to leverage investment in the development and commercialization of high technology products and processes.”
  • Business Development Bank: “New equity capital of $50 million will be injected into […] to increase its lending efforts in strategic growth sectors, such as new technology.”
  • SchoolNet Program: Every Canadian school and library to be connected to the Internet by 1998, including those in rural communities.
  • Information highway: “Ministers of Industry and Canadian Heritage will be introducing policies and reforms to facilitate greater reliance on the marketplace while respecting the commitment to affordable access and to a Canadian presence on the information highway.”

(Reference: 1996 Federal Budget in Brief – The Honourable Paul Martin, P.C., M.P.)

1997 Federal Budget

Liberal Party

Repeating the 1996 emphasis on investment in Canadian innovation, the Liberal Party announced the establishment of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI). The Party promised the CFI an $800 million contribution to support research infrastructure in the areas of health, the environment, as well as science and engineering. This contribution was to be utilized by universities, colleges and hospitals.

(Reference: 1997 Federal Budget Speech – The Honourable Paul Martin, P.C., M.P.)

1998 Federal Budget

Liberal Party

Much of the 1998 federal budget focused on the Canadian Opportunities Strategy, which had only a small mention of support for the innovative research infrastructures mentioned in the previous year’s budget:

Effective in 1998-99, the government will increase financial support to the three granting councils — the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Medical Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council — to provide research grants, scholarships and fellowships for advanced research and graduate students.”

(Reference: Budget in Brief 1998, The Canadian Opportunities Strategy – The Honourable Paul Martin, P.C., M.P.)

1999 Federal Budget

Liberal Party

With the 21st century looming, Finance Minister Martin stressed the value of access to education granted by the Canadian Opportunities Strategy, directly equating education with innovation:

Innovation and knowledge are two sides of the same coin–the true hard currency of the future, the sources of sustained growth.

(Reference: 1999 Federal Budget Speech – The Honourable Paul Martin, P.C., M.P.)

2000 Federal Budget

Liberal Party

The 2000 federal budget proposed innovative initiatives, to be put in place between 1999 – 2003, totalling $4.1 billion to:

  • Promote leading-edge research and innovation in universities, research hospitals and the private sector;
  • Develop new environmental technologies and improve environmental practices;  and
  • Strengthen federal, provincial and municipal infrastructure.

In addition, the budget stressed the innovative potential in Atlantic Canada’s technological industries while also restating the importance of supporting research and the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

(References: 2000 Budget in Brief – Making Canada’s Economy More Innovative, and Budget 2000 Budget Plan, Chapter 5 – Making Canada’s Economy More Innovative)

2001 Federal Budget

Liberal Party

The total estimated government expenditures on science and technology were $7.4 billion in 2001 – 2002, to be used toward skill development/upgrading, education, and research. Specifically, the budget aimed to support activities including the following:

  • helping offset indirect research costs at universities and research hospitals;
  • supporting leading-edge technologies and expanding regional innovation initiatives across the country through increased funding to the National Research Council of Canada;
  • providing additional funding to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

(Reference: 2001 Federal Budget in Brief – The Honourable Paul Martin, P.C., M.P.)

Keep checking back with SREDucation next week for daily posts featuring an overview of innovation in Canadian federal budgets from 2002 – present day. For a summary of the major party positions on innovation and SR&ED in the 2012 budget proposals, read our post on 2012 Party Positions on Innovation Funding.


How do you think the Liberal Party’s 1995 – 2001 innovation platforms compare against the party’s current platform? 

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