Elections and Future R&D in Canada: Pre-Election Snapshot of Party Positions 2015

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What are the Canadian R&D Pre-Election Platforms?
What are the Canadian R&D Pre-Election Platforms?

We continue to face challenges as an innovation nation. This has to change if we are to compete well internationally and secure a strong future” Prof. Howard Alper1, Chairman of Science, Technology and Innovation Council.

With the impending 2015 federal election on October 19th, the future of research and development (R&D) and innovation funding in Canada may be up for change, depending on which party captures voter favour. Given the importance of this event, we have compiled a brief snapshot of various party positions in their election platforms concerning R&D, Scientific Research & Experimental Development (SR&ED), and innovation funding for our visitors & patrons.

Curiously, any direct mention of SR&ED and similar programs has been largely absent from most official literature and press communications in the prelude to these elections. While science remains a critical element in the platform of all participant political parties, the focus of conversation has largely centred around:

  • greater innovation and job creation through investment in clean technology;

  • the appointment of a Chief Science Officer to liaise and advise Parliament;

  • increased need for government policies structured through scientific data-gathering;

  • increased commercialization of scientific knowledge through innovation;

  • implementing innovative practices to boost manufacturing sectors, and diversifying R&D in segments beyond Canada’s current resource-dependent economy; and

  • making R&D investments more attractive for the private sector.

Conservative Party of Canada

Policy Document

As outlined in their amended policy document2the Conservative Party:

  • supports the establishment of a single authority or single window to review big science projects according to published guidelines, instead of forcing them to seek funding from a myriad of departments and agencies;

  • supports the funding of innovation, technology and research through the granting councils;

  • i>supports a competitive peer review process and enhanced transparency and accountability to determine who shall receive grants through these councils;

  • works with stakeholders in all fields of research and various industry sectors to expand the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) and other tax credits; and

  • supports the elimination of the capital tax and the reduction of the capital gains tax because the effectiveness of the SR&ED tax credit relies upon the general level of tax on capital and investment.

Election Platform

This is no time for risky plans that could harm our future. It is time to stay the course and stick to our plan. Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

According to “Our Conservative Plan to Protect the Economy”3, a re-elected Conservative government will support R&D by:

  • [lowering] tax rate on small businesses… another two percentage points, to nine percent, by 2019;

  • [renewing] the Automotive Innovation Fund for ten years, beginning in 2018-19, at baseline funding of $100 million per year;

  • rolling out the $200 million Advanced Manufacturing Fund to support new and innovative products and production methods in Ontario;

  • working with Canada’s world-leading aerospace industry to develop a national supplier development initiative to ensure Canada’s aerospace industry remains a global technology leader and a major source of high-quality jobs;

  • implementing the $1.5 billion Canada First Research Excellence Fund to support world-leading research projects that create long-term economic advantage for Canada.

  • continuing to support the Canadian Foundation for Innovation to finance research infrastructure on university, college, and polytechnic campuses… $1.33 billion over six years, starting in 2017-18…

New Democratic Party (NDP) of Canada

Election Platform

The NDP’s “Building the country of our dreams”4 discusses Tom Mulcair’s plan for science, research, and innovation in Canada. It clarifies that:

  • the NDP will introduce a new Innovation Tax Credit to support companies that invest in capital, equipment and property for R&D, restore the tax credit for Labour Sponsored Venture Capital corporations, and make it easier for businesses to access government support for innovation, talent and R&D as recommended by the Jenkins Report;

  • [the NDP will support] innovation and investment in companies creating jobs in Canada, with an early focus on the aerospace, automotive, forestry and mining sectors.

  • through the support of university and industry partnerships that foster innovation in the auto sector, we will help Canada stay on the cutting edge.

  • the NDP will create a new Aerospace Advanced Manufacturing Fund for small and medium-sized aerospace companies to help companies adopt new technologies, and scale-up production to compete globally.

Response to Questionnaire

On the website for Evidence for Democracy5an NDP representative also released the following statement:

[The Innovation Tax Credit] plan will save Canadian businesses making these critical R&D investments approximately $40 million each year. We have also committed to making targeting (sic) investments to support our manufacturing sector which is the largest spender on research and development, according to Statistics Canada.

Green Party of Canada

Response to Evidence for Democracy

…[T]here is no longer a balance between basic and applied science… Funding that was previously destined for curiosity-driven research in many labs across Canada has been shifted into partnerships with industry, with a concentration in large research-intensive universities. This is bad policy… [G]overnments cannot direct how businesses choose to spend on R&D. That is why the Green Party is dedicated to raising taxes on the profits of large corporations and direct tax dollars to science in the public interest.” GPC representative to Evidence for Democracy6.

Response to CCR

In response7to the Canadian Consortium for Research, the Green Party states:

Corporate tax cuts have not resulted in improvements in productivity… We can adjust the corporate tax rate… And we can direct funds to innovators and R&D. More R&D and innovation will come from manufacturing and clean technology. Greens want to create a federally-funded $1 billion per year Green Technology Commercialization Grants to accelerate emerging technologies and give Canadian entrepreneurs a head start. It will help good ideas and emerging technology get to market, growing our sustainable economy and creating good local jobs and opportunities in our communities.

We will increase funding to federal research councils by 15 percent annually for four years. Green MPs will fight to rectify this imbalance [between basic and applied science] and restore funding to basic and curiosity-driven research.”

Election Platform

In the text of their election platform8, the Green Party explains the essence of its position:

Canadian scientists, both inside and outside of government, must have the freedom to pursue important discoveries, without looking over their shoulders and worrying about whether their work is “industry relevant” or subject to political interference in funding decisions.

Liberal Party of Canada

Election Platform

The “New Plan for a Strong Middle Class”9 clarifies the position held by the Liberal Party, stating that they intend to:

  • invest $40 million each year to help employers create more co-op placements for students in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and business programs;

  • invest $200 million each year in a new Innovation Agenda to significantly expand support for incubators and accelerators, as well as the emerging national network for business innovation and cluster support;

  • invest an additional $100 million each year in the Industrial Research Assistance Program, which has a proven track record of helping small- and medium-sized businesses to innovate and become world leaders;

  • support innovation in the agricultural sector, [and] we will invest an additional $100 million, over four years, in agricultural research;

  • invest $200 million annually to create sector-specific strategies that support innovation and clean technologies in forestry, fisheries, mining, energy, and agricultural sectors;

  • work with provinces, territories, universities, and colleges to support emerging clean tech companies, including research, the commercialization of new products, and training Canadians to be properly skilled for the industries of the future.

Future of R&D in Canada: Conclusion

In interviews with Science and Policy Exchange, both Liberal MP Ted Hsu (Science & Technology Critic) 10 and NDP MP Laurin Liu11 mention their respective parties’ support for the diversification of Canada’s R&D and investment interests, meaningful research and development of clean or green technology, strengthening of scientific output for the manufacturing sector, and re-balancing of scientific objectives by once again increasing funding to basic research. Similar positions are mirrored by the Green Party of Canada, with the exception that Ted Hsu also speaks of the importance of “commercialization”.

As we’ve seen in the snapshot of the positions discussed above, every political party uses “innovation” as a keyword in their platforms; and yet, as reflected in this article on the Globe and Mail, the understanding of the term seems unclear among the nation’s leadership. Innovation is not just the conceptualization of a new technology, or the invention of a new product, but rather “the complete process of taking new ideas and devising new or improved products and services that are then sold in the marketplace.” Dan Breznitz, the author of the article and co-director of the innovation policy lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, holds that the only way to ensure continuous economic growth is through innovation, and that Canada’s political leaders have failed its citizenry on this front for the past 15 years.

A thriving business environment backed by sound economic policies regulating the R&D of any nation spurs its growth, and this growth, in turn, nurtures business in an endless cycle. With Canada technically facing a recession due to falling oil prices, it seems growth is an ever-present need – either through business-as-usual or by enforcing meaningful change in the nation’s approach to its R&D investments. The question remains – which of these parties will provide the best fodder for that growth?

The complete platforms of all political parties can be accessed and viewed with ease at a single location here.

Let us know your thoughts on the upcoming elections and their impact on R&D.

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Show 11 footnotes

  1. Hurtig, M. (2015, June 8). Busting Harper’s Favourite Myth: He’s Been Hell on Canada’s Economy. The Tyee.  Retrieved October 10, 2015, from http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2015/06/08/Favourite-Myth-Stephen-Harper/
  2. National Policy Committee. (amended 2013). Conservative Party of Canada: Policy Declaration (Data file). Retrieved October 10, 2015, from http://www.conservative.ca/media/documents/Policy-Declaration-Feb-2014.pdf
  3. Conservative Party of Canada. (2015). Protect our Economy: Our conservative plan to protect the economy (Data file). Retrieved October 10, 2015, from http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2454398/conservative-platform-2015.pdf
  4. New Democratic Party of Canada. (2015). Building the country of our dreams: Tom Mulcair’s plan to bring change to Ottawa (Data file). Retrieved October 10, 2015, from http://xfer.ndp.ca/2015/2015-Full-Platform-EN.pdf
  5. New Democratic Party of Canada. (2015). 2015 Federal Election Questionnaire: Question 3b. Retrieved October 10, 2015, from https://evidencefordemocracy.ca/en/2015-election-questionnaire
  6. Green Party of Canada. (2015). 2015 Federal Election Questionnaire: Question 3a. Retrieved October 10, 2015,  from https://evidencefordemocracy.ca/en/2015-election-questionnaire
  7. Green Party of Canada. (2015). 2015 Federal Election Questionnaire: Questions 1 & 2 (Data file). Retrieved  October 10, 2015, from http://ccr-ccr.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2015/10/CanadianConsortiumforResearch-GreenResponse2015.pdf
  8. Green Party of Canada. (2015). Building a Canada that works together (Data file). Retrieved October 10, 2015, from  http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2454432/green-party-platform.pdf
  9. Liberal Party of Canada. (2015). Real Change: A new plan for a strong middle class (Data file). Retrieved  October 10, 2015, from https://www.liberal.ca/files/2015/10/A-new-plan-for-a-strong-middle-class.pdf
  10. “Ted Hsu Interview 2015 – Science and Policy Exchange” (Video file). Retrieved October 10, 2015,  from https://youtu.be/IDlrT88a7fM
  11. “Laurin Liu 2015 Interview – Science and Policy Exchange” (Video file). Retrieved  October 10, 2015, from https://youtu.be/Igy69u6Tu2s

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