The Canadian federal budget is due to be announced/revealed on April 19, 2021—the first budget we’ve seen since 2019.
The Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC)is hosting an April 27 -28, 2021 symposium online and the main focus will be on science and funding. Before moving onto the symposium details, I think a quick refresher is in order.
No oversight, WE Charity scandal
While the Liberal government has done much which is laudable by supporting people and businesses through this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, there have been at least two notable missteps with regard to fiscal responsibility. This March 24, 2020 article in The Abbotsford News outlines the problem,
Conservative Finance critic Pierre Poilievre says there’s no deal yet between the Liberal government and Opposition over a proposed emergency aid bill to spend billions of dollars to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and cushion some of its damage to the economy.
The opposition parties had said they would back the $82 billion in direct spending and deferred taxes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to put up to prepare the country for mass illness and help Canadians cope with lost jobs and wages.
Yet a draft of the bill circulated Monday suggested it was going to give cabinet, not MPs, extraordinary power over taxes and spending, so ministers could act without Parliament’s approval for months.
The Conservatives will support every one of the aid measures contained in bill with no debate, Poilievre said. The only issue is whether the government needs to be given never before seen powers to tax and spend. [emphasis mine]
When there’s a minority government like the one Trudeau leads, the chance to bring the government down on a spending bill is what gives the opposition its power.
The government did not receive that approval in Parliament—but they tried. That was in March 2020; a few weeks later, there’s this (from the WE Charity scandal entry on Wikipedia),, Note: Links have been removed
On April 5, 2020 amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and his then-Finance Minister Bill Morneau, held a telephone conversation discussing measures to financially assist the country’s student population. The Finance Department was tasked with devising a series of measures to address these issues. This would begin a chain of events involving numerous governmental agencies.
Through a no-bid selection process [emphasis mine], WE Charity was chosen to administer the CSSG [Canada Student Service Grant], which would have created grants for students who volunteered during the COVID-19 pandemic. The contract agreement was signed with WE Charity Foundation, a corporation affiliated with WE Charity, on June 23, 2020. It was agreed that WE Charity, which had already begun incurring eligible expenses for the project on May 5 at their own risk, would be paid $43.53 million to administer the program; $30 million of which was paid to WE Charity Foundation on June 30, 2020. This was later fully refunded. A senior bureaucrat would note that “ESDC thinks that ‘WE’ might be able to be the volunteer matching third party … The mission of WE is congruent with national service and they have a massive following on social media.”
Concurrent to these events, and prior to the announcement of the CSSG on June 25, 2020, WE Charity was simultaneously corresponding with the same government agencies ultimately responsible for choosing the administrator of the program. WE Charity would submit numerous proposals in April, beginning on April 9, 2020, on the topic of youth volunteer award programs. These were able to be reformed into what became the CSSG.
On June 25, 2020 Justin Trudeau announced a series of relief measures for students. Among them was the Canada Student Service Grant program; whereby students would be eligible to receive $1000 for every 100 hours of volunteer activities, up to $5,000.
The structure of the program, and the selection of WE Charity as its administrator, immediately triggered condemnation amongst the Official Opposition, as well as numerous other groups, such as the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Democracy Watch, and Volunteer Canada who argued that WE Charity:
- Was not the only possible administrator as had been claimed
- Had been the beneficiary of cronyism
- Had experienced significant disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic and required a bailout
- Had illegally lobbied the government
- Was unable to operate in French-speaking regions of Canada
- Was potentially in violation of labour laws
- Had created hundreds of volunteer positions with WE Charity itself as part of the program, doing work generally conducted by paid employees, representing a conflict of interests. …
In a July 13, 2020 article about the scandal on BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) online, it’s noted that Trudeau was about to undergo his third ethics inquiry since first becoming Prime Minister in 2015. His first ethics inquiry took place in 2017, the second in 2019, and again in 2020.
None of this has anything to do with science funding (as far as I know) but it does set the stage for questions about how science funding is determined and who will be getting it. There are already systems in place for science funding through various agencies but the federal budget often sets special priorities such as the 2017 Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy with its attendant $125M. As well,Prime Minister Justin Trudeau likes to use science as a means of enhancing his appeal. See my March 16, 2018 posting for a sample of this, scroll down to the “Sunny ways: a discussion between Justin Trudeau and Bill Nye” subhead.
Federal Budget 2021 Symposium
From the CSPC’s Federal Budget 2021 Symposium event page, Note: Minor changes have been made due to my formatting skills, or lack thereof,
Keynote talk by David Watters entitled: “Canada’s Performance in R&D and Innovation Ecosystem in the Context of Health and Economic Impact of COVID-19 and Investments in the Budget“ [sic]
Tentative Event Schedule
Tuesday April 27
12:00 – 4:30 pm EDT
12:00 – 1:00 Session I: Keynote Address: The Impact of Budget 2021 on the Performance of Canada’s National R&D/Innovation Ecosystem
David Watters, President & CEO, Global Advantage Consulting
1:15 – 1:45 Session II: Critical Analysis
Robert Asselin, Senior Vice President, Policy, Business Council of Canada
Irene Sterian, Founder, President & CEO, REMAP (Refined Manufacturing Acceleration Process); Director, Technology & Innovation, Celestica
David Wolfe, Professor of Political Science, UTM [University of Toronto Mississauga], Innovation Policy Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy
2:00 – 3:00 Session III: Superclusters
Bill Greuel, CEO, Protein Industries Canada
Kendra MacDonald, CEO, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster
Angela Mondou, President & CEO, TECHNATION
Jayson Myers, CEO, Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen)
3:30 – 4:30 Session IV: Business & Industry 3:30 – 4:30
Namir Anani, President & CEO, Information and Communications Technology Council [ICTC]
Karl Blackburn, President & CEO, Conseil du patronat du Québec
Tabatha Bull, President & CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business [CCAB]
Karen Churchill, President & CEO, Ag-West Bio Inc.
Karimah Es Sabar, CEO & Partner of Quark Venture LP; Chair, Health/Biosciences Economic Strategy Table
Wednesday April 28
2:00 – 4:30 pm EDT
2:00 – 3:00 Session V: Universities and Colleges
Steven Liss, Vice-President, Research and Innovation & Professor of Chemistry and Biology, Faculty of Science, Ryerson University
Madison Rilling, Project Manager, Optonique, Québec’s Optics & Photonics Cluster; Youth Council Member, Office of the Chief Science Advisor of Canada
3:30 – 4:30 Session VI: Non-Governmental Organizations
Genesa M. Greening, President & CEO, BC Women’s Health Foundation
Maya Roy, CEO, YWCA Canada
Gisèle Yasmeen, Executive Director, Food Secure Canada
Jayson Myers, CEO, Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen)
PS: I expect the guests at the Canadian Science Policy Centre’s (CSPC) April 27 – 28, 2021 Federal Budget Symposium to offer at least some commentary that boils down to ‘we love getting more money’ or ‘we’re not getting enough money’ or a bit of both.
I also expect the usual moaning over our failure to support industrial research and/or home grown companies E.g., Element AI (Canadian artificial intelligence company formerly headquartered in Montréal) was sold to a US company in November 2020 (see the Wikipedia entry). The US company doesn’t seem to have kept any of the employees but it seems to have acquired the intellectual property.