Speech from the Throne: Ideas can help us thrive

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Jean-Marc Mangin, Executive Director, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

In the Speech from the Throne yesterday, the federal government unveiled its priorities for the next session of Parliament. As expected, creating jobs and securing economic growth remain top priorities. Other highlights included a new Free Trade agreement between Canada and the EU, balanced budget legislation, consumer protection, safeguarding families and communities, and celebrations to mark important milestones in Canada’s history. There were few references to research and scholarship, except for a commitment to update the S&T strategy.  However, early on in the throne speech, there was some stirring language worth repeating.

“We love learning and cherish our right to it.” The throne speech began with a call to Canadians to grasp opportunities to learn, excel, advance and contribute across all sectors of our society. "Our abiding concern for the common good of our neighbours –in each community– makes us responsive".  The Governor-General went on: "Giving lies in our very nature, certain in our hearts that none but the gift passed from an open hand will multiply as those we help better themselves, those they love and, at length, the country they call home". The humanities and social sciences can play a prominent role in building this Canada. Researchers and graduates in these disciplines have the skills to make sense of an uncertain world, to be adaptable in a complex world, and to be open to diverse learning and employment opportunities.

Consider this: We are ideas. The humanities and social sciences can mobilize ideas to address our challenges. Ideas can help make our communities resilient and sustainable. They can improve our quality of life.  And they can help tell our stories, past and future. To really seize Canada's moment, we need to open channels for dialogue around these ideas. And while this might be a cacophonic conversation, it would provide a non-partisan agenda around which Canadians could rally and respond generously.

The government is looking for solutions in updating its science and technology strategy, in addressing cyber-bullying, in promoting Canadian values and in celebrating 2017 – all commitments made yesterday.  For solutions, look at the 85,000 Canadians active in the humanities and social sciences, at the 500,000 undergraduate students enrolled in these programs, at the millions of graduates across the country working on a wide range of endeavors building our nation. Ideas can... and must, thrive.     


Image courtesy of Scazon.


Federal policy