Budget 2017 focuses on innovation and skills

Thursday, March 23, 2017


Federal Budget 2017 sets out a goal to boost Canada’s prosperity and to ensure this prosperity is shared across society. To achieve this, the government is relying primarily on innovation and lifelong skills development. 

This budget may not have had the kind of major funding announcements for science and research as Budget 2016 (which included significant new increases of $95 billion that year to the research granting councils' base budgets and $2 billion over three years for university and college infrastructure), but it offers some important commitments. Furthermore, much of the story remains to be written, as we look for more details and watch for significant reports and reviews to come. You can read the Federation’s media release here and find a more detailed review of Budget highlights of relevance to our sector in the Federation’s briefing note.  

The Budget includes no new commitments to increase the base budgets of Canada’s federal research granting councils and there is no word on the Canada Foundation for Innovation. But Canada’s research community will get a better idea of the government’s long-term plan for research funding with the release of the long-awaited Naylor report – the report by the independent panel, chaired by former University of Toronto president David Naylor, that was tasked last year to carry out a consultation and review of Canada’s fundamental science system.  The Federation is keen to engage with the recommendations of this Panel on the important role of university discovery research and knowledge infrastructure, across all disciplines.  We also welcome the announcement of 25 new Canada 150 Research Chairs, worth $117.6 million over eight years, funded by reallocating resources from the Canada Excellence Research Chairs program.

As noted, the primary focus of the budget was on innovation and skill development, and the document includes investments to help more Canadians access education and training, including:

  • $225 million over four years, starting in 2018–19, and $75 million per year thereafter, to establish a new organization to support skills development and measurement in Canada working with provinces and territories.
  • $221 million over five years starting in 2017–18 to help Mitacs meet its strategic goal of facilitating 10,000 work-integrated learning placements a year for graduate students and post docs from all disciplines.
  • $454.4 million over four years, starting in 2018–19, and $46.3 million per year thereafter, to expand eligibility for the Canada Student Grants program, which includes raising the income eligibility threshold and expanding eligibility to part-time students and students with dependent children.

The Federation was also pleased to see long-awaited investments to help more Indigenous students access post-secondary education, including $90 million over two years, beginning in 2017–18, in increased funding to the Post-Secondary Student Support Program, intended to provide an additional 4,600 Indigenous students with financial support to access post-secondary education; $5 million per year for five years, starting in 2017–18, for Indspire (contingent on them raising $3 million per year in matching funds from the private sector); and $14.7 million over three years starting in 2017–18, to extend and enhance the Northern Adult Basic Education Program.

We also look forward to the promised comprehensive and collaborative review of federal PSE programs for Indigenous students, and note the important commitments to support Indigenous culture and languages, centered on the principle of Indigenous control.

In many ways, Budget 2017 feels like the second film in a trilogy: it develops the themes of the first film and sets up story lines to be developed in a finale. And in the meantime, it tries to tell a compelling story of its own, in this case one in which ideas, innovation and continuous skill development support inclusive prosperity. This is a plan with which the humanities and social sciences community can engage as we continue to take on some of the world’s toughest questions, world-leading research and teaching that will equip new generations of citizens, leaders and innovators.

Let us know your thoughts!

Contact Peter Severinson, Policy Analyst, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, @pseverinson


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