Getting up to speed on Canadian science policy & politics

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Karine Morin and Pascal Lapointe, Science Policy co-editors

Across the country, Québec has had the biggest science policy news of the last three months: its new science research policy, which has generated support from all sides (a rare feat indeed).

Ce n’était pourtant pas gagné d’avance, comme l’écrivait sur son blogue en 2012, Florence Piron, de l’Université Laval, elle qui en appelait à la “vigilance face aux conséquences du modèle de l’économie du savoir privilégié actuellement par les politiques publiques.” La chercheure avait lancé une démarche parallèle de consultation en vue de cette future politique scientifique, qu’elle craignait de voir trop orientée “entreprise”.

Étonnamment, après sa parution à la mi-octobre, très peu de blogueurs ont parlé de celle qu’il faut désormais appeler la Politique nationale de la recherche et de l’innovation (PNRI).

Among the exceptions: Eric Duchemin, who sees it as good news for the environment, and journalists Valérie Borde and Jean-François Cliche.

Given the success of Quebec’s 2014-2019 PNRI, anticipation is building at the federal level for an update to the 2007 Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy. The Canadian government formally announced this update in the Speech from the Throne, also delivered in October (see Stephanne Taylor’s post on this).

A comparison of science policy at these two levels of government approaches yields some interesting observations.

First, in the face of continued economic uncertainty, both federal and provincial governments are focused on keeping Canadians employed. The PNRI announcement refers to “Putting Jobs First”; similarly, federal accomplishments related to science, technology and innovation (STI) are under the heading “Create Jobs and Opportunities for Canadians” in this year-end list (even if at first glance the initiatives aren’t directly related to employment).

Secondly, broad support for Quebec’s PNRI resulted from extensive consultation. While the federal government has stated that it, too, intends to seek the input of stakeholders, the Minister of State for Science and Technology, Greg Rickford, has mentioned these consultations in only two news stories (here and here), which otherwise focus on the NDP proposal for a Parliamentary Science Officer. Past and current federal consultations related to science and technology can be found on the government’s Consulting with Canadians’ portal.

Once both the federal and Quebec documents can be compared, it will be interesting to assess whether these two efforts illustrate, at least partly, a claim made by the authors of Governance and Public Policy in Canada, that “provinces have become the most crucial generators of public policy in Canada” (p. 1).

Hopefully, this is a future task that our Policy and Politics bloggers will be willing to undertake!


A well-known piece of Canadian science advocacy – and critique of science policy: Chris Turner’s The War on Science.

Hors des parlements

Outre cela, l’autre rendez-vous “science et politique” important des derniers mois, c’était le 5e Congrès sur les politiques scientifiques canadiennes (Canadian Science Policy Conference), tenu en novembre à Toronto. Là non plus, pas beaucoup d’activités chez les blogueurs: Jennifer Provencher qui participait à une table ronde sur l’Arctique, et David Kent sur ce qu’il conviendrait de faire avec tous ces brillants post-docs qui auront du mal à se trouver un emploi s’ils suivent la voie classique du PhD.

Mais ce congrès, c’était aussi le lieu du lancement officiel de Science Borealis. Theresa Liao a fait un Storify à ce sujet.

Et plus largement…

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