Response to the budget tabled March 28, 2023
The Canadian Association for Neuroscience joins its voice to the rest of the scientific community in expressing disappointment in the lack of support for science, research, and students in Budget 2023.
There are some questions left unanswered following this budget:
How can the government fail to recognize that fundamental research drives innovation and economic growth?
The 2023 budget fails to increase funding for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), which are key funding mechanisms for all Canadian scientists that support fundamental research in Canada.
Fundamental research is key to informing our response to new challenges and building resilience, as the COVID pandemic has shown. Curiosity-driven research is what provided the tools needed to develop the vaccines that saved billions of lives. In addition, funding fundamental research has other benefits, including:
Creating Good Jobs for Canadians – Investing in scientific research leads to the creation of jobs for highly qualified personnel (HQP) not just within research laboratories but across varied industry, government, and the public sector. Our trainees play key roles in medical and high-tech companies in Canada, who are looking to fill competitive job opportunities.
Diversifying and Strengthening Canada’s Economy – The world is moving towards a knowledge and innovation economy, in which Canada has the potential to lead. Made-in-Canada discoveries are the foundation for innovation that supports a stronger and more diverse Canadian economy.
Increasing support for fundamental research is an investment in scientific readiness and resilience, allowing Canada to be prepared to face new challenges and lead on the global stage. We don’t know where the next great discovery will come from and diversity in investment across science in Canada will, just like investment portfolios, increase return on investment.
How can a government who recognizes investments in science are one of the keys to help Canadians through difficult times and claims to put Canadians at the heart of everything they do fail to increase support for Canadian graduate students?
Trainees that successfully compete for a highly competitive scholarships from NSERC (i.e. Master’s program; CGS-M), receive $17.5K CAD per year, an amount that has not kept up with inflation and that has been stagnant since 2003. This amount falls below the low-income level cut-off of $22K CAD for a person living alone in a major Canadian city.
The Support Our Science collective, led by graduate students across Canada, has advocated loudly to promote this simple message:
Pay Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars a Living Wage
They have shared their recommendations through official budget consultation submissions, by marching on Parliament Hill, through direct letters to elected officials, and with partners, such science societies like us, who have also included recommendations to increase support for graduate students in our pre-budget consultation briefs. How their message could be ignored is difficult to understand.
How can the government state
Canada’s spending on higher education research and development, as a share of GDP, has exceeded all other G7 countries (budget 2023, page 110)
while data from the OECD – the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a recognized international organisation that is quoted 11 times in the budget, publishes standardized data that indicates the contrary?
Chart permanent URL : https://data.oecd.org/chart/72eH Data retrieved April 3, 2023.
Canada now ranks second to last among G7 countries in terms of gross domestic spending on Research & Development (R&D), with only 1.6% of its GDP invested in R&D.
Canada is the only country in the G7 whose investments in R&D as percentage of GDP has been steadily declining since 2001
This low investment level places Canada below the average of 2.7% for OECD countries and well below the United States (3.4%), and other non-G7 countries with fast-growing economies such as South Korea (4.8%) and Israel (5.4%) with respect to gross domestic spending in R&D.
Despite our disappointment in the 2023 budget, scientists are determined to continue to work for all Canadians.
At the Canadian Association for Neuroscience, our researchers contribute to addressing critical challenges that Canada faces. Brain and Mental Health issues, which are among the most complex to understand are also the most important to address. The burden of brain disorders and diseases has substantially increased over the last 25 years with the ageing of the population and is increasing further due to Post-COVID19-Condition (PCC). This is having a detrimental impact on the economy, healthcare systems, and Canadian livelihood. Neurodegenerative diseases are the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death worldwide. Mental health disorders are the leading cause of days off work. Through their research, Canadian neuroscientists work tirelessly to identify cures and therapies for Canadians who live with diseases and conditions.
We will continue to inform elected officials about the important contributions scientists make to Canada, and to advocate for better support for our scientists. Canada has a lot to gain by better supporting the science community.
 We know our investments in building a cleaner economy and the good jobs that go with it, our investments in reconciliation and our investments in science and research are all things that are helping Canadians through these difficult times. We will continue to put Canadians at the heart of everything we do.” Justin Trudeau, February 1, 2023
 (Feigin et al. Lancet Neurol. 2019;18(5):459-480. doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(18)30499-X)