Via Nature News & Comment: Canadian budget hits basic science. Excerpt and then a comment and link:
Canada's latest budget will slash spending on the environment and push for more collaboration between basic researchers and industry. The changes are aimed at stimulating the economy and balancing the budget by 2015, but researchers fear that they will undermine the country's long-term competitiveness. The budget is the first since the Conservative party gained a majority in parliament last year.
“This is disastrous,” says James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers in Ottawa, Ontario. “The government has no understanding of how scientific advancement is made. No appreciation of blue-sky research.”
Like many nations in the West, Canada has been under pressure to cut spending, balance its budget, and stimulate its sluggish economy. The 500-page budget will ease the environmental review of major projects and cut 12,000 government jobs, while boosting investment in industrial research and natural-resources development.
Losers and winners
To balance its budget in three years, the government introduced a cost-cutting exercise to its 68 departments and agencies, asking each to envisage scenarios of 5–10% reductions in their bottom lines.
Under the resulting cuts, funding to the environment portfolio will drop by 8.3%. Environment Canda will lose Can$13.3 million (US$13.3 million) from its Can$1.1 billion budget this year, and Can$31.5 million and Can$53.8 million in the following two years. The announced cuts could mean more job losses at the agency, which announced in August that 700 positions might change or disappear by 2014 (see 'Canadian ozone network faces axe').
The budget also eliminates a federal advisory panel on the environment. The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, an independent agency established in the 1990s, studied questions of climate, water, energy, biodiversity and governance, and offered advice to the Canadian prime minister.
But its reports frequently challenged the government’s views, says Andrew Weaver, a climate modeller at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. Combined with the announced cuts at Environment Canada, it is clear that “the environment is a huge loser in this budget,” he says.
To enhance partnerships between industry and academia, the budget includes a Can$37-million annual boost to the country’s three main granting agencies — the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
But the money will have to come from savings generated within each council. The NSERC and the CIHR have each planned savings of Can$15 million to their approximately Can$1-billion budgets in 2012–13, increasing to Can$30 million for each of the next two years.
We've been aware for years of the Harper government's hostility to science, but couldn't understand it. Last week The Tyee published an article that may explain its roots in religion. It's not just a political problem; it's ultimately a public-health issue. As I keep quoting Virchow: "Politics is nothing but the practice of medicine on a large scale." Or in the case of our present government, malpractice.