Ottawa, Nov. 4th, 2004 – The head of one of Canada’s most important universities says the federal government must commit to preserve the key programs put in place over recent years in university research.
While federal initiatives such as the Canada Research Chairs, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and budget increases to the research councils have given universities a tool to flourish, there has been little information from Ottawa on the future of these programs and how they will contribute to Canada’s innovation policy.
At the helm of UdeM since 1998, Dr. Robert Lacroix told a breakfast crowd at the National Press Club in Ottawa that “this new government has still not made its position clear on research funding or let us know how it fits into its strategies for the upcoming years.” Dr. Lacroix helped design the Canada Research Chairs, one of the most successful recruiting tools now available to the country’s research universities.
Dr. Lacroix highlighted that the government’s current focus on addressing the healthcare funding crisis is detrimental to other key priorities. “Yes, making sure we have good emergency rooms is certainly a necessity. But it’s not nation building. That kind of planning takes place in universities,” said Dr. Lacroix, who calls knowledge the natural resource of a modern economy.
Despite their strong potential for social and economic growth, Dr. Lacroix says that Canadian universities are still being under-funded, thus less able to serve growing student enrolments. The situation, he reminded the audience, has launched inquiries on the subject in both Quebec and Ontario. “If Canadians still share the objective that Canada can become one of the world’s most innovative countries – and I think they do – then governments must truly support a post-secondary education system”, says Dr. Lacroix.
The rector’s plea for a clear well-funded plan comes on the heels of a report from the Conference Board of Canada, showing that Canada ranks 11th among countries that invest in research and development, far from its objective of reaching the 5th place by 2010.
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