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The 2021 budget offers two messages for the scientific community

By Rhonda Moore

On 19 April, 2021 the federal government of Canada released its first budget in 2 years, and our first budget presented by our first female Minister of Finance. Congratulations Minister Freeland! May you be the first in a long line of qualified female finance ministers.   

But, what to say of the 700-odd-page tome itself? Oh, if you don’t want to read the whole thing, check out this comprehensive blog postby staff at Evidence for Democracy

The 2021 budget offers two messages for the scientific community. First, it seems that every science and or research-based organization which has lobbied the federal government since the last budget was released likely did a happy dance in the budget lock-up or on Monday evening. Even though we no longer have a Minister of Science, the Liberals are reinforcing their commitment to science and research by funding almost the whole kitchen sink. But as the saying goes, when you try to please everyone, you risk pleasing no one. As Brian Owens wrote, the reception from the research community is lukewarm. 

Second, and with a tip of my proverbial hat to Marianna Mazzucato (another woman taking the global economic community by storm), the research mission in the 2021 budget is one that will address climate change through clean, green growth. Chapter 5 presents a plan to invest in green and clean R&D, investment and training (with the implication there will be lots and lots of jobs). On that score, it’s not exactly a strong R&D budget, but it might very well be something better. 

Proponents of the social sciences and humanities have long argued that we have the knowledge and solutions we need to address climate change. What we lack are resources – funding, policy cover – that translate our STEM research into effective messages and programs that cause stubborn humans to change their behaviour. Do we have a knowledge translation and mobilization budget wrapped in R&D clothing? One can only hope.