For a bit of a change of pace from my usual content, today I’m taking a brief look at the major Canadian political parties and the parts of their platforms relating to science and science education. Obviously there’s a lot more to consider before voting than this, but there are plenty of other sources for that information. I’m going to stick to what is actually in the published platforms for the most part. Of course, past history shows us there is also no guarantee any of the parties will actually follow through on what is in their platforms.
Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)
I’ll start with the incumbents (and almost certainly the winners of this election – it’s more a matter of whether or not they get a majority). Their platform can be found here.
They have a brief section on “skills training opportunities for students.” Included here are enhanced student loans for part-time students and an increased work exemption for Canada Student Loans, both of which help to make education more affordable. They also plan to establish 30 Industrial Research Chairs at colleges and polytechnics, and “support research partnerships between college and university researchers and students” (which seems a bit vague to me).
Under their “Digital Economy Strategy”, the CPC plan to promote enrollment in post-secondary science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs, but there are no details on how this will be done.
Under “Conserving and Protecting our Environment” the CPC indicate they will provide additional support for research in development in clean energy and energy efficiency. Specifically, they say they will support “economically viable clean energy projects.”
I do feel I have to make one comment outside their platform – the CPC have instituted policies such as requiring government scientists to get permission from the Prime Minister’s Office before talking about their results, and have shifted a lot of research funding from basic research to profit-driven research, which are strong marks against them.
The Liberal Party of Canada
The Liberals are proposing to introduce a “Canadian Learning Passport” that provides $1000/year for 4 years, or $1500/year for low-income students, towards post-secondary education for Canadian students.
On the environment side, the Liberals propose to launch a Canadian Clean Energy Partnership, and are committed to quadrupling Canada’s renewable energy production by 2017 by re-instating the Renewable Power Production Incentive. They also want to work to accelerate the development and deployment of technologies that reduce the carbon footprint of the oil sands and increase investment in science and monitoring relevant to oil sands development.
New Democratic Party (NDP)
The NDP propose to make education more affordable by making a $800 million transfer to provinces and territories to lower tuition fees, increase the Canada Student Grants program funding, and raising the education tax credit.
They plan to train 1200 new doctors over the next 10 years, add 6000 new training spaces for nurses, and increase training spaces for other health professionals. The NDP also state they will work with provinces to “improve assessment to ensure quality, safety and cost and health effectiveness of prescription drugs” and establish “science-based formularies and clinical guidelines to advance evidence-based practice by physicians”, as well as “moving towards more publicly funded research and development, driven by public priorities, not commercial profits.”
The NDP environment plan includes increasing science-based monitoring for the oil sands and creating a Green Bond Fund for investment in green energy research, development and commercialization.
Green Party of Canada
The Green Party platform document is surprisingly short on details. There’s mention of investment in renewable energy. Their budget includes cancelling federal support for atomic energy research. They also plan to spend $15 million to add knowledgeable scientific staff to Environment Canada, Health Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans.
Update: in addition to their actual platform document, there is a much longer and detailed “Vision Green” document. It does have more detail; I don’t have time to cover it in detail right now. However, there are a few things I definitely don’t like: they want to basically ban all research into genetically modified organisms, and they’re opposed to the use of risk management at contaminated sites (a science-based process involving determining whether a chemical contaminant poses an actual risk and taking the actions necessary to mitigate any risks, rather than blindly spending millions of dollars digging up contaminated soils and hauling them to a landfill, which in some cases can involve the destruction of existing ecosystems).
There isn’t a whole lot relating to science or science education in the party platforms, which is perhaps not surprising given the focus on the economy at the moment. The NDP in some respects have some of the stronger and more specific plans in this area, but there isn’t really that much difference between the different parties.
For another look at this issue, the blog “FrogHeart” also looks at this.