Minister Duncan – One Year as Minister of Science
November 10, 2016
What a difference a year can make.
This time last year, I had the honour of presenting my first major speech as Canada's new minister of science at the Canadian Science Policy Conference. My appointment to Cabinet—the first Cabinet in Canadian history to include an equal number of women and men—was exciting and humbling.
The new role also presented an opportunity to improve the government's respect for and trust in Canada's scientists.
Our government promises to ensure that science has its rightful place at the federal table and that decisions are informed by the best available evidence. In our first weeks, we reinstated Statistics Canada's long-form census. Not long after, we began ensuring that subject matter experts, including scientists, were free to speak about their work. These important steps set the tone for our approach to science, one that embraces a culture of openness and optimism and that strives for diversity.
In addition to working with research leaders to address the gaps in equity and diversity in the sciences, our government also brought back the University and College Academic Staff System (UCASS) survey, which offers a snapshot of the composition of faculty staff on campuses across the country. The data generated by the survey will help post-secondary institutions create a more inclusive and diverse faculty—one that reflects today's Canada.
If we are to overcome some of the great environmental, social and economic challenges that we face as a country, we need to be sure that science welcomes every person, question and perspective.
Science has played an integral role in the review of environmental assessment and regulatory processes, in our reinvestment in federal scientists at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and in renewed international scientific collaboration in the Arctic. In September, I had the honour of joining my international colleagues at the first-ever White House Arctic Science Ministerial meeting, where I advocated that we work in partnership with Indigenous peoples and northern communities so that we may collectively address the rapid changes experienced in the North.
It is the importance of science that led me to consult with scientists and experts across the country and internationally as we work to establish a chief science advisor position. The chief science advisor, once appointed, will be a strong, enduring voice for science and scientists in government.
The government's support for science must be strategic and effective and have the greatest possible benefit for the scientific community and for Canadians in general. That is why in June we launched an independent review of fundamental science—the first of its kind.
I appointed a distinguished nine-member independent panel to examine the existing federal funding mechanisms for fundamental science. Chaired by former University of Toronto president David Naylor, the panel has travelled the country seeking input from scientists, researchers, administrators and the Canadian public. In fact, in addition to meeting with stakeholders in over a dozen round tables, the panel has received over 1,200 individual submissions from scientists and the public alike through its online portal.
While the Government of Canada has worked toward discovering and addressing any gaps in federal science funding, we have continued to ensure that funding flows to important scientific initiatives and programs through the commitments made in Budget 2016. This funding includes $2 billion for the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund to improve research and innovation infrastructure at colleges and universities across Canada, $900 million to support 13 cutting-edge research projects through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, and a $95-million top-up to the three federal granting councils—the largest, unfettered increase in a decade.
Over the past year, our government has done a lot to foster science in this country. But I know there is plenty more to do. I look forward to keeping science's place at the policy table and to ensuring that good science policy benefits our scientific community, our environment, our economy and our middle class.
The Honourable Kirsty Duncan
Minister of Science
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