Stephen Harper and the knowledge economy: perfect strangers -

Stephen Harper and the knowledge economy: perfect strangers

Paul Wells on the bad news in the Science, Technology and Innovation Council’s latest report


This story will get buried by all the other news today. That’s understandable, but I wish it weren’t so. It’s about a long-term government failure.

In 2007 Maxime Bernier created the Science, Technology and Innovation Council to measure Canada’s science and technology performance against that of comparable countries around the world. It’s produced reports every two years. The latest was released this morning while most of us were caught up in some other hilarity on the Hill.

The STIC council, as it’s called, is a big-name panel of advisors both inside government and outside. Its current membership includes the deputy ministers of Industry, Trade and Health; the presidents of Western, Alberta and McGill Universities; and a brochette of CEOs, principally from the energy sector.

Its third biennial report is devastating. Well, maybe I shouldn’t be throwing a word like that around in a week like this one, but it’s full of bad news anyway. Here’s some jargon, which I’ll translate:

State of the Nation 2012 shows that Canada’s gross domestic expenditures on R&D (GERD) declined from their peak in 2008 and, when measured in relation to gross domestic product (GDP), since 2001. In contrast, the GERD and GERD intensity of most other countries have been increasing. Canada’s declining GERD intensity has pushed its rank down from 16th position in 2006 to 17th in 2008 and to 23rd in 2011 (among 41 economies).

That means that by the broadest measure of expenditure on research and development, Canada has fallen from 16th out of 41 comparable countries in the year Stephen Harper became prime minister, to 23rd in 2011. 

GERD is a mix of HERD and BERD. Sorry: total research spending is a mix of R&D spending in the higher-education sector, and in the business sector. In 2007, the Harper government’s Science and Technology Strategy called “the need to encourage greater private-sector S&T investment” a “national priority.” And how does this government do on national priorities, given half a decade? “In international rankings related to business innovation, Canada continues to place in the middle of the pack on most measures and, on some indicators, Canada’s rank has declined,” the report says. “BERD intensity (i.e., BERD as a percentage of GDP) has been in almost continuous decline for the past decade. Canada’s rank among comparator countries on BERD-to- GDP fell to 25th in 2011 (of 41 economies).”

Investment in “information and communication technology” — computers, networking and phone tech — has lagged in Canada behind U.S. levels throughout the past decade, so that now the gap of total ICT stock between our country and our most important neighbour is much greater than when the Harper government came to power.

The good news is that on pure science, Canada continues to perform better than most other countries. “With a share of only 0.5 percent of global population, Canada accounted for 4.4 percent of the world’s natural sciences and engineering publications in 2010. This positions Canada eighth after countries with significantly larger populations: the U.S., China, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, France and Italy.”

The bad news is that Canada is letting its science advantage fritter away, as if that could somehow help its private-sector R&D gap close. In 2007 Canada continued to rank first among G7 countries  in HERD, or R&D expenditure in the higher-education sector. But as I have argued elsewhere, it’s increasingly useful to consider the G7 as an international losers’ club. It’s the U.S., Japan and Old Europe. When you throw Canada into the larger pool of 41 countries STIC looks at — countries with a bit of mojo, like Brazil, India, China, Poland, Israel and Sweden — Canada has fallen from third in 2006, to 4th in 2008 — to 9th in 2011. “With their significant investments in research and higher education,” this panel writes, “other countries are catching up and overtaking Canada.”

Between 2006 and 2010, the annual number of science PhD graduates in Canada grew by nearly half — a lagging reflection, I suspect, of the formidable growth in science capacity in Canada between 1997 and 2002. A generation of students came of age at a time when Canada was developing an international reputation as a relative science oasis. They had their university careers and came onto the job market. But it’s a shaky market now. This larger cohort of scientists is searching for stagnant or declining grant budgets. Success rates for research grant applications are falling. So Canada has more scientists than ever, and each is able to do less science than she would have been able to do a decade ago.

It’s a peculiar situation. The government has known, since its first year in office, that the private sector is not doing enough applied research. Its response has been to put the brakes on pure research in universities. The result has been that the weakness has continued to aggravate, while the strength has been put in danger. At Davos more than a year ago, Harper said his government would “continue to make the key investments in science and technology necessary to sustain a modern competitive economy.” It’s not clear what he meant by “continue.” It is true that recent changes at the National Research Council are designed to bolster, or accompany, or synergize with, or somehow prop up private-sector applied research. I can only wish the NRC luck. If it manages to push Canada up 7 spots in international rankings of research intensity, the country will be back where it was, compared to peer countries, on the day Stephen Harper became prime minister.

The cheaper thing the government could do is to shut down the STIC council. It’ll stop producing meddlesome reports like this.


Stephen Harper and the knowledge economy: perfect strangers

  1. Jeez, could today be the worst day to release this report? Thanks for highlighting! Probably won’t make the D section in tomorrows papers.

    • Does the release date matter? Unless of course it’s useful for pushing an agenda.

      I think an important question to ask here is if Canada and Canadians were/are receiving adequate compensation for their investments in research.

      Handing out taxpayers dollars like candy to every researcher that wants to study the impact of the Lord of the Rings in leather subculture is one thing; financing research into new materials or environmental impact studies is another.
      Is less more?

  2. Business is never interested in R&D if someone else will pick up the tab for them, it’s one of those externalities that are so conveniently forgotten/overlooked by the “I did that” morons. Businesses get tax breaks from the grey bean-counter without any conditions so there is no pressure on them to invest.
    Government see pure science as a net expenditure on the quarterly report. As the biggest earner is digging crap out of the ground and moving it on quickly rather than adding value here; why do we need to fund stuff that the knuckle draggers don’t understand?
    It’s what you get when you elect the terminally stupid into positions of power, but with 33% of the population too stupid and partisan to understand that it’s the future.

    • Isn’t it nice to know “the inmates have taken over the asylum”. And what’s with the 33%. It’s more like 70%+ and growing fast. At this rate we’ll end up in the 99>1% situation. Oops we’re all ready there. Of course if I had won the recent PowerBall Lottery things would be entirely different. sic 2013AD

    • Of course one problem with private Canadian R&D has always been the “branch plant” economy–too much control by foreign companies who do their research elsewhere. And these days, with Harper insisting the country’s economy be based on oil, oil and nothing but oil, while everyone else can eat free trade and a high dollar, the sectors of the Canadian economy that normally do research are dying. With shrinking manufacturing and high tech sectors, those sectors aren’t doing much research. Big surprise.
      I’m trying to imagine a Canada bright enough to elect a government that would push for Canadian control of the Canadian economy, back off from the relentless free trade, have the guts to pick some winners the way successful economies like Japan and South Korea and Germany always have, generally have an industrial policy. If we had that stuff, private research would pick up and be worth something, and the public research, pure or applied, would have more relevance given dynamic Canadian-owned high tech industries capable of taking some advantage of them.
      Instead we get Harper, who isn’t interested in a Canadian economy that does anything but resource extraction, but wants public research to do nothing but the most pedestrian of applied research, acting as nothing more than a subsidy for a foreign-owned private sector that won’t do its own.

      • There is nothing that you have written there that I disagree with.
        “I’m trying to imagine a Canada bright enough to elect a government that would push for Canadian control of the Canadian economy…..”
        This is the huge step we Canadians need to make though and with 25% of the electorate still supporting an obviously corrupt and criminal Harper Government, it’s going to be tough.

  3. Great article. One quibble: it is really important that the public come to understand that this government is not only against “pure” research, but that its policies also discriminate against innovative applied research.

    All of the new policies driving the agenda at the NRC and the tri-councils are intended to provide subsidy for industry-led research projects. There is nothing wrong with industry-led research projects, they are the means by which industry makes incremental improvements to their products and services. However, the argument for public subsidy of such projects is weak and indeed something any true conservative would balk at.

    Many of the most exciting areas of research today are applied. Biomedical research, nanotechnology, IT, advanced robots, new electronic materials etc are all directed at an outcome. The horizon may be long or short but they are the mechanism to promote economic growth. The longer-term or more disruptive the likely results, the stronger the case for public investment. It is not reasonable to expect companies to fund research they may not profit from.

    Many have made fun of the fact that Gary Goodyear may well believe in the Flintstones. I am more concerned that he still does not have a clue how research contributes to a national economy.

  4. Well since old school media may bury it, I tend to use social Media for my go to news source, Macleans is the exception of course. I found this story on Twitter btw.

    Good article!

  5. It is all part of Harper’s crafty plan to spend more of taxpayers $$$ to provide us with fewer services and benefits.

    When compared to US and UK, other Anglo countries that are similar to Canada, Canadians are dullards. Our culture is terrible, there is no striving for excellence.

    My niece is in elementary school, and she likes science, and I am educating her using internet. It is a joke, Americans have Khan Academy, MOOC from universities – the Americans are serious about educating their brightest – while here in Canada we celebrate our mediocrity.

    I also know a scientist who works at U of Guelph and she rants about science often – poor science education in public school, excellence is not encouraged, science is bureaucratized, scientists also have to follow union rules – euraka moments have disappeared, no more Curie’s giving themselves radiation poison – much science is directed to making generic meds or otherwise modifying existing products ….

    Is there any evidence at all that more $$$ is going to make the slightest bit of difference when we have had 40-50 years of Canadian scientists underperforming when compared to colleagues elsewhere? Private universities, less bureaucratic places drive knowledge in America and UK while Canada has no major private universities which is obvious when comparing ‘knowledge’ economies.

    • the cost of one university’s MBA program is now 30,000$ What this indicates to me is that the private sector is becoming a “gated” community; and we know where that goes. On the flip side, maybe if the MPs in government would take a cut in there pay and pensions there might be enough money to invest in the “public education” system where usually eureka moments occur given natural selection and our believe that “necessity is the mother of invention”

    • Having trouble reconciling your statement that “we have had 40-50 years of Canadian scientists underperforming when compared to colleagues elsewhere?” with: “With a share of only 0.5 percent of global population, Canada accounted for 4.4 percent of the world’s natural sciences and engineering publications in 2010”. Also, what have private universities got to do with anything? The top 25 research universities in the UK are all public.

      • Hester was hoping that nobody actually noticed the truth deficit in her speech. Anyone who hails the US education system over the systems of Canada must be seriously deluded or badly informed. Either way I’m not sure that they should be expecting anyone to take them seriously.
        As for mediocrity, the recent moves by this current government to foster apathy, destroy education and restrict access to knowledge might have something to do with Canadians not caring. Maybe this latest scandal that the CPoC finds itself in will show just how redundant old model reactionary radical politics is?

        • The Liberal Party of Canada thanks you for your posts. Keep up the good work for the home team!

          • It’s funny how those who post the most talking point laden comments, immediately assume that others who post must automatically be as shallow, venal and uninspired as them.

            Never joined a party and never will. Party politics enables corruption and places loyalty to the party above representing one’s constituents.

            From your comment I take it that you are all on board with the current shenanigans then?

          • Why don’t you point to a post that I’ve made that’s “laden with talking points”? I’d like to see that.

          • I’m sorry, you’re more accurately a one trick pony of a bomb thrower,

            “The Canadian Labour Congress thanks you for your post. It’s impressive that you managed to fit so many of our favourite talking points into a single post. Well done!”

            “The Liberal Party of Canada thanks you for your post.”

            There was me thinking you were a talking point regurgitater, when all you are is a sad variant on Rudy Guilliani..


          • This from the person who says our current government is out to “destroy education.” No partisan hyperbole there.
            This leaves aside, of course, the point that education is largely run by our provinces. But hey, why let facts get in the way of your hyperbolic partisan BS?

          • I live in Alberta – the same mentality is in charge here too, so our government is indeed out to destroy education, especially at the the tertiary level.

            And how does that change my statement about your one trick pony show?

      • Just do what i do – simply assume the converse is true, when Tony clambers up on his, we is undereddicated cuz of gummint, high stool.
        Where on earth can you point to good educational or economic outcomes that don’t include affordable public education as a major part of the mix? The same is true of good, stable relatively uncorrupt govt institutions. There simply is no tax free, privately run nirvana where everything is perfect – it’s all in the imaginations of libertarians; the flip side of the mythical socialist paradise most likely.

    • Yes, money does help. It levels the playing field when we compete against the rest of the world. However, you miss the point of the article entirely and no, our scientists are not that bad. Full disclosure, I am one.

      Despite our past successes and failures, the stance of the current government has been to kill open scientific discourse (which is one of the pillars upon which science is based) and starting with the NRC, scientists are being told to leave their original ideas at home. Nothing will get funded unless someone in industry or somewhere else is already doing it. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom about how to run an innovation economy and counter to any success stories I’ve ever seen.

  6. The CONServative solution to this problem will be to stop producing these reports at all.
    Problem solved & money saved for the next set of election goodies.

    • Lol, CONServative. That’s almost as clever as when other disputably erudite commentators use LIEberal.
      How did you get so witty?

  7. Remember that Harper cut the SRED grants to big business by 25%; no political announcements for a tax credit. Now turning NRC to business R&D – and having politicians make announcements.

    • Well better having NRC helping business instead of researching fruit fly sexual behavior.

      • You no clear understanding of science or scientific research, nor the history of science. It is on this kind of non-applied pure research (ie fruit fly) that led to discoveries like the structure of DNA, something pursued without business in mind, but today with a multitude of business and industry applications.

  8. It’s hard to believe this situation won’t worsen while the Harperites pursue a balanced budget as their only objective in the run up to election 2015. They will continue to scale back on any government activity that doesn’t have sex appeal (e.g., law ‘n order) among their base.

    In their tawdry pantheon of “great ideas”, science has no chance.

    • Why bother, though? They don’t HAVE to balance the budget, they only have to ANNOUNCE during the campaign that they’ve balanced the budget, and avoid scrutiny until after the votes are counted. Then – whooops! Honest mistake! Who would have thought Jim Flaherty would provide bad numbers?

      • Actually, as I recall, that’s pretty close to what Flaherty did with his last budget in Ontario. The balance was predicated on the intention to sell off yet-to-be identified public assets.

        Still, they’ll cut as many corners as they can (including off their commitment to science and technology) in order to make the books look balanced.

  9. On the face of it, this looks like the natural consequence of electing a bunch of people who are utterly convinced that govt is the problem, in no way part of the answer. We’ve seen this before. When govts become obsessed with holding on to power, rather than governing well. Chretien, particularly in his last term. Martin from the off( to be fair he had a huge hill in front of him from day one) But we’ve never before seen such openly hostile antipathy and disregard, even contempt for public institutions. And now Harper, who seems more interested in hobbling institutions, rather than reforming them – presumably because he doesn’t trust institutional govt. Ironically he greatly admires the US model, wrongly concluding that it isn’t driven by national interest and by strong public institutions.

    • Gringo- I’m 53 years old. I can count on my left thumb the number of times I have encountered a circumstance where govt. action has actually improved things. For all of my life, the feds have been tossing money down the memory hole on things like equalization, national unity and expanded bilingualism, regional development, gun control, poverty reduction, native education, and on and on and on and on. In all of these cases, after spending billions of hard earned dollars enriching the bureaucracy, the end result is virtually always the same as what we started with. Show me a govt. program that was started, achieved its stated goal, and was then phased out due to it successfully achieving that stated goal, and I’ll deliver 6 mating pairs of Bigfoot to the address of your choice.
      Government is most assuredly a root of many problems, and the simplest way to eliminate those problems is to shrink government down to a point where most of us would not recognize it.

      • Gringo! FU too buddy.
        . “In all of these cases, after spending billions of hard earned dollars enriching the bureaucracy, the end result is virtually always the same as what we started with”

        All of it spent just to enrich the bureaucracy! You sure none of it went toward fixing or heading off tricky long standing political problems…not a sou of it did any good!!!
        People like you live in a libertarian dream world, where political problems are magically solved by a little entrepreneurial gumption and market pixie dust…if we only applied the business model to it, everything would be hunky dory.
        As i said, point out to me this magical land where free enterprise has fixed all of man kinds many ills. The last low[read no] tax, anti govt nirvana i heard tell of collapsed in a smouldering heap of corruption and cronyism – i believe it was quite hot at one time – the asian tigers, followed by the low rent celtic tiger…what’s next? The northern tiger? Sorry, i credit Canadians as having more sense than that.

        • Who benefited from billions of dollars of gun control spending? Basically, federal employees. Who benefits from billions of dollars in nationwide French langauge promotion? Federal employees. Who benefits from billions of dollars in regional development spending? Federal employees once again. The list is as long as a Russian novel. Let’s just get out of regional development and bilingualism and equalization.

          Look, we have thousands of federal employees who do nothing more than manage federal programs that haven’t accomplished anything since Dief was scrapping airplanes. We all know that.

          So, let’s fire half the federal cabinet. Pick any dozen and a half, it genuinely won’t matter, though I’d pay good money to see Tony Clement sidelined. Then get the remainder to trim another half dozen just for good measure. Here would be my list:

          Human resources,, citizenship, northern development, international trade, intergovernmental affairs, Atlantic Canada Opportunities, tourism, western economic diversification, science and technology, democratic reform, seniors, and sport, international cooperation, economic development for northern Ontario.

          You could fire each and every minister, roll 1/3 of their ministry into another department whose description overlaps (i.e foreign affairs and international cooperation look as alike concrete and cement), and put the remainder of all those employees on pogie for the rest of their lives and we’d all be better off economically. (If I’m paying a guy $84K/yr to accomplish nothing, I’m money in the bank to pay him $400/wk to accomplish the same thing.)

          We can’t say this often enough or loud enough: the federal government was way. way too big 30 years back. Make it smaller.

          Less opportunities for corruption and waste will automatically lead to less of it. It is really that simple. Fire a thousand feds a week for a year, give that money back to the taxpayers it was taken from, and we’d be off to a great start.

          • You appear to have no idea how a federal state, especially one this size and this diverse, functions. You can’t run it like a mom and pop franchise you know. You never could, no matter how far you go back.

      • Trans Canada Highway
        Coast Guard
        Experimental Farm
        Petro Canada
        Bell Northern Research

        • Trans Canada highway- 50 years post completion, and we still can’t drive coast to coast on a four-lane highway with no stop signs or traffic lights. The TCH is where the American Interstate highway system was in 1960.

          Petro Canada- 10% of our national debt is directly attributable to the creation of Petro Canada and the NEP.

          Bell Northern Research- See: NorTel.

        • The biggest beneficiaries of Petro-Canada were the shareholders of Phillips Petroleum Canada and Petrofina Canada (including a considerable number of Americans), who suckered Pierre Trudeau into buying those companies out at the very top of the market. Another stellar example of Trudeau’s economic chops.

      • Gringo- I’m 53 years old. I can count on my left thumb the number of
        times I have encountered a circumstance where govt. action has actually
        improved things.

        Pancho- I’m quite a bit older ‘n you and it still surprises me how some amigos get older but never seem to get wiser. Thanks fer showin’ up at the hacienda to remind us.


        • Look, I’m all for peace, order, and good government, but… I am literally the blue collar everyman. I apprenticed as a tradesman, and gradually moved into small business management and then in to sales. I’ve raised 3 kids to adulthood, all of whom encounter a daily, grinding reality: The single biggest expense in our lives is government. It costs more than rent or a mortgage, food, clothing, electricity, and heat combined, and it never stops. We pay taxes on the fuel we burn getting to work, the tools we use at work, and on the income we earn, and on the savings we accrue. If we’re lucky enough to save exceptionally well, we’re limited to how much we can save, and how we invest those savings.

          Probably half of our tax burden is payroll. Of that, probably 20% goes towards pensions. We spend so much on public pensions that for every dollar Canadians set aside for their own retirement, they also pay in taxation solely to support pensions for government employees.

          As I have stated as nauseum, reduce the public payrolls, either by reducing the sheer numbers of them or cutting back on actual pay and benefits and you reduce the need for punitive taxation.

          Revamp the pension plans of government employees at all levels. Fairness is a door that swings both ways, and it’s grotesquely unfair to confiscate the earnings of taxpayers so that those who work in government literally don’t have to save for their own retirement. Do we really owe someone who maxes out at $72K per year in middle management of some vague program a $36k/yr lifetime indexed pension that they can start collecting on before they turn 60? Do we really owe them that?

          Shouldn’t your retirement reflect your ability to earn and save instead of the governments’ propensity to tax? Why should those who toil in government have to spend less time in their lives planning and saving for their post-work years than most of the rest of us do in a month or a year?

          Pay and pensions are intricately tied to high taxes. If all levels of governments worked on those two issues, and left those savings in the hands of the taxpayers who could then spend and invest the money as they see fit, we would eradicate half the problems that governments spend inordinate amounts of item and energy and money on.

          Do that simple task, and those of us who viscerally hate the federal government for it’s raw, incessant and inexorable stupidity would hate it somewhat less.

          • I see nothing wrong in being critical of the scale or cost of government and the tax burden it exacts. But to blithely reduce benefits of government to a number you can count on one digit is patently absurd. Most of the services and amenities you apparently take for granted are products that were created through collective taxation and public investment.

            Taxes are the price we pay for living in a civil society. You and your hardworking family would be huddled around a fire in the woods without them.

          • But why should that excuse wastefulness or extravagance? Tell me why, exactly, we should reward often wholly unnecessary government work so extravagantly? In fact, why should we reward any govt. work so extravagantly? You tell me, why should someone who’s major accomplishment in the workforce was to rise to a modest $60-80k/yr middle management position in government be rewarded with 6 or 8 weeks per year paid vacation time and accorded an early pension with a low 7 figure book value? (You would need well over $1 million in cash to retire at 58, on $40k/yr). You tell me, when it’s uncommon for a solid small business to generate that kind of return, why we would reward those who choose the often easy workplace path of government with such high rewards. Tell me.

          • Read the first sentence in my last response.

          • “whose”, hairy-eared one.

          • Yep, you’re changin’ the world by yammering in online forums, Willy.
            Good grief – go cut your lawn or something, would’ja?

            Seriously, you’ve got NOTHING more productive to do?

            P.S. “as nauseum”, Biley? Back to grade 7 with ya.

      • 53??????

        You look 80.

        Time to chill, Bill.

  10. I’m not sure what to make of the report without understanding the reasons behind the numbers.

    For instance, it’s easy to dismiss the comparisons with the G7. But Canada more closely resembles such countries than it resembles India, China, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Canada has similar levels of taxation and social welfare spending as the G7, and a similar regulatory framework. Some of these measures are in relation to GDP, and countries in the G7 spend much more of their GDP on many other things that emerging countries do not. In fact, it’s rather astounding that in many Western European countries, government already spends half of GDP. Naturally, if half of GDP is already spent by government, the GDP that can be devoted to private sector R&D will be less.

    I would also like to know more about Canada private sector R&D. If Canada’s private sector spends less on R&D, then where is their money going? Do they spend less in general, do they spend on other things, do they have higher profits or lower profits? No doubt everybody loves R&D, but without seeing it in context, it’s hard to make judgements about whether there is a problem or what the problems may be.

    • Those questions are fair. Many of them are addressed in the report, linked above. It’s not light reading but it’s worth sitting down with.

      • I downloaded it. I agree it’s not light reading (100 pages) but I am curious to know if Canada is losing ground and why.

        • You are so obvious…

    • And let me mention the fact the many succesfull R&D comes about by private citizens doing their thing. Canadians, generally speaking, are a much more cautious people. More timid, if you will. The Americans, in contrast, are much more risk takers by nature. Such facts should not be underestimated.

  11. Let me put this in very simple terms.

    Two months ago the final large biopharmaceutical firm conducting significant research shut down its Montreal operation: the final such company doing work in Montreal. (In the 90’s there were two dozen companies in this field in this city.)

    People with PhD’s and MSc’s have either moved to other countries to continue their research, or are finding new careers.

    Some of these people are now selling Tupperware.

    Welcome to your Harper-approved economy.

    • Those PhD’s/Tupperware purveyors likely also spend lots of time tappity-tapping away in online forums………biggest productivity-killer EVER……after Facebook.

  12. Agreed that it is unfortunate that the government was not pressured to pay more attention to Canada`s increased participation in the knowledge economy.

    But who knew that the opposition and MacLean`s media would have more important things to go after the Conservatives like wafers and prorogation and orange juice and census forms and fake lakes, etc.——

    I expect that when the media get a chance to discuss domestic matters while the PM is in South America, they will be questioning him about the knowledge economy. Harper is probably preparing his answers right now.

    • I’ve written about all three of the biennial STIC reports on the day of their release. I’ve been covering knowledge-economy policy for more than a decade, under three prime ministers. When you learn to spell Maclean’s, come on back.

      • Must say that Wells is the only writer who has consistently brought up the state of governmental support of science in Canada – and well before the present administration set foot in Ottawa. The whole field is full of jargon (GERD, BERD and lots of NERDs) as well as an intricate series of funding conduits for science that only a desperate scrabble player could love (NSERC, NRC, CFI, Genome Canada, CECR, CIHR, CRC, CERC, SSHERC) – but he’s cut through this and given profile to an important issue that others have ignored in favour of quick hits.

        The STIC reports are tough reading but it must be even tougher for the government to be challenged by its own advisory group, especially when Minister Goodyear continually touts the party line of increased funding for research and innovation. Wells is right to keep kicking at this can as it is ultimately how the future of this country will be defined – much like you can tell the ethics of a society by how well the leader of the PMO… oh, nevermind.

        • But then let us try and explain this:

          How to consider this, ethically speaking, when Justin Trudeau says this when explaining about his private speaking engagements while sitting as a public MP:

          “Trudeau says he never marketed himself as an MP and says his speeches were focused on youth issues, education and the environment.

          “I talked non-political stuff,” he said.

          Read more:

          Very confusing, these standards of ethics and these standards of who is a politician and when.

          When Justin speaks in the House on matters of education, is he then doing so as a politician? But when he is speaking on matters of education when on a private speaking tour, he is not? What is Justin’s stand on education when he speaks as a politician?

          And how do members of the media consider Justin when he speaks on issues of education when on a private speaking tour?

          I am confused, to say the least. Perhaps Paul Wells or other reporters could enlighten us!

          • I remember the good ol’ days when anyone who wanted to discuss the faults of the Harper government was accused of “Harper Derangement Syndrome” for not shutting up and letting the government go unchallenged.

            I’d like to suggest the 2.0 version — “Justin Derangement Syndrome” — for people who desperately try to turn any unflattering Harper-related story into a completely unrelated, fully irrelevant, borderline-obsessive Justin Trudeau thread.

            I basically mean you.

          • I remember the good old days when Harper was accused of having a secret agenda. And what about the days when Harper could not be trusted? Oh, wait, he still has a secret agenda, according to his haters and according to many within the media. They just cannot pin Harper down on a secret agenda, so the Harper hate must be funneled somehow. Hence the fake contempt of Parliament and so forth.

            I was thinking Justin wouldn’t want to go on in politics with a big secret hanging over his head. Better for Robert Fife to investigate Justin now, because closer to an upcoming election, the outcome of a Justin investigation might not be so good.

            Investigate Justin. He has something to hide. That’s why Justin has not commented on the expense accounts of others! Open your eyes!

          • Quod erat demonstrandum, baby.

            – Thomas Dolby, “Airhead”

          • In the clearing stands a boxer

            And a fighter by his trade

            And he carries the reminders

            Of ev’ry glove that layed him down

            Or cut him till he cried out

            In his anger and his shame

            “I am leaving, I am leaving”

            But the fighter still remains

            ladelade lalalala

          • Hmmm. Parliament finds Harper in contempt and yet it’s “fake” because Harper whines about how mean they are to him. Parliament… who are the duly elected representatives of the Canadian voter, against the word of one man. And you choose Harper’s take? You must get all your “facts” from the CPoC webpage.

            Myself, I found Harper’s response to the finding of contempt to be precisely the dictionary definition of the word, and all doubts I might have had were lifted. Of course, the “fact” that it was over the not giving the real costs for the fighter jets, which we have now come to know were falsified, that also might help you in the decision making process. Oh, but now, we’re supposed to believe that this was a clerical error or a natural mistake?????

          • “I understand all destructive urges,
            It seems so perfect,
            I see
            I see no evil”
            -If PM Harper was honest, he’d sing THIS song at his next R & R PM photo-op event!

      • Sorry if I`ve offended you by lumping you in with the common media, but the word is out there that most Canadian media especially the ” maclains variety are more interested in chasing the fluffy stories, that they hope will discredit the Harper government, than in actual investigative and constructive journalism.

        Also Wells, you`re a smart guy so you will know that the at least part of the blame for a somewhat secretive, controlling, and paranoid ( they say you`re not paranoid if they really are out to get you ) government is the fault of a petty opposition and media that chase after the most silly stories while ignoring the important ones—kind of like a respected journalist razzing a common commenter for a spelling while ignoring the obvious message in the comment—does he expect his esteemed colleagues to question the PM on the knowledge economy ?

        • Andrew, I don’t think today is the best day to be arguing that that the government is a victim of the press.

          • But Andrew was very quick in his thinking, when catching that fact that indeed Paul Wells did fish out the spelling mistake rather than answer Andrew on the real point made in his comment. Kinda like how most of the media is behaving these days!

          • The “real point” being that Harper isn’t responsible for himself? Yeah, Andrew’s got him there.

          • You are missing Andrew’s point, just as Paul Wells missed Andrew’s point.

          • I got the point – it’s not Harper’s fault because…the media, the opposition etc.

          • That’s not what Andrew or I are saying at all. I know it must be difficult for you to deal with what Andrew is trying to say. And yes, it would be difficult to deal with what Andrew has to say when you hate Harper that much.

          • It’s just as difficult to see someone hate Trudeau an opposition so much.

          • Thank you for reading and responding to all of my posts this evening. I appreciate it.

            I don’t know who hates Justin. I, for one, don’t hate Justin. I just think that Justin should be treated like any other politician.

            If any other politician would have made as much money going on public speaking tours while being on an MP wage besides, I think any such other politician would have been investigated as to how private expenses were claimed.

            Let’s treat all politicians the same. Why not?

          • Jan, I`m not saying that Harper is a victim of the press, but rather it is even obvious to a commoner like me that Harper is a product of his time in Ottawa. He may have come from the West as an idealist and policy wonk in 1993 but after years of being subjected to the slanted writings of the Wherrys of the world, then it is to be expected that he would concentrate more on controlling a difficult bunch rather than on carrying through on more constructive issues. But every now and then a Duffy slips through the cracks and we have a $hitstorm. The whole QP today was about the useless twit.

            I`m sure a thinker like Wells has wondered whether we might have better government if we had media who were able to see the big picture instead of trying to further their personal agenda and their fans in the opposition.

            Or maybe it never crosses his mind.

          • Waw, best post ever!

          • Also not a good day to accuse others of trying to further their personal agenda, but hey – you gotta do what you gotta do.

          • Let’s all do the Harper Rap:

            one fine day I was walkin to work
            man yelled to me
            I started up with a jerk
            he said “you’re the PM now, what do you say?”
            I said “are you for real?”
            tell me “who is to blammmmme?!”

            call: Nigel Wright?
            response: It’s not my fault!

            call: Bruce Carson?
            response: It’s not my fault!

            call: Mike Duffy?
            response: It’s not my fault!

            call: Pamela Wallin?
            response: It’s not my fault!

            call: massive deficits?
            response: It’s not my fault!

            call: Patrick Brazeau?
            response: It’s not my fault!

            call: election overspending?
            response: It’s not my fault!

            call: robocalls?
            response: It’s not my fault!

            call: Cadman bribes?
            response: It’s not my fault!

            call: banking regulation?
            response: It’s not….Yo! I did that!

            call: so who is to blame?
            response: Andrew Wherry

            call: so who is to blame?
            response: the Tooth Fairy

            call: so who is to blame?
            response: Justin Trudeau

            call: so who is to blame?
            response: Maybe Juan Miro?

        • Over the past year, I have not heard one positive CPC report coming from the media. Not even when both Mulcair and Trudeau stood up in the House publicly condemning the TFWP while behind the scenes writing letters asking for more foreign workers to be brought in, did the media report on the opposition’s hypocrisy!

          How can a program like the TFWP be discussed, if the opposition parties are not even taken into account of what is unfolding, as a whole??? It boggles the mind how policies in this country are being dealt with. Most often, the discussion is not about the policy at all, but the discussion is all about how wrong Harper and his government is, once again!

          • OK, here’s your big chance: Name one actual, verifiable, indisputably-good-for-Canada accomplishment of the CPC over the past year.

          • That question has been asked to me many times before and I have answered that question many times before. If you are interested in what my reply is to that question, read back my comments. I don’t feel like repeating myself on the subject.

          • Yup – that’s what I figured. Nada. Thanks FV!

          • I don’t really care what you think. I know for a fact that I did respond a few times to the question you asked me just now within your post. I did respond and you can find it if you look back not that far.

            But whatever. I know I am speaking the truth. That you don’t care about that is your problem, not mine.

          • Looks like it’s yours you keep responding.

        • Having already established that its not Harper’s fault he appointed
          crooked Senators
          and Nigel Wright, it’s only natural that
          it’s not his fault Canada’s science performance is suffering or that
          he’s secretive and unaccountable. In fact, its not even his fault that
          he’s Prime Minister.

  13. Anyone who uses the term “knowledge based economy” should be shot with a ball of his own manure. There is no such thing as a “knowledge based economy” that is different from the overall economy. All skills and talents are knowledge, be it saw sharpening, balancing a a grinder wheel, or writing code for a computer program. Back in the day, the guy who could make flint arrowheads was just as much a participant in the “knowledge based economy” of the sub-glacial steppes as someone who uses software to develop a hog feeding program for a pork producer or someone who uses StatsCan data to develop a web-based marketing tool for a furniture store.
    “Knowledge based economy” is a great catch phrase, but is as meaningless “child poverty”, “sustainable development”, or “social justice.” For a national affairs journalist to use the phrase speaks volumes about the state of journalism.

    • Or it speaks volumes about your antiquated understanding of economics. You are symptomatic of a culture that is still trying to apply two-hundred year old inventions, such as “copyright,” and other creations of industrial capitalism to a post-industrial age.

    • Very good point. It’s related to this similar fallacy floating out there to the effect that any and every job (and for that matter all activity) in the resource extraction sector is somehow “bad”. And that there are no “knowledge-based” jobs in the resource extraction area. Meanwhile, the largest percentage of engineers in this country resides in . . . Alberta. Tons of Alberta-based and trained engineers, geologists, geophysicists and the like have created all kinds of high-end, high-tech products and services. But because these are spinoffs from a resource extraction-based economy, apparently none of this matters, or exists, or it’s evil. Take your pick.

      • I won’t offer up any excuses for him. That’s just wilful stupidity as far as I’m concerned. Harper lost me at 39 cabinet ministers. That’s at least 20 too many. The biggest source of bad government is simply too much government.

  14. Paul Wells and objective reporting: perfect strangers!

    • I dare you to read the report he extracted his article from and then repeat this nonsensical comment.

      • I find the line ‘Paul Wells and objective reporting: perfect strangers’ to be fitting.

        Paul seems to think that his title to the piece fits and I happen to think that my line fits.

        Who’s to argue about what Paul thinks and who’s to argue about what I think is befitting?

        Only Paul Wells can have opinions to make into headlines?

        • Troll

    • Oh I should have read on, you’re a troll.

  15. I have an idea. Redirect the $1.1 billion per year we give to the CBC to make “Little Mosque on the Prairie” to science. Deal?

    • I’m a scientist (not government) but I can think of quite a few other government expenditures that could be re-evaluated before the CBC (which has been continuously trimmed over the past 8 years). Might start with the economic action plan adverts, then the icebreaker ship design contracts, then maybe the F-35.

      • Or maybe the expenses publicly claimed by Justin when he flew to and fro his private speaking engagements. Wonder how much that would have cost the taxpayer. Too bad Justin won’t open his public expense account! So much for transparency of the new leader!

        • Get a life. Let’s focus on who is in power and in control of things. Deflecting doesn’t change that.

          • Thank you for reading and responding to all of my posts. I hope you had fun reading and responding to all of my posts.

  16. “The cheaper thing the government could do is to shut down the STIC council. It’ll stop producing meddlesome reports like this.”
    I’m betting this is already part of the next “Budget [or is that EAP] Implementation Omnibus[t] Bill”

  17. I am certainly happy that something as vital to our nation’s future as this wasn’t buried beneath the usual local political trivia, thanks to our vigilant media. Cough.

  18. As Ricardo pointed out (not Lucy’s squeeze who sang Babalu) where’s the comparative advantage in R&D? Just buy it in the form of, well. finished goods made by other countries.

    As a country, you don’t get points for style.

  19. M.Carney mentioned we should export natural resources to developing nations to secure markets and be the bitch part of the supply chain. He laso said we should innovate. What if said objectives conflict?
    The Neocon slant of the Havard curriculum is showing…

  20. “The cheaper thing the government could do is to shut down the STIC council. It’ll stop producing meddlesome reports like this.” Steve didn’t need this prompt, Paul — if his government is embarrassed in any way by people noticing the dedication to the resource based economy of the past that’s the first thing he’ll do.

  21. The STIC is composed of academics. Of course they are going to whine that universities are not getting enough money. University science labs have become nothing more than policy tools for the international community. Instead of producing new and valuable work, they are producing reasons for government to implement policy. It’s *ss backwards science. The government provides the answer, science is suppose to provide the question.