Restoring Federal Science Capacity – A Fact Sheet

Canadians want federal science funding restored to 2011 levels.

According to 2016 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures (the most recent available), Canada ranks 21 out of 27 OECD countries in the amount it reports spending on science.

Under the former Harper government, many federal departments had their science funding slashed as a result of sweeping public service cuts. Between 2012 and 2014, a total of $223 million in intramural funding was eliminated.  

While overall funding for science and technology has increased since 2015 – especially for so-called Related Science Activities that include regulatory services such as food safety – government funding for public sector science generally has lagged the amounts spent encouraging innovation by universities and the private sector.

Restoring funding to federal science programs has strong public support. According to an Environics Research survey commissioned by PIPSC, most Canadians (72%) agree “in the next federal budget, funding for federal government science programs should be restored to what it was in 2011.”[1]

Most federal government scientists believe funding is insufficient to fulfill their departments’ mandates.

According to a 2017 survey of federal government scientists:

  • Well over half (58%) believe their department does not have sufficient resources to fulfill its mandate. (The problem is particularly pronounced in the Canadian Space Agency (79%), Natural Resources Canada (64%), and even Environment and Climate Change Canada, where 60% do not feel their department has sufficient resources to fulfill its mandate.)[2]
  • Only 41% believe that policies and decisions are always made with the best available scientific evidence and information.
  • Moreover, only half (51%) are satisfied with the use of scientific evidence in decision-making.[3]

Funding for federal government R&D is lower now than in 2011 under the Conservatives.

  • While overall funding of science has increased from $10.4 billion in 2015/16 to $11.3 billion in 2018/19,[4] actual spending on federal government science is projected to be $112 million lower in 2018/19 than in 2014/15.[5] 
  • Worse, spending on research and development (R&D) by government scientists has declined by $891 million compared to 2010/11 under the Harper government.[6]

Federal government R&D work is in danger. R&D spending in seven out of 18 departments is lower in 2018/19 than it was in 2010/11, including at:

  • Canadian Space Agency (- $12 million)
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada (- $107 million)
  • Health Canada (- $20 million)
  • Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (formerly Industry Canada) (- $19 million)
  • National Defence (- $100 million)
  • Natural Resources Canada (- $54 million)
  • Statistics Canada (- $62 million)

[1] The public opinion survey by Environics Research was conducted by telephone among 1,000 Canadians between July 3 and 8, 2018. The results can be considered accurate + or – 3.2%, 19 times out of 20

[2]PIPSC Science Members Survey, 2017.  Invitations to participate in the online survey, hosted by Environics Research, were sent to 16,377 federal scientists, engineers and researchers engaged in scientific work in over 40 federal departments and agencies. Of these 3,025 (18.5%) responded between May 29 and June 27, 2017. The survey is considered accurate + or – 1.8%, 19 times out of 20. 

[3] PIPSC Science Members Survey, 2017.

[4] Statistics Canada. Table 27-10-0026-01 Federal expenditures on science and technology, by major departments and agencies - Intentions (x 1,000,000).

[6] Statistics Canada. Table 27-10-0026-01 Federal expenditures on science and technology, by major departments and agencies - Intentions (x 1,000,000). Authors calculations. See PIPSC file Departmental Intramural Spending on RD and RSA 2010-2019.