Open letter: Don’t leave Canada behind

I received this via email.

Dear colleague,

The following open letter to the Prime minister and the Leader of the Opposition was sent this morning, signed by hundreds of your colleagues across Canada.

March 16, 2009

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada The Right Honourable Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Opposition Ottawa

Subject: Don’t leave Canada behind

Dear Prime Minister, Dear Leader of the Opposition

U.S. President Barack Obama is taking advantage of the current financial crisis to push his country forward in new directions by greatly boosting funding to scientific research and education as a means to jump start innovation in a new economy. The scope of his vision is stunning, including an increase of more than $15 billion in scientific research, and a promise to double the funding for education in the next 10 years. For more details, see

Our government has also tried to stimulate the research / university sector in Canada, wishing to take important initiatives. At the heart of the plan is a $2 billion dollars infrastructure fund for shovel-ready renovation projects in post-secondary institutions, a fund that was actively solicited by university presidents. There is also an additional $750 million for the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and $87.5 million over three years for doctoral scholarships. While these funding announcements are surely welcome, we would like to share our concerns as to the potential effect of some of these decisions, in particular in view of the bold and visionary course taken by the Obama administration south of the border.

1. When the U.S. government is proposing to boost the funding of the National Science Foundation (NSF) by 40% ($3 billion on top of its current $6.9 billion), we see Canada’s “stimulus budget” cutting NSERC’s by 5%. When the U.S. administration is proposing to boost the funding of the National Institute of Health (NIH) by 30% ($8.5 billion in addition to its current $29 billion), our “stimulus budget” is cutting CIHR’s by 5%, while essentially ignoring the needs of Genome Canada. When US researchers are being actively approached for ideas to use the stimulus money to think big and to hire and retain their researchers, their Canadian counterparts are now scrambling to identify budget cuts for their Labs, while worrying about the future of their graduating students. Recent Tri-council grants competitions, which were post stimulus budget, are already pointing towards sharply lower success rates (by more than 20% in some disciplines), lower start-up grants for young researchers, and negligible research funding for smaller institutions and provinces. These cuts are huge steps backward for Canadian Science and we ask the government to immediately develop a multi-year plan to significantly increase this country’s R&D investment through our granting councils.

2. The infrastructure support for Canada’s post-secondary institutions is surely beneficial for their depleted budgets for deferred maintenance. However, the federal support requires 50% in matching funds which few institutions currently have. The net effect of this decision will be to dictate priorities for universities and provincial governments too eager to get the federal funds, and as such to divert further funds from teaching, training and research. We therefore ask government to drop the requirement of matching funds.

3. The CFI has provided a tremendous boost to certain aspects of Canada’s research infrastructure over the last 10 years. However, the constraints of the program have left many important research disciplines out of its potential beneficial impact. Moreover, similar matching rules continue to apply to CFI projects, and as a consequence of the present lack of available support from the private sector and from provincial governments, even some of the already approved projects are being postponed and cancelled. At this point in time, we believe that removing the matching requirements for current and future CFI projects would be extremely beneficial for Canada and its research infrastructure.

4. The funding of an additional 500 doctoral scholarships is great news for a country that is committed to have “the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world”. However, it seems this funding is coming at the expense of the highly qualified personnel (HQP’s) that could have been recruited more efficiently by our senior researchers through their Tri-Council grants. We believe that a more efficient strategy for ensuring a successful HQP policy is to give our leading researchers the flexibility to manage the selection, recruitment, and support of their own graduate students through their peer-reviewed research grants, and via well-established leveraging procedures with the universities and the private sector. We also regret that the $17.5-million assigned to SSHRC for graduate scholarships have been earmarked towards students in business and finance. As Alain Dubuc writes in La Presse: “En boudant certains domaines de recherche, nos universités vont perdre leur pouvoir d’attraction. Et bien des jeunes talentueux iront ailleurs.

5. President Obama is proposing to double federal funding for education over the next 10 years, and pledging to “restore science to its rightful place” with billions in new investments. To advise his government, he has appointed leading scientists to his cabinet and as his advisors (including a Nobel laureate as energy Secretary). The Obama administration has also involved the directors of NIH and NSF in federal budget discussions about the future of research. We need a similar approach in Canada, where top research scientists and humanists can help shape directions in Ottawa for research funding.

A new economy is coming out of this crisis and research and development will be the lifeblood to that new economy. We call upon you not to let Canada be left behind.


Margaret Ann Armour, Chemistry, Order of Canada (University of Alberta) Tom Archibald, Chair of Mathematics (Simon Fraser University) Alejandro Adem, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Tom Allison (University of British Columbia) Ali Arya, Information Technology (Carleton University) Peter Abrams, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (University of Toronto) Jim Arthur, Mathematics (University of Toronto) Marshall Agueh, Mathematics (University of Victoria) John Beamish, Chair, Physics (University of Alberta) Edward Bierstone, Mathematics (University of Toronto) Yaacov Ben-David, Biophysics (University of Toronto) Herman Brunner, Mathematics (Memorial University) Margaret Beattie, Mathematics (Mount Allison University) Peter Borwein, Mathematics (Simon Fraser University) Anne Bourlioux, Mathematics (Universite de Montreal) Hans U. Boden, Chair, Math and Statistics (McMaster University) David Brydges, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Martin Barlow, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Michael Bennett, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Kai Behrendt, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Mark Bauer (University of Calgary) Vijay Bhargava, Electrical Engineering (University of British Columbia) Hichem Ben-El-Mechaiekh,Chair, Mathematics (Brock University) Sydney Bulman-Fleming, Chair, Mathematics (Wilfred Laurier University) Sandra Barr, Acting Head, Earth and Environmental Science (Acadia University) W. Kendal Bushe, Mechanical Engineering (University of British Columbia) Sherryl Bisgrove, Biological Sciences (Simon Fraser University) Mary Berbee, Botany, (University of British Columbia) Jeff Babb, Chair, Mathematics and Statistics (University of Winnipeg) Maxim R. Burke, Chair, Mathematics and Statistics (University of PEI) Susan Baldwin (University of British Columbia) Chris Bose, Mathematics (University of Victoria) Patrick Brosnan, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Michelle Boue (Trent University) John Bowman, Mathematics (University of Alberta) Walter Craig, Mathematics (McMaster University) John Carter, Applied Science and Engineering (University of Toronto) Rustum Choksi, Mathematics (Simon Fraser University) Dan Coombs, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Clifton Cunningham, Mathematics (University of Calgary) Mohamed Cheriet, Engineering (École de technologie supérieure, Montreal) Marilyn Chapman (University of British Columbia) Eric Cytrynbaum, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Jingyi Chen, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) K. Carriere Cough, Statistics, (University of Alberta) Richard Craster, Mathematics (University of Alberta) Vladimir Chernousov, Mathematics (University of Alberta) James Colliander, Mathematics (University of Toronto) Christina C. Christara, Computer Science (University of Toronto) John Clague, Earth Sciences (Simon Fraser University) Laura Cowen, Mathematics (University of Victoria) Paul Deguire directeur, mathématiques et de statistique (Université de Moncton) Karl Dilcher, Chair, Math. and Stats. (Dalhousie) Lawrence M. Dill (Simon Fraser University) Henri Darmon, Mathematics (McGill University) Rob DeWreede, Botany, (University of British Columbia) Gregory Dudek, Chair, Computer Science (McGill University) Dan Dumont, Director, Molecular and Cellular Biology (University of Toronto) David Dunlop, Physics (University of Toronto) Ivar Ekeland, Math Economics (University of British Columbia) George Elliott, Mathematics (University of Toronto) Kadriye Ercikan, Education (University of British Columbia) Yousry Elsabrouty (The University of Calgary) Neil Emery, Director, Environmental & Life Sciences (Trent University) Roderick Edwards (University of Victoria) Ian Frigaard, Math and Mech. Engineering (University of British Columbia) Don Fraser, Statistics (University of Toronto) Richard Froese, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Don Fisher (University of British Columbia) Eugene Fiume, Computer Science (University of Toronto) John Friedlander, Mathematics (University of Toronto) Jorge Filmus, Molecular and Cellular Biology (University of Toronto) Nassif Ghoussoub, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Randy Goebel, Computing Science (University of Alberta) Dan Gibson, Earth Sciences (Simon Fraser University) Andrew Granville, Mathematics (Universite de Montreal) Pengfei Guan, Mathematics (McGill University) Ling Guan, Electrical Engineering (Ryerson) Sean Graham, Botany (University of British Columbia) Dmitri Goussev (Gusev), Chair, Chemistry (Wilfrid Laurier University) Stephen Gustafson, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Terry Gannon, Mathematics (University of Alberta) Veronique Godin, Mathematics (University of Calgary) J. Scott Goble, Education (University of British Columbia) Charles Gale, Chair, Physics (McGill University) Ed Grant, Head,Chemistry (University of British Columbia) Ian Graham, Mathematics (University of Toronto) Jacques Hurtubise, Chair, Mathematics & Statistics (McGill University) Hedley David, Medecine (University of Toronto) Viqar Husain, Chair, Mathematics (U.New Brunswick) Stephen B. Heard Chair, Biology (University of New Brunswick, Fredericton) François Huard, Head, Mathematics (Bishop’s University) Nicola J Hodges, School of Human Kinetics (University of British Columbia) Felix Herrmann, Earth and Ocean Science (University of British Columbia) Dr. Holger Hintelmann, Chair, Department of Chemistry (Trent University) Craig Heinke, Physics (University of Alberta) Anita Hubley, Education (The University of British Columbia) Alexander Holroyd, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Reinhard Illner, Mathematics (University of Victoria) Victor Ivrii, Mathematics (University of Toronto) Andrew Irvine (University of British Columbia) Slim Ibrahim (University of Victoria) Sebastian Jaimungal, Statistics (University of Toronto) Lisa Jeffrey, Mathematics (University of Toronto) Daniel James, Physics (University of Toronto) Robert Jerrard, Mathematics (University of Toronto) Rachel Kuske, Head, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Young-June Kim, Physics (University of Toronto) Young-Heon Kim, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Niky Kamran, Mathematics (McGill University) Kalpdrum Passi, Chair, Mathematics & Computer Science (Laurentian University) Boualem Khouider, Mathematics ( University of Victoria) Kalle Karu, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Maria Klawe, Computer Science (President of Harvey Mudd) Patrick Keeling, Botany, (University of British Columbia) Jennifer Klenz, Botany, (University of British Columbia) Leslie R. Kerr, Biology/Psychology (Trent University) Faqir Khanna, Physics (University of Alberta) Don Krug, Education (University of British Columbia) Raymond Kapral, Chemistry (University of Toronto) Anthony Lau, Mathematics (University of Alberta) Robert K. Logan, Physics (University of Toronto) Michael Lamoureux, Mathematics (University of Calgary) Yue Xian Li, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Victor Leung, Electrical Engineering (University of British Columbia) Victor G. LeBlanc, Directeur, Chair, Mathematics (University of Ottawa) Wenyuan Liao (University of Calgary) Mark Lewis, Mathematics (University of Alberta) James Lewis, Mathematics (University of Alberta) Aaron Levin (University of Alberta) Alexander Litvak, Mathematics (University of Alberta) Paul Lasko, Chair, Biology (McGill University) Sheldon Lin, Statistics (University of Toronto) Hoi-Kwong Lo, Electrical and Computer Engineering (University of Toronto) Wendy Lou, Biostatistics (University of Toronto) Ben Liang, Electrical and Computer Engineering (University of Toronto) Bill Langford, Mathematics (Guelph University) Marcelo Laca (University of Victoria) Alan Mackworth, Computer Science (University of British Columbia) Bojan Mohar, Mathematics (Simon Fraser University) Richard G. Miller, Biophysics and Immunology (University of Toronto) Greg Martin, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Robert McCann, Mathematics (University of Toronto) Franklin Mendivil (Acadia University) Akos Magyar, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Brian Marcus, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Barrie McCullough (University of British Columbia, Okanagan) Robert Moody, Mathematics (University of Alberta) Patrick Martone, Botany, (University of British Columbia) Peter Minev, Mathematics (University of Alberta) Amy Metcalfe, Education (University of British Columbia) Jim Mattsson (Simon Fraser University) Bill Milsom, Head, Zoology (University of British Columbia) Eckhard Meinrenken, Mathematics (University of Toronto) Sharon Morsink, Physics (University of Alberta) Bonny Norton, Education (University of British Columbia) Raymond Ng, Computer sc. (University of British Columbia) Adrian Nachman, Electrical and Computer Engineering (University of Toronto) Carl Ollivier-Gooch, P.Eng. (University of British Columbia) Fergal O’Hagan (Trent University) Peter Ottensmeyer, Medical Biophysics (University of Toronto) Don Page, Physics (University of Alberta) Anthony Peirce, Mathematics (University of British Columbia),Ed Perkins, Mathematics (University of British Columbia), Marion Porath (University of British Columbia) Roger Pierre, Directeur, Mathematiques et de statistique (Universite Laval) Cindy Prescott, Forestry (University of British Columbia) Arturo Pianzola, Mathematics (University of Alberta) Royann Petrell (University of British Columbia) Peter Pivovarov (University of Alberta) Daniel D. Pratt, Education (University of British Columbia) Erich Poppitz, Physics (University of Toronto) Ue-Li Pen, Astrophysics (University of Toronto) Toniann Pitassi, Computer Science (University of Toronto) Ian Putnam, Mathematics (University of Victoria) Jeremy Quastel, Mathematics and Statistics (University of Toronto) Christiane Rousseau (Universite de Montreal) David J. Rowe, Physics (University of Toronto) Andrew Rechnitzer, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Cristian Rios, Mathematics (University of Calgary) Chris Radford, Head Mathematics and Statistics (Memorial University) Loren Rieseberg, Botany (University of British Columbia), Dale Rolfsen, Mathematics (University of British Columbia), Reinhard Jetter, Botany (University of British Columbia) Volker Runde, Mathematics (University of Alberta) Omar Rivasplata (University of Alberta) Peter C. Ruben, Director Kinesiology (Simon Fraser University) Steven Rogak, Mech. Eng. (University of British Columbia) Jeffrey Rosenthal, Mathematics (University of Toronto) Jonathan Rose, Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering (University of Toronto) Nancy Reid, Statistics (University of Toronto) Joe Repka, Mathematics (University of Toronto) William Reed, Mathematics (University of Victoria) Gordon Slade, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Stephen Strother, Medical Biophysics (University of Toronto) Gordon Semenoff, Physics (University of British Columbia) Mohamad Sawan, Engineering (Polytechnique, University of Montreal) Viena Stastna (University of Calgary) Fred Sack, Head of Botany (University of British Columbia) Paul Stephenson, Head, Mathematics and Statistics (Acadia University) Raj Srinivasan, Chair, Mathematics (University of Saskatchewan),Brian Seymour, Mathematics (University of British Columbia),Anne Scholefield, Education (University of British Columbia) Jedrzej Sniatycki, Mathematics (University of Calgary) K D Srivastava, Engineering (University of British Columbia) Philip Stamp, Physics (University of British Columbia) Dominik Schoetzau, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Paul L. Smith, Head, Earth and Ocean Sciences (University of British Columbia) Sudarshan Sehgal, Mathematics (University of Alberta) Catherine Sulem, Mathematics (University of Toronto) Theodore Shepherd, Physics (University of Toronto) Vuk Stambolic, Medical Biophysics (University of Toronto) Nicole Tomczak-Jaegermann (University of Alberta) Peter Tiidus, Acting Dean, Science (Wilfrid Laurier University) Phillippe Tortell, Botany, (University of British Columbia) John R. Topic (Trent University) Elisabeth Tillier, Genomics (University of Toronto) Tai-Peng Tsai, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Derek J. Thorkelson, Chair, Earth Sciences (Simon Fraser University) Mak Trifkovic (University of Victoria) Bill Unruh, Physics (University of British Columbia) Jennifer A. Vadeboncoeur, Education (University of British Columbia) Stephanie van Willigenburg, , Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Andrew Vreugdenhil, Director, Materials Science (Trent University) Frank Weichman, Physics (University of Alberta) Rabab Ward, Electrical Engineering (University of British Columbia) Brent Ward, Earth Sciences (Simon Fraser University) Michael Ward, Mathematics (University of British Columbia) Jason Waywitka (University of Alberta) Doug Wiens (University of Alberta) Eric Woolgar, Physics (University of Alberta) Tony Ware, Mathematics (University of Calgary) Shoshana Wodak, Biochemistry, and Molecular Genetics (University of Toronto) Margaret Wyeth (University of Victoria) Glyn Williams-Jones, Earth Sciences (Simon Fraser University) Reem Yassawi, Head, Math (Trent University) Vlad Yaskin (university of Alberta) Janet Ye, Mathematics (University of Victoria) Nora Znotinas, Chair, Physics & Computer Science (Wilfrid Laurier University) Richard Zemel, Computer Science (University of Toronto) Julie Zhou, Mathematics (University of Victoria)