Election brings promises of cash

November 10, 2000

Canada's government has let loose the purse-strings for research, Philip Fine writes

The government of Canada played a pre-election hand last month with an economic statement that offered a flush of tax cuts along with some cash for research.

Jean Chretien's Liberal government announced C$100 billion (£46 billion) in cuts, the largest ever in Canada, mostly to personal income tax.

Canadians will vote later this month in a snap election Mr Chretien called to wrongfoot the opposition Alliance Party. The offer of C$600 million over five years for research was a small part of careful preparations for a much-anticipated election campaign. The "mini-budget" diffuses plans by the opposition to go into the election promising tax relief.

The government increased by C$500 million the C$900 million Canada Foundation for Innovation, a scheme that in 1997 began partnering university researchers with industry. Most of the rise went towards unforeseen infrastructure costs; C$100 million went to improve Canadian participation in international research.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's annual budget of C$133.7 million was boosted by a five-year, C$100 million package to put Canada "at the forefront of research into the knowledge economy".

The government also promised C$500 million to combat climate change and C$250 million to help smaller universities that have lost out in the new partnership schemes. Those moves, along with a lower tax bracket for workers earning C$60,000-C$100,000, reveal a government trying to keep professors from moving to the tax-friendly United States.

"We want Canadians to do world-class research right here in Canada," finance minister Paul Martin told the Commons.

Students were unhappy with the announcements, which included some tax relief on college-related expenses. "Since most post-secondary students have low incomes, and therefore little taxable income, (this move) will do little for the vast majority of students," said Michael Conlon, national chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students.

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