With the Green Party poised to gain a record number of seats in the 2019 election, its most important contribution to the next Parliament may be its strong support for the science and research sector.
While we are still waiting to see the Conservative Platform, it seems safe to say that the Green Party platform contains the most ambitious plan of all the parties to strengthen Canada’s science and research sector. The Green Party has called for the full implementation of the Naylor Panel Report, enhanced funding for the three granting councils, multiple investments in the area of climate change research, specific initiatives to promote inclusion and diversity in scientific research and broader dissemination of scientific publications and findings, particularly to the public.
By comparison, the NDP platform makes noticeably far fewer research commitments, promising investments in agriculture, forestry and oceanic research, but does also include a general commitment to work with universities and health professionals to make sure public research on critical health issues continues to flourish.
The Liberals’ commitments to the science and research community are focused on climate change, with three notable exceptions. They have pledged to work with the Canadian Institutes of Heath Research (CIHR) to integrate sex and gender-based analyses, as well as diversity analyses, to ensure research takes diversity factors into account to improve women’s health care, and have promised to create a National Institute for Women’s Health Research, the first of its kind in Canada. The Institute would bring together experts in women’s health from across the country to tackle persistent gaps in research and care – taking an intersectional approach that includes race, ability, indigeneity and more. And finally, the Liberal party has pledged $30 million to pediatric cancer research.
It should not be surprising in an election campaign in which climate change is discussed and debated daily that many science and research commitments by the parties are focused in this area. And while some of the commitments are short on detail, there is reason for optimism for the health research and innovation community.
Beyond the specific health research commitments by the Green, NDP and Liberal parties, some of the extensive commitments made by the Green Party may be taken up by the next Parliament, particularly if the Green Party finds itself holding the balance of power in a minority government situation. Given this possibility, the science and research community should be actively encouraging the Green Party to put their commitments to science and research at the top of their negotiating list.
In addition, the health research and innovation community should be leveraging the broad commitments made by the Green Party, and actively encouraging the other parties to be bolder in their commitments to science and research. Campaign platforms are often not the last word on policy commitments; historically we have seen many commitments that are announced during the campaign, but not included in the platform (a document created many weeks before the start of an election campaign). With sufficient pressure, the Conservative, Liberal and NDP campaigns may be moved to make further commitments to health research to keep pace with a popular Green Party and its ambitious platform.
There are still 19 days left in the 2019 federal election campaign – plenty of time for the health research community to have a real impact. 19 days left – let’s make them count!
Michelle McLean is Senior Vice-President, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Canada’s leading strategic communications agency. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org