I am going to go out on a limb and predict what issues and what group of voters will determine the outcome of the current federal election. After all, there’s no fun in sitting on the sidelines, especially when the race is becoming so close!
One thing is for sure: whichever party wins, minority or majority government, our health research and health innovation communities will have ample opportunity to advance our agendas on everything from fundamental science to building a vibrant bioeconomy with the new government and opposition parties.
Ultimately, Research Canada will be seeking from the new government a balanced approach to policies and investments in support of all of the R&D partnerships and activities within the health research and innovation ecosystem. Anything less will hinder our capacity to build an innovation nation.
But back to my prediction! While the media gives a lot of attention to voters who are vociferous in their views about the candidates and the leaders, we don’t spend enough time talking about the quieter group of voters who will likely determine the outcome of this federal election. Much like the U.S., we have about ten percent of our electorate who are independents or swing progressive voters who will ultimately determine who leads the country as of September 20th.
These independents have always prioritized social stability and economic security during election cycles. Every election is different, though, and what constitutes a pathway to the social and economic security these swing progressive voters crave changes based on the issues of the day.
There is no question that the pandemic has threatened both our social and economic security as a country and the looming dark cloud of climate change has increasingly become an issue in Canadians’ minds that we link to the state of our health, well-being and our economic lives.
So, what will matter most to these independents during this election is which party will have a solid plan for the key issues that will determine how we protect the social and economic fabric of Canadian society. When you boil down what these issues are, there are three: how to end the pandemic, how to recover economically from it and how to stop climate change from delivering us to the same alter of social and economic upheaval the pandemic has.
Whether solutions to these issues currently being proposed by the political parties—vaccine passports, bringing back one million jobs, child care benefits, tax credits, carbon pricing or emission reduction targets—resonate, or not, with Canadians, we do not know. What we can reasonably assuage is that swing progressive voters will likely judge the parties on their plans for these three issues and ultimately, with their votes, determine who wins.
What does that mean for those of us in the health research and health innovation communities? Any plan to address these three issues must be informed by research and offer the innovative solutions only a robust health research enterprise and a vibrant life sciences sector can offer. Our communities are ready to meet these challenges if our new government is ready to invest and develop policies which recognize that the discoveries and their translation and development into innovative products and services that save and improve Canadian lives can only come to fruition if the trans-sector partnerships and R&D activities within that ecosystem are recognized, embraced and supported in a sustainable and predicable way!
Let us also predict that we will be successful in driving this message home to our new federal government and can continue to do our work on behalf of all of the people of Canada.
Deborah Gordon-El-Bihbety is President and CEO at Research Canada: An Alliance for Health Discovery.