Data Check: Ontario lags Canada in public support for research and development

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Like the federal government and Canadian business, the Ontario government talks a good game about the need to innovate. But when it comes to funding research and development, it also balks at the walk. According to Statistics Canada, and after adjusting for inflation, the Ontario government spent 29 per cent less on R&D in 2010-11 than it did in 2006-07.
 
Other provinces for which there are data show different patterns, but each are spending more on innovation. A 17 per cent increase in the Quebec government’s spending means it now outspends Ontario, even though its economy is half the size. As a proportion of their respective economies, each of the other provincial governments spend more than Ontario; combined they spend twice as much.
 
The largest single share of provincial government expenditures typically goes to support for R&D at institutions of higher learning. The unadjusted share going to Ontario’s higher education sector has climbed slightly, but the inflation-adjusted amount has declined by 14 per cent. Meanwhile, support for research at universities in other provinces has increased by a combined 16 per cent.
 
As we know, other provinces also provide higher levels of per-student operating support for their universities. Meanwhile, the Ontario government plans effectively to reduce its support by cutting research dollars, primarily for basic research and for the social sciences and humanities. All provincial governments have suffered in the wake of the Great Recession, but only Ontario seems most determined to stimulate “innovation” by hollowing out universities’ bats and urging them to hit a home run by sheer force of imagination.
 
Source: Statistics Canada, Scientific and Technological Activities of Provincial Governments and Provincial Research Organizations, 2006/2007 to 2010/2011 September 2012 Edition; National economic accounts: Provinces and territories

This article originally appeared in the OCUFA Report. To receive stories like this every week in your inbox, please subscribe.

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