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MP says Ottawa leaving scientists behind

NDP MP, Richard Cannings rallied scientists from across the political spectrum in Ottawa last week to urge Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister for Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne to pay Canada’s researchers at least a living wage.

“Canada is lagging behind the world on innovation and research at a time when we know these are the hallmarks of successful economies. We need to do more to ensure funding does not just funnel into institutions, but also supports the actual people doing the research so they can afford to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Without people, there is no research” said Cannings who is scientist himself and sits on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Science and Research.

Cannings’ letter, jointly signed by Brian Masse, the NDP Critic for Innovation, Science and Research, criticized the Canadian postgraduate research scholarship funding landscape that has been entirely stagnant for almost 20 years despite overwhelming increases to tuition and housing costs over that period.

“Canada is asking our best and brightest minds to work full-time for less than minimum wage. It is an impossible task, let alone immoral for government agencies to pay well below their own mandated standards” added Cannings.

The 7,000 scientists and researchers that signed onto the urgent letter point out that poverty wages are preventing people from pursuing advanced education and jeopardising important research. Preliminary results from the National Graduate Student Finance Survey conducted last year by the Ottawa Science Policy Network seem to agree. According to the survey, almost half of respondents don’t have enough to get by and struggle financially every month; 87% reported anxiety about finances and nearly a third have considered dropping their research due to financial concerns.

The group is asking for a 48% increase to match inflation while indexing it to the consumer price index and a 50% increase in the number of research awards granted by government. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Science and Research made similar recommendations last year but the Liberal Government’s budget ignored the committee and left researchers out in the cold.

“In the coming months, the government has a chance with its Fall Economic Statement to do the right thing and make these important investments. We’ll keep fighting to improve the affordability crisis every sector of society is facing. For research and innovation, the future of our economy is on the line.”