The Council of Canadians, public service unions and opposition MPs rally with researchers to protest the "death of science" federal budget cuts to reasearch in Ottawa Monday July 10, 2012. Over one thousand people gathered on Parliament Hill to protest science cuts.
Credits: QMI AGENCY/Tony Caldwell
OTTAWA -- In the aftermath of massive budget cuts to scientific and research organizations, concerns are brewing over whether this could have a brain-drain effect, where the best and brightest scientific minds in Canada are forced abroad.
"The erosion of research funding in federal budgets raises concerns over a brain drain," Dr. Matthew Stanbrook, a respirologist and deputy editor at the Canadian Medical Association Journal, told QMI Agency. "We've seen a research exodus of talent from Canada to places like the U.S. and U.K. where these cuts aren't happening."
Concerns emerged after nearly 1,000 people rallied at Parliament Hill Tuesday where protesters in white lab coats lamented the "death of evidence" in Canada.
Carol Kelly, a scientist with the Experimental Lakes Area - a research station in northern Ontario that receives $2 million in federal funding that will no longer continue - said she moved from the U.S. to work at the ELA in 1978. At the time, Canada was a leader in her research field. Now, she says young American scientists would have no reason to emigrate here.
Mark MacDougall, a masters biology student at University of Ottawa, studies limnology - something that would fall in line with the research the ELA has historically conducted.
"I would like to stay in Canada to work, but I'm not sure where the future of research in Canada is going," he said.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration said the government has launched several programs to lure highly-skilled foreign nationals to Canada. One program brings about 1,000 PhD students here annually. Another arranges permanent residency for foreign professionals - scientists included.
Science and technology minister Gary Goodyear said the government has made "significant" investments in science and technology "because we know the successful economies of tomorrow are the ones that innovate today."
"We all remember the concern over Canada's brain-drain of the last decade," he said in a statement. "Under Stephen Harper's leadership, Canada is now experiencing a brain gain. We are attracting world-class researchers and supporting their work at levels never before seen in (Canada). Canadian higher-education expenditures on research and development are the highest in the G7, measured as a percentage of GDP."
Goodyear elaborated that the government's 2009 budget provided $2 billion for building and improving modern research and learning facilties across Canada.
"Our efforts are paying off," Goodyear said.