Federal budget proposes changes for research, industry

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The proposed 2012 federal budget, expected to pass with the current Conservative government, focuses new funding primarily on research and development projects.

The budget plan, presented on March 29, aims to encourage innovation and growth in more profitable sectors of the economy, with large sums of public money being spent on technological development within the private sector.

However, according to a March 29 press release from the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations -- a student advocacy group based in Ottawa -- the federal budget neglected to prioritize education.

"Students are concerned that the federal budget missed an opportunity to invest in post-secondary education programs that would support the individuals who will drive growth and innovation in the coming years," states the press release.

The budget includes $37 million in new grants set aside for industry-academic research partnerships aimed to encourage the pursuit of research applicable to the needs of private businesses.

A total of about $500 million in additional funding will be given to the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. The cfi is a non-government organization that provides money for 'innovation research.' Most of the organizations aim to fund research in the sciences, a priority designed to keep Canadian businesses competitive in budding global markets.

Several University of Calgary professors receive research grants from the cfi. In addition to the engineering and science departments, U of C professors from the departments of communications, mathematics and linguistics are currently working on cfi funded projects.

Large investments are also planned for the Canadian Institute of Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. The total cost for new research initiatives is estimated to top $1 billion.

National director of casa Zach Dayler expressed discontent over the plan, criticizing the lack of additional financial support for post-secondary students.

"Funding aimed at bridging academic research and the private sector would have been more effectively spent with improved financial assistance for students," said Dayler in the casa press release.

Youth are not totally left out of the budget, however, as an additional $50 million will be invested in the government's Youth Employment Strategy. Dayler expressed doubt that this strategy would reach those who are struggling to make the money needed to start their education.

"The government has made investments that will support some students," he said.