BUDGET 2010: Innovation, technology, green initiatives

Nuclear industry gets big boost

BUDGET 2010: Innovation, technology, green initiativesThe single-largest item in the budget envelope dedicated to green initiatives is earmarked for Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. The government will provide the crown corporation with $300 million in cash this year to cover commercial losses, the development of advanced CANDU reactors, and operations and upgrades at the Chalk River facility, which produces medical isotopes.

In all, spending on nuclear industry-related projects takes up over 70 per cent of the total amount dedicated to environmental initiatives. Other projects have comparatively meager allowances. They include $100 million over four years for the development of clean energy technologies in the forestry sector and $8 million per year to clean up the most degraded areas of the Great Lakes.  The government also plans to spend $11.4 million over two years on meteorological and navigational systems in the Arctic, and another $8 million over two years has been earmarked to pay for community-based environmental monitoring in the North.

Politicians and economists like to link green initiatives with the ability to create and implement innovative technologies. Wednesday’s Throne Speech specifically promised to bolster science and technology spending in order “fuel the ingenuity of Canada’s best and brightest and bring innovative products to market.”

But Canadian adoption of new technologies has long lagged that of its international competitors and has been a drag on Canadian firms’ productivity. As a result, Thursday’s budget promises a wholesale re-evaluation of the federal government’s spending on research and development. According to budget documents, “this review will inform future decisions regarding federal support for R&D.”

In the meantime, however, the government is bolstering the budgets of several research and development agencies. For instance, the National Research Council’s regional innovation clusters program will be able to count on $135 million in government funding over the next two years to develop 11 “technology clusters” across all 10 provinces.  Ottawa will also double the operating budget of the College and Community Innovation Program to $30 million a year and boost the budgets of the three federal research granting councils (the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) by a combined $32 million a year.

More specific government targets for innovation funds include British Columbia’s TRIUMF laboratory for nuclear and particle physics research, who will see an extra $51 million in funding over two years, and Genome Canada, which will be the beneficiary of a one-time payment this year worth $75 million.