UPDATED: A glaring hole in the fiscal genome map?

While we wait to find out whether Genome Canada’s conspicuous – and apparently entirely unexpected – absence from the budget was a clumsy, but inadvertant omission or a deliberate decision to pull the financial rug out from under the agency, ITQ can’t help but wonder whether it might not have been a good idea to set up more than one single, solitary pre-budget meeting with a mid-level Finance official to make the case for continued federal support.  (If that link is rendered inoperable by the cruel and capricious LRB lobby database, just go here, click your way through to “Search Monthly Communications Reports” and punch in “Genome Canada”.)

Seriously, y’all – I’m not unsympathetic to Genome Canada’s plight, and I think it sends an absolutely terrible message to arbitrarily and without warning withdraw millions of dollars in funding to support cutting edge scientific research – directly, or indirectly, as is apparently the case here –  but you can’t just assume that the money will show up simply because you got it last year, and the year before, and the year before that. Out of sight, out of mind and all that stuff.


According to the Globe story, Genome Canada did make a recent funding pitch to Industry Canada officials:

Dr. Godbout said he recently met with Industry Canada staff, who attend their board meetings, and made a pitch to receive $370-million over five years, or about $70-million a year. The request seemed to be warmly received, he said, but during Tuesday’s budget lockup, he found no reference to Genome Canada whatsoever.

“There are a lot of consequences,” Dr. Godbout said. “Scientists will have to tell their teams and technicians and staff that in a year from now we will run out of funds.”

If that’s the case, it may have been Tony Clement who dropped the ball at cabinet, in which case I will temper my frustration towards Genome Canada at its apparent lack of lobby fervour, and put the blame on the minister for failing to sell his colleagues on the need to invest in infrastructure that doesn’t involve shovels in the ground.

I’ve posted this a number of times in the comments, but for those readers who don’t follow every twist and turn of the conversation, I just want to point out that I am in no way defending the decision to pull funding from Genome Canada, if that is, in fact, what has transpired, and this isn’t a hideous and embarrassing budget text blooper. I just would have expected to see a whole mess of meetings over the last six months, particularly given the nasty surprise that the arts and cultural community got over the summer. This is really not the time for an organization that relies on public funding to take the passive approach.