House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Finance
Pre-budget consultations in advance of the 2017 Budget
Fredericton, New Brunswick
Remarks by Paul Davidson, president, Universities Canada
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Good morning. It’s a pleasure to be here and to participate in this important part of the democratic process. I appreciate the invitation.
As this is my first time before the Finance committee let me congratulate each of you on your election to Parliament and your dedication to serving your constituents and building a better Canada.
Je suis Paul Davidson, président-directeur général d’Universités Canada, porte-parole de 97 universités qui travaillent ensemble à faire progresser la cause de l’enseignement supérieur, de la recherche et de l’innovation au Canada.
As we are here in Fredericton, I have to mention that the University of New Brunswick was named as the most entrepreneurial university in the country by Startup Canada in 2014. And of course, St. Thomas University is one of Canada’s outstanding liberal arts institutions.
All Canadian universities have stories of excellence like this to share. On their behalf I invite you to visit our campuses to see the phenomenal work being done by students, faculty and researchers, and to give you a glimpse into Canada’s future.
First off, I would like to say that Budget 2016 contained many welcome measures for Canada’s universities.
New investments in discovery research were the largest in a decade and they will let discovery lead, which in turn leads to dramatic innovation.
Changes in student financial assistance will make postsecondary education more attainable.
And finally, the new Strategic Investment Fund, a smart investment in university infrastructure that pays dividends now and in the future, was turned around quickly by our members and we now have work underway across the country.
This past summer, Universities Canada has been active in contributing to important consultations including the Innovation Agenda, the Review of Fundamental Science, the minister of Finance’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, the Immigration consultation and the International assistance review.
Across all of our submissions, you’ll see our consistent message that universities mobilize people and ideas for an innovative, inclusive and prosperous Canada.
We appreciate the many fiscal pressures on the government and we know how many competing demands you, as a committee, hear through these consultations.
Budget 2017 presents an opportunity for Canada to position itself as an international center for discovery and innovation, to invest in our youth, to advance reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and to establish ourselves as global champions of pluralism and diversity.
We believe Canada can drive innovation through discovery. For this we recommend that the government:
- Provide sustained and transformative investments in discovery research through the federal research granting councils. We have slipped from third to seventh in the OECD in research investment levels – new investments are needed to return Canada to globally competitive funding levels and to get us back to third.
- Provide sustained support for the Canada Foundation for Innovation to address operational and maintenance pressures on existing research facilities and to allow for better planning horizons for bold, transformative initiatives; and mandate the Foundation to lead a national big science strategy; and
- Provide support to address gaps in Canada’s research and innovation ecosystem, including a new fund to support international research collaboration with partner countries.
To succeed in the ever-changing and competitive global economy, Canada’s next generation of entrepreneurs, researchers and innovators must be bold, well-educated, flexible and open-minded. Global study and work-integrated learning opportunities are fundamental to developing Canadian talent.
We are proud that more than half of all undergraduates have some form of work experience in the course of their studies. We simply don’t have enough placements with employers, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.
RBC president Dave McKay has set an ambitious goal of co-ops and internships for 100 per cent of students. He sees the compelling benefits of engaging students in the big challenges facing the future.
For this we recommend that the government invest in new measures to incentivize the private and not-for-profit sectors to create more paid co-op and internship placements for university students across all academic disciplines;
To mobilize our talent, we also recommend an investment in opportunities to double the number of Canadian students participating annually in international mobility experiences by 2022.
Universities are helping develop tomorrow’s Indigenous leaders. For this we recommend that the government:
- Commit to additional direct financial assistance for Indigenous students pursuing a university education;
- Invest in new scholarships to support more Indigenous students to pursue graduate and post-doctoral studies; and
- Provide new support to scale up successful institutional-level programs and to create new programs – on- and off-campus – that support Indigenous student access, retention, and academic success at university.
Je vous remercie de votre attention, et il me fera plaisir de discuter plus en détail de ces recommandations.
About Universities Canada
Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, advancing higher education, research and innovation for the benefit of all Canadians.
Tel.: 613-563-3961 ext. 238