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UCP cut postsec R&D funding by $50M in first 2 years

Plus, we’re spending less now than we were 10 years ago, the second worst performance in the country.

Statistics Canada recently released data on research and development expenditures in postsecondary education for each province. And I was curious how Alberta has been doing recently.

The data only goes to the 2020–2021 budget year though.

During that budget year, the second year the UCP were in power, the Alberta government spent $161.70 million on research and development in its postsecondary institutions.

This is down $20.20 million compared to the UCP’s first year and $49.50 million since the NDP’s last year in power.

Compare that to the NDP’s first two years.

In their first year in power, the NDP spent $241.10 million on postsecondary research and development, which is down $12.6 million from the $253.7 million the PCs spent in their final year in office.

However, the NDP bumped spending by nearly $25 million the following year, to hit $265.50 million, the highest level any government has spent in at least the last 10 years.

That being said, the funding under the NDP dropped in both of their final two years, which means the drops under the UCP were a continuation of a downward trend that started two years before they even got into power.

Even so, the NDP averaged $241.08 million per year in research and development funding for postsecondary institutions, while the UCP have averaged only $171.80 million. That’s a drop of almost $70 million.

The PCs, by comparison, averaged $234.28 a year during the final 5 years of their dynasty.

Here’s what the funding looks like when broken down to just natural sciences and engineering.

And social sciences and humanities.

Pretty much the same story for both: rise under the NDP’s second year, then dropping over the last 4 years by just shy of 40%.

But was this an Alberta issue, or a country-wide issue? Are all the provinces sticking it to postsecondary researchers?

Well, here’s how all the provinces performed between 2019–2020 and 2020–2021.

2019–202020–21Change% change
QC$401.40$435.70$34.308.55%
NS$13.90$14.10$0.201.44%
NB$11.00$10.90-$0.10-0.91%
MB$16.00$14.60-$1.40-8.75%
PEI$6.10$2.20-$3.90-63.93%
SK$29.80$24.60-$5.20-17.45%
NL$16.50$4.70-$11.80-71.52%
AB$181.90$161.70-$20.20-11.11%
BC$129.50$83.90-$45.60-35.21%
ON$348.60$221.80-$126.80-36.37%
in millions $

Alberta saw the third largest drop in research and development funding during the last year of this reporting period, among all 10 provinces. Only BC and Ontario cut funding more, $45.6 million and $126.8 million, respectively.

Only two provinces—Québec and Nova Scotia—saw increases during this period.

On a percentage basis, Alberta had the third smallest decrease.

Now let’s compare the provinces to the last year the NDP were in power.

2018–192019–20Change% change
QC$400.00$435.70$35.708.93%
NB$8.60$10.90$2.3026.74%
PEI$0.60$2.20$1.60266.67%
NS$15.40$14.10-$1.30-8.44%
SK$26.60$24.60-$2.00-7.52%
MB$17.30$14.60-$2.70-15.61%
NL$28.30$4.70-$23.60-83.39%
BC$121.80$83.90-$37.90-31.12%
AB$211.20$161.70-$49.50-23.44%
ON$300.10$221.80-$78.30-26.09%
in millions $

Here, we see that Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick have joined Québec as the only provinces that increased research and development funding, while Nova Scotia decreased their funding.

Speaking of decreased funding, now Alberta drops down to second largest drop in decreased funding, behind only Ontario.

On a percentage basis, however, Alberta bumps up to 4th largest decrease.

Next, we’ll compare spending at the end of the reporting period to 2014–2015, the PCs last year in power.

2014–152020–21Change% change
QC$360.80$435.70$74.9020.76%
BC$76.50$83.90$7.409.67%
NB$6.90$10.90$4.0057.97%
NS$10.90$14.10$3.2029.36%
SK$23.00$24.60$1.606.96%
PEI$1.00$2.20$1.20120.00%
MB$21.50$14.60-$6.90-32.09%
NL$18.80$4.70-$14.10-75.00%
AB$253.70$161.70-$92.00-36.26%
ON$323.50$221.80-$101.70-31.44%
in millions $

This time, the majority of provinces have seen an increase in funding, and Alberta and Ontario are at the bottom of the list, with the second largest and the largest decreases in funding.

Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador are the only two other provinces that decreased funding over this 6-year period.

Alberta also had the second largest decrease on a percentage basis, dropping 36.26%, ahead of only Newfoundland and Labrador, which reduced spending during this period by 75%.

Finally, here’s how spending has changed over the last decade in each province.

2010–112020–21Change% change
QC$386.30$435.70$49.4012.79%
NB$6.00$10.90$4.9081.67%
NS$10.50$14.10$3.6034.29%
NL$2.90$4.70$1.8062.07%
PEI$2.50$2.20-$0.30-12.00%
SK$35.30$24.60-$10.70-30.31%
MB$31.40$14.60-$16.80-53.50%
BC$116.70$83.90-$32.80-28.11%
AB$246.70$161.70-$85.00-34.45%
ON$402.40$221.80-$180.60-44.88%
in millions $

Once again, Alberta and Ontario round out the bottom two spots, reducing funding by $85 million and $180.6 million since 2010–2011.

Just four provinces—Québec and 3 Atlantic provinces—have postsecondary research and development funding higher than it was 10 years ago.

On a percentage basis, Alberta saw the third largest decrease, losing over 34% of its funding. Ontario was next highest at almost 45%, and Manitoba had the largest decrease at 53.5%.

Oh, one more thing. Let’s compare the provinces during the Alberta NDP’s second year and the year before the Alberta NDP took power.

2014–152016–17Change% change
BC$76.50$101.60$25.1032.81%
AB$253.70$265.50$11.804.65%
NS$10.90$14.50$3.6033.03%
SK$23.00$26.20$3.2013.91%
PEI$1.00$1.00$0.000.00%
NB$6.90$6.20-$0.70-10.14%
MB$21.50$19.40-$2.10-9.77%
ON$323.50$319.10-$4.40-1.36%
NL$18.80$10.40-$8.40-44.68%
QC$360.80$349.50-$11.30-3.13%
in millions

Alberta actually saw the second largest increase in funding in the country, nearly $12 million more than the province had seen 2 years prior. That’s an increase of 4.65%, which was the 4th largest percentage increase.

BC saw the largest increase in research and development funding during those two years, rising by over $25 million.

Keep in mind that these dollars 2012 constant prices, so they take inflation into consideration.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on politics and labour.

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