Howard Burton is the executive director of Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, the extraordinary cutting-edge thinkers' colony that Mike Lazaridis of RIM has established in Waterloo, Ont. with substantial help from the governments of Canada and Ontario. This morning Paul Martin was in Markham, Ont., to announce a large investment in four advanced research projects in southwestern Ontario, including one Burton had proposed for Perimeter. (I link to the details in the posting below this one.)
Howard Burton didn't attend this morning's announcement. He sent me this article to explain why. This piece explains very well why even people who think the Liberals are stronger on areas they care about — and the Harper Conservatives' engagements on the knowledge economy have been profoundly disappointing to me; I really thought some of them might get it — as I was saying, why even people who think the Liberals are stronger do not see Paul Martin as any kind of reliable ally. But I won't put words into Burton's mouth any longer. Here's Howard:
This morning, the Prime Minister of Canada delivered a speech explicitly promising strong financial support to my research institution for the next few years, largely based on a specific proposal I authored several months ago. Throughout the past year, I had imagined this moment many times in my mind's eye: the culmination of many months of detailed discussion amongst policy experts and political representatives at both the provincial and federal level, it would be a proud, festive occasion attended by a wide spectrum of scientists, staff and Board Members: a strong endorsement of the success of our past efforts and a continued commitment to invest in our science and our researchers. Such an announcement might even, I had dared hope, be an integral part of something much larger: one component of a coherent, focussed long term strategy for research excellence across several disciplines, an ambitious framework for Canada to capitalize on its full research potential and maximize our impact on the global stage.
Such were, at any rate, my dreams. Reality, sadly, was very different. There was no coherent, long-term framework presented. There was no serious, comprehensive plan at all. There was no explicit partnership with the province to leverage the impact of the commitment - largely due to the fact that Ontario is, appropriately enough, presently engaged in crafting its own strategic research plan and is hence naturally not ready to make any commitments. In short, the announcement had been reduced to a mere political event - today's desperate attempt to rescue a quasi-moribund Liberal political campaign during an election that was wholly devoid of any substantive dialogue on science and research policy. And I couldn't even stomach the thought of showing up.