OTTAWA – Last week, NDP MP Richard Cannings (South Okanagan—West Kootenay) rallied scientists from across the political spectrum in Ottawa to urge Prime Minister Trudeau and the Minister for Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne to pay Canada’s researchers at the very least a living wage. As the costs of living skyrocket – wages of young scientists have been stagnant since 2003, and they’re struggling to make ends meet.
“Canada is lagging behind the world on innovation and research at a time when we know these are the hallmarks of successful economies. We need to do more to ensure funding does not just funnel into institutions but supports the actual people doing the research so that they can afford to pay their bills. Without people, there is no research,” said Cannings, who is a scientist himself and sits on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Science and Research.
Cannings, in a letter to the Prime Minister, criticized the Canadian postgraduate research scholarship funding landscape that the Liberals have left entirely inactive for almost 20 years – despite overwhelming increases to tuition and housing costs.
“Canada is asking our best and brightest minds to work full-time, or longer, for less than minimum wage. It is an impossible task, let alone immoral, for government agencies to pay well below their own mandated standards,” added Cannings. “It is completely unacceptable and wrong that this is how the Liberals are treating young scientists while relying on their research.”
The 7000 scientists and researchers that signed the urgent letter point out that low wages are preventing people from pursuing advanced education and jeopardizing important and needed research. Preliminary results from the National Graduate Student Finance Survey conducted last year by the Ottawa Science Policy Network seem to agree. Almost half of the respondents don’t have enough to get by and struggle financially every month; 87% reported anxiety about finances, and nearly a third have considered dropping their research due to financial concerns.
The group is asking for a necessary pay increase to match inflation and increases in the number of research awards granted by the government. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Science and Research made similar recommendations last year, but the Liberal Government’s budget ignored the committee and left researchers out in the cold.
“In the coming months, the Liberals have a chance to do the right thing and make these important investments that will help scientists and their families make ends meet. New Democrats will keep fighting to help workers in the face of the affordability crisis. If we don’t step up now, for workers, research and innovation, the future of families and our economy are on the line,” added Brian Masse, NDP Critic for Innovation, Science and Research.