Feds cough up cash

Prime Minister Paul Martin visited the University of Calgary this week to announce over $222 million in new health research grants across the country. However, critics argue specific grant initiatives fail to fulfill Martin’s throne speech promises for revitalized post-secondary funding.


“There are few things more important to Canadians than health,” said the Prime Minister during his address to researchers and media in the packed atrium of the U of C’s Heritage Medical Research building. “To put it simply, they want to have timely access to a universal publicly funded health care system, they want to be protected from infectious disease and they want investment in medical research.”


The announcement, made Mon., Mar. 13 on behalf of the Canadian Institute of Health Research, includes 571 specific projects funded over the next five years, including 58 new grants for research at Alberta universities.


The U of C Graduate Students’ Association has mixed feelings about the announcement. GSA Vice-president Academic Carol Neuman was concerned how the funding may be allocated and worries specific funding ignores the predicament of faculties outside the scope of medical research.


“Initially I was really pleased to see the extra money coming to the U of C,” said Neuman. “However, it is one-time funding. It’s very targeted and it doesn’t address long-term funding at this university. Some programs get and some don’t.”


Neuman said the funding was inadequate compared to Martin’s throne speech promises, and believes the problem is not just related to politics, but to public opinion as well.


“In other words, it’s easy to look at engineering, science and health research and make the link to the ingenuity agenda,” she said. “But it’s a lot harder in humanities, social sciences and fine arts.”


Neuman noted over 100 applications for bursaries came from graduate students last year.


“This will do nothing to alleviate the problems of grad students in underfunded programs,” she said.


U of C VP External Relations Roman Cooney acknowledged the emphasis of funding specific faculties but believes the university budget addresses these issues next year.


“It’s one of the reasons why in the budget going forward next year the university is allocating $4 million capital funding,” said Cooney. “The university recognized two years ago that in order to attract some of the best graduate students in the country we need to address more financial support.”


Cooney emphasized the success of the U of C Institute for Advanced Policy Research and the Faculty of Communications and Culture in attracting new research funding.


Neuman remains undeterred.


“This will do nothing to alleviate the problems of grad students in under-funded programs.”


U of C President Harvey Wein-garten spoke during the announcement, highlighting the strengths of U of C medical research, and thanking the CIHR. “The CIHR is an absolutely critical and fundamental piece of health infrastructure in this country,” said Weingarten, “We feel a particular affiliation here at the U of C with the CIHR and it goes beyond their funding specific projects and initiatives.”


Weingarten also thanked re-searchers.


“We are recognizing some of you today, but we don’t do it often enough,” he said.


Federal Minister of Health Ujjal Dosanjh and CIHR President Dr. Alan Bernstein were also on hand for the announcement.

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