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Canadian minister keeps researchers guessing

Naturevolume 409page444 (2001) | Download Citation



Canadian scientists are watching closely to see whether the new industry minister in the Liberal government, which was re-elected last November, will continue with the pro-science policies of recent years.

Hard to gauge: industry minister Brian Tobin. Credit: AP

In the new government, Brian Tobin, the politically ambitious former premier of Newfoundland, replaces John Manley, who as industry minister was in charge of the nation's science and technology policy.

Under Manley's influence, science budgets increased and national networks such as the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research were set up (see Nature 405 , 722; 2000), raising morale among researchers.

But Tobin, who is perhaps best known for encouraging the Canadian coastguard to fire on Spanish fishing boats in a 1995 dispute known as the 'turbot war', is seen as an aggressive politician and an unknown quantity on research issues.

John de la Mothe, a science-policy expert at the University of Ottowa, is concerned that Tobin's confrontational approach might damage some of Manley's achievements, citing a “difference of style between the two”.

But Ron Freedman, an official at The Impact Group, a consultancy firm specializing in science and technology, says: “Tobin was premier of Newfoundland, and a large part of their development strategy was based around the new economy companies.” Freedman adds that the new minister is “probably well aware of the issues” and will “pick up very quickly” on the government's existing research strategy.

John Reid, president of the Canadian Advanced Technology Association, says: “Tobin's made it quite clear that he respects what Manley has done and eventually is going to carry that forward.”


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