Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for the opportunity to present AUCC's views regarding the budget implementation bill.
The acknowledged challenge for this 2009 federal budget was how to most effectively provide a stimulus to the Canadian economy during the most significant global economic downturn in decades.
Universities responded quickly to this downturn in an open letter to Canadians released last October that affirmed their commitment to maintaining and enhancing their role as key contributors to the country's economy and to supporting local industries and communities in their efforts to weather these challenging times.
Over the course of the following few months, AUCC, on behalf of Canadian universities, advocated to all parties in Parliament for a package of investments that would assist the country to attain both its short-term and longer-term objectives. Specifically, we proposed investments in university infrastructure in order to make an important contribution to job creation in many communities across Canada. We also asked that the federal government maintain it investment in university research to support Canada's longer-term knowledge and people advantages, which are essential to successfully emerge from this economic downturn.
We're here today to thank the government and parliamentarians for listening to our recommendations and to reiterate that we strongly support this budget's investments in universities. I'd like to briefly highlight the magnitude of the investment in post-secondary infrastructure contained in this budget.
As outlined in the budget documents, there will be $1 billion this year and $1 billion next year aimed at accelerating repairs, maintenance, and construction on university and college campuses. In addition, there's an immediate commitment in 2009-2010 of $150 million to existing Canada Foundation for Innovation competitions, as well as $600 million for future competitions. A further $87.5 million for a three-year expansion of Canada graduate scholarships and $3.5 million for internships in science and business were also announced.
AUCC has provided further advice on the implementation of the infrastructure investments, recommending that the $2 billion in post-secondary infrastructure funding build on existing provincial post-secondary infrastructure initiatives, be administratively efficient, and support infrastructure improvements across a broad range of research and teaching facilities. We anticipate that in the coming weeks, clear federal guidelines on the use of the funds and reporting requirements will be established.
We welcome these significant investments as part of a meaningful short-term stimulus package. We also recognize that they must be seen in the context of a multi-year strategy that supports the four foundational elements of the university research enterprise that work together to create the optimal environment for innovative research. Those four are the talent, the research funding, the infrastructure, and the institutional support.
We fully understand that not everything can be accomplished in one budget, and that the January budget investments represent only part of the multi-year plan the government has put forward in its science and technology strategy. We recognize that in the three budgets previous to this one, new investments in science and technology-related activities included increases in funding for the three federal granting councils to expand their core programming, building upon very substantive investments in R and D from previous governments.
However, we share the disappointment of our research community in the reductions of the granting council funds. We must keep pace with the international competition and the international context in which our research community operates. As part of their stimulus packages, countries around the world are now making significant investments in their research enterprises. In particular, the new U.S. administration has just approved an injection of billions over the next 18 months in its R and D enterprise, including large increases in the amounts of funding available to researchers.
Canada's investments through the multi-year S and T strategy will determine Canada's ability to compete on the world stage. Over the next few weeks and months our members will initiate the maintenance, repair, and construction projects that will be made possible by the significant investments in this budget, providing short-term stimulus to the Canadian economy and positioning universities to better contribute to Canada's future competitiveness. Moving forward, we're committed to working with the government to optimize these investments as a foundation for a vibrant university research enterprise that will continue to provide the highly skilled workers and innovation needed to create long-term social and economic prosperity.
Once again, Mr. Chairman, I thank you and the committee for your time and welcome any questions the committee members might have.