Highlights of Federal Budget 2017 (PDAD&C #79)

From: Andrew Thomson, Chief of Government Relations
Date: March 23, 2017
Re: Highlights of Federal Budget 2017 (PDAD&C #79)

Wednesday’s federal budget offered modest new funding in the face of global economic uncertainties, but its focus on skills development and innovation indicates that the government recognizes the vital role of universities in improving Canadians’ quality of life and prosperity.

We appreciate the decision to maintain last year’s record level investments in research and infrastructure for universities and colleges, enabling our community to continue to conduct outstanding research with significant positive economic and social impacts.

There were three notable investments of particular interest to U of T. First, investment in a Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy builds on the University’s strengths in AI and demonstrates the government’s recognition of this field’s transformative commercial potential. We look forward to receiving more information on what this investment means for our community of researchers.

Second, the realignment of funds under the 25 Canada150 Research Chairs to support recruitment of world-leading researchers and their labs is timely and well connected to the opportunity of developing globally competitive innovation clusters in the GTA.

Third, additional funding for work-integrated learning placements for Canadian students and graduates is a welcome contribution to the University’s efforts to provide valuable hands-on experience in students’ chosen fields of study.

Moreover, the budget outlined greater supports to improve Indigenous students’ access and success. It provides increased funding to the Post-Secondary Student Support Program and to Indspire, an Indigenous-led organization that delivers scholarships and bursaries for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis students. These measures should assist in U of T’s efforts to address the recommendations in the Final Report of the Steering Committee for the University of Toronto Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Looking ahead, the report from the government’s Fundamental Science Review Panel, led by former University of Toronto President David Naylor, will be released in the coming weeks. We anticipate that this report will provide strong recommendations on how to ensure Canada’s universities are able to fulfill their potential as key drivers of talent generation and scientific research in the years ahead.

The list below presents highlights of programs and funding commitments announced on Wednesday. For additional information, consult the 2017 Federal Budget Highlights by Universities Canada. We will share further details on these programs as they become available.

Research & Innovation

  • Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy:
    $125 million in new funds to launch collaboration between Montréal, Toronto-Waterloo, and Edmonton.
  • Canada150 Research Chairs:
    $117.6 million over eight years of existing money for 25 Canada150 Research Chairs to attract top-tier international scholars.
  • Innovation Clusters:
    $950 million over five years. The government will launch a competition in 2017 focused on supporting a small number of business-led innovation “superclusters” that have the greatest potential to accelerate economic growth in highly innovative industries such as advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital technology, health/biosciences, and clean resources, as well as infrastructure and transportation.
  • Chief Science Advisor:
    $2 million annual budget for a Chief Science Advisor and related secretariat.
  • Innovation Canada:
    A new platform led by Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada that will coordinate and simplify the support available to Canada’s innovators.

Student Assistance & Experiential Learning

  • Work-Integrated Learning Program:
    $73 million to create up to 8,700 new work-integrated learning placements over the next four years. The program encourages partnerships between employers and interested post-secondary institutions.
  • Mitacs:
    $221 million in new funds over five years for work-integrated learning.
  • Canada Student Grants:
    $454.4 million over four years, starting in 2018–19, and $46.3 million per year thereafter by expanding eligibility for Canada Student Grant to part-time students, students who support families, and adults returning to school.
  • Indigenous students:
    $90 million in increased funding to the Post-Secondary Student Support Program and $5 million per year in new funding to Indspire.


  • Global Talent Stream:
    $7.8 million over two years as part of the Global Skills Strategy.