Closing irresponsible

Dear editor:
The closing of the Thunder Bay research station has implications beyond its considerable impact on Northern Ontario’s agricultural sector and resource-based industries.
In practice, work by public sector researchers in particular regions has considerable impact on research and development being carried out across the rest of the country; this research also has impact internationally.
It helps put the region and the community on the map, and is to its credit.
Take Gordon Scheifele’s work, for example—his work with industrial hemp fibre and seed over the past few years has been extensive, and has had a positive influence on the development of the hemp industry in Canada to date.
Considering that bio-based industries (such as hemp-based industries) are one element that is needed to make our economies more sustainable, and considering all the hot air being generated by talking about the Kyoto accord, you must conclude that funding should be found to sustain this sort of research.
To paraphrase a (one-term) U.S. president, maybe it’s that vision thing.
On another note, as a public sector researcher, Mr. Scheifele’s work does not fall into the IP trap that cuts off science from the taxpayers and the public.
Too often research is carried out behind a veil of privacy; one consequence of this has led to research being directed by the profit principle, and not on principles based on public interest.
Hence, we wind up with products that the marketplace doesn’t necessarily want (look at the genetically-modified foods debacle) and we miss out on having important groundwork performed for emerging industries that may not be immediately profitable.
While it is understood that there are budget pressures and budget realities behind these cuts, based on what will be lost, I am wondering if it is indeed in the taxpayers’ interests to have this cut come down here.
Is it a good use of public monies to reduce research capacity, and hence the province’s future productivity? I believe this is an example of false savings on the part of Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the University of Guelph.
At the very least, funding should be extended so staff can finish their reports on 2002 research: early closure by the end of Oct. 31 will mean that taxpayers, the U of Guelph, and OMAF did not get good value for money already spent this fiscal year.
It’s irresponsible.
Arthur Hanks
Regina, Sask.