Volume 94, Issue 64

Wednesday, January 17, 2001


Editorial Board 2000-2001

PQ plan faulty, but it's a start

Editorial Cartoon

PQ plan faulty, but it's a start

The brain drain – it is one those political buzz words that has been taking centre stage in the public eye in recent years.

The term brain drain refers to the flow of intellectual resources in the form of Canadian experts, South of the border for bigger salaries, bigger incentives, and all sorts of other perks that come from living in the United States. It's a phenomenon that has been dismissed by the federal government, but one which many in the academic community are saying must be addressed.

In response to this alleged problem, the Quebec provincial government has taken steps to help attract more professors and experts back North of the border. The Québec government's plan entails that incoming professors would be excluded from paying provincial taxes for five years, as long as they are a not a resident of Canada and have a specialty in a high tech field, like computer science. Whether this plan will succeed still remains to be seen.

Considering that in the next few years there will be a need for close to 15,000 professors in Canada, this seems like a good initial step for the government to get it's foot in the door before the real scramble begins among all the provinces. But there are ramifications to the Québec plan that are worth noting.

First off, the government plans presents a short term solution, rather than a long term answer. It serves only to attract; not retain top profs. While undoubtedly this plan will bring professors to Quebec's high-tech sector, it's debatable whether this plan will help Quebec hold on to these professionals. More than likely once the first five years are finished, and unless the government presents more incentives, these experts will move on to some other location, probably South of the border.

Perhaps it would make more sense, and be more effective if instead of giving these tax cuts, the government concentrate on putting money back into the system. Instead of taking money out in the form of huge individual tax cuts, re-investment into R&D not only attract experts, but likely give these people incentive to stay in the country.

On top if it all, more research money will have a better chance of attracting the best of the best. Tax cuts seem more likely to attract people just coming out of grad school in need of eliminating that burdensome student loan.

The most interesting aspect of this proposal is the precedent that it will set in Canada. Other provinces, especially Québec's neighbour, Ontario, may have to take steps to counteract Québec's move. While this plan by the Québec government does appear to be a little shortsighted, at the very least it might force other governments in Canada to deal with the brain drain problem.

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