Canadian Nobel Prize-winning physicist encouraged by Ottawa’s scientific mandate

The federal Liberal government's promise to embrace science and innovation is promising to a Canadian scientist who was recently awarded the Nobel Prize.

HALIFAX — The federal Liberal government’s promise to embrace science and innovation is promising to a Canadian scientist who was recently awarded the Nobel Prize.

Arthur McDonald, who was the co-winner in physics for his work on tiny particles known as neutrinos, said Monday he’s pleased with Ottawa’s commitment to public policies based on evidence, not politics.

“I’m actually very encouraged by what I see of the mandate of our new science minister, Kirsty Duncan,” McDonald said in an interview at Dalhousie University in Halifax, where the alumnus was expected to deliver a public lecture on his prize-winning research.

“Having this openness in the government itself and encouragement for evidence-based decision-making … I see a lot of good things in the way in which this government is putting science and innovation forward.”

McDonald and Japanese scientist Takaaki Kajita were cited for the discovery of neutrino oscillations and their contributions to experiments showing that neutrinos change identities.

They determined that neutrinos have mass, which fundamentally changed the understanding of the laws of physics.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to restore the government’s relationship with the scientific community, which was strained under Conservative predecessor Stephen Harper.

Duncan, who McDonald said attended the awarding of his Nobel Prize last December in Stockholm, was appointed by Trudeau to create a chief science officer and ensure that government science is publicly available. She is also mandated to guarantee that government scientists can speak freely about their work and their analyses are considered in decision-making.

McDonald, a professor emeritus at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., said while Canada has done very well in basic and applied science, the country needs to translate that success into Canadian companies doing more work on home soil.

He said that includes encouraging graduates to start businesses at home.

“You also have to have situations where Canadian companies collaborate with researchers who are at the cutting edge demonstratively of their field in academic research in the development of better products to make that research possible,” he said.

“When you’re pushing the frontier, you always need better technology.”

The key is ensuring that technology doesn’t go to waste by having enough skilled researchers on hand to use it, said McDonald.

The Nova Scotia native applauded continued funding for the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which invests in state-of-the art equipment for applied and basic research. However, he said base support for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada has “almost flatlined” in recent years.

“If you have brand-new equipment and you don’t have the people, the students or technicians or post-docs to be able to operate that equipment and be able to take advantage of the really good capabilities that it has, then you’re out of balance in terms of return on investment,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Photo from Highway 11 Functional Planning Study)
Public input wanted for Highway 11 improvement plan

Round 2 of public online engagement continues until March 10

Workers were busy getting a tall crane in place Thursday morning for the construction of the new courthouse in downtown Red Deer. The facility will include modern technology and replace the existing courthouse upon completion expected in spring 2023. Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff
Red Deer building permits down slightly in February

The Real Canadian Superstore in Red Deer will be getting a facelift.… Continue reading

Players battle for the puck during the Ice Hockey World Championships Group A match between Russia and Denmark, in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, May 12, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ivan Sekretarev
AHJL to drop puck March 12

The Alberta Junior Hockey League will return to the ice next Friday.… Continue reading

Sylvan Lake RCMP are investigating a break-in at a seasonal residence where three oil paintings were stolen. (Photo contributed)
Art theft in Lacombe County

Sylvan Lake RCMP investigating

About 110 students from Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools participated in March for Life rally in Edmonton May 9. (File photo by Advocate staff)
St. Joseph High School in Red Deer moves back to online learning

Students will be learning online until at least March 12

Red Deer dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Ryan Jake Applegarth of Ponoka, 28, is scheduled to appear at Ponoka Provincial Court on March 12, 2021. (File photo)
Discussions about justice continue as Ponoka murder victim’s case proceeds

Reaction to comments Ponoka Staff Sgt. Chris Smiley made to town council last month

Dr. Stanley Read
Hometown Bashaw doctor recognized with alumni award for AIDS work

Dr. Stanley Read, born and raised in Bashaw, is considered a global health leader

A nurse assistant prepares a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 during a priority vaccination program for health workers at a community medical center in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Andre Penner
COVID-19 cases start to climb again as variants spread, in step with dire forecasts

OTTAWA — Canada’s chief public health officer says new COVID-19 cases are… Continue reading

Shipping containers are seen at the Fairview Cove Container Terminal in Halifax on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Statistics Canada to release final economic figures for 2020, January GDP estimate

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada is expected to say today precisely how bad… Continue reading

FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2020, file photo, former NBA player Shaquille O’ Neal is interviewed on the red carpet for Shaq’s Fun House in Miami. O’Neal is set to perform in his first competitive match when he teams in All Elite Wrestling with Jade Cargill in a mixed tag to take on Cody Rhodes and Red Velvet at Daily’s Place on an episode of “Dynamite,” Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
Shaq Attack: O’Neal ready to rumble in tag match for AEW

O’Neal’s first competitive match with All Elite Wrestling

Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee President Seiko Hashimoto, center, speaks during a Tokyo 2020 executive board meeting in Tokyo, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, Pool)
Tokyo Olympics add 12 women to executive board to reach 42 per cent

Board will now have 19 women among its 45 members

The Stratford Festival’s Festival Theatre is shown in Stratford, Ont., on May 28, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Robins
Stratford Festival plans next stages with two outdoor summer venues

Ontario festival productions set for between late June and the end of September

Most Read