It must seem unfair to the United Conservative Party base that flat-earth researchers consistently get the short end of the stick when it comes to federal research funds while the spherical-earth crowd so obviously favoured by Ottawa gets all the dough! 

CBC Power & Politics host David Cochrane (Photo:

As Premier Danielle Smith told CBC Power & Politics host David Cochrane last week, “I have been given enough indication that the federal government uses its power through researchers to only fund certain types of opinion, certain types of researchers, and I don’t think that’s fair.”

Where she got this idea is an interesting question, since, as Mr. Cochrane accurately responded to her, “the national research councils are de-politicized, right? It’s a jury of academics, or peer reviewed, and they make the decisions through the application on research grants going to university. And it’s all posted publicly, so you can see what’s there.”

Are you saying, Mr. Cochrane asked a little plaintively, that “you don’t have confidence in that system?”

The former talk radio host known for her enthusiasm for quack COVID cures has no time for peer review. Alberta’s premier will be blundering ahead with her latest spectacularly bad policy, part of a package of new red-tape measures contained in Bill 18, the so-called Provincial Priorities Act, if for no other reason than it’s an opportunity for Alberta’s UCP government to try to own the Libs, which seems to be its sole raison d’être nowadays. 

Actually, there is no serious evidence that the Trudeau Government or any other recent Canadian government has made any effort to interfere with the work of the three federal academic research granting agencies, the Canadian Institute for Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

University of Calgary political science professor Lisa Young (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Still, it’s not very hard to figure out where Ms. Smith most likely got the idea. “I have heard enough from some of our academics about how difficult it can be to be able to access some of that funding,” she told Mr. Cochrane.

Which academics, you wonder? Cast your minds back to 2017 and you will probably find the answer. That was when Jordan Peterson, Canada’s contribution to the incel movement, complained he’d been denied a grant by the SSHRC, claiming it was linked to his vociferous attacks on the right to choose your own pronouns.

Alert readers will recall that Ms. Smith recently shared a stage with Dr. Peterson and other prominent right-wing figures at a Calgary event hosted by Tucker Carlson, the American commentator canned by Fox News executives for being too extreme even for their tastes. 

It’s not a stretch to conclude that was the extent of her research into research. 

Nevertheless, one wonders if anyone in the UCP’s strategic brain trust has any clue just how complex a task they are proposing to take on.

“The university has to sign off on every application before it goes in,” explained University of Calgary political science professor Lisa Young in response to a query. 

Universities take on the massive job of administering research to ensure their scarce resources aren’t overstretched, a huge issue where lab space is required, that the funds are spent appropriately, and that ethical rules are observed, she said. 

“If I get a SSHRC grant, it’s held by the university on my behalf,” said Dr. Young. “The university’s research accountants make sure that I spend the money according to tri-council rules. This is a huge job, and the tri-agencies don’t want to take it on directly – they don’t have the capacity to make sure that researchers’ travel claims follow the rules, and that purchasing was done properly, and that graduate students were paid at approved rates and so on.”

She continued: “The universities are also responsible for making sure that researchers comply with other tri-council rules: that we have ethics approval when we’re doing research with human subjects, that we don’t fabricate data or results, and that we follow all of the appropriate practices around animal care.”

 “Research universities have huge bureaucracies to ensure compliance with these rules,” she concluded, including “ethics committees, specialized veterinarians, and an army of accounting clerks!”

For this reason, students applying for the tri-councils’ prestigious scholarships, must also apply through the institutions at which they study. 

Typically, universities go through all graduate students’ applications and select those that have the best chances of successfully receiving federal funding.

The Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research at the University of Alberta, for example, also looks at what projects will benefit the institution’s research profile. Often a major factor in the arts is the idea that the research is novel or new. “Conservative research” reaching back to an idealized past that never really existed and contradicts the way things are now just might have trouble getting approval. 

Unlike the feds, the Alberta government funds essentially zero research in the arts or critical analysis. 

Be that as it may, it is worth wondering if the claque now running the UCP understands any of this. The answer, it would seem, is obviously not. 

How is the work going to get done in time to meet the funding agencies’ time limits? The short answer is that it most likely won’t. It’s also quite likely that the Smith Government’s brain trust simply doesn’t care. 

Despite her rhetoric about the need for an environment in which “all people from all political perspectives are able to engage in a robust debate and have a robust research agenda,” what Ms. Smith has in mind is a truly politicized research funding process that suppresses anything that might demonstrate politically unpalatable truths. Such as, for example, the fact Earth’s atmosphere is growing hotter.

It’s hard to imagine the Smith Government funding research like the Corporate Mapping Project, an academic study of concentrated power and influence in Canada’s fossil fuel industry, that was funded by a $2.3-million SSHRC grant approved on prime minister Stephen Harper’s watch in 2015. 

It seems quite possible the party controlled by Take Back Alberta has a plan to Take Back Science

NOTE: It’s always useful to see what Ms. Smith has to say set out in writing, where the false equivalents, non-sequiturs, conspiratorial thinking, and dubious claims stand out more clearly than when one is listening to her cheerfully bloviate in a news conference. Accordingly, here is a transcript of the key passage from Ms. Smith’s Power & Politics interview that has been circulating on social media. DJC

Join the Conversation


  1. This is very creepy and very disturbing. It also shows how out of touch with reality Danielle Smith is. These research grant funds for universities aren’t controlled by the federal government, and they are very important for what they do. The process for getting these funds is backed by academic approval and a need for them to be given has to be met. Important medical research that can also save lives, in the future, doesn’t have a political stripe attached to it. If there is some debilitating disease that can be researched in a medical faculty of a university, for a potential cure, and they are given grant money to do so, that’s a good thing. The UCP will now have the power to block crucial things like that. I wouldn’t doubt that Take Back Alberta has a role in this too. We are going very backwards, under Danielle Smith and the UCP.

    1. There is a use for those press conference videos: watch them with the sound turned off, then rewatch them with captions and no sound. Body language first, then written words. Only then should the sound be turned on. Truth can be interpreted this way. It might not have anything to do with the noises that come out of someone’s mouth.

      I learned something amazing in northern Alberta, while standing on the shore of a large lake: the earth is curved! Funny how many people, some of whom have spent their time axing picnic tables for fire wood at that very lake, have never taken the time to look at the horizon. Don’t look up! If you do, you might see that the earth is indeed an orb. It spins, too, which is how we get day and night. This needs to be said.

      Let me add that because I believe in science, I will find no peers at highway rest stops, weigh scales and shuttered tourist information booths in Alberta these days. Those are Marlaina’s people. I can’t go down rabbit holes, knowing what I know about rabbit hemorrhagic disease and other science-y stuff. For those who do, Alberta is one big tea party hosted by the March Hare, Marlaina.

    2. I’m sure if someone gets money to research a cure for a debilitating disease, the UCP will demand equal funding for the theory of the four humours. Or perhaps for balance it will be necessary to give out grants to people who want to spread disease more efficiently.

      Why not just get rid of universities and hand over post-secondary education to the oil and gas industry?

      1. The Old Tories more-or-less did that in the ’90s and ’00s with the University of Calgary. Surprisingly, the U of A managed to retain the Parkland Institute in diminished but still centre-left form.

      2. As John Stuart Mill said, it’s not that all conservatives are stupid, it’s that most stupid people are conservative.

      3. This comment shows how unfortunate it is there isn’t a “like” option here lol …. “the four humours”, indeed :-).

    3. Danielle Smith’s problem in this instance, is that she has that nit’s whiny, complaining voice blasting her from the sidelines as he complains about everything under the sun that isn’t meeting with his approval. Jordan Peterson might have a high IQ but that doesn’t mean he’s smart, never mind wise. Nor is he just and honest. But he’s loud, he wants to eat his 2 lbs of beef a day and not feel guilty about what he’s doing to the planet, so he’s working her with everything he’s got.

  2. The UCP seem to be a reincarnation of the Social Credit Party, which Peter Lougheed fought to eradicate, in the 1960s, and was finally successful at doing, in 1971. Anyone who was around in Alberta at that time, will remember what Peter Lougheed stood for. He wasn’t intent on taking Alberta backwards, with regressive policies. The UCP are sliding us backwards, and are running a dictatorship. They want control of everything. The UCP are also bullies, just as Ralph Klein was. We have also seen similar governments, such as in Europe, almost 100 years ago. Take Back Alberta is also pulling the strings here. I have to wonder what happened with David Parker, after he was made to appear before Elections Alberta, not so long ago, to reveal his source of donations. What is he up to?

    1. “The UCP seem to be a reincarnation of the Social Credit Party”

      Given the direct path from Wiliam Aberhart, his protegy Ernest Manning, his son Preston, and the influence of Preston Manning and ‘Reform’ on stephen harper, Pierre Poilievre, Kenney, etc, I would say it’s not just a coincidence.

    2. Actually Lougheed was unable to eradicate Social Credit. They continued throughout the 70s and even into the 80s to hold seats in the Alberta leg., and at the federal level caused Joe Clark’s loss of office in 1979. Preston Manning never joined the PCs. He just changed his focus to federal politics and started the Reform Party.

    3. Again with the sainted Lougheed. In 1971 I was 12, and living in the Outaouais region of Québec, just across the river from the nation’s capital. When he retired in 1984 I was in Nursing school in Halifax, and it is most probable that, like me, a good majority of Alberta’s current population either wasn’t born yet, wasn’t old enough to vote yet, or wasn’t living here yet.

      If we’re going to look back at past Alberta Premiers with nostalgia, let’s at least look back no farther than the turn of the century.
      –Klein? Nope: no nostalgia there.
      – Stelmach? Wasn’t a fan, and never voted for him, but he was a darned sight more decent of a human being than the current incumbent.
      – Redford? She ran as a fan of public service workers, especially teachers, then turned her back on them and tried to steal their pensions, so, no nostalgia there either.
      – Hancock the placeholder? Didn’t do any real harm.
      – Prentice? Turned out to be a disaster for his party, like Kim Campbell for the federal PCs.
      – Notley? I do miss her, although I think her government was too timid in its approach to many important issues — like public auto insurance, utility deprivatization, and a number of others.
      – Kenney? Not bloody likely.

      So if we’re going to get nostalgic about a past PC Premier, I guess it’d have to be Stelmach.

      1. I was living here during Lougheed’s and Getty’s terms, so I would add them to list.

        Lougheed was not perfect by any means – but his failings don’t come mind. Getty was little bit more less than perfect – “Getty bucks” comes to mind (Klein was not original with his “Ralph bucks”).

        I fully agree with the rest of your assessments.

  3. I don’t think real Libertarians would approve of the sort of micromanaging of research and other things Smith has now proposed.

    Smith in the past claimed to be a Libertarian. I beleive this is worth pointing out, not to claim hypocrisy. She could claim as others have, her thinking has evolved and in fact political opportunism and other things may have blown her far from the ideas she held in the past. I point this out as some current strains of conservatism seem to contradict and oppose much of what they previously stood for, basically a less intrusive government.

    Now, if Smith’s real concern is about some underfunded conservative researchers, Alberta certainly has enough money to fund them. After all this is the province that funded the War Room against environmentalists and has opened trade offices in several places outside Canada. But rather than putting its money where its mouth is, this time Alberta seems to be taking the dog in the manger approach here, keeping other research from being funded.

    For anyone who thought the UCP might have learned something from its too close for comfort election, it seems they have just become more petty, small minded and vindictive. In politics, those who learn nothing and forget nothing usually do not last long.

    1. I define Libertarians as ideologues who like to reap the personal benefits of living in a liberal social democracy (and I am using the terms liberal and social in their correct political science context, NOT the partisan context), but when it comes time to do the heavy lifting to maintain their democracy, they start crying about interference.

      Real interference looks like the National Energy Policy.

      Sorry Danielle, go peddle your tripe elsewhere.

  4. Premier Smith is probably right. Only a certain range of opinions are permitted on the campus scene these days. To wit the experience of Frances Widdowson who dared to suggest there may have been some benefits to the residential school system (gasp!). She was quickly turfed out of her tenured position at Mount Royal in Calgary.

    Danielle Smith a purveyor of quack Covid cures? She was probably right on that front too. Eternal damnation on her for daring to question the ethics of forced ejections of an experimental vaccine that had no long range testing. Especially when there was strong evidence that other effective treatments available. Vitamin D for instance. There were a lot of voices out there in the wilderness during the height of the pandemic were suggesting this, doctors who noticed that Vitamin D reducing the severity of Covid. But it was all speculative with no research to back it up. That is until now. A recent Italian study had shown that vitamin D supplements does indeed offer protection against Covid, reducing ICU admissions by as much as 70%. Wow.

    And if that doesn’t top your morning Japanese researchers are now observing an increased risk of certain types of cancers in people, especially after the third booster.!

    1. Anyone that has worked at a public institution will be aware of the legislated policy and openly public procedures – much of which was done by NOT by the professors, required for any action.

      To say FW was “turfed” because of her position on residential schools illustrates your ignorance of the circumstances and is insulting to all those at MRU that worked for with integrity, for 100s of hours, to address it.

      You are welcome to interpret the whole thing as a single reason that supports your point of view: doesn’t mean you are correct.

      And if you think universities have the unfettered power to independently remove tenured faculty, I wonder if you live in the same world the rest of us do.

    2. None of the three issues you mentioned have anything to do with granting agencies…if there is a research case to be made for, say, Vitamin D, and the literature is strong (or at least strongly suggestive), it gets funded. You’ve fallen into the trap that, admittedly, boosters of science also fall into: that science works quickly and without repudiation. But that’s not how it works; it’s slow and iterative. That we had a covid vaccine so quickly is that the basic input research had been completed some time ago.

      1. Yes I’m aware the Covid was being developed in the labs for years prior. But part of the process is vaccines undergo years of trials to see if there are any unforeseen side effects before being released to the public. This was not the case with the Covid vaccine. What was it? A rushed three month trial.

    3. Frances Widdowson should be run out of the country. I get why she would feel secure in that opinion, what Canada being a racist colonial occupational power for , well since always ; but it turns out a lot of people who live here think THATS BAD and would like to see it change. Not to mention, embracing controversy that will get you media attention is the hallmark of a HACKADEMIC, see Jordan Peterson, who couldn’t publish anymore so had to become a fascist media darling for idiots.

      As to your other “point” uh Covid is still happening, it’s still real, and there still something like 18-30 % of the AMERICAN workforce down with long covid, which combined with the fact that like three million workers died, has had a bit of an effect on literally every single industry, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, you tend to not pay attention to things you disagree with, I liked it better when this blog was one of those things.

      1. Bird: We are open here to critical comments, if only on the theory that if I dish it out, I should be able to take it. Some commenters are more tiresome than others, though. DJC

    4. Batshit Smith is wrong about everything. BTW what is a forced “ejection” as you call it? Also, COVID is very real and vaccines work.

    5. Interesting study but correlative and not necessarily causative as is pointed out in the conclusion. Of course a lot of things were correlative at that time: student academic scores were down, mental health calls were up and the economy was not so good. Was all this due to the Covid Vaccine? Plus positing that certain cancers could gestate and then manifest so rapidly in people is pushing the boundaries of what we know about how cancer develops. For example, it took 10 years after the Hiroshima bomb for different kinds of “solid” cancers to appear. A MUCH more likely scenario, which has also been studied, is that overwhelmed hospitals were constrained in their normal operations and the routine scanning, discovery and treatment of these cancers fell behind.

  5. If you were to look at this situation objectively it is quite humorous. Smith will decline any research funding that refutes her quackery and Ottawa will never fund any research request that supports her quackery. The best part is if an election were held tomorrow, Smith would would win. You have to admit, it is kind of funny.

  6. Thank you, DC, for today’s lesson….and on my first cup of coffee. Claque vs clique. Ha, ç’est dingue!

  7. This percolates through the UCP supporters. On a recent article on CBC about streamflow in Alberta one of her unblinking supporters made a comment that I checked, and found was pointless. When I provided that fact with the scientific report referenced they responded that the science was moot because the report had been published before he was born.

    How can one even discuss science or progress with an attitude like that?

    1. You can’t refute those kinds of answers which is why, I suspect, if you check comments on any CTV YouTube video, you’ll find that only conservative voters are saying anything. Super cool intellectual stuff like ‘Tru**** is Castro’s son, why should we listen to a commie’, etc. I think that Liberal supporters have given up trying to have any kind of discourse with those people, most of us just move on.

  8. Perhaps Jordan Peterson inspired this latest lunacy, but given her penchant for bad ideas about medicine, maybe Smith was also thinking of the naturopaths, anti-vaxxer doctors and other quacks and grifters she is a fan of. She probably thinks they deserve respect.
    Plus her bad ideas about addictions treatments. And her bad advisors who probably share her loony beliefs.

  9. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: scratch a libertarian and you’ll find an authoritarian.

    I’m old enough to remember conservative politicians who derided this type of China-style control of independent thought; it was their rationale for why liberal capitalism was better than communist authoritarianism…but now the mask is off and we discover, not too surprisingly, that it was all just a put-on, discarded as soon as it became convenient to do so.

    The other issue, of course, is this is a nice way for the UCP to stick to the larger Alberta cities (particularly Edmonton) who dared to believe that democracy meant something by voting for the NDP.

  10. The group picture the blogger often posts is a reminder of the glory days of jailbird and seeker of a Trump pardon Lord Almost. His dishevelled look suggests his mum did not properly dress and groom him for the photoshoot.

    1. Tom— better yet, was as I scrolled past the photo, the ad that popped up made me burst out laughing—perfectly timed so right under the pic was….
      ” Install all types of gutters ”
      ” Supreme Gutter Victoria ”

      Timing was exquisite !!!

      and DJC …kudos to Lisa on her take….LOL
      So Jordan was turned down for a grant…. how “interesting”.

  11. We are going to become the laughing stock of the academic world. What she and the flat earther’s are going to do is drive the research out of Alberta. You drive out the research, the prof’s leave, the programs are cut and voila you have muzzled the programs you believe were not warranted under the great right umbrella in the first place.
    Now we must remember that DS and most of her colleagues have no idea the structure behind the grants as most of them did not reach those heights.
    She went from the motto of reducing red tape to building actual walls.

  12. IMHO- Marlaina and Skippy are just going to continue what Stephen Harper already did as far as cuts, and reverse any progress that the federal Liberal government tried to restore.
    It also explains Skippy’s latest tweet about more boots *.

    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
    policyalternatives .ca
    The Harper government’s war on science- June 1 2013
    CBC- Oct 23 2014
    Foreign scientists call on Stephen Harper to restore science…..
    CTV news>politics
    Oct 21 2014
    Hundreds of world scientists urge Harper to end spending cuts.

    **more boots going to do the “dirty jobs ” for the corporations, less frivolous government spending on medical, environmental, safety research etc.
    Now that they have created AI ,and killed off the bees ( chemical sprays) we just need some drudge workers to buzz around doing what AI / robots can’t do—YET !!

  13. I was interested to see Dr. Blake Shaffer of the University of Calgary on the list of award recipients: The oft-quoted professor of economics has said a bunch of smart and complicated stuff about Alberta’s electricity market:
    I wonder if he is on the nice or the naughty list; I was hopeful that Nathan Neudorf had consulted with experts like Dr Shaffer and gained some nuance but I think he’s still fighting windmills and reminiscing about the good old days of the coal plants (like the ones that Notley changed to gas, like the ones we’re trying to convince China to convert so we can sell them our LNG). Anyway, they shouldn’t worry too hard about protecting our academics from left-leaning grant givers; the kids making their way through the new Alberta Social Studies curriculum won’t have the wherewithal to submit an application.

    1. Emily: It was the 2008 $15/mt Stelmach carbon tax that produced the move away from coal to fossil gas. This move happened in a mere six years. Lightning fast for a grid scale change. At that time Stelmach funded a one-billion-dollar experiment to keep coal plants economic using carbon capture and storage which failed, just as it will fail for the tar sands and gray and blue hydrogen.

      Dr. Shaffer and Mr. Tertzakian of ARC Energy were hired by the Notley government to review oil and fossil gas royalty rates. There was no going to the successful Norway model for Alberta, or even the Alaska model. This finished the Ab NDP’s credibility on that subject and in my view, that is why they lost the next election. Enough said.

  14. @ Ron mac.
    Overall, we rate the Cureus Journal of Medical Science as a mild pseudoscience journal based on publishing poor studies that require retractions. We also rate them Mixed for factual reporting due to failed fact checks.

  15. Dani? “Why is there such bias towards sanity in our Universities? We need a balanced approach that allows those with opposing views an equal opportunity to get paid for their lunacy! The idea that this king of equity and inclusion might undermine academic rigour, should not stand in way of freedom for people who know the world is flat!”

  16. I find it rather appalling for the Universities in this province. But I also wonder how federal departments in Alberta, like AAFC and ECCC, will deal with this gate keeping? There are branches of both the above named federal departments have many scientists and technicians doing research here in the province. Will those programs move elsewhere?

    (I guess the Alberta red-tape reduction ministry is actually the red-tape increase ministry.)

  17. The complexity of the task of monitoring federal grant applications wouldn’t faze the UCP – they’re unlikely to have to take it on in any depth. This bill can probably serve its purpose of politicizing academic research through its chilling effect on researchers. They’ll know that there’s no point in presenting applications that the UCP will nix out of hand.
    The Harper government made a vigorous attempt to hamstring the Experimental Lakes project back in 2012, as I recall. An example of a federal political party sapping the funding of an ideologically-unacceptable research initiative, although admittedly not promoted through NSERC. Still, an example for the UCP to emulate.
    A minor point – I wouldn’t say that pwning the Libs is the UCP’s sole raison d’être – the funnelling of public money to its cronies and donors is and will always be a major consideration for the UCP.

  18. “When fascism comes to Alberta, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” (with apologies to Sinclair Lewis or whomever…) If it offends David Parker’s religious assertions it must not be allowed. If it offends Danielle Smith’s political ideology it must not be allowed. If it doesn’t profit her benefactors it must not be allowed. Call it freedom from the tyrants that Canadians vote for.

    1. Fascism — as distinct from Nazism, which is IMHO an even more extreme variant of Fascism — always comes wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross or some other religious symbol. Italian Fascism under Mussolini, Spanish Fascism under Franco, Chilean Fascism under Pinochet, and Iranian Fascism under the Ayatollahs — they’re all the same.

  19. Lovely picture of the Queen of backwardness and flat earth and the 3 stooges. Three rich guys with little experience in the real world. What do they actually know about university research? For that matter what does Smith know. On the upside, from other provinces’ researchers, they might wind up getting more grants. UBC would love more money. A blogger in Vancouver, RossK, Pacific Gazetteer, not only is a blogger but a singer, guitar player and a Cancer Researcher. From time to time he mentions the grants they have to apply for. Alberta nor the rest of the country needs Smith and the UPC’s idea of research. There is limited amounts of money for research. It needs to go to scientists, etc. who actually do research which will have a positive impact on our world, i.,e. health, science, business, education, enviornment, not idiot ideas which have little value and even less scientific progress.

  20. David!
    How DARE you call her “Ms. Smith”. Did you get her parents’ permission to call her this “Ms” nonsense. I am old enough to remember when the first use of “Ms” caused a tizzy with a certain set of people. Or recognising Gay Marrage (or gay people at all) would cause the end of Civilization. As for Jordan Peterson, just call him Iron John and give him “The Talking Stick”. He wants to use the Professional designation and gull people that he is an Auhthority (Sic) but sulks when the Governing Body wants him to follow their rules or not link himself to them.
    Keep up the good work.

  21. Can book burning be far behind? Three years to go means anything can happen here in Alberta.

  22. “I have heard enough from some of our academics about how difficult it can be to be able to access some of that funding” … I think the only thing wrong with that sentence is the grammatical number she chose for the noun ‘academic’ lol. She really should have said “academic” in the singular, not “academics”, plural, and most likely that sole “academic” was indeed Peterson.

    1. Emily: I mentioned that a couple of times literally years ago, along with Social Credit scrip, another idea the UCP will want to introduce soon, or, I suppose Bitscrip. DJC

  23. I didn’t know facts and the scientific method had an ideological bent. Are there conservative bridges out there in the wild that I have not seen? How about conservative dams? Conservative roads? Conservative agriculture? Conservative biology? Conservative medicine? Conservative physics? Hmmmmm.

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