Ford government slashes funding to research institutes focused on artificial intelligence - 2019-05-19
The Ford government has axed provincial funding for two institutes credited with positioning Ontario and Canada at the forefront of artificial intelligence research — a field the government's own prosperity think tank says must be supported if the province wants to remain competitive and create jobs in a booming technology sector. The Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade cut $20 million from the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence and $4 million annually from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), which supports a hub of AI-focused computer scientists. Both draw funding from the federal government and other sources and say they will adjust programming or operations.
A prosperity think tank funded by the ministry concluded in a report last year that Ontario has a "rich AI ecosystem led by some of the world's best AI scientists and business thinkers," thanks in part to early investment in basic research. The report cited the Vector Institute as an attractor of high-profile talent to the region. The report's key recommendation: "It is imperative that the province stay ahead of the curve and support the research and development of this technology, so that we stay at the leading edge of AI innovation." The think tank that issued the report, the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity, was itself axed by the government and closed its doors last week after 18 years. It was the research arm of a task force created by then premier Mike Harris in 2001 and was designed to examine policies that could help Ontario become more competitive.
"In order to protect what matters most and get Ontario back on track, we need to get our fiscal house in order. That's exactly what we're doing, while continuing to deliver on our promise to make Ontario open for business, and open for jobs." Letersky said the government continues to have "a great working relationship" with both CIFAR and the Vector Institute, and looks forward to continuing to work with both.