House of Commons Debates, 41st Parl, 1st Sess, No 134 (5 June 2012) at 8815.
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale has been very helpful. He is very concerned about this file.
We have a scientist we have been funding in the area of nanotechnologies who has now come up with a microscopic switch. One of the uses of this switch is to warn drivers on our highways of deer. It is a motion detector that can switch on a flashing yellow light.
My hypothetical question is this. Now that the research is done, we should move that technology to the commercial side and get it out there to save people’s lives. If we then we shift to a new project of more need to the nation, not take it back but shift it, would that member interpret that kind of progress as a cut to science?
Mr. Speaker, that is a beautiful example because that is important research. However, nanotechnology is also what the Experimental Lakes Area project is involved in. In fact, scientists around the world have referred to it as the world’s only ecological supercollider. In other words, it is all about the use of ecological nanotechnology. I say for the minister of state to support that program, but also to support this program because it is doing equally, if not more, important work and that is the kind of threat the government would put the environment under.
Mr. Speaker, it is ironic that just as we were talking about nanotechnology I was reading an email from a very prominent nanotechnology researcher who is worried about whether he should be leaving the country to do his research.
My question is about the Experimental Lakes Area. It is a bit strange that in the last couple of years, in the fiscal years ending 2010 and 2011, there was about $800,000 spent by the Conservative government when it was still a minority government on a state-of-the-art research facility in the Experimental Lakes Area. That is when it was a minority government, maybe being careful and afraid to do what it really wanted to do. Now we have a majority government and the Conservatives decide they want to kill the Experimental Lakes program.
Would my colleague comment on the change in behaviour of the Conservatives, spending money to build a state-of-the-art research facility when they were a minority government, and then when they are a majority government and can really do what they want to do, killing the funding for the Experimental Lakes Area?
Mr. Speaker, I had this to say earlier. When somebody said to me, “Do the members opposite just not care about information, facts and knowledge?” I said, “Not for a second”.
The women and men on the opposite side are not stupid. They are intelligent people but the problem is this. What they have shown is if they do not agree with the science and it does not serve their purposes, then they are going to shut it down. The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy is gone. The National Council of Welfare is gone. The Experimental Lakes Area project is gone.
I do not understand why the government does not have the confidence that is necessary, and that Canadians demand from their government, to allow the House of Commons to be filled with differing opinions and ideas so we ensure that the decisions we make in the final analysis are based on sound research, sound facts and sound debate.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission.
In 2007 our government released our science and technology strategy. It lays out a framework to guide strategic investments with the goal of fostering Canadian advantage in three areas: entrepreneurial advantage, knowledge advantage and people advantage. This strategy is guided by four core principles: promoting world-class excellence, focusing on priorities, encouraging partnerships and enhancing accountability.
In 2009 we announced Canada’s economic action plan in response to the global economic crisis. As part of this plan, and consistent with the S and T strategy objectives, the government created the knowledge infrastructure program. More commonly known as KIP, the $2 billion program was designed to provide significant, short-term economic stimulus in communities across Canada while enhancing the long-term training and research capacity of Canadian universities and colleges.
Including funds leveraged from the provincial and territorial governments, educational institutions and private sector partners, this program resulted in a total investment of more than $5 billion in 190 communities across the country. The work at these facilities created and maintained jobs for engineers, construction workers and many others when they were needed most. But the impact that these investments had on research and training in Canada was truly remarkable and provided clear evidence of this government’s commitment to research in Canada.
These projects contributed to the development of Canada’s knowledge advantage by enhancing research facilities. KIP has improved the ability of institutions to conduct research in life sciences, information and communications technologies, energy and environment, and other disciplines, as well as in key sectors such as automotive and aerospace.
An example of our support for scientific research is our project at the University of Manitoba for its regenerative medicine renovation and development project. Thanks to funding from KIP and the province, a major renovation and expansion of the school’s medical sciences building was completed. The expansion accommodated new labs, offices and study space to support new faculty, graduate students, lab technicians and post-doctoral fellows. The project enhanced the university’s ability to educate future doctors and develop one of the top three regenerative medicine programs in Canada.
KIP helped develop Canada’s people advantage by expanding training capacity at colleges and universities. In total, KIP projects added 2.2 million square feet to classrooms and training facilities, as well as 2.6 million square feet of laboratory space.
It may interest the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas to note that support under this category included a $39 million KIP project at the British Columbia Institute of Technology in his riding. Critical renovations to infrastructure at BCIT included state-of-the-art teaching technologies and sustainable building systems, including a micro-electricity grid. Furthermore, the project included completing seismic upgrades and modernizing safety and ventilation systems. The project was also designed to meet the requirements of LEED, leadership in energy and environmental design gold certification.
Also in the member’s riding, the government funded a major overhaul of Simon Fraser University’s chemistry facility. With $24.4 million in KIP funding, SFU completed a $49.4 million overhaul of the facility that brought the labs up to modern standards. Built to the LEED gold standard, the extensive improvements included a new exterior envelope and roof, seismic bracing, new fume hoods, lab benches, new heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and upgraded mechanical, electrical and safety systems.
A total of 380 projects increased the energy efficiency of campuses, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 175,000 tonnes of CO2, which is the equivalent of the emissions of 34,000 passenger cars. These projects also provided estimated operational savings of $23 million per year.
One particularly interesting example is the construction of a 120,000 square foot environmental demonstration and training facility at the Nova Scotia Community College. The hon. member who just spoke might be interested in that. It incorporated solar panels, planted rooftops, living walls covered with vegetation, wind turbines, photovoltaic panels and geothermal heating and cooling.
Roughly half of all KIP projects resulted in significant health and safety improvements, addressing areas such as accessibility for persons with disabilities, fire safety, security systems, air quality, water leakage and resistance to earthquakes.
Finally, the program helped develop Canada’s entrepreneurial advantage through new and expanded business incubation facilities that supported effective collaboration between academia and the private sector. These facilities are crucial in helping to accelerate the commercialization of the academic research into products in the marketplace, to expose more professors and students to real world applications and to encourage more private sector innovation and growth.
One of the best examples of this type of project is the MiQro Innovation Research Centre at Université de Sherbrooke. The Government of Canada partnered with the province of Quebec on this $218 million project to build a centre of excellence for electronic research and assembly. The new MiQro Innovation Research Centre is expected to become a world leader in assembling the next generation of microchips, thanks to collaboration with key local industry partners, including IBM Canada and Teledyne DALSA, Inc.
In just 31 months, KIP went from concept to conclusion and provided key stimulus to our economy at a critical time. In addition to supporting scientific research infrastructure, the program also clearly demonstrated the government’s commitment to sound management of public finances.
The Auditor General’s report examined the effectiveness of the implementation of all economic action plan programs, including KIP, and noted, “the total time needed to design, review, and approve programs was reduced from the approximately six months normally required to two months”. The AG’s report held up KIP as “an example of speedy implementation”.
The report recognized the effectiveness of KIP’s project monitoring and reporting systems, its speedy implementation and its effective collaborations with provinces and territories, as well as colleges and universities. Thanks to those partnerships, KIP stands out as a tremendous example of governments working together to take action during a time of great economic uncertainty.
We are quite pleased that the Auditor General of Canada confirmed that the program was delivered effectively and efficiently. KIP not only made a difference in meeting immediate economic challenges, but it also set the foundation for future prosperity in the knowledge economy. The program was an excellent demonstration of our strong commitment to supporting Canada’s science and technology sector. The investments made provided a strong base for research and helped create new facilities that would help attract new students and provide a better educational experience for tomorrow’s highly skilled workers.
Mr. Speaker, I will repeat a reaction that I had to the speech by the of the minister of state and I had the same reaction to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry.
I believe the parliamentary secretary has missed the point of this motion. The point is not that we should not be funding the knowledge infrastructure program, the point is whether the government will listen to advice from scientists and people who have made measurements, observed the country, done their homework and figured out and analyzed the situation.
Will the government take advice that it does not agree with or that embarrasses it? Will it have a scientific approach to good governance as opposed to simply funding technology or ensuring that we have good buildings and facilities in our country?
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member suggests that maybe I missed the point of the opposition motion today. I would suggest that there really is no point to the opposition motion today.
In terms of the member’s comment about taking the advice of the experts, the Minister of State for Science and Technology takes the advice of those experts every day. The minister meets with stakeholders across the country on a regular basis in round tables and meetings where he hears their views.
We only have to look as far as economic action plan 2012 to see how the government has taken that advice. We can see things like the reinvesting of $37 million annually, starting in 2012-13, to the granting councils to enhance their support for industry and academic research partnerships. I have more lists I could go through if I get another such question.
Mr. Speaker, it is really obvious how narrow-minded the government opposite is when we hear responses like that, and especially when the minister insults members opposite by belittling what they are saying. For nearly a year, the government has been trying to muzzle any opposition.
We are talking about science and technology. These fields advance civilizations, from Galileo to Newton and from Darwin to Einstein. These people had to face similar opposition.
Now, the government is putting Canadian scientists on the chopping block. Once again, the government’s narrow-mindedness is muzzling these voices.
I have to wonder how the government, which claims to be responsible and open-minded, can oppose a motion like the one that was moved today.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about research and listening to Canadians. Before he voted against the budget in 2012, I wonder if he actually took the time to take a look at the budget document. If he had taken that time, he would have seen some interesting investments that were made in the interests of all Canadians, investments like $60 million for Genome Canada to launch a new applied research competition in the area of human health and to sustain the science and technology centres until 2014-15. It is on page 54 if he wants to read it. There are $6.5 million over three years for a research project at McMaster University to evaluate team-based approaches to health care delivery, $17 million over two years to further advance the development of alternatives to existing isotope production technology and $10 million over two years to the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research to link Canadians to global research networks.
I could continue to read through the budget document for the hon. member, but I would suggest that he take the time to read the document himself.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the House on the important issue of government science supporting our decision making and, in fact, our government’s record of upholding this important function.
It is important for fisheries and oceans because it has a broad and powerful mandate, requiring the minister to regularly make decisions affecting Canadians. Many Canadians whose lives and businesses are directly influenced by this mandate include commercial, recreational and aboriginal fishermen, those in the marine transportation business, developers in proximity of water, aquaculturists, tourism operators and many more. Not least are the many everyday Canadians who rightfully want our aquatic resources to be protected and available for both current and future generations.
Therefore, science at fisheries and oceans is a critical element in ensuring that sound decision making is achieved. Today, in the few minutes I have, I want to focus on this science program, outlining its multifaceted nature and some notable recent achievements and investments in new and continuing science activities since 2006.
The numerous fisheries and aquaculture operations in our country generate a total of $5.3 billion in GDP, and that is 2008 values, and in so doing, support upwards of 71,000 Canadians, including their families and communities. In order to advise the minister on the potential outcomes of the many resource-use decisions that are needed, the fisheries science program at DFO maintains a broad suite of aquatic resource monitoring activities, including research vessel surveys and regular population assessments.
This vital fisheries science program has seen several important investments in recent years, including $8.4 million per year in permanent funding for ecosystem-based science and a total of $68.5 million since 2007 to maintain key collaborative activities with the fishing industry.
Let me begin with aquaculture, where fisheries and oceans aquaculture science is essential and has two main programs. For more than 10 years, the aquaculture collaborative research and development program has partnered with industry to invest $2 million per year in scientific research to improve environmental performance and fish health in aquaculture operations.
The second key aquaculture science program is the program for aquaculture regulatory research. This $7 million program was founded in 2008. It supports the environmental management of the Canadian aquaculture sector.
Both are very important.
I will move on to aquatic invasive species, one of the leading threats to aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem health. DFO’s national program on aquatic invasive species was initiated in 2005 and renewed in 2010, at $4 million per year, to assist Fisheries and Oceans Canada to respond to the invasive species challenge. The research completed has yielded much valuable scientific advice.
In addition, on May 28, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans announced a significant investment to protect the Great Lakes from the threat of Asian carp. This new funding, totalling $17.5 million over five years, is in addition to the $8.1 million per year that we invest in the sea lamprey control program which, in collaboration with our partners, keeps the invasive sea lamprey numbers down by more than 90%.
As shown, DFO is committed to the sustainability of the Canadian fisheries and aquaculture industries. However, it also aims to protect aquatic biodiversity upon which these fisheries depend. One key tool used by the department to achieve such protection is the Species at Risk Act of 2003. Species surveys conducted by DFO scientists are the main source of information to identify and protect aquatic species at risk. Budget 2012 made an investment of $75 million over three years to support SARA implementation, including scientific activities.
This government is also serious about supporting responsible energy development. To that end, budget 2012 provided $35.7 million over two years to introduce measures to support that key objective. Details are still being finalized, but the bulk of this funding will go to DFO to support the research activities needed to improve scientific knowledge and understanding of marine pollution risks and to manage the impacts in the event of a marine incident.
We are at the leading edge of science and several highly technical and emerging fields of science like genomics, which is the science that studies DNA in living organisms and how it affects their biological functions. The government has recently invested an additional $1 million in fishery science through the genomics research and development initiative. This DNA analysis is making it possible to better distinguish among fish species, enhance our understanding of their population structures and improve the regulation of fisheries.
For example, as members know, the Fraser River sockeye salmon species on the west coast has been under some stress recently. Although 2010 was a record year, it has been in decline.
The species is made up of a number of different populations. Some come down the west coast of British Columbia and take a left turn at the Fraser River, and some take a right turn at Cultus Lake, and of course we call those the Cultus Lake sockeye. They look like every other sockeye, but to know which are which, we need to do some DNA analysis to know when the exploitation rate has been reached so that we can protect the population. It is an important area of science.
Marine transportation is fundamental to the nation’s economic prosperity as well. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, known as UNCLOS, article 76, Canada is invited to provide evidence for territorial delineation of our continental shelf. This could potentially add a significant economic opportunity for Canadians, if rights on the sea bottom and sub-bottom resources on the Atlantic coast and in the Arctic outside our 200-mile exclusive economic zone are accorded to Canada.
Since 2004, over $30 million has been provided to support the continental shelf work. This investment has not only yielded critical data for the Canadian submission to the UN but it has also enhanced our science capacity in hydrography, geology, ocean engineering and modelling of the sea bottom.
Other ocean sciences, such as oceanography, are a key element of the department’s science agenda. Canada recognizes the need for ocean sciences; it is the foundation of our understanding of Canada’s oceans.
To equip our scientists with the necessary tools to undertake this research, we have made an important strategic investment to construct a new ocean science vessel. This world-class vessel, to be finished in 2015, would ensure that departmental scientists have access to a state-of-the-art vessel and science equipment for their job.
Climate change is also very important. Canadians want to know that government operations and mandates are adapted so that effects of a changing climate will not unduly impact Canadians in the future. For this purpose, the department is benefiting from an investment of $16.5 million over five years for science funding to assist the department adapt to climate change. These funds enable the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to identify the key risks of climate change and take action in response.
Our scientists are also well engaged with other scientists on the domestic front as well as the international area. Many DFO scientists have close links with universities, doing research in partnership and supervising graduate students. In recent years, we expanded this collaboration by teaming with NSERC and several Canadian universities to fund specific research networks that focus on research themes relevant to oceans and fisheries research.
In 2008, the NSERC Canadian Healthy Oceans Network, based at Memorial University, was created to develop scientific guidelines for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity resources in partnership with policy makers. DFO contributes more than $1 million in ship time to this network. We have also contributed financially into a number of other similar networks that focus research on the impact of hydroelectric facilities, invasive species and fisheries research issues important to the fisheries industry.
To wrap up, we are proud of the excellent work done by our scientists and will continue to build on existing knowledge about our oceans, waterways and fisheries resources. Our government understands that science is essential to the long-term sustainability of Canada’s fisheries. However, the government must continually review its operations to make sure that taxpayer dollars are focused and spent in a way to achieve the best results for Canadians and our marine environment and to address the needs of a changing world.
Over and above the approximately $150 million the department spends on science programming each year in core funding, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, our government has invested an additional $100 million to support key research for Canadians, the details of which I have summarized in my remarks here today. These are the types of projects on which we believe the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should continue to focus.
Mr. Speaker, rattling off a list of projects that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans spends money on misses the point of the motion.
Let me address one of the points of the motion by asking the minister about muzzling scientists and not letting them talk to people.
If we go back to the announcement that Conservative Minister John Crosbie made in 1992 announcing the moratorium on the cod fishery and we try to understand how it is that we fished out all the cod without realizing it, we realize that fishery scientists thought there was a bunch of fish out there but the inshore fisherman, who actually went out and tried to catch fish, were saying that the number of fish was decreasing, as was their size.
The government scientists and the inshore fishermen were not talking. What they really should have done was sat down and said, “Boy, we disagree on the state of the cod population. We’d better sit down and resolve this”. If they had done that, we may not have fished out the Atlantic cod.
What I want to ask my hon. colleague is this. Does he not agree with me that, if the government scientists had been talking with the people in Canada and exchanging ideas and information, we would have been in a better state in this country?
Mr. Speaker, my colleague raises an interesting point. In fact, he knows that there are a number of reasons why the Atlantic cod experienced a serious decline, including overfishing, but that was only one of them. There were some environmental issues as well.
In fact, I was in a study on the Atlantic coast trying to determine why the cod had not rebounded. That was in 2005. In effect, some people did tell us that they had told DFO that the stocks were declining and that we should stop fishing. I remember distinctly asking one of them, “Did you stop fishing?” He said, “Of course we didn’t stop fishing.” Therefore, there was a fair bit of blame to go around.
On the other point the member raised, the scientists at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are talking to people regularly. They do more than 300 interviews a year with the media and certainly interact and relate, as I said in my comments, with other scientists, and they will continue to do that.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member’s participating in this debate. I wanted to go back to him with a question on the Experimental Lakes Area project and the decision of this government to cut funding for that organization. I mentioned earlier that this is a unique research facility that has been in existence for almost 50 years and has been instrumental in identifying environmental problems caused by acid rain, phosphorus in detergent and mercury from coal-fired power plants. It is one of the only facilities in the world where scientists can look at the impact of contaminants on the whole ecosystem.
I ask the parliamentary secretary if he would explain why the cut to this organization is in any way in the interests of the fishery.
Mr. Speaker, from a broader point of view, let me say that the nature of science is such that science programs, science research projects and so on need to keep evolving because we are faced with new challenges and new questions that need to be answered. They will not all be answered by government scientists by any means, but they keep changing. That means we will be adding programs and at times we will be discontinuing programs that may not be as important as they once were. I think that is the case with the Experimental Lakes. It has done some good work and we hope it continues under the management of either a non-governmental organization or perhaps a university.
Order. We have run out of time again for questions and comments.
I just have a reminder for hon. members. I do see on a number of occasions that members are getting up to put questions to the member who has just spoken. We appreciate the co-operation of hon. members, when they do get recognized for a question, to keep that to around a minute or so. That way we can maybe get three questions in each round of five minutes.
Resuming debate. The hon. member for Windsor West.
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise in the House to speak about an issue that is very important to Canadians. I will read the motion, but a lot of my comments will be focused on some of the issues I have dealt with in the past, one being the long form census, which we no longer have in this country, and my concerns about the process of eliminating that census and what the consequences are for this country.
The motion by my colleague states:
|That, in the opinion of the House, Canadian scientific and social science expertise is of great value and, therefore, the House calls on the Government to end its muzzling of scientists; to reverse the cuts to research programs at Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Library and Archives Canada, National Research Council Canada, Statistics Canada, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada; and to cancel the closures of the National Council of Welfare and the First Nations Statistical Institute.|
It is really important to note that over $1 billion of cuts have taken place to a number of different departments, which are going to affect the competitiveness of Canada. When we look at the opportunity for research in the modern economy, it is the value-added economy that we need to be enhancing. This is why science and research are so important.
Canada has a tradition of falling from actually producing the end results of science and research. We do not often bring enough products to market. There has been a real conscious effort to work with universities and other entrepreneurs to try to bring some patents and other types of inventions into the manufacturing world, because we have seen hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in the manufacturing sector over the last number of years. My constituency has been particularly affected, as well as Ontario, Quebec and other places across Canada where the value-added economy has been lost. That is what is important about research and science. It is the backbone of the value-added society we really need to have for our exports.
One of the statistics that is important to recognize is that in 2005 the Government of Canada at the time had a $16 billion manufacturing export deficit. It is the value-added work done through manufacturing that is being lost because we were importing $16 billion more than we were exporting out to the world. That grew in 2010 to $80 billion. That is a significant shift. It is important to recognize that there is a significant place for a natural resource sector in our country, but it should not be only about lifting things out of the ground or chopping things down and then sending them away to be refined or processed elsewhere. We are more than just being able to take a piece of lumber or a tree and sending it off to China and then buying the table back later on. That is no way to organize our labour force, to sustain our cost of living or to encourage innovation. Often those decisions are made elsewhere in terms of the research and how it takes place.
One thing I will touch on briefly is the Investment Canada Act. As we have been seeing, the hollowing out of our manufacturing sector has occurred partly because there have been many takeovers of Canadian companies that have been uncontested by the government. In fact, recently it raised the threshold to $1 billion. We are losing decision-making capabilities. For example, there is a situation in Hamilton where U.S. Steel has a very capable plant, workforce and environment. Despite all the government’s rhetoric of lowering taxes to create jobs, U.S. Steel is not using this facility to its fullest capacity. It is barely using this facility.
I neglected to inform you, Mr. Speaker, that I am splitting my time with the member for St. John’s South—Mount Pearl.
Getting back to the Investment Canada Act and the U.S. Steel facility, it has not been fired up again in terms of providing the proper resources in jobs and elements that could take place. In fact U.S. Steel has redirected some work back to the United States. Part of that is because of the Investment Canada Act that was changed, and it is being changed in the budget again.
An interesting sidebar is that by amending these acts and the types of things we are debating here today without using the parliamentary process often does not fix legislation. The Investment Canada Act, which is again being altered in this budget, has not gone to committee in the past, like it should have. We did study it indirectly but did not study the actual legislative changes. These are some of the unintended consequences that would actually be addressed, even if the government had the right intent or the right agenda, because we could even get government amendments to legislation that have not properly thought through or there is a twist in something that did not work out through the process and that needs to be addressed.
It is important to note that one thing that will change is the statistics with regard to the census. What took place was that the minister at the time talked about personal privacy and that was one of the reasons the government would amend the long form census into a short form census. That is an issue that I am particularly concerned about because back in the day, a number of years ago under another administration, the government decided to outsource the census. Lockheed Martin actually got the contract. People might know Lockheed Martin for its manufacturing of arms across the globe but it also does censuses. It did the British census and a number of others. It picked up the Canadian census.
I was very concerned about that outsourcing and fought a long campaign to keep the data here in Canada. Lockheed Martin was going to assemble the Canadian data in the United States. What does that mean? It means that when our data leaves our soil and goes to the United States it is then subject to its privacy act. The privacy act is very particular. If the Government of the United States wants to access information from any source, it will get that information. What is important to note is that the company cannot disclose that the information has been accessed because of national security reasons. Therefore, if Lockheed Martin, for example, were storing the Canadian data in the United States and it was accessed by the U.S. government, it could not even disclose to us that this had taken place. We fought a long campaign to protect Canadians’ privacy and ensure that the assembly of information at least took place here in Canada.
When the minister came forward and started talking about the privacy issues over the census, it was very disturbing because we did not have that type of a push back from Canadians. What we have done now is moved to a short form census. What that does is it takes away all the previous materials and censuses done in the past, which leaves us with no comparables. What ends up happening is that the data information we have today from this short form census cannot be compared with the previous years. There are no measurables in there. People often do not know that we have a lot of surveys in Canada and a lot of those surveys are backstopped by the science behind the census. Therefore, by losing this data and then having further cuts, we are actually undermining a lot of the programs.
Back in the year 2000, I was part of the complete count in Windsor, Ontario, where we actually went door to door to get the information. It is important because the information about age, sex, ethnicity with regard to living standards and all kinds of different things are used for important economic decisions.
I know I only have about a minute left but it is important for people to realize that the long form census was an investment so that when decisions are made about how the public and how governments decide about transit, housing, the aging population and a number of different services, they have an educated backbone of science behind it. It is sad that we have lost this element because the privacy issue was never there. Ironically, the minister often talked about jailing people with regard to the census. We had a couple of Canadian citizens recently harassed about it but nothing took place. At the same time, the minister has yet to correct this legislation problem on which we agreed from all sides of the House to do so.
I will finish by thanking my colleague for bringing this very important issue forward. Science is the basis of our economy for the future. We need to be able to compete but we cannot do so with these cuts and we cannot do so if we break down the science and eliminate the data we use to make important decisions.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member spoke on different topics but several times he talked about the long form census as if it has disappeared.
Is the hon. member aware that there is still a long form census going out and that it is now voluntary? There are no jail sentences associated with not completing the long form census. Does he know what the response rate is on the long form census? There were more census forms sent out and we are still receiving that data.
Actually, Mr. Speaker, that census is costing Canadians more money, around $30 million more, to do a voluntary census.
All the statisticians, a number of businesses, organizations and groups, including the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada wrote supporting our census back in 2010 as an example.
All has basically been a waste. The voluntary census does not get into the specific details that the mandatory long form census had, ensuring that the demographics are represented by the return rate. We could have certain return rates that are higher or lower in different regions and that contaminates and skews the data.
Mr. Speaker, I want to pinpoint that science is actually knowledge. Science means knowledge and science is the basis for everything we do.
I heard the minister make a speech this morning and talk about the fact that we are a very small population compared to other countries in the world. The point is that because we are so small we cannot be competitive unless we are the best and the brightest, unless we carve out for ourselves, using basic science, niche markets that will allow us to be competitive and thrive in a global economy.
When we talk about cutting scientists and research, as the government, no matter what it says, has done, we are destroying our ability to be competitive in the world market. We have destroyed our ability, for instance, to look at something that Canada was well-known for around the world, which is biomedical research, the information that allowed us to make vaccines–
Order, please. I do not wish to interrupt the hon. member but the time is limited and we are trying to keep those questions and responses to about one minute.
The hon. member for Windsor West.
Mr. Speaker, I was trying to combine some of the Investment Canada Act and the statistical changes that took place. The real cue here is the fact that our value-added economy is being left behind.
When we have a small population, a wide geography and climate differential, the science is even more important for us to be effective in this world.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
Not only is the government muzzling scientists, but it is also mortgaging our future and the future of research. Could my colleague elaborate a bit more on the brain drain and its impact?
Mr. Speaker, we have seen that with RADARSAT and a few other projects. It is very important. If we do not have a directive, we lose people from our field.
For example, right now we do not have an automotive strategy of any sort while the United States is very aggressive on that. So I have concerns. A number of plants across Ontario will be retooling and decisions need to be made soon. The United States and state governments have had an actual auto policy. Now Europe is creating an auto policy. We are not providing the opportunities for the scientists and the researchers.
My concern is that we have been very much on the forefront on automotive research, development and the movement into a greener sector and I am very worried that industries like that will be left behind.
Mr. Speaker, Dr. Assaf Sukenik, a senior scientist at Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research, said:
|By shutting down the ELA facility, the Government of Canada is stamping out the ability of the world scientific community to conduct the research required to formulate sound environmental policies.|
Could the well-spoken member for Windsor West comment, please?
It is critical, Mr. Speaker. In the last budget, only $8 million were provided for the Great Lakes. Per capita, the fake lake in Muskoka actually received more money than the Great Lakes per capita.
With the U.S. pumping a lot of money into science and research, we are losing out on the opportunity to be a part of that.
Mr. Speaker, 15 years ago, in 1997, three respected Canadian university scientists wrote a paper with a fascinating title, “Is scientific inquiry incompatible with government information control?”. In other words, if that were not put simply enough, can science coexist with government manipulation? That is a very good question.
A line from that 1997 controversial report reads:
|Scientists were also explicitly ordered then, as they are today, not to discuss “politically sensitive” matters…with the public, irrespective of the scientific basis, and publication status, of the scientist’s concerns.|
Does that sound like scientists have been muzzled? It does to me.
I will read from the summary of that 1997 report because that 1997 report is as relevant today as it was then. It reads:
|There is a clear and immediate need for Canadians to examine very seriously the role of bureaucrats and politicians in the management of Canada’s natural resources. The present framework of government departments such as the DFO is based on the belief that the conservation of natural resources is best ensured by science integrated within a political body. Recent history would suggest otherwise.|
The recent history that would suggest otherwise was the fall of the fisheries. Scientists were just a bit off when they missed the collapse of what was once the world’s biggest fish resource on planet earth, northern cod off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.
The trouble with science in Canada, fish science for example, is that it is tainted by politics. Science is manipulated and massaged by politicians and bureaucrats to meet their own objectives. That is the way it works.
The short answer is, no, scientific inquiry is not compatible with government information control, the key word being “control”. I have seen too many examples over my time as a journalist and an editor and my short time as a member of Parliament.
As for the motion that we are debating here today calling on the government to end its muzzling of scientists, the Conservative government will say that scientists are not being muzzled, that science is not being manipulated. That is not the case.
Back in December, on the floor of the House of Commons during question period, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans was questioned about how scientists were reportedly afraid to go public with concerns about cuts to Fisheries and Oceans. In response, the minister asked a question. He asked, “Do I look like a bully?”. I was next to speak and I answered the minister’s question. I said that the minister did indeed look like a bully, although I later apologized and it was a sincere apology, but I answered his question. The minister does not look like a bully. He looks like a stereotypical Canadian grandfather. That is not how government scientists are bullied, not directly by ministers. It does not work that way. It is not in-your-face bullying. It is not blatant muzzling. It is a lot more subtle than that.
On that particular day in December, when the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans asked whether he looked like a bully, he was responding to questions about how employees fared. They could face sanctions or suspensions for remarks on federal job losses within the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
According to their union, scientists were worried about cuts to Fisheries and Oceans but would not speak for fear of being blacklisted. As with all cuts, the Conservative government said that there would be no negative impact on research, but what else is it going to say? The scientists say otherwise, or they would if they were not going to be blacklisted “for the rest of their lives”.
The media policy in place at Fisheries and Oceans Canada is similar to what has been implemented at Environment Canada. Scientists there cannot speak to reporters even about their own research until it is cleared through a network of public relations and even the Prime Minister‘s Office. Scientist Kristi Miller was recently told not to give interviews about her research on the causes of the sockeye salmon decline on B.C.’s Fraser River even though her research had been published in Nature.
Scott Dallimore, a Natural Resources geoscientist who had an article published in Nature about a flood 13,000 years ago in northern Canada, was denied the right to speak to the media until after the media’s deadline had elapsed. This is frequently how muzzling occurs.
I was a journalist for 20 years. I was a reporter and I was a persistent one. I was like a dog with a bone. Early in my career, I would be allowed to sit down with a scientist one on one. There was no problem. That was the way it worked. By the end of my career, I was not allowed to sit down with a scientist, even with a public relations official at the scientist’s side. I had to submit questions in advance, in writing, and get an official formal response. Are scientists being muzzled? Take it to the bank.
The prestigious British journal Nature has written two editorials in the last two years calling on the Canadian government “to set its scientists free”. The truth will set us free—not as the Conservatives see it, but as it is: pure, untainted truth.
The Conservatives are taking the art of muzzling to another level. The ultimate muzzling is to eliminate the person being muzzled altogether, to eliminate the position, to eliminate search and data-gathering programs. If under the Liberals we had the decade of darkness, under the Conservatives we have entered another period of dark ages, the darkest of ages, the con age. “Conage” is a new term, according to the Urban Dictionary. It means “completely and utterly owned”. The Conservative government is attempting to eliminate all opposition and all opposing opinion by eliminating the information at the source. Welcome to the con age.
The Conservative government’s Trojan Horse budget makes sweeping cuts to departments, agencies and organizations that engage in research and data collection, meaning that scientific research is being increasingly corralled into demand-driven funding models to serve profit-driven demands from big industry, and big industry is what the Conservative government caters to.
Budget 2012 eliminates the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. By the year’s end, funding would be cut to a team of seven smokestack air pollution specialists who crack down on toxic pollution that kills more than 21,000 Canadians a year. Environment Canada will lose 20% of the budget for a key program that checks to see whether the mining industry meets emission standards. The unit of Environment Canada that responds to oil spill emergencies would be dramatically scaled back, and most regional offices would be closed. The list goes on and on. The Conservatives will say that they do not see a trend, but that is because their heads are stuck in the con age.
The last thing I want to touch on is the proposed elimination of the National Council on Welfare, created in 1962 to provide research on poverty in Canada. The National Council on Welfare has been described by a former director as a friend to the opposition and a royal pain in the butt to a party once it takes government. No wonder it has been eliminated.
I have been wearing a wristband since before the federal election. I have not taken it off. The wristband says, “Make poverty history”. Before making each and every decision as a politician, I ask how the decision will impact the Canadian poor, and the Conservative government should ask itself the same question with respect to the elimination of the National Council on Welfare. This decision will not help Canadians; rather, it will make their plight that much harder.
This past weekend, I held a town hall in my riding to discuss the Conservative Trojan Horse budget. One of the speakers was Chris Hogan, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Network. Chris said something about the Conservative government’s gutting of environmental legislation and cuts in general that has stuck with me. He said, “Less science equals less knowledge. It’s basically like driving with the lights off”.
The Conservative government is at the wheel of this country, and it is driving full speed with the lights off. Not only that: the Conservative government is eliminating the police, so there is no chance it will be pulled over.
The Conservative government is an accident waiting to happen. Let us make no mistake: there will be a public roadblock in 2015, the Conservative government will be forced off the road and the con age will come to a dead stop.
Mr. Speaker, on May 15 I was on a panel on Power Play, and the host asked the NDP environment critic for something she felt the National Round Table on the Environment advocated—not a carbon tax, but something that was useful and that perhaps the government should have paid attention to.
The host was asking the environment critic to name a report that she used. She responded, “Pulling it off the top of my head like that, I am not sure.”
I would like to ask my colleague opposite which report he would point to.
Mr. Speaker, I am not going to speak for the New Democratic critic for the environment. She can speak for herself.
However, I will say this: if there is one quick thing that I could say to the member opposite and to the government opposite, it would be that there has to be balance. There has to be balance in life, there has to be balance in politics and there has to be balance in this country between industrial development and the environment.
The Conservative government has lost that balance.
Mr. Speaker, I note that the hon. member talked about science and about some of the cuts that were made. He also mentioned 10 years of darkness under the Liberal government.
I would like to inform the member that Technology Partnerships Canada and all of the research that moved us from number seven in the G8 to number one in the G8 came in under the 10 years of Liberal government, and $10 billion was spent just on the Foundation for Innovation alone.
I want to ask the hon. member a pertinent question. We notice cuts in the water and air quality analysis are going on. I am speaking as a physician, and my concern is that when all these scientists who are monitoring water and air quality are cut, what is going to happen to the safety of the water we drink? How is this going to impact on the health of Canadians across this country and the diseases they will get from drinking non-potable water?
Mr. Speaker, if cuts are made to basic science research in any area, be it research for air, water, fish, mining or oil and gas development—and the point was made here earlier that science is another word for research—then the environment will suffer, and we as Canadians will suffer in the end. Our knowledge base will not be there, and mistakes will happen.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his excellent speech. I thought his analogy of the Conservative government’s wilful dismissal of scientists and scientific information and data is appropriately like driving a car full speed ahead in the dark with our eyes closed.
It also seems that the government does not even want to look in the rear-view mirror. There are massive cuts to libraries and archives. More than 20% of the workforce will be eliminated. The government said it is just getting rid of duplication and modernizing, but apparently only 2% of our archives are digitized, which means that Canadians will lose their history.
Can the member comment about the loss of this important Canadian information?
Mr. Speaker, I like how the member took my analogy one step further.
The Conservatives are like a government driving a car without the lights on and not looking in the rear-view mirror. The member is absolutely right.
In the case of libraries, for example, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans had 11 libraries across the country. That number is being cut to seven. Are most of those libraries digitized? The answer is no, they are not.
What is going to happen with the information in those libraries? It will be lost. What will that mean? That will mean we will not learn by past mistakes. How big are the past mistakes made by consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments? Huge. There were huge environmental mistakes. I am a member from Newfoundland, and the Grand Banks off Newfoundland were utterly destroyed. There were huge mistakes made.
Now the government is going to destroy the libraries. That makes no sense.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to this opposition motion today, partially because I spent the better part of my career working in research administration and working at the University of Calgary with some of what I would like say are the greatest scientists in the country. I witnessed first-hand, at ground level, the support that our government has given to research and development across the spectrum of research disciplines. I have also seen first-hand the results of funding that research, which is some of the world-class research that has been published in this country over the last several years.
Today I would like to speak specifically to research at Environment Canada.
As we have said all along, our government recognizes the importance of scientific research. At Environment Canada, science is central to the department’s work, promoting a clean, safe and sustainable environment for all Canadians.
As a measure of its commitment, this government has made significant investments in science to support environmental protection.
Mr. Speaker, I should also say that I will be sharing my time with the member for Kitchener—Waterloo.
Last year, Environment Canada spent about $600 million on science and technology and plans to spend a similar amount this year. These funds support a wide range of research and monitoring activities focused on air, water and wildlife.
Science is the foundation of Environment Canada’s work and is central to its performance as a world-class regulator. The department’s scientific expertise spans a wide range of fields, including water, air, climate, weather, wildlife, pollution prevention and environmental toxicology. Research and monitoring at Environment Canada generates invaluable data, information, and tools that are central for developing and implementing the policies, regulations and services that help Canadians make decisions about the environment and that protect the environment for present and future generations.
In spite of what the opposition might say, scientific research remains strong at Environment Canada. One way to measure that strength is to look at the scientific publications we have produced. The department’s scientists have published, on average, more than 600 peer-reviewed scientific publications per year in recent years. This makes environment Canada a global leader in environmental research. It is also one of the most productive institutions in the world in this field.
Of course, Environment Canada does not do its work in isolation. In fact, the department maintains strong relations with experts in academia and in other international organizations. These collaborations help Environment Canada build synergies, leverage resources and access expertise in other organizations, resulting in the world-class science we need as a country to ensure our environment is clean, safe and sustainable.
In December 2011 the Commissioner of the Environment tabled an audit of environmental science at Environment Canada. The findings of the audit were positive, recognizing that Environment Canada has good systems and practices in place to manage and ensure the quality of its science and that the science performed by the department is being communicated to decision-makers and delivered to meet user needs.
It is true that Environment Canada, like all of government, is reducing its spending in order to contribute to Canada’s return to a balanced budget, something that we heard very clearly from Canadians in the last election.
However, the department is doing so in a way that will not compromise environmental protection. Rather, Environment Canada will focus on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of all of our science activities through improved coordination and streamlined management.
The department has developed an integrated and risk-based approach to environmental monitoring. This would see more resources devoted to issues and areas that pose the greatest risks to our environment. This approach is consistent with the recommendations made by recent reports of the Commissioner of the Environment, and Environment Canada is moving forward by being flexible and adaptable. The department is maintaining the capacity and expertise needed to carry out its mandate.
Let me give members some details.
This year Environment Canada plans to spend nearly $50 million on water science and technology. This includes activities such as monitoring freshwater quality and studying climate change impacts on aquatic ecosystem health. For example, Environment Canada will spend $1.5 million this year to track harmful chemicals through the Great Lakes, investigating where they come from and where they end up.
The department also plans to spend nearly another $50 million on its atmospheric science and technology research this year. This includes key research on emissions from industry and transportation, monitoring greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions and research to support weather prediction. For example, the department will spend more than $600,000 this year to study the impact of air pollutants in the Arctic. This would help to ensure northern development happens responsibly.
Other important science and technology investments include nearly $20 million to support the chemical management plan and more than $7 million on research to maintain and sustain healthy wildlife populations and ecosystem habitat.
Another example is environmental monitoring in the oil sands region. The government recognizes that action is needed to ensure that the oil sands are developed responsibly and in a way that respects the environment. That is why the government has listened to eminent Canadian scientists and experts and is turning that advice into action on this important issue.
This past February, the hon. Minister of the Environment and his Alberta colleague, the minister of environment and water, announced the joint Canada-Alberta implementation plan for oil sands monitoring. This plan commits Canada and Alberta to an integrated environmental monitoring program for the region that is scientifically robust and transparent.
The implementation plan outlines the path forward to enhance the monitoring of water, air, land and biodiversity in the oil sands by sampling more sites for more substances more frequently. It is designed to improve our understanding of the long-term cumulative effects of oil sands development and activities under the plan have already begun.
Data from the new monitoring program and the methods on which it is based will be transparent, supported by necessary quality assurance and will be made publicly available to allow independent scientific assessments and evaluations. In short, the program is founded on external scientific peer review that will encourage informed discussions and analysis on the impact of oil sands development based on factual, high quality scientific information.
Canadians gave us a strong mandate to deliver on our priorities. Scientific research remains central to the work Environment Canada and many other departments within government do. This government is confident that Environment Canada’s ongoing science and technology efforts and activities will remain well funded, scientifically robust and focused on those areas which matter most to Canadians.
I would also like to point to the hundreds of millions of dollars that budget 2012 committed to research and development, including basic research. We heard today that perhaps my colleagues opposite had not read that part of the budget. The Association of Universities and Colleges said that it was very supportive of the levels of funding that were included in budget 2012 and our government’s focus on research and innovation as a key driver of the economy.
I would also like to speak to some of the other things with regard to scientific research that Environment Canada has been doing over the last six years, including $1 billion to support clean energy research development demonstration projects, including carbon capture and storage. I saw some of these projects first hand at the University of Calgary. These are projects that look at new technologies to capture carbon in all sorts of different industrial settings and research to look at the viability of sequestration. We are also funding research across the country that looks at clean energy policy. It is not just about the research on the engineering side; it is also about funding research in social sciences and humanities.
Our government values the support of innovation. It is evident. We are attracting some of the key research professionals from across the world. The Canada excellence research chair program is now in its second iteration. It has recruited dozens of some of the brightest minds from around the world to Canada, supported not only through research infrastructure funding, but ongoing operating funding that allows them to bring their research teams to the country.
We are also seeing the economic effects of investment into research and development. I encourage my colleagues opposite to look at that component of the budget, wherein we say that by investing in research and development, we know that we can diversify the economy. We have seen that in the transfer of early stage technology through the life cycle of technological development into the marketplace. There are technologies that come through biomedical research, for example, that affect Canadians when they enter the health care system. There is research into how best to deliver primary care.
Our government fundamentally understands that investment in research and development on good policy and scientific outcomes in the environment equals economic growth. We took the findings of the Jenkins panel to heart and that is why we funded the granting councils at record levels. I certainly hope my colleagues opposite will support this rather than just sticking to their talking points.
I asked my colleague opposite a question about the national round table. I certainly hope he and his party will look into these funding principles to find out where they can better apply these funds and better support innovation. That is what our government has been about in budget 2012.
This is probably one of the first budgets in a long time that has seen such a pronounced focus on research and development in innovation. As someone who has spent the better part of my career in the administration of research and who has worked with folks on the ground who conduct our nation’s research, I am certainly proud to speak to the budget and the levels of funding that we have established.
Mr. Speaker, the member spoke about a strong mandate.
When the government got barely 40% of the vote, and that 40% was obtained through the use of robocalls, I would not consider that a very strong mandate. The government could do with a little modesty and reserve.
We have heard everything she said before. Exactly same thing was said in Ontario before the Walkerton crisis, and that is the problem. When scientists tell us that we are headed towards a wall and a dangerous situation, they are muzzled. The government does not want to hear about the massive environmental deterioration in the far north; it does not want to hear about isolated water problems, and that is the problem.
Why muzzle public servants and scientists who are informing us of an imminent danger that goes against what she is saying?
Mr. Speaker, by my colleague’s math, then over 70% of the population of Canada did not vote for his party. I would ask him to check his figures on that as well.
He said that what I had said was well known. Absolutely, it is well known. Across the world, our government is becoming known as a place for the brightest minds in the world to come and work. That is a great message to come across. I certainly hope he supports the budget for that reason.
With regard to our scientists, they provide tens of thousands of peer reviewed publications to internationally renowned research journals. How is that muzzling scientists? By supporting research and development in our country, we unleash the potential of scientists across the country. I am proud to support this budget.
Mr. Speaker, as I said before, the point of this debate today is not so much a chance for the government to rattle off the ways it spends money, but to ask whether it takes seriously the advice of scientists, natural and social scientists in Canada. However, I am pleased to have the chance to ask a question of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment.
To talk to natural scientists and social scientists, namely economists, they will tell us that the government needs to do much more than it currently has done on the issue of climate change. In particular, it needs to do a lot more to compensate for the negative externality, the fact that we do not have to pay for emitting fossil carbon into the atmosphere.
How can the parliamentary secretary talk about supporting scientists when the government will not listen to scientists on something which is probably one of the most important pieces of advice that natural scientists and social scientists have given to the government today?
Mr. Speaker, as opposed to the party opposite, what our government does is listen to Canadians. In 2008 Canadians clearly said that they did not want a tax on everything. They did not want a carbon tax.
When we talk about economics, we are under a time of fragile economic recovery. As legislators, we need to be cognizant of the fact of new taxes, regressive taxes, that could increase the price of consumer goods across the spectrum. Across the world we see economies suffer because of government policies that are not cognizant of the need to balance the budget and ensure that there are policies in place to grow the economy.
At this point in time, we need to be very careful about looking at taxes that increase the cost of consumer goods across the spectrum.
Mr. Speaker, we all know in the House it was 13 long years that the previous Liberal government did absolutely nothing and created a huge environmental mess. I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for her hard work in getting things done on the environment.
Environment Canada science was recently audited by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. I understand the commissioner had very positive comments to make about the department’s science management. Could the parliamentary secretary elaborate on that?
Mr. Speaker, I also congratulate the member for Langley for his wonderful job in chairing the environment committee of the House of Commons. He is a great chair.
On his question, the commissioner wrote:
|—Environment Canada has incorporated standards of quality and that it uses a range of systems and practices—including peer reviews of scientific publications and accreditation of environmental testing laboratories—to ensure the quality of the science it conducts.|
On top of that, I should note that last year Environment Canada scientists published over 684 articles, attended 326 conferences and they did over 1,200 media interviews. Our scientists are busy, they are active and we are proud of them.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take this opportunity to speak to our government’s very strong support for both basic and applied research, not only in my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo but across the country.
Guided by the 2007 science and technology strategy, we have been systematically enhancing federal support for world-class research and building on Canada’s knowledge advantage. The federal government has demonstrated a strong commitment to promote and to prioritize science and technology and build a sophisticated knowledge-based economy. Canada’s economic action plan 2012 builds on earlier investments by proposing significant new resources to support leading-edge research and infrastructure through investments that strengthen Canada’s position as a leading supporter of research.
Budget 2012 announces $341 million over two years to support research, education and training. This ongoing support for advanced research has contributed to a very strong system of innovation in our country. We are helping to ensure that Canadian researchers continue to generate new ideas and that businesses have access to the resources they need to bring this knowledge to market and create high quality jobs. That is a goal that we should all share in this House.
Our government has invested significantly at a time when it is needed most. We are building on a record and providing our innovators, our colleges, universities, businesses and industries, with the support they need to work together and create high quality jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. We have invested in world-class research through our three granting councils, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Through these councils we have introduced such initiatives as the Banting post-doctoral fellowships, the Vanier Canada graduate scholarships and the Canada excellence research chairs. To illustrate this, I would like to highlight that two of the current Canada excellence research chairs have in fact come to Waterloo, to my riding, to pursue their research. Dr. David Cory, who was attracted from MIT, is a leading global innovator in experimental quantum physics and quantum engineering and whose work is already being used in a range of applications from the medical field to the oil industry. Dr. Philippe Van Cappellen, who is a world-leading expert in ecohydrology, came from France to pursue his work in Canada.
We have systematically enhanced federal support for advanced research. Recent investments are supporting research projects across Canada as well as Canadian involvement in major international research projects. We have continued to support large-scale research in genomics. Since 2000, the Government of Canada has invested more than $1 billion to ensure that Canada remains at the forefront of this important field, supporting amazing breakthroughs in health and life sciences. In budget 2012, our government announced an additional $60 million for Genome Canada, helping continue to support research excellence in genomics.
Moreover, we are committed to building a strong and vibrant research environment to strengthen our ability to compete in the knowledge-based economy. We are providing significant support for leading edge research infrastructure. To date, the federal government has allocated $5.5 billion to the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which has committed support to more than 7,300 projects at 130 research institutions across Canada.
To support the foundation’s core activities, the plan announced $500 million over five years starting in 2014-15. The funding will support new competitions, including the college-industry innovation fund.
Investments are also being made in Canada’s ultra high-speed research network, CANARIE, satellite reception facilities and Canada’s continued participation in the international space station mission, as well as the Canadian High Arctic Research Station.
In addition, at the University of Waterloo in my own riding, investments in automotive research and development through Automotive Partnership Canada will result in a more efficient and sustainable automotive industry that continues to create jobs for Canadians and provide greener transportation solutions.
I am also proud to highlight another impressive research partnership anchored at the University of Waterloo, the Southern Ontario Water Consortium. Our government is investing almost $20 million in this project that will strengthen our position as a world leader in clean water technologies, create new jobs and develop solutions for communities across the globe that lack easy access to clean water.
Beyond this, our government is also investing in institutions that are pushing the frontiers of knowledge. I am talking specifically about the Institute for Quantum Computing and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, which I am proud to say are both in my riding of Kitchener–Waterloo.
The Institute for Quantum Computing is a recognized international leader in the field of quantum computing. Our government contributed $50 million to support the construction of a new state-of-the-art scientific research facility. With the grand opening of the Quantum Nano Centre this fall, IQC will become the world’s largest research centre devoted to quantum information science.
In addition, our government is also proud to support the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. We continue to invest in this world-leading institution. In budget 2011 we announced a further $50 million over five years to support its leading research, education and public outreach activities. A recent evaluation concluded that the Perimeter Institute has markedly improved Canada’s science capacity and global reputation in the field of theoretical physics.
Investments like these in PI and IQC enable these premier institutions to attract the best researchers from around the world and bring them together in Waterloo to engage in basic scientific research. We have not only reversed the brain drain, we have ensured that Canada is becoming a powerful magnet for talent.
Members may remember the NDP took the unfortunate step of dragging the reputations of the Perimeter Institute, the Auditor General and our government through the mud with its conspiracy theory that the Perimeter Institute received more funding than we committed. The funds received by the Perimeter Institute are consistent with our government’s commitments year after year. Unfortunately the press release that makes the false accusations remains on the NDP’s website today. This is unfortunate and I do hope that the NDP finally takes the opportunity to apologize.
I should also note that the Government of Canada provided, through budget 2009, $2 billion for research and advanced learning infrastructure at universities, colleges and CEGEPs through the knowledge infrastructure program. This funding helped leverage an additional $3 billion in contributions from the provinces, territories and private partners. For example, in my riding this program provided $25 million to the University of Waterloo to construct facilities for environment, engineering and math research and education.
This is how we are helping industry partners bring technology to market, provide our students with hands-on applied research experience and create a highly skilled Canadian workforce. Taken cumulatively, these measures, along with our efforts to support business innovation, demonstrate this government’s support for world-class science, technology and innovation. We are ensuring that Canada continues to lead in the knowledge economy.
Mr. Speaker, this member has talked about all the investments the government is making. I have often been asked by the government if I support its aerospace research and development, for instance. In February, the Montreal aerospace industry said that there is not enough research and development in the aerospace industry in Canada and that the government should be doing a lot more to make us competitive.
Why does the government not understand that it needs to be putting publicly funded research as a priority in order to increase our innovation and competitiveness internationally?
Mr. Speaker, I find the question from my hon. colleague from the NDP quite interesting and somewhat amusing. This is a member of a party claiming to support the aerospace industry, which is largely based in the Montreal area but has other important aspects of the sector across the country.
This is a sector that is anxious to see the government move forward with our next generation fighter aircraft, and of course the NDP finds every opportunity to oppose that. We have renewed our government’s commitment with Canada’s involvement in the international space station, and we continue to lead the world in the aerospace industry.
Mr. Speaker, an internationally famous scientist, Dr. Cynthia Gilmour, is a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center who has done research all over the world with her team in mercury, acid rain, acid lakes and climate change. She has used the Experimental Lakes Area for experimentation. She is not from this country. She has no political stake in this. This is what she said in a letter last week to the minister involved, “By shutting down ELA, you remove a critical tool for finding the most reasonable and cost-effective solutions to national and international environmental issues. The small federal investment in the research station has been returned thousands of times over in public, in ecosystem, in human health.”
My question to this hon. member, and to every member on that side of the House is, will they all follow in mindless lockstep in muzzling scientists and killing research, or will a few of them dare to stand up to their party?
Mr. Speaker, it is important to point out that with respect to the Experimental Lakes project, our government is looking to transition this particular project to a partner that will take on responsibility for whatever remaining research priorities there may be.
It is important to point out that our science and technology policy, first developed by this government in 2007, is really unprecedented in the Government of Canada’s support for science and technology. As part of that, we embrace and we celebrate the work that our Canadian scientists and researchers do in this country, at our universities, for our federal government departments. We will continue to celebrate the excellent work they provide.
Mr. Speaker, while the member opposite certainly pointed out some investments that the government has made, I think he has misled us to a certain degree with respect to the exodus of scientists from this country.
The agriculture committee has travelled across Canada on at least one occasion in the last couple of years. All we heard about was the exodus of our scientists to other countries because of the lack of investment by the government in basic science. The agricultural adaptation program was ended completely. It was science-based.
My question to the hon. member is, why would he mislead us like this and suggest that our scientists are staying, when in fact they are leaving this country?
Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Guelph is clearly out of touch. Under the previous Liberal government, there was a brain drain. Since our government has taken office, there has clearly been a brain gain.
We are attracting some of the world’s greatest researchers. Many are coming to my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo. I would be happy to host a visit of the hon. member for Guelph to show him the fantastic research that is taking place, not only at our two universities, Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo, but also at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the Institute for Quantum Computing.
He should come on down Highway 7.
Mr. Speaker, it is probably a good thing for the member that his time ran out before I had a chance to ask him a question. I would have been asking the member about the RADARSAT Constellation mission. I introduced a motion in the industry committee to have MacDonald, Dettwiler and industry ministry officials come to the committee to explain what has happened with that program and why we are off track. Unfortunately the member opposite who just spoke introduced a motion to take the meeting in camera. I cannot imagine why we would need to discuss such important issues in secret. They concern all Canadians.
I am proud to stand today in defence of science and research. Canada’s ability to compete in the 21st century is inextricably linked to science and research. Science and research touch every aspect of our daily lives and must be preserved and enriched. In Canada, we must foster an environment that encourages more research and science. Sadly, the 2012 budget and recent changes by the Conservative government take Canada down a path of darkness rather than enlightenment.
The muzzling of scientists and the assignment of chaperones by the government is repugnant. This has been widely condemned and rightly so. Only ideologues and people afraid of the truth would resort to such actions. If nothing else, scientists must be free to report the findings of their work, free from political interference. They should only need worry about the critiques of their peers, which in the end leads to better scientists. Peer review and not political review must be the standard.
The cuts announced affect far more than I could possibly say in 10 minutes. The Conservative members of the industry, science and technology committee have a much better understanding of just how much I have to say on this issue.
It really is a shame that this morning’s meeting was also cancelled and that industry ministry officials were not available to discuss the estimates so that we could learn more about these reckless cuts. We are still looking forward to seeing them and, we hope, the minister before the summer recess.
The first issue I want to raise is about good government. One might ask why. It is pretty simple. To provide good government, one needs to assemble a tremendous amount of facts, primarily obtained through large quantities of research from places like Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Library and Archives Canada, National Research Council, Statistics Canada, and of course the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
I forgot to request to have my time split with the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, so I would like to do that now.
Limiting research at all levels of government and all agencies of government restricts everyone’s ability to make fact- and evidence-based policy. This is a critical issue because I cannot possibly see how limiting that information would be a good thing. Yet here we are, debating a motion being brought forward by our science and technology critic and our industry critic.
The seconding by the member for LaSalle—Émard is significant because these cuts also largely touch industry. Cuts to Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, and the National Research Council affect our ability to monitor industry to ensure adherence to environmental regulations that are there to protect us, the air we breathe and the water we drink. As an aside, I will definitely be taking a pass on drinking tailing pond water. There is absolutely no way, but the Minister of Natural Resources can do as he likes.
Cuts to research and science affect our ability as parliamentarians to make the best policies to foster innovation and economic growth. I am proud to stand as deputy industry critic with our industry critic, our science and tech critics, and all NDP members of this House to say that cuts need to be reversed for the long-term benefits of Canadians. The government needs to knock it off.
A lot of research is done independently and in conjunction with industry that has a great impact on our economy, and that will only grow with time. Cuts to Statistics Canada from the policy-making side and the National Research Council from the innovation side will only hinder our long-term development. The time to invest and not pull back is now.
I would like to address two of the looming cuts in wildly different areas that are of particular concern to me.
The closing of the Experimental Lakes Area, as we have already heard today, is particularly troubling because of its international importance and its repeated successes that have only proven its worth.
I would like to cite from an article in the June 1 Globe and Mail about its pending closure:
|Former top researchers at the centre say the decision is emblematic of the government’s anti-science approach to environmental policy and its emphasis on resource development with little regard for impacts on the ecosystem unless they affect commercially important fish stocks.|
|“I think they are uninterested in the environment and scientific research into the environment,” said John Rudd, who served as chief scientist at ELA and now consults for private labs. “They don’t want to see things that might get in the way of promoting industry.”|
Now a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in the United States, Dr. Gilmour, said:
|By shutting ELA you remove a critical tool for finding the most reasonable and cost-effective solutions to national and international environmental issues.|
She also wrote:
|The small federal investment in the research station has been returned thousands of times over in public and ecosystem health.|
Frankly, the further we go on, the more I start to believe the government’s motto is, “Never let a good policy get in the way of bad decision making”.
On a similar note, we have the RADARSAT Constellation mission, where a committed minister and a committed parliamentary secretary say they are on board, but the money is just not in the budget.
This vital Canadian satellite program, with the multi-mission of environmental monitoring, Arctic sovereignty, ocean safety and ice monitoring, and disaster management, as well as the ability to attract other governments and agencies as clients, all makes good business sense and science and safety sense, yet the government has put the program in jeopardy.
What is worse, the government is, unlike what the former member said, precipitating a brain drain from a company that is of such strategic importance to Canada that the government blocked the sale of MacDonald Dettwiler.
Delays in this project could also put Canadian lives at risk. If the Constellation satellites are not in space before RADARSAT-2′s end of mission, we could have a coverage gap, and that would put Canadians’ lives at risk. It is critical that the situation not be allowed to occur or to continue. The government needs to get off the mat.
These and many other reasons are why we are calling upon all parliamentarians to support and adequately fund these agencies and programs because the return is better government through a fact-based evidence policy, a better and stronger economy that has fewer negative impacts on the environment, through science and innovation dependent from and in conjunction with industry. It is as simple as that.
The cuts just go on and on in this budget, as we mentioned, with several different agencies. The cuts that are happening at Environment Canada and ozone monitoring and with the Arctic monitoring stations, they just have absolutely no basis to be there. These are the programs that keep us safe. They are the programs that keep our air clean. They are the programs that keep our water drinkable. They need to be given the appropriate amount of funds in order to continue to keep us safe. As well of course, on the innovation side, which is very important to me, we certainly need to do a lot more in order to foster innovation and productivity, not a lot less, which is what the government proposes.
There are also disturbing reports that hundreds of small and medium-sized enterprises have disappeared from Canada in the last several years. Of course, these are companies that, by and large, are more productive. They contribute more heft to the Canadian economy than their sizes would indicate. Yet they are disappearing because there is a lack of investment, there is a lack of opportunities, they are being gobbled up by larger enterprises or the unbalanced approach that the government has taken to the economy has put them out of business.
I could, of course, go on for another 20 or 30 minutes, or maybe a couple of hours, as I may or may not do in committee before long, but I will leave it at that. I look forward to hearing what the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel has to say.
Mr. Speaker, could the hon. member tell my why the Conservatives have decided to eliminate the National Council of Welfare? This organization gives advice to the federal government on how to best improve the living conditions of low-income Canadians. In addition, it only costs about $1 million, which is 10% of what the Conservatives are planning to spend on advertising in their budget.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question, since it is definitely a topic that I did not have time to address.
I personally do not see why they think it makes sense to cut the program, given that the research conducted by the council helps parliamentarians make better legislation, creating more opportunities for the poorest people in the country.
In my view, the only reason that explains why the Conservatives want to eliminate the National Council of Welfare is that they are afraid of what information we might find.
Mr. Speaker, I am aware that the hon. member is very knowledgeable on this matter, as the former science and technology critic and current industry critic.
It is interesting that, on the one hand, we are talking about reducing the number of scientists, muzzling them and preventing them from speaking, and, on the other hand, we often hear arguments about how much it costs the public to keep these “bureaucrats”. In reality, these scientists provide us with data that can help us create good laws and govern properly, which will reduce the costs of environmental damage in the long term.
Keeping these scientists on the job will permit us to introduce legislation to ensure that the next generation can count on a healthy environment with all the benefits that go with it. Could the hon. member expand on that?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question.
Most certainly, the challenge is even greater for young people, who will have to work until age 67 because of the changes, meaning two years more than previously, or perhaps more, because they will first have to wait for new job opportunities.
Specifically, changes are currently being made to the economy and we need an educated labour force. But education itself is far too expensive. In addition, the job opportunities need to be there once they complete their studies.
Cuts to innovation, science and technology will harm the industry and young people, who will not be able to find jobs and will not be able to help improve the world. We do not know what the scientists of the future are going to discover. The fact is that we must give them the opportunity to do so.
Mr. Speaker, what impact does the hon. member think the Conservatives’ research and development policy will have on our country’s future?
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives’ research and development policy will be detrimental in a number of ways. If there are fewer opportunities, fewer people will pursue a career in science and technology, thereby limiting innovation and invention. We need to lend our support to a large number of scientists to ensure that discoveries are made in health, the environment and industry.
The oil sands are problematic. A lot of work in science and research still needs to be done in that area, so that the oil sands will not harm the environment, as they currently do.