MPs continued to discuss the science and research cuts made by the Conservative government. Ms. Anne Minh-Thu Quach (Beauharnois—Salaberry, NDP) called recent measures a “war against science”, pointing to funding cuts for several federal programs including Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Statistics Canada and the Experimental Lakes Area.
Ms. Anne Minh-Thu Quach also commented on changes to the mandate of the National Research Council, stating that “[r]esearch will now serve the needs of industry. Considering the Conservatives’ priorities when it comes to industry, we have cause for concern”.
In response, Hon. Gary Goodyear (Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario), CPC) stated that “no such thing is happening. Actually, this is a very exciting day for Canadian innovation”. He elaborated by saying:
The NRC is refocusing to help Canadian businesses stand shoulder to shoulder with the world’s most innovative and competitive companies. Refocusing one of our councils will help create high-quality jobs, economic growth, long-term prosperity and a better quality of life for all Canadians.
Hon. Gary Goodyear further claimed that “our government has made all science a priority. We have increased funding in every single budget, and the opposition has voted against it every single time”.
Ms. Megan Leslie (Halifax, NDP) referred to the changes to the Experimental Lakes Area when criticizing the government’s performance in the scientific community. She said: “the fact is Conservatives are refusing to work with others and it is harming our international reputation” and that “government members have made it clear that they have no interest in the ground-breaking work of the Experimental Lakes Area”. She called on the Minister to “do the right thing” and “allow these scientists to keep their experiments going”.
In response, Hon. Gary Goodyear stated:
Mr. Speaker, we have actually funded, through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, over $135 million in climate change and climate related research. On top of that, which the NDP voted against, we have provided more funding for water related research and the clean up of lakes like Lake Simcoe and Lake Winnipeg.
We are getting it done, not just on the science front, where the NDP draws a blank on this issue, but we are getting it done for all Canadians.
Ms. Joyce Bateman (Winnipeg South Centre, CPC) echoed Hon. Gary Goodyear’s comments, stating that “our government has been working hard to ensure that the Experimental Lakes Area facility is transferred to a non-governmental operator better suited to conducting the type of world-class research that can be undertaken at this facility”. She further stated that “[t]he federal government has been leading negotiations in order to secure an operator with an international track record.”
Later in the week, Mr. Greg Rickford (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, CPC) provided an update on the status of the Experimental Lakes Area, pointing to the signing of a “memorandum of understanding with the International Institute for Sustainable Development to take over as operator of the facilities”. He stated that “[t]his agreement is the result of many months of confidential negotiations led by the federal government” and that it “also includes provisions to support scientific research at the facility through the summer during this transition to an operator”.
He referred to ongoing negotiations between the IISD and other stakeholders, stating that “[w]e understand that IISD will continue discussions with the province, the landowner, on an agreement to operate the site going forward and we hope these discussions are successful”.