Mr. Kennedy Stewart (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP)
|| 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.
He said: Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the diligent and very hard-working official opposition industry critic from LaSalle—Émard.
I rise today to introduce our official opposition day motion. We in the NDP believe the scientific approach to knowledge is something we should cherish and rigorously defend. This opposition day motion stresses action to counteract the ways in which this approach is being actively undermined by the Conservatives.
While my colleagues will speak to the specifics and give real world examples throughout the day, in my short time I will speak to why we should value and defend the scientific approach to learning and acquiring knowledge.
Whether it is in the hard sciences, such as chemistry, physics or biology, or the social sciences, such as political science or economics, scholars around the world apply a universal approach to understanding humanity and its problems. This involves first asking important questions. These questions are sometimes driven by the needs of society, but they are sometimes driven by dreaming. However, they are always driven by the researchers' own curiosity. Wanting to know what is within and what is beyond is what drives researchers.
Therefore, whether it is the force for change in society or the force of colliding atoms, scientists begin by first identifying the important “why” question, why something is occurring, identifying problems and asking why it is happening.
After asking the “why” question, researchers form theories and then gather data to test these theories. However, most important, they truthfully report test results and the methodology by which these results were obtained.
All those who believe in science and the scientific approach are driven to seek and report the truth and, if these truths are unpopular, it is imperative upon the researcher to speak truth to power. Where we get into real trouble is when those with power do not want to hear the truth and try to undermine or suppress these truths. Of course, the most famous example of this clash between truth and power occurred during the birth of modern science when Galileo was imprisoned for life for daring to suggest that the earth revolves around the sun.
Three and a half centuries later, we find ourselves facing the same underlying problem where those who believe in science are threatened by those following ideological doctrine. With their cuts and muzzling of scientists, the Conservatives attack our hard-won culture of scientific inquiry. Worse still, they are creating an atmosphere of fear among Canadian scientists. They give Canadian scientists a reason to fear. These scientists shake their heads in disbelief and think to themselves, “I never thought it would happen in this day and age and certainly not in this country”.
I have had the great pleasure of working in academic institutions for the greater part of the last two decades and I have recently been in touch with many of these scientists. I can tell members that there is an atmosphere of fear that is pervading Canada and it is spreading among Canadian academic institutions. I have been hearing from tenured professors who, for example, fear what is coming next. They have told me stories of colleagues who have been warned against speaking out and that their programs would be cut as retribution if they make their fears known, or if they move from science to become politically active and speak out against the massive change in culture that the Conservatives are bringing with their recent legislation.
However, many scientists are taking the risk and making public their concerns. For example, yesterday I received a letter from 12 prominent members of the scientific community, and I mean prominent. Deans, chairs, program directors and many senior scientists were of these 12 who stated that they were “...deeply concerned by the erosion of funding for fundamental scientific research in Canada”.
In this letter, the scientists list three major programs for which they are particularly concerned. The first is the cancellation of the major resources support program, the MRS program; the second is the research tools and instruments program, the RTI program; and the third, very troubling, is that these 12 prominent members of the scientific community state that there is a 50% reduction in the number of NSERC graduate and post-doctoral scholarships. This cuts at the heart of our approach to learning and discovery in this country, and they are deeply concerned.
These scientists see these cuts as undermining Canada's long-standing commitment to basic science and fundamental scientific learning. These eminent scientists argue that the Conservatives are creating “a 'perfect storm' that will jeopardize Canada's international reputation and competitive edge...”.
The letter concludes that the scientists “welcome the opportunity to work with NSERC to find alternative measures”. However, as is the case with so many other measures taken by the government, there is little or no opportunity for the public to provide input in the decision-making process and, of course, there is no difference here.
I also have a similar letter from 47 other top-grade scientists describing their pride in what they and their colleagues have accomplished and hope to accomplish in the coming years. I have made an effort to personally speak with these 47 scientists, and in these private conversations they have described to me how they and their lives are filled with an intense sense of purpose, how they wade through the setbacks and failures of experiments with resilience and spend long hours in Arctic labs or even in howling winds day after day because their desire for truth and knowledge keeps them there.
They also expressed to me their sheer joy of passing their knowledge to younger generations. Training the next wave of great scientists will employ this scientific approach to knowledge, and key to this training is bringing students into Canadian labs and research centres in order to provide hands-on training and first-hand experience.
However, instead of being secure in the knowledge that robust and reliable funding programs are in place to support the freedom to innovate and advance knowledge in its variety of forms, they now have to wonder whether they are being unfairly targeted because their life work no longer constitutes what the government deems is worth supporting. Across the country, they are asking why and beginning to mobilize. As someone who has spent almost 20 years undertaking academic study and working in universities, I have never before encountered this kind of mobilization of scientists. To see letters signed by so many prominent biologists, physicists and chemists makes me think there is something very wrong in the government's approach to funding and learning in this country.
This opposition day motion is meant to express the NDP's intent to stand with scientists and social scientists and show that we on this side of the House are their allies. We pledge to listen to the fears and fight for academic freedom, because when scientists succeed, they show Canadians and the world what is possible.
Here in the House we hear the attacks every day. Members of the government on the front bench sneer when I say the word “academic”. They refuse to acknowledge the value of Statistics Canada research. They openly chastise the environment commissioner's citing of scientific evidence and refuse to let government scientists speak at conferences, but scientists should not have to subject the product of their work to political tests of faith from the regime of the day. The evaluation and examination of the true value of their work must remain with the review of their peers.
I am a strong adherent of the Haldane principle, which simply states that research funding decisions should be made by researchers, not politicians. Conservatives have tried to bury their attacks within this Trojan Horse budget. They have sought to suppress some of the brightest voices in this country here at home and on the world stage. In fact, I can say that they have declared a war on knowledge, and Canadians are caught in the crossfire.
I call on my colleagues opposite to join New Democrats and support the scientists, researchers and others who will be adversely affected by these cuts in their own constituencies, and to support our motion.
Ms. Hélène LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard, NDP):
Madam Speaker, the decisions of legislators must be based on thorough and objective data.
Parliament Hill is a special place. Since I became an MP, and as the science and technology critic for the first year of my mandate, then as the industry critic, I have had the opportunity to meet with stakeholders in academia, government, industry and science. I have also attended conferences and participated in symposia and panels. In the past year, I have learned a great deal, and that has been very rewarding. As parliamentarians, we have access to a multitude of voices and points of view, as well as invaluable knowledge. It would be of no help to Canadians to close our eyes and ears.
It is my responsibility and my duty, as a parliamentarian, to take into account the point of view of researchers and scientists in order to make informed decisions. Canada and the Canadian government are full of these people who are passionate about research. For years, with patience, perseverance and know-how, they have helped us better understand the demographic evolution and the state of our environment and economy; they help us grasp what is going on. And then it is up to us, as parliamentarians, to propose evidence-based legislation and policy, with full knowledge of the facts.
I do not understand why a government would want to silence these voices. I do not understand why this government continues to censor scientists and undermine the work of Statistics Canada. Ottawa has to stop muzzling scientists, start basing its decisions on scientific evidence and get to work on repairing Canada's reputation as an open and enlightened society.
In Davos, the Prime Minister promised that innovation would be the cornerstone of Canada's future. How can he talk about innovation when he is not open to debating ideas? Ideas are the genesis of innovation.
Since coming to power, this government has been on a veritable crusade against any policy based on scientific evidence. The government tends to cast aspersions on any research or any agency that contradicts its ideological agenda.
We have here a government that has made censoring researchers central to its science policy. Everyone is now aware of the controversy surrounding internationally renowned scientists and researchers, such as David Tarasick, whom this government muzzled because he knew that its inaction on climate change would be disastrous to our environment. Mr. Tarasick had published the results of his research in the British journal Nature. The government also banned researcher Kristi Miller from talking to the media about her research on the diseases threatening Pacific salmon.
The prize definitely goes to the censorship of Scott Dallimore, a scientist at Natural Resources Canada. The research that Dr. Dallimore had published in Nature was on the impact of climate change on our country's north. These findings would have been quite disconcerting to the government, which was probably already planning to withdraw Canada from the Kyoto protocol. However, there was no need to be concerned, because Dr. Dallimore was talking about the climate change that occurred 13,000 years ago.
Censorship is at the heart of the science policy of the government. Last February I attended the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science with more than 6,000 scientists and specialists from 50 different countries. One of the conferences was titled “Unmuzzle Government Scientists” to denounce the muzzling of government researchers. I had the honour of representing the NDP at the conference. I met scientists, experts, engineers, mathematicians, physicists and science journalists.
Our scientific community is worried and it is fully aware of the climate change caused by human activities. It proposed innovative solutions to address the biggest challenge faced by humanity at this time.
Once the ribbon cutting to officially open the conference was done, none of the members of Parliament were present, not even the Minister of State for Science and Technology.
Nature magazine took note of the crusade the Conservatives have undertaken to undermine science-based information decision making. In an editorial, Nature magazine denounced the censorship by the government on the scientific community saying, “Canada's generally positive foreign reputation as a progressive, scientific nation masks some startlingly poor behaviour.”
The way forward is clear. It is time for the Canadian government to set its scientists free.
For this government, a policy in favour of innovation also means eliminating Statistics Canada's long form census and $8.3 billion in cuts. These cuts will total $33.9 billion by 2014-15.
The Conservative government's decisions have proven lethal to Statistics Canada and its activities. In other words, in the middle of a demographic crisis, without the long form, a census of the Canadian population will not paint an accurate picture of that population. How can we propose sound legislation if we do not know what Canadians need? How can we keep an eye on demographic trends and trends in health, the economy and services to the public?
These decisions—like many other government decisions—to slash government sources of information and research and to undermine the knowledge-based decision-making process have been universally criticized.
At the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, during a study on e-commerce in Canada, witnesses condemned the fact that Canada did not have any recent data to compare Canadians' online shopping habits with other countries or any studies on how small and medium-sized businesses use e-commerce. This is because the Survey of Electronic Commerce and Technology has been eliminated by the government's budget cuts.
Critical up-to-date information was missing, preventing the committee from doing a thorough and enlightened job. Our researchers and scientists know full well that, if we, as a country, do not use their knowledge and research, the whole nation will pay the price. These Government of Canada professionals are serving the public because they are committed to their mission of serving the country. They are an invaluable source of information for parliamentarians and all Canadians. They help us to better understand our world, and they can enlighten us on how to find solutions that will help us meet the challenges of today and of tomorrow.
In response to those challenges, the NDP is proposing practical solutions to encourage dialogue with our scientists and to ensure that we have the tools we need to make well-informed decisions in the true interest of Canadians.
I therefore call on the Prime Minister to adopt guidelines on scientific communications similar to those adopted in the United States. I also ask the government to reinstate Statistics Canada's long form census. A number of organizations, including the Canadian Science Writers' Association and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, have asked the government to adopt guidelines.
I call on the government to reinstate the long form census in Canada.
Hon. Gary Goodyear (Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario), CPC):
Madam Speaker, I rise today in the House with great pride as Minister of State for Science and Technology and as the member of Parliament for Cambridge and North Dumfries. I am here to speak on our government's strong support for science, technology and research.
Our government understands clearly that Canada's long-term economic competitiveness depends on supporting science, technology and innovation that will drive the growth of jobs, the growth of our economy and long-term prosperity for our citizens. It has been a fundamental priority of our government since we took office in 2006, including with the introduction of the science and technology strategy in 2007.
Over the past five years, our government has been implementing that strategy significantly and with commitment. It has provided nearly $8 billion in additional, new investments in Canadian talent, world-class research excellence, and the linkages between knowledge and the capacity to innovate in a global economy. Federal science and technology expenditures reached $11.3 billion in 2011-12, more than double the year before we took office. That is a significant increase by any imagination.
These investments have helped drive Canadian leadership in research, science and technology, and enhanced the ability to turn ideas into social and economic benefits for Canadians. Indeed, according to the Science, Technology and Innovation Council's “State of the Nation” report published in June 2011, Canada ranks first among all the G7 countries for higher education and research, and Canada's scientists perform at a world-class level.
OECD data notes that Canada produces 2.7% of the world's scientific output and 6.8% of the world's top cited research papers. Getting that scientific data out there at this level means that we are punching well above our weight, especially given that Canada accounts for only half a percent of the world's population. I would also note that Canada ranks first among the OECD countries for its share of working-age population with college and university degrees.
We have systematically enhanced federal support for advanced research. We are promoting partnerships between industry and academia through our three federal granting councils, namely the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
We are supporting research in human health and genomics technology through Genome Canada as well as studies to improve patient outcomes and cost-effectiveness of health care. We are promoting the development of alternative technologies for producing medical isotopes and linking Canadian researchers to the world through the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.
Moreover, we are providing significant support for leading-edge research infrastructure. Two budgets ago, the investment made in the Canada Foundation for Innovation was three-quarters of a billion dollars and in this budget it is half a billion dollars. We are investing in Canada's ultra high-speed research network CANARIE, satellite data reception facilities, Canada's continued participation in the international space station mission and the Canadian High Arctic Research Station. As well, we are supporting key activities in fisheries, agriculture and environmental sciences.
Beyond this, our government is also investing in institutions that are pushing the frontier of pure, basic knowledge and research. I am talking about the Institute for Quantum Computing and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, which leveraged significant private sector money for their work that is going to benefit not only Canada but all the nations around the world.
Canada's history of discovery, I am very pleased to say, tells us that we play an important role on the world stage through research and development. From the pacemaker to Canadarm to the first mass market smart phone, Canadian entrepreneurs, researchers and businesses have made their mark time and again and proven they can be world-class innovators.
Our government is committed to helping these types of breakthroughs happen. We know Canadians want results for their investments. This means bringing innovative products and processes to the marketplace, which of course will in turn create high-quality, high-paying jobs, economic growth, long-term prosperity and, indeed, a better quality of life for Canadians.
However, we also know that competition remains fierce. The pace of technological change is lightning quick, and it is happening in both developed and emerging economies. This means that to ensure Canada's long-term economic competitiveness, we must create and nurture globally competitive businesses that do research, develop that research, innovate and create those high-quality jobs.
Beyond our borders, no one would be surprised if I said the global economic growth remains quite tentative and fragile. Any potential setbacks would have a negative impact on Canada. Canadian businesses face ever-increasing competition, not just from the emerging countries and the speed of technological advancement but also because of realities associated with our aging population and demographic shifts.
Now as a world leader in post-secondary research with a highly skilled workforce, Canada has some very strong fundamentals for innovation. Where we can do better is in our support of business expenditures on research and development. Canada continues to lag behind other peer nations in this sense. We are number one in a number of ways, but where we are not number one is in this particular area.
That is exactly why, with so many generous incentive programs for business research, we asked an expert panel led by Mr. Tom Jenkins to review all the federal investments in this area and provide advice on how we could optimize this expenditure of tax dollars.
Now through the response of this expert panel this particular budget, economic action plan 2012, takes a huge step forward at creating a comprehensive and forward-looking agenda that will deliver high-quality jobs, economic growth and sound public finances.
It builds on our positive record of achievement to help further unleash the potential of Canadian scientists, Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs to innovate and thrive in a modern economy to the benefit of all Canadians.
By focusing on the drivers of growth and job creation, which clearly are innovation, investments, education, skills and training and healthy communities, we will solidify, strengthen and draw upon the entrepreneurial sector's role as the driving force behind Canada's economy.
Economic action plan proposes a new approach to federal support for innovation, including $67 million new dollars to the National Research Council to refocus this council and all its efforts and its expertise towards business-driven industry-relevant applied research. This refocused NRC will help more Canadian businesses commercialize and develop innovative products and services.
We intend to build on a proven approach that we have seen used by global innovation players, carefully adapted and modified to the Canadian reality. The government's new approach also increases direct support for innovation and research by doubling the research and development assistance from the NRC's industrial research and assistance program.
Furthermore, our new approach in this budget supports innovation through procurement by connecting Canadian companies with federal departments and agencies to build their capacity to again compete in the global marketplace. We go on. This approach also seeks to help our high-growth firms to access risk capital by committing $400 million to leverage private sector investments in early venture capital stages.
It would support, indeed, private and public research collaboration through more internships for graduate students and funding of business-led research and development networks.
It would streamline the SR and ED tax incentive program and, as always, reinvest any savings in other support programs that would reinforce innovation in Canada.
These important measures would be aimed at building our innovation economy and driving improved competitiveness and prosperity for the betterment of all Canadians as we move into the future.
I will turn to a different topic. That is this government's ongoing support and commitment to basic science. The notion that the government is abandoning basic research is yet another fearmongering tactic by the opposition, which is irresponsible. The notion is completely false. I want to repeat that. Even someone with minimal mathematics would see that our increases show our commitment.
Through budget 2012, our government would build, yet again, on earlier investments by proposing significant new resources to the Canada Foundation for Innovation, half a billion dollars to support advanced research and leading-edge scientific infrastructure in universities, colleges, research hospitals and other not-for-profit research institutions all across Canada. This funding would play a crucial role in attracting and retaining the world's top minds, training the next generation of researchers and, of course, driving cutting-edge research.
As well, it is important to hear that Canada's economic plan, our budget that is before the House right now, would also commit a new $37 million annually to the three granting councils to enhance their support for research partnerships between industry and academia. Support for core granting council programs in support of discovery research and support for students would all be maintained. To suggest there would be a decrease is, again, false. In fact, I can tell this House that this would mean, on average, more than a 20% increase for the granting councils since we have taken office.
In terms of other investments made in budget 2012, we would also provide new funding for research in human health and genomics technologies through an enormous amount of support to Genome Canada.
We have invested heavily in research infrastructure at Canada's post-secondary institutions. This came out in budget 2009, which was also voted against by the NDP. In that budget, we provided $2 billion for research and advanced learning infrastructure at universities and colleges. Laboratories and all kinds of new state-of-the-art equipment would come from the three-quarters of a billion dollars I mentioned earlier, through CFI.
Now, the good news here is that this funding was leveraged by the provinces and other private individuals, the colleges and universities, and ended up being about $5 billion in support of rebuilding our research capacity all across our nation, which we need to attract and retain the brightest minds the planet has to offer.
The government is maintaining Canada's position as a world-leading supporter of research while strengthening one area that needs to be improved, results-driven applied research and development.
In doing so, this absolutely does not mean we are stepping back from our commitment in any other area. In fact, this is Canada. We can do more than one thing at a time. I believe firmly that our government can fund research across the board, as we have shown consistently, consecutively in every single budget. It is support for the basic, the applied, and all the way through to commercialization and marketization, getting those ideas out of the minds of our scientists, through our laboratories, on to our factory floors and into the living rooms and hospitals of the world. That is exactly what our government is doing.
Since coming to office, we have also introduced significant new investments in other areas. We have turned around Canada's brain drain and now have a brain gain. We have introduced such brilliant initiatives as the Banting post-doctoral fellowships program, the Vanier Canada graduate scholarships program and the Canada excellence research chairs program, attracting world-class talent and teams that have come to Canada to do their research.
We recognize also the importance of science and technology in forming public policies. That is exactly why the government, all the time, seeks the opinions from our scientists, through various independent as well as published scientific advice forums and a variety of sources. For instance, we have sustained the Council of Canadian Academies with a $30 million grant. The CCA conducts independent science-based assessments drawing together panels of experts to inform us on public policy initiatives. To date, the council has published 11 different science-based assessments on issues of importance to Canada and our citizens. Through the CCA and other bodies such as the Science, Technology and Innovation Council, the Government of Canada demonstrates its commitment to independent science and its crucial role in informing decision making.
Within the federal government, our scientists play an important role in informing policy decisions, assisting the enforcement of regulations and facilitating program delivery. Indeed, the multidimensional contribution of government science is critical to good governance. Federal scientists here in Canada are among the best in the world. These public officials are encouraged to publish regularly in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and many of them do just that.
Federally funded scientific knowledge is also shared directly with the public through other means. For example, science-based departments and agencies regularly produce accessible publications, highlighting research activities and findings. Second, public portals are available, such as science.gc.ca. It is a website we have developed to communicate information on federal science directly to Canadians.
I am very proud that our scientists participate in conferences and lectures all around the world. They are sought after for their expertise and innovations and they give thousands of interviews every year.
I must reiterate that funding for core federal granting councils aimed at supporting discovery-driven research is continuing. Our history supports that; our future will see that. We are also supporting student scholarship programs. Moreover, 2012-13 savings realized from operational efficiencies, or from reallocated funding from lower priority programs, are being fully reinvested back into granting councils' activities that they deem will help strengthen their activities.
We will ensure continued and growing funding for the programs and services that are priorities for Canadians. Economic action plan 2012 makes a wide range of important investments that bear witness to that commitment. These actions will yield real dividends for Canadians. They will support a return to balanced budgets at an appropriate pace as the economy continues to recover from the global crises. Three years after the stimulus phase of Canada's economic action plan was launched in response to that crisis, our economic recovery is advancing and of course it is clear that our policies are working.
I want to let the House know that scientific discoveries and new technologies are very important to a stronger economy. We are very proud of our scientists, which is why we have invested historically in science and technology and why it has been a pivotal point of all of our budgets, including this one.
Once again I would ask the opposition to support our recent budget and for once show its support for scientists, students and researchers.
Mr. Ted Hsu (Kingston and the Islands, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, this is the first time that I have spoken in this House as the lead critic for the Liberal Party.
I would like to thank all those who make it possible for me to do the job of representing the people of Kingston and the Islands for their support.
I also thank those who made it possible for me to study and work in the field of science, and that includes the Government of Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. I thank the member for Burnaby—Douglas for his motion today that allows us to discuss the value of science and the effects on ill-considered cuts to scientific research programs of the Government of Canada.
Today, before I focus on the main idea of my speech, I will mention some things that concern me and what are ill-considered cuts to research. Two examples that come from NSERC, which have already been mentioned in debate today, are the proposed elimination of the research tools and instrumentation program which provides money to buy and repair medium-sized equipment and is crucial to building a research laboratory, and the major resources support program which is crucial to funding the operation of infrastructure that the Government of Canada has already invested in. It is crucial to allowing us to get a return on our investment.
Scientists are telling me that cutting the research tools and instrumentation program is like sending carpenters to work without hammers. They are using words like “major disaster” or “extremely ill-advised”. Some examples of things that researchers are saying that they would not be able to buy without this program are trucks for biologists who go out and do field work, and simple things like microscopes, magnets and lasers. The program is very important because it is used to repair equipment. Equipment could break down at any time and the process for getting equipment grants from a program like CFI takes a long time. CFI is not structured to fix equipment that breaks down. So the researcher may have to choose between firing some graduate students or fixing a crucial piece of equipment.
One scientist told me that such shortages could potentially ruin the careers of new researchers.
I am hearing from young researchers that they do not want to come or are regretting coming to Canada after hearing about these proposed cuts. One of the concerns I will convey to the minister during this debate is that the policies set forth in budget 2012 would result in these cuts. He may blame NSERC for these cuts but he is the minister and he needs to take responsibility and he should be listening to the strong language that is being used by scientists in reaction to these proposed cuts.
I will now turn to the MRS program. These proposed cuts will affect facilities, as I have said before, where we have invested in large scientific infrastructure and whose use will be curtailed because of these cuts. It is like owning a car but having no money for gas. This includes the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network in which we have international agreements to monitor the sky around the earth with radar. This affects any business that has to do with satellites. The proposed cuts to MRS will curtail the use of the Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering. It will curtail the use of the Brockhouse Institute for Materials Research, which is found in Hamilton at McMaster University in the riding of my hon. colleague who asked a question previously. It will affect living collections of algae and cyanobacteria and fungi that have been carefully isolated, which could have all sorts of uses and applications in industry and cannot be replaced at a later date.
These are things that concern me. It is just a small sample of the massive number of comments and emails that I have received from scientists in Canada who are concerned about the cuts to research funding. That is just the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council.
The motion today is not so much about the overall level of funding for science or support for industry or business competitiveness as it is about how the government chooses to value science in the service of good government.
As one of the few scientists in the House today, I am proud to support the motion on the value that scientists and the scientific approach have to offer to the Government of Canada as it serves the people of Canada.
I am also proud to speak for the party that I chose to join, the Liberal Party, because Liberals believe that for good governance, slogans and ideology are never a good substitute for facts, evidence, a scientific approach and just hard work.
Liberals are the most likely to say that such and such an issue seems complicated and before they decide what their position is on that issue, they will do some homework. This is the kind of party of which I want to be a part. These are the kinds of colleagues with whom I want to work. They can best serve the people of Canada.
By contrast, the Conservative government believes that if enough ministers and MPs fan out across the country and repeat the phrase “responsible resource development” enough people will believe it so they can pass Bill C-38, the omnibus budget bill, and get re-elected. That is not the best thing for Canadians. When the Liberals hear that, they simply smile and say that it is an empty slogan.
We must put scientists in place and give them the resources to evaluate the risks of government policies so government can make informed development decisions for natural resources. We must provide them with the equipment and the staff to monitor the natural environment so they can measure any damage to the environment or any danger to people.
Additionally, we must let these scientists speak freely to the public about their research. People need to have a dialogue with scientists to understand the knowledge that scientists have gained for their benefit, knowledge for which taxpayers have paid. Governments must not be allowed to control this flow of information, at least democratic governments. This is really the only way Canadians can be assured that true responsible development is occurring.
Instead of cutting 11% of the workforce, over 700 employees of Environment Canada, cutting scientists who monitor water pollution, industrial emissions or climate change, let us put money on the table now and make a multi-year commitment to fully fund the environmental monitoring of resource development projects such as the extraction of bitumen. Then let those scientists speak freely of their research for the benefit of the people of Canada.
Scientists must be able to speak freely for the benefit of the people of Canada.
Why are Conservatives against free speech for scientists? I am not making this up. The international scientific community and science journalists have spoken up and called upon the government to stop muzzling scientists.
In the United States, government scientists have been encouraged to talk about their research and even give their personal opinions about government policy, as long as they make it clear that it is just their personal opinion.
In December 2011, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued an administrative order on scientific integrity to encourage its scientists to speak freely to the public and the media about the results of their research.
Why is the Government of Canada opposed to free speech for scientists?
Liberals believe in free speech as do most Canadians. Why do the Conservatives get off the train? It is not a rhetorical question. The answer is that the Conservative government does not accept criticism. It is not politically convenient. It is just embarrassing. It is a roadblock to continued power.
Is it just a couple of journalists who are complaining, as the Minister of the Environment has said? If a couple of journalists do not matter to the public good, I would ask the House to recall how Richard Nixon felt about the pesky journalists from The Washington Post 40 years ago.
By contrast, Liberals believe that welcoming criticism will improve one's understanding, just as scientific ideas depend on criticism in order to improve and become stronger. Science is powerful because it welcomes criticism. Criticism from scientists will help governments and others make smarter decisions, thereby making Canada stronger.
Yes, the Conservatives will be embarrassed at some point. Every government makes mistakes, but a strong government for a strong country is one that recognizes and corrects mistakes.
To do this, governments must also be open about history. It is why the commission that investigated Canada's residential schools for aboriginals was called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. That is why the commission that was set up in South Africa to study the effects of apartheid was called the truth and reconciliation commission. One must reveal the truth before a nation can reconcile and move forward.
The truth must be revealed before a nation can reconcile.
The Conservative government is making drastic cuts to Library and Archives Canada that will seriously harm our ability to preserve and access Canada's past. That includes a 20% cut to the workforce.
Related to what I just said about truth and reconciliation, the archival material in the LAC was instrumental in supporting the testimony from victims of the residential schools before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The minister will say that staffing cuts are justified because materials are being accessed online, but only 4% of the LAC's physical materials are available online and now 50% of the digitization and circulation staff is being cut. Conservatives have also eliminated the national archive development program, which provided funding to local communities, about 800 of them, to preserve local history in Canada.
Why spend money to save things in the National Archives and make them accessible? It is not the same thing and does not feel as good as celebrating a glorious event of the past that buttresses the ideology of the government of the day. It is about having information available, making it possible to study and understand the mistakes of the past so we can fix them and not repeat them in the future. A truly strong government would be open about its mistakes. A truly strong government would embrace its history and not simply retell it.
Liberals believe that science and a scientific approach are what the Government of Canada needs for an honest accounting of its successes and failures. I believe that providing an honest accounting in Ottawa is one of the greatest things we as MPs can do for our country.
One thing people have learned over the last few centuries is the value of observation and measurement. That is why we have made advances in science and technology. It is the idea of empiricism, of measuring and counting the number of teeth in a horse's mouth and counting the number of people, that gives us the ability to have smart government policies, to really understand what we are trying to govern.
There is an example that has already been brought up in the House today, and that is the Experimental Lakes Area. This is a great example of doing real experiments in real situations so we make smart decisions about environmental policy concerning clean water. The federal government has announced that it will cease funding for the internationally renowned Experimental Lakes Area, which is in northern Ontario and comprises about 58 lakes that have been set aside for pollution experiments.
Scientists pollute these lakes on purpose and then watch the whole ecosystem for decades to see what happens. Then they are obliged to return these experimental areas back to their original state. Research during the experiments and the renewal have helped us understand mercury pollution, the effect of phosphates and detergents, green algae blooms, acid rain and climate change. If people believe that pollution regulations are too strict, they need to know that these very experiments are the ones that help us understand how much pollution is tolerable.
Ending funding for the ELA goes against two of my core beliefs. People have to conduct experiments and measurements to really understand how the world works. This is what I believe in as a scientist. We must use facts and evidence to make good policy, and that is what I hope to bring to the House, along with my colleagues in the Liberal Party and other members in the House.
I next want to turn to Statistics Canada, which is having its budget cut by about $34 million on an ongoing basis, about 7% of its budget. The head of Statistics Canada resigned a couple of years ago to protest the elimination of the mandatory long form census. This is another example of how the government wants to avoid data.
Data is important for telling us about the country and its people, where they live and how they live, so we construct smart policy. Even if all we want to do is cut taxes, we want to know what effect those cuts will have, who will receive those tax cuts and what will happen in the country. We need statistics and good data to understand the effect of tax cuts on the Canadian population, not to mention good social policy that is meant to help people who live on the margins and who need our help. That help really defines for what Canada stands.
The First Nations Statistical Institute was brought in by a previous Liberal government of Paul Martin back in 2005 and the board was only appointed in 2009. Now the government wants to cut the institute. There was a realization that not enough census data was being collected from our first nations. This was hindering the creation of good policy and smart policy. It was decided that we would have a special institute to collect data. Now the government wants to get rid of this institute.
If government wants to do more with less money, if it wants to be more efficient and make every taxpayer dollar go as far as possible to serve the people of Canada, it needs information. It needs information to make smarter decisions and it needs an attitude that respects collecting proper information, thinking carefully and working hard to use that information to make every dollar go as far as possible.
I want to conclude with a few things that I and my party believe.
The Liberals believe that science is more effective than slogans. The Liberals believe that science is effective because it welcomes criticism. The Liberals believe that Canada needs science's honest accounting in order to be able to make informed decisions and to be competitive in the world.
Madam Speaker, from your chair, every morning a daily prayer is read. Let me read an extract from that:
|| Grant us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to preserve the blessings of this country for the benefit of all and to make good laws and wise decisions.
We have been blessed in our country with the people, the resources and the institutions to pursue systematic knowledge, to observe, measure and understand what we see in the world and what we see in our country and to do all of this in the service of the people of Canada.
We ask God:
|| Guide us in our deliberations as Members of Parliament, and strengthen us in our awareness of our duties and responsibilities as Members.
Let us appreciate the value of scientific knowledge, which can effectively guide our country toward the future.
Ms. Laurin Liu (Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, NDP):
Madam Speaker, I want to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
Yesterday, hundreds of Canadians took part in the Black Out Speak Out campaign. Environmental groups and organizations such as Équiterre, Greenpeace, Ecojustice and the David Suzuki Foundation, as well as scientists and ordinary Canadians participated. All these Canadian Internet users came together to condemn the Conservative government's approach to the environment and democracy. Therefore, today it is very timely that we are debating the opposition motion concerning cuts to science and technology.
I believe this is a real tragedy because it will be some years until we see the impact of these cuts on our daily lives. Once again, it seems that the Conservatives are trying to mortgage our future with this omnibus bill. Honestly, as a young Canadian, I find it revolting.
Basically, the opposition motion is taking the government to task for three things: muzzling scientists; showing contempt for basic research and the social sciences; and cutting the research programs of various departments, including Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Statistics Canada and the various Canadian research councils, as well as closing the National Council of Welfare and the First Nations Statistical Institute.
The Conservatives had shown their contempt for science and research long before this most recent budget. During their first year in power, they cut off funding to a dozen or so research programs. That was also around the time when Status of Women Canada's budget was reduced in a draconian way and its mandate changed in order to specifically exclude any work related to research. The Conservatives had no interest in acknowledging gender inequality because that went against their ideology.
Then, in 2010, the Conservatives got rid of the long form census, an essential decision-making tool used by various federal departments, the provinces and municipalities, businesses and non-governmental organizations.
We cannot underestimate the importance of science and technology when it comes to the governance of the country. Let us not forget that several members of the Conservative government question basic climatology. Countless statements from across the way deny the impact of human activity on climate change. Just this week, journalist Mike De Souza reported that a Conservative MP wondered whether volcanoes might be the real culprits behind climate change.
I am not using this example to embarrass my hon. colleagues, but rather to underscore the importance of scientific experts in the governance of this country. After all, very few members in this House are experts in climate change. However, instead of learning more about the issue, my Conservative colleagues prefer to slash funding to the organizations and projects that used to play key roles in the governance of this country. The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy is one example of this. In short, we have a government that does not trust science and is willing to do whatever it takes to advance its ideological agenda, even denying the facts.
This leads me to another problem with this government: the muzzling of scientists. For some time now, it appears as though the Conservative government has been trying to hide important information from the public by preventing government scientists from speaking to the media.
For the record, I would point out the case of Mr. Tarasick, who was denied the right to speak to the media regarding his research on climate change. The same thing happened to Kristi Miller who studied the causes of the sockeye salmon collapse in British Columbia.
The prestigious publication Nature even called on the Canadian government on two separate occasions to give its scientists their freedom of expression back.
This is the context in which the majority Conservative government has presented its first budget. The scientific community had every reason to be wary. For the past five years, this government has been choosing to ignore any scientific proof that goes against its ideology and trying to muzzle anyone who does not think the same way, even going as far as cutting funding to anyone who does not share its ideology.
Several times now in this House, I have had the opportunity to criticize the cuts to science and the environment made by the Conservatives in the most recent budget.
In particular, I have condemned the government's decision to dismantle the round table on the environment. I am shocked that the government is eliminating this valuable policy tool just because the organization insisted on talking about the cost of failing to address climate change.
I am also appalled by cuts to science programs and jobs at Environment Canada. For example, a key mining and paper industry emissions monitoring program will be cut, as will the unit responsible for sustainable water management and the oil spill intervention team. To me, that is simply irresponsible.
At Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the situation is even grimmer: 1,000 jobs will be cut because of restructuring.
According to the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is likely to cut all of its science teams working on the impact of contaminants on aquatic ecosystems. In Quebec, this means that the St. Lawrence estuary, one of the most contaminated in North America, is at risk.
At the Maurice Lamontagne Institute in Mont-Joli, 22 employees are in danger of losing their jobs. The Laboratory of Expertise in Aquatic Chemical Analysis will be closed. And another three biologist positions will be cut in Sept-Îles, Gaspé and Cap-aux-Meules.
Lyne Morissette, co-holder of the UNESCO Chair in Integrated Analysis of Marine Systems at the Université du Québec à Rimouski, did not hesitate to speak out about this attempt to silence science:
|| [This laboratory] is a jewel of marine science research in Canada. It provided scientific information that was crucial, but that probably did not suit the government, because these people worked extensively on the impact of hydrocarbons....It is no coincidence that these people were affected. Scientists are being muzzled, and the government does not want to hear what they have to say. It is clear that if [the Prime Minister] is not happy with something, he strategically cuts those who are getting in his way.
Also at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, the only French-language science library on fisheries will be shut down. The government is taking this opportunity to transfer administrative positions to Fredericton, in the fisheries minister's riding.
In response to these changes, as well as the changes to the Fisheries Act regarding fish habitat protection, four former federal fisheries ministers, including two Conservatives, have spoken out publicly.
Tom Siddon, the Conservative fisheries minister from 1985 to 1990, said this:
|| [The Conservatives] are totally watering down and emasculating the Fisheries Act. They are really taking the guts out of the Fisheries Act and it’s in devious little ways if you read all the fine print...they are making a Swiss cheese out of [it].
The cuts to Fisheries and Oceans Canada are tarnishing our international reputation. Indeed, a group of scientists from Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research denounced the closing of the Experimental Lakes Area, an open-air laboratory made up of 58 lakes, with the following statement:
|| The general public in Canada and across the globe has gained from the numerous insights resulting from the trail-blazing research at ELA over the past 45 years. It seems incredible that, at this time, the Canadian government should choose to destroy this unique, world-class research facility.
In addition to cutting the research being done as part of various departments' regular activities, the Conservative government has begun to fundamentally change the activities of the main centres that are conducting research across the country.
Not content with reducing the overall research funding envelope, the government is embarking on a reorientation of the research being done at the National Research Council Canada towards applications that are geared to the needs of private business.
The major losers in this ideological reorientation are the human sciences and the basic research activities that have been deemed less “useful” or less “profitable” by this government.
Let me conclude by expressing the hope that Canada may one day have a government that respects its scientists and that bases its decisions on reason and facts rather than on ideology and calculating partisanship.
Our sick and our elderly deserve governments that know where to invest in health. Our provincial, municipal and aboriginal governments deserve a government with the data that allows for better support. Our anglers and hunters deserve a government with the information necessary to ensure the sustainable development of those resources. Our children and our generations to come deserve a government that is looking out for their economic, social and environmental future.
In short, Canadians deserve a government that takes into account the importance of science—something this Conservative government refuses to do.
Mr. Robert Chisholm (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NDP):
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to engage in the debate. I want to thank my colleague who spoke earlier and did such a good job of outlining the problems that Canadians are facing at the hands of the government as it goes about hacking and slashing away at science, facts and knowledge.
When we raise concerns about various programs that are being cut, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of state gets up and talks about the money that the government is giving to a program or a university or the like. What he is missing is the real crux of the problem here.
It is not that those programs that the government is investing in are somehow wrong or bad; they are not. However, the danger is that it is cutting away research being done by government departments that is crucial in so many ways. I want to talk a bit about that in my few minutes that I have here today.
We are talking about environment science and fisheries science that enable us to understand two things. One is what development is doing to fish stocks and fish habitat—in other words, not just the fish but everything they eat, where they live and how they survive. That is what the government is attacking in the changes to the Fisheries Act. However, it is important science in that it allows us to know what impacts our activities are having on our environment, on other species, on plants and on the air we breathe.
I just participated in a discussion a few moments ago about the decision of the government, through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, to cut the Experimental Lakes project. This project has been in existence for four decades in northern Ontario and is made up of 58 small lakes. It does not just perform freshwater science in the laboratory; it has access to the ecosystem. It has access to living, breathing lakes on which it performs important research to determine the effects of various things we as humans do and the effects of development on that ecosystem. The government has decided to cut that.
I do not understand it. Scientists from around the world have condemned this decision, because they recognize the kind of contribution this one organization makes to research and science in the world with respect to how the animals within that ecosystem exist.
The other day there was a little story told by a former director of the Experimental Lakes Area, or the Freshwater Institute, as it is sometimes known, at our subcommittee. He talked about a study they were doing on acid rain and the acid rain levels that were being proposed to be set by government. They found that the levels did not affect the actual fish that were under review, so if they limited their study to that aspect, they would find that those levels of concentration were fine.
However, they went beyond that. They looked at the organisms, the other fish that those fish ate. They determined that the concentration level of acid rain that was being permitted did not affect that particular breed of fish, but it affected everything else that fish ate. In other words, if they had approved that concentration level of acid rain as permissible, it would not have directly killed that fish, but the fish would have starved to death, because all of the food that sustains that fish, allows it to thrive and reproduce, would have gone.
He made that point to underline the changes in the Fisheries Act which focus no longer on fish habitat, in other words the whole ecosystem, but focus most specifically on commercially viable fish. He pointed out that it is completely wrong-headed. He also made the point that the research that is being done by this institute, by the Experimental Lakes Area project, is so valuable. It has made so many important contributions, not only to this country, but to countries around the world in terms of its research.
It is just one example of the projects that have come under attack from the government. Just in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans alone there have been $80 million of cuts to the departmental budget. Much of it has been staff cuts to science and research, which undermine our ability to manage threats to the fisheries.
There is a whole host of things in here: libraries, archives, the elimination of DFO's ocean pollution monitoring program, which will cut 75 staff, including Canada's only marine mammal toxicologist. The Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research will not close, but its work will be seriously curtailed as a result of cuts. That makes me crazy.
I am from Nova Scotia, and there is under consideration the development of the old Harry site in the Gulf to drill for oil. There is talk that the government will ram through whatever it needs to ram through this House in order to ensure that bitumen gets shipped out to the west coast. There will be a whole plethora of tankers running up and down that dangerous coastline, running the risk of serious oil spills, on the east coast, on the west coast. We have not even started talking about the Arctic.
At the same time that it is moving forward with that kind of development, without the necessary checks and balances, it is cutting the science that is available to make sure we know what we are doing and how to go about it.
My time is up, but I want to share this with the House. Yesterday the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans was in Dartmouth, the community I represent. It appears from the media that he was not particularly well received. One of the questions he was asked was about the decision to cut funding for the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research.
People asked him why he would do that, and he said that it would not close and that work would be done by the private sector. I thought to myself, who, Exxon Mobil? Maybe the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers would now be the scientific watchdog with respect to offshore oil development and drilling and the effect it will have on our coastline. These are the kinds of things--
Mr. Mike Lake (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry, CPC):
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. 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. Randy Kamp (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, CPC):
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. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):
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. Ryan Cleary (St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NDP):
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.
Ms. Michelle Rempel (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, CPC):
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. Peter Braid (Kitchener—Waterloo, CPC):
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. Dan Harris (Scarborough Southwest, NDP):
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.