Evidence of meeting #29 for Industry, Science and Technology in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was atlantic.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Bruce Archibald  President, Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
  • Paul LeBlanc  President, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Perhaps he could focus on why it's changing and what is being lost in terms of the business development and economic development.

9:35 a.m.

President, Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario

Dr. Bruce Archibald

When we announced the new southern Ontario advantage initiatives, there were seven new initiatives. We needed to revisit our program activity architecture to make sure that they actually align with it. You'll notice in the main estimates that there is some realignment of the dollars.

For example, last year, in 2011-12, you'll notice that technology innovation was at zero; this year it's $51,040,000. That's just an example of programs that were previously attributed either to community economic development or to business development being realigned to more properly reflect what we're working on.

As far as the community economic development numbers go, in 2011-12 they included a number of programs that better fit into business development and technology innovation, so we realigned those dollars. When you look at the bottom line in terms of overall expenditures, it nets out as almost the same, other than for a reduction of $1.5 million. The actual activities per se in community economic development have not really changed dramatically; it's really just a realignment to better reflect the new program architecture.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Sweet

Thank you,

Now we will move on to Mr. Lake for five minutes.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Chair, I thank the minister and Mr. Archibald for coming today.

I'll just ask two questions. I was going to ask one, but Mr. Harris brought up an important contrast between the government and the opposition in his last question. I think what we see from the government side is a focus on eliminating the deficit and on its being a priority.

Could you speak to the benefits, in terms of our long-term ability to fund science and technology research and innovation in Canada, if we can ensure that we balance our budget in the short term—over the next few years—and why it is so important?

Secondly, I want you, if you could, to focus on the STEM initiative that you talked about and maybe elaborate a little on it. I have a 12-year-old daughter turning 13 next week who definitely has a real interest and a real strength in science and math. I've often talked to her about the potential that she could be an engineer.

Could you speak to what you're doing in that regard to foster this among our young people?

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Absolutely.

The budget this year focused on a promise that the government made during the election; that was to return to a balanced budget as quickly as possible. I think this budget finds that niche very well and at the same time supports science and technology yet again, as I mentioned, to the tune of $1.1 billion—not to mention $400 million for venture capital.

Obviously, having a good financial book is great for a country. It keeps our interest rates in position. We could have moved a little faster, but we see other countries that did that and then saw a ripple in their economic stability. We see countries that didn't do it fast enough and see them still struggling.

Canada, being in the strong position that it is, can support science and technology initiatives, while at the same time finding efficiencies in government spending, without reducing the effectiveness of the programs for the intended stakeholders. This is really the sweet spot that we're attempting to find.

The Youth STEM program was designed to help increase the fun and the awareness about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in the kindergarten-to-grade-12 range, which as we all know is not federal jurisdiction. While we work with our provincial counterparts to encourage them to improve the teaching of our children in terms of innovation, risk mitigation, entrepreneurialism, and so on, we felt that it was absolutely necessary to develop a program that would go into that age group and encourage them to at least consider the opportunities those fields represent, and not just in finance. Obviously, there are a lot of Bill Gateses around the world and counterparts like them, but this is a very rewarding field in terms of the improvement of quality of life—literally the saving of lives around the world—and of course of creating jobs and prosperity at home.

For your daughter, Mr. Lake, I will suggest that there is a promo-science program for your province. It's not Youth STEM. It can be accessed through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. Youth STEM, as you're aware, is a FedDev southern Ontario program only.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

One thing we hear at this committee from time to time is that we do a great job of research in this country, and you have elaborated quite extensively on that. There have been challenges over decades now in commercializing that research. Could you speak to the measures we're taking to address that and increase the commercialization of some of the great ideas that Canadians have developed in their research?

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

The initiatives we're taking speak again to what some of my colleagues here have mentioned in terms of opportunities for partnerships, wherein we want businesses to partner with our scientists, if you will. We want our scientists to understand business a bit better, so there's a cooperation and harmony between the two fronts.

On publishing, scientists—and frankly, professors at university—will tell you they are rewarded for publishing. In my view, publishing, while it's a great place to be, is like second base. It's not the home run. When the knowledge that is developed by the scientist, especially if it's funded by federal dollars in any way, is transferred out of the laboratory into something—a process, an application, a product, a different way of treating patients, etc.—that knowledge transfer completes the cycle.

In doing that, you have the medical isotopes that are necessary for the next-generation diseases, you have customized health care that can diagnose situations much faster, more accurately, and then, of course, treatment protocols that are more effective and less expensive.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Sweet

Right. Thank you, Minister. I'm sorry—

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

So the completion of the cycle is imperative.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Sweet

Sorry to cut you off, Minister, it's just that we're over time there.

Now we go to Mr. Stewart for five minutes.

May 8th, 2012 / 9:40 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good morning, Dr. Goodyear. It's a pleasure to speak with you this morning.

I just moved to this committee as the critic for science and tech. I think it's a real privilege to work on this file, as I'm sure you will agree.

I've just read through the Jenkins report, an impressive report. The first recommendation is to “Create an Industrial Research and Innovation Council...”. I'm just wondering where you are in terms of moving forward with that recommendation.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Thank you, and again, that's the science and tech file.

With your permission, Mr. Chair, I'm happy to answer that.

Congratulations, by the way, on your appointment as critic. I think you will find this the most exciting file.

We obviously launched the Jenkins panel based on the fact that businesses were not spending as much as we needed them to on research and the development of that research, despite some very generous programs by the federal government. Mr. Jenkins spent a year with a panel of experts. It was a very comprehensive report. Congratulations for reading it.

The Prime Minister has been very clear, and I've been very clear: While we do subscribe to the diagnosis behind the report, we don't subscribe to all of the recommendations.

The first recommendation, combined with the fourth recommendation, in particular, would amount to significant changes to the National Research Council. My interpretation is that the recommendations add up to eliminating the National Research Council, which we are not prepared to do, simply in order then to build another government organization. We have said in recent months that we are making changes at the National Research Council. We have a new president on side. We are, in fact, changing the organization to do more industry-facing, demand-driven research. That is not to say that the basic research in the country will in any way be diminished. We have a very strong amount of investment going into basic research, from the most pure discovery, from isotopes to neutrons, all the way through to the Perimeter Institute and the Institute for Quantum Computing. All of this continues to be supported.

But when we look at the nation and realize that compared to our partners, our businesses are not using the incentives we have created for them to the degree that they could, changes are necessary. The opportunity to have the National Research Council, with all of its resources and bright minds and great history, really turn its energies into assisting businesses to become more innovative, more productive, more globally competitive to produce growth that results in better quality jobs for Canadians, higher paying jobs, that is the direction we're moving in.

I hope that answers your question.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Thanks.

I have slightly broader question, but still on the report. The focus of the Jenkins report is the link between innovation and productivity. That seems to be the key, with productivity really being the outcome variable that you're most interested in. I know it's important to increase productivity because, really, when we're compared to the U.S., it's been plummeting since the 1980s.

I'm wondering when you would expect your changes to turn around this productivity gap or to narrow it. How can we measure your progress, as a minister, really?

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Of course, productivity, as you've mentioned quite correctly, is a decades-old problem. It is a very costly problem for Canadians and their families. There is a report that I've read—and the name of the report fails me right now, but I'd be happy to get you the report—that does in fact suggest that the productivity gap with the United States is a $110-billion loss to the nation. Clearly, we need to improve that.

It is my belief that, while it's not up to the federal government to improve productivity per se, it is up to it, and governments at all levels, to put in place the tools that are necessary, to create the environment that's necessary, to allow businesses on their own to become more productive through innovation.

We'll have to wait and see whether the productivity level of the nation turns around. I share your angst that it needs to do that, and sooner rather than later. We can only assume that the changes we're making are in that right direction, based on all of the experts I've spoken to.

Am I out of time?

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Sweet

There's 20 seconds left, Minister.