House of Commons Hansard #30 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was research.

Topics

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to allow the hon. member to speak a second time on the bill for seven or eight minutes?

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
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4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
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4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
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4:40 p.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for recognizing me and providing me with the opportunity to make a few comments.

Bill C-13 provides much of a positive nature for parliament to consider. I listened to the debate and thought about what this bills means and there are some serious concerns in my mind which I would like to express to the House.

The intent of the CIHR is to foster scientific research and promote Canadian initiatives. However, there has been little time to consult various scientific communities and receive input as to the scope and area of research. For this reason I would like to ask where is this research centre going to be established? I am concerned when I hear that it is to be in Prince Edward Island. It is not because Prince Edward Island is not a wonderful destination or that the people of Prince Edward Island would not benefit from this.

I think of the difficulties that research facilities in Canada have had. In major hospitals there is an accumulation of highly practised medical researchers. By and large they have the needed equipment, the vital mass of library facilities, the patients and the technical requirements.

The flight of Canadian personnel, doctors and nurses, to other jurisdictions, primarily to the United States, is because of economic difficulties they have had and the lack of technology. Many places do not have the money for the cutting edge technology. People are leaving research centres in Canada to go where the technology is available.

It is not only the technology, it is also the critical mass, the mass of learning. There is the core of expertise and opportunity. There are patients who have diseases and maladies that doctors and scientists would look to. I cannot see these being readily available by simply creating a research facility, an institution, in Prince Edward Island and then expecting people who have the expertise to leave where they are to go there.

It also does not make sense to build a facility from the ground up in relative isolation from major medical centres across the country. It would not be that attractive. Researchers not only want jobs, they want to have an opportunity to study their areas of interest. They want to add to the growth of knowledge and benefit humankind by their work. They are dedicated and committed individuals.

As I think about this bill, I wonder why the centre would be established in Prince Edward Island and not in a major medical facility or in a centre where so many advantages already exist. It makes me question the seriousness of this initiative.

Goodness knows that this initiative is needed. Reform Party members, including myself, have been on record for many years about the need for technical and medical research across our country. Our economy and our people depend on this research. We have a grand tradition in Canada of being at the forefront of invention and research and adding to the great knowledge of humankind. We have the people who can do that but we have been short of money for so long that programs have been stripped.

I remember speaking to a high ranking medical researcher in Vancouver who said that the opportunities for him in that city were limited because of crowded space, lack of money and lack of equipment. His ability to teach, to do research and add to the knowledge of his speciality was so diminished that even though he was at the peak of his own professional career, he was questioning whether it was wise for him to stay in Canada when the opportunities south of the Canadian border were so rich for pressing his career forward.

These are some of the questions that arise in my mind as we discuss the issue here today. I would like the government to seriously consider whether the best use of this money is to have a research facility such as this located where it is intended to be located. Why do we not have broader consultation with the scientists and the researchers to see where this critical mass might be gathered and made best use of?

It is of great sadness to many of us, including myself, to hear of the men and women in Regina, Saskatoon, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton who have found that their opportunities over the past years have become so limited that they have not only contemplated but have taken steps to move. I think those who have persevered and continued looking after their patients, and continued their research under such enormous obstacles and financial cutbacks, deserve congratulations.

I add these comments and these questions to the debate with the understanding that I and my party will be supporting the bill.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
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4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I had not intended to participate in the debate because I wholly support the bill and I thought I would allow as many members of the opposition to speak as possible.

However, after listening to the debate, I noted a few things and thought, for greater clarification, I could contribute to the debate. My thoughts will be more of a random nature on the comments I heard and on which I would like to amplify.

When mention was made of the potential benefits, a step in the right direction and the absence of consultation, I thought we should have great confidence in the value of the Canadian institutes for health research. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that this is the thing to do as we enter the new millennium. Scientists in all disciplines, whether medical, biological or social, have been consulted. We see a consensus on what would be best for Canada and for the world as we realize that this institute will co-operate and be an integrated approach to research and will encompass all aspects of research.

I heard someone say that this was about medical research. I would like to emphasize that the bill is not only about medical research. It is medical research and more. It is about all disciplines, including the discipline of ethics. We have an opportunity here to have a very comprehensive look at health research.

Unique in the bill is that it contains a long preamble. One of the provisions in the preamble speaks to the flexibility in the mechanism. This will give us the opportunity to adjust to the changing times and needs of the day.

Let me just state for the record again that the ultimate objective of the institute will be to develop excellence according to internationally accepted standards. This excellence will be applied both in the creation of new knowledge and its application. Its application will encompass the delivery of health services as well as the strengthening of the Canadian health care system.

I was surprised when I heard it would be located in Prince Edward Island. There is nothing in the bill that says it will be located in Prince Edward Island. In fact, the head office is about the only one that may be located in a place designated by the governor in council, and even that has not been defined.

This is an excellent bill that reflects the commitment of the government not only to excel but equally to budget for such excellence in health research. The bill is worthy of the support of every single member of the House because this is the type of research, the scope of which is definitely very encompassing, including such things as biomedical research, clinical research, research respecting health systems, health services, as well as studying all the other determinants of health, such as the environment, cultural aspects and so on. It will engage all types of researchers not only in the medical field but in other fields of health as well.

I certainly urge all members of the House to support the bill.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
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4:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
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4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
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4:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
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4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
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4:50 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Canadian Institutes Of Health Research Act
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4:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from November 26 consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian Tourism Commission, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Tourism Commission Act
Government Orders

November 29th, 1999 / 4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are now debating Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian Tourism Commission. In fact, the Canadian tourism commission already exists and it has a number of employees, some of whom even work outside the country, but Bill C-5 seeks to turn the existing commission into a crown corporation.

Indeed, the basic objective of the bill is to make this administrative but substantial change by taking the Canadian tourism commission as it currently exists and turning it into a crown corporation with all the changes that this involves.

Let me read the very short summary in which the objects of the Canadian tourism commission are defined:

This enactment establishes a Crown corporation to be known as the Canadian Tourism Commission. The Commission's objects are to a ) sustain a vibrant and profitable Canadian tourism industry; b ) market Canada as a desirable tourist destination; c ) support a cooperative relationship between the private sector and the governments of Canada, the provinces and the territories with respect to Canadian tourism; and d ) provide information about Canadian tourism to the private sector and to the governments of Canada, the provinces and the territories.

Later on in my speech I will get back to the last two objectives and to some issues regarding tourism and the roles of other players, including provincial governments.

In Quebec there is major activity by the Quebec government in market niches that could be different from those chosen by the Canadian tourism commission.

We should not forget that the Canadian tourism commission as we know it is relatively recent. It is a bit surprising that, in such a short time span, it should become a crown corporation. I have a hard time believing that this two step process was not planned from the outset. The first step was to give the commission its existing administrative structure, and the second one is to say that the obvious choice is to turn it into a crown corporation.

Right now, the commission's funding comes from the federal government, but also from various players in the tourist industry under special partnerships or in specific niches. We have no intention of condemning the work being done by the Canadian tourism commission. Our opposition to this bill stems from the fact that the federal government could very well use the commission, as it has other departments, to invade the tourism jurisdiction.

The commission now reports to the Minister of Industry, but its new status as a crown corporation will not stop the department from having programs and taking action in the tourist industry.

I am thinking of the Economic Development Agency, which is accountable to the Minister of Industry, in the final analysis. Particularly as it applies to us in Quebec, the Canada Economic Development Agency for the Regions in Quebec, formerly known as Federal Office of Regional Development for Quebec, has become involved in the past—and still is—in certain niches, to support tourism.

Nobody is against helping tourism, on the contrary. There is a lot of money to be made in tourism, which is very useful for economic development. We all want more visitors to come to Canada, as opposed to Canadians going to other countries. We want to reduce the tourism deficit in certain parts of the country. We all want to improve that.

Let us recall the plans and objectives the government set not that long ago, on February 27, 1996. We have to put things back in their context. At that time, we were at the beginning of the session following the referendum, which took place in October 1995.

In the throne speech, the government addressed the issue of tourism. I will read a few quotes from the throne speech describing the federal government's position concerning its approach to tourism development.

The speech included the following:

The Government is prepared to withdraw from its functions in such areas as labour market training, forestry, mining, and recreation, that are more appropriately the responsibility of others, including provincial governments, local authorities or the private sector.

In the following paragraph, we read:

The federal government will propose to the provinces a much strengthened process to work in partnership, focussing on such priorities as food inspection, environmental management, social housing, tourism and freshwater fish habitat.

I will not talk about the failures in areas mentioned in that paragraph, other than tourism. I am thinking of social housing, in particular. No later than last weekend, we saw many people demonstrating in front of the building where the Liberal Party was holding its convention to protest against the attitude and the role of the federal government in social housing.

Let us go back to tourism. The same government that said that it wanted to give the provinces the greater role they wanted did not do much to reach that goal. Instead, it became less and less of a partner.

By creating a crown corporation which, we expect, will receive more and more money and will be supported by other departments like the one I mentioned, Canada Economic Development, especially as Quebec is concerned, the federal government is clearly showing that it wants to decide for itself how it will be involved in tourism.

This brings to mind another motion adopted by parliament. The Prime Minister alluded to it today. It was supposed to be a major motion to recognize the distinct character of Quebec.

It is strange to see how little of this motion is reflected in the bills we pass, or even in the interpretation of existing legislation.

To me, it is obvious that Quebec, with its distinct culture and particular characteristics, is in the best position to sell its tourism product. The cultural niche is a very interesting aspect to develop in order to promote Quebec throughout the world and to attract tourists.

As members know, several regions organize numerous festivals and events that are the signs of great dynamism. With all great international events that occur throughout the summer, Montreal is in a very good position. I know that my colleague, the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, will be speaking later. These events occur in his own neighbourhood; he will mention them.

All summer long, Montreal is alive with a wide range of activities that attract many tourists from all over the world. The Quebec City summer festival is also growing in scale. The tourism season is growing longer. The occupancy rate in the hotels is constantly increasing.

So, things are going pretty well. However, I think that Quebec is in the best position to do its own marketing, to sell what it has to offer and to let its organisers enhance the great talents that we have everywhere in our province to promote these events, instead of relying more and more on a Canadian tourism commission that will play an increasingly significant role and that will decide which are the best products to promote, from a Canadian perspective or under a Canadian strategy to sell tourism.

Obviously, partnerships will have to be developed. There are many partnerships that can be struck in the tourism field between Quebec and Canada, Quebec and some of the other provinces. It would, in my opinion, be wiser to let them define their strategies and forge their own partnerships for joint campaigns aimed at other countries, instead of having to fall in line with an orientation in which the federal government will, as always, be seeking to enhance its role and, ultimately, to gain a higher profile.

I have enormous concerns about what the federal government might be tempted to do in future, even if this is a crown corporation. It might say “Well yes, it is, but it has considerable independence”. It must be kept in mind, however, just how its membership will be made up, the control the minister will continue to have, if only through the appointments he will be able to make.

The government does have a considerable amount of control. Looking at existing crown corporations, and I am thinking of Canada Post among others, and at the person it has at its head, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs here, Mr. Ouellet, how could one not conclude that there is considerable collusion with government in certain directions Canada Post has taken, although taken in an independent manner. When the friends of the regime are put into such positions, there are reasons, rewards are due and in certain cases political patronage. As well, in certain cases, there is the desire to retain a degree of control, and certain affinities, so the position goes to a member of the “old boys' network”.

This allows de facto control to be retained while hiding behind the theoretical independence of these corporations, so as not have to answer to us here. They do, of course, have to report to parliament. Their officers will appear before the committee, but this is a relatively simple exercise compared to a minister being accountable to the House on a daily basis.

There is still a link, but I can already predict that, if any problem occurs, in response to questions, the Minister of Industry will say that the commission is operating at arm's length, that it is a crown corporation and that the government cannot get involved. But in real life, when it suits its purpose, the government can get involved through indirect channels. In this case, it will have every reason to say “Listen, we cannot do that because of the commission's arm's length relationship with the government”.

The Minister of Industry tends to take this position with respect to CRTC rulings, a commission that makes fundamental decisions regarding the future of several key sectors, such as culture and telecommunications. The Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Industry can hide behind the independence of such organizations.

As for the commission per se, things are going relatively well right now, but I am very concerned about the future. It is difficult to trust the government, because it has been so obsessed with visibility in taking any action.

I am convinced that no department makes a decision now without worrying about the federal government's visibility. It is very clear that the Canadian Tourism Commission will meet the same fate, with this sort of additional autonomy they will get along with additional funding eventually, as is currently the case to some extent anyway.

The bill also provides that the location of the head office may be designated by cabinet through an order in council. The commission will remain in the same premises, but since the bill allows cabinet to choose the place, to group them where it will, it is a safe bet that the day is not far off when the government will say they have to be brought together in a single building, separate from the department, because it is not healthy for a Crown corporation to be located in premises belonging to the Department of Industry.

The day is not far off when, as the government did patiently in creating the commission and in making it a Crown corporation, the next step will be to give it its own facilities and to reward a riding or a specific region by sending this group of people there.

There is nothing explicit in this sense, but mark my words. I am convinced that one day there will be people wanting to take this Crown corporation and arrange it in some other way or take it some other place.

I come back to certain descriptions of the bill's contents. I am thinking, among other things, of the powers of the commission. The Canadian Tourism Commission is to be established as a corporation with all the accompanying rights, powers and privileges. It could therefore acquire property, such as facilities for its head office. However, the bill prevents the Canadian Tourism Commission from financing or owning real property or facilities related to tourism.

I would like to make an aside here. The mandate of the commission is to promote tourism products. It is not its role to finance infrastructure or to own it. But the government is making other interventions to this end rather than collect fewer taxes and leave the provinces that have to manage that a little more tax room.

In most cases, there are tourism offices in the regions. There are various players in the tourism sector. Regional development boards can have a back-up role and provide funding support, but government players can co-ordinate their efforts and support a whole industry.

Nothing prevents the commission from broadening its mandate, if it were tempted to do so in the future, but for the time being it is not doing so. Rather, it leaves it to other branches of the federal government, such as economic development agencies.

With regard to authority, it is obvious that, if the government is providing for the ability to set up facilities elsewhere, the day is not far off when it will happen.

With regard to the board of directors, it is supposed to have increased decision making powers over administrative matters on top of matters relating to activities and programs. The board will have greater autonomy than it currently does.

With regard to agreements, the Canadian Tourism Commission will have to authority to enter into agreements with one or several provincial or territorial governments to carry out its objects. With the approval of the governor in council, the corporation may, either by itself or jointly with any person or the government of a province or a territory, acquire shares in or assets of a corporation.

With regard to human resources management, it will be responsible for negotiating its employees working conditions.

So far, there does not seem to be any problem with unionized employees who are going to join the crown corporation. It seems to have been well negotiated; when the bill comes to the committee, we will have the opportunity to look into the matter closely to make sure the transition will go smoothly as far as working conditions are concerned.

With regard to reporting, it is said that the president of the Canadian Tourism Commission will present to the board of directors an annual business plan, an annual report, and performance reports whenever necessary. The annual activity plan of the Canadian tourism commission will be approved by the minister and Treasury Board. Each year, the board of directors will report on the results obtained to the minister, who will table them in the House. The chairperson will no longer report on administrative issues and other matters to the deputy minister”.

Therefore, a lot of reports and other documents will be submitted to the minister. But as I said earlier, chances are that the minister will choose not to be so accountable to parliament and hide behind the fact that we are dealing with a crown corporation.

In theory, however, the minister is still responsible, and I hope he or someone from his department will confirm it in committee. I hope he will reassert his role and his responsibilities towards the Canadian tourism commission, because if there are problems, he will be held accountable. But I do have a lot of concerns about this.

A number of things are also mentioned in the mandate. When this bill goes to committee, I do hope that the Minister of Industry will be among the witnesses heard and that the development agencies will get the chance to explain their vision of what they do for tourism and how it is in line with the strategies mentioned in the 1996 throne speech. That speech was supposed to highlight the main strategies of the government and deal, among other things, with tourism. That happened after the referendum, when the federal government wanted to show that it could be a little more flexible.

However, they were quick to change their tune, especially last week, when they showed how inflexible they are and unwilling to accommodate Quebec within their system. They prefer to threaten to change the rules and define the conditions if Quebec wants to leave. They will set the rules, they say. They are getting tougher than ever.

They no longer talk about accommodating our needs. Even if the minister is saying that he is reaching out to the Premier of Quebec and he is willing to co-operate and talk, in reality, all the speeches and motions on the distinct society do not contain anything substantial, and what they do contain are not necessarily the most basic things.

In the tourism sector, it would not be complicated to leave the money to the Quebec government and tell it to increase its support for tourism or to improve its tourism infrastructure since it has a distinct culture, even though the Prime Minister himself does not recognize that fact. He said before that there was no distinct culture in Quebec, but there are people around him who must realize there is one. We should sell our cultural products, sell what we are and what we do.

Unfortunately, this does not seem to be part of the spirit in which the commission was established and in which it will be refocused. For these reasons, we cannot support this bill. However, we will raise questions and give the government one more chance. We will try to convince it to change its mind when we study this bill at the committee stage and then at the report stage.

We want to know if the government will be able to accommodate us and recognize the role of the Quebec government, among others, in the promotion of the tourism industry, particularly from a cultural point of view. We do not want empty promises, we do not want idle talk about discussing and co-operating, and so on; we want to see how the government will formally recognize this role.

I will conclude by stressing the great concern we have because, with all the money the federal government now has at its disposal, it is very likely that, once again, it will totally ignore the jurisdictions and priorities of the Quebec government and set its own policies.

Canadian Tourism Commission Act
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5:10 p.m.

Reform

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I wish to ask the Bloc member if those involved in trade and tourism in Quebec agree with the orientation of this bill, more specifically if they support the creation of a crown corporation.

Canadian Tourism Commission Act
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5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, to be perfectly frank, we will have the opportunity in committee to hear the opinions of different groups, including the boards of trade.

There are two approaches now in Quebec. Some people say “They will create the structure, and we will try to get our share of the spinoffs from its mandate”.

But some others are clearly worried that the federal government, with the huge surpluses it now has, will launch all kinds of initiatives, and invest a lot of money to improve a myriad of programs.

Business people in particular, and I do not mean boards of trade as such, but numerous business people—during the weekend I attended a gala hosted by a board of trade in my riding—told me “We are worried that the federal government, with the huge surpluses it has announced, over $90 billion in the years ahead, will decide to spend this money right, left and centre in the form of all sorts of initiatives, which is what the Liberals were so good at doing in the past rather than helping us lower taxes. We will form partnerships ourselves, improve our own ability to step in, and we will have more money to develop our own projects, rather than let the government decide which project it will support”.

Clearly, there is a very strong feeling in Quebec's business community, and elsewhere, that what the federal government should be doing right now is giving far greater attention to lowering taxes, which are out of all proportion to the role and responsibilities it assumes on a daily basis.

Many members of the business community would like to see it stop throwing money around. They are also worried that a crown corporation will want to spend a lot of money and that the government will give it more and more funding, even if it is capable of generating outside revenue. So, there are two schools of thought.

As for the official positions of the boards of trade, we will have an opportunity to ask them during committee study. But it is clear that people are worried, but also cautious, because these associations also include representatives of the tourism industry, and they are going to want to allow their members to go after as much funding as possible, once the programs are in place.

But they would like more leeway to establish their own priorities, instead of it always being the government that decides what is and is not good for the development of the tourist and other industries.