House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was funding.

Topics

Corporate social responsibility and Canadian extractive industry in developing countries
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard for introducing this motion and for his general concern for citizens in developing countries. I would like him to know that I am of the very clear opinion that corporate accountability for Canadian resource extraction companies abroad is long overdue.

We know that extractive industries are often able to take advantage of political cultures in developing countries that do not accept or respect our domestic principles of democratic accountability and transparency. Centralized decision-making at the executive level that can offer extraction rights in exchange for capital in many developing countries can greatly infringe upon the human rights and environmental sustainability of localized populations.

Canadian companies, like those from other modern industrialized states, have at times taken advantage of such political circumstances in their quest for new sources of revenue to the gross detriment of workers and local communities that have and will suffer the devastating environmental consequences for generations. I was sad to see that, very recently, a lawsuit was filed against a company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange for its alleged involvement in human rights abuses at a mining concession site in Ecuador. Legislation that enforces a responsible code of conduct that respects international human rights and local environmental concerns and enforces corporate accountability upon Canadian companies operating abroad is needed now more than ever.

New Democrats have long stood in the House in support of corporate accountability as a principle of international trade and economic activity among and between nations. The member for Pierrefonds—Dollard will no doubt know that it was the former hon. member for Ottawa Centre who first sought to enforce this principle with Bill C-369 in the 38th Parliament. Support from the New Democrat caucus on legislation or motions that enforce ethical behaviour upon Canadian companies, including those operating abroad, has never been difficult to attain. As such, I am proud to offer my support for this motion.

The creation of an independent ombudsman, as prescribed in this motion and as would be established in law with the passage of Bill C-298, introduced by the current member for Ottawa Centre, would ensure that the enforcement of corporate accountability principles is legitimate, consistent, apolitical and fair to both Canadian companies and the populations that may or may not be affected by their operations abroad.

I would like to thank all the members of the advisory group and all participants of the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility for their hard work and encourage each and every member of the House to read their report and strongly consider their recommendations when deliberating this particular motion and other pieces of legislation. I would like to take a moment to also recognize the work of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, which has helped keep the issue of corporate accountability on the political agenda in Canada for some time.

Member groups of CNCA that deserve our ongoing thanks include: Amnesty International, Africa-Canada Forum, Americas Policy Group, Asia Pacific Working Group, Development and Peace, Canadian Council for International Co-operation, Canadian Labour Congress, L'Entraide missionnaire, Friends of the Earth Canada, Halifax Initiative, Inter Pares, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, MiningWatch Canada, North-South Institute, Rights & Democracy, Steelworkers Humanity Fund, United Church of Canada and more.

I wish to thank the staff and members of all of those groups. I ask them to please keep the strong and principled work that they have undertaken for so long and with such pride. This Parliament, a minority one with many progressive members, represents a rare chance for real change on a number of fronts, if only these members could muster the political courage to stand up in support of the principles they claim to respect and wish to uphold.

I would like to thank the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard for doing just that. I encourage him to reach out to other members of the Liberal caucus to gain their support for this motion and to lobby for their support of Bill C-298.

Corporate social responsibility and Canadian extractive industry in developing countries
Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard for having his private member's motion drawn so early in the private member's lottery. I would also like to congratulate him for presenting such a worthwhile motion on such an important issue.

I am honoured to speak to the motion and I am honoured to have seconded the motion.

The motion dovetails with Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, presented by the Liberal member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

I would also like to congratulate members of the Development and Peace movement. I personally received over 500 signature cards from members of that organization who live in my riding.

I would like to thank those who sensitized me on the issue through private conversations either at town hall meetings or in my office, namely, Brian McDonough, André Bergeron, Dr. Mona Abbondanza.

I would like to thank those individuals who visited me in my riding office to discuss the issue and to impress upon me the importance of implementing the recommendations that my hon. colleague from Pierrefonds—Dollard no doubt worked on when he was a member of the foreign affairs committee in the 38th Parliament.

I would like to thank Jack Zylak, Nathalie Doiron, Patricia Oliveri, Nelson Furtado, Thérèse Pereira, Lynn Jansen, June Francis, Yvonne Bourque, and Monica Lambton. These individuals worked hard to collect the signatures on the over 500 cards that I received. They have done a remarkable job of advocating for this cause.

All of us in the House are familiar with citizen lobby campaigns that use, among other things, direct mail techniques, but rarely have I seen such a professional, effective and strategic effort on the part of such a good cause.

I would like to give members a little context. As I mentioned, this initiative comes out of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which, during the first session of the 38th Parliament, became concerned about the increasing evidence that some Canadian resource extraction companies were conducting their operations in developing countries without adequate regard for local, social, environmental and human rights standards.

Accordingly, the committee recommended that the government undertake a comprehensive study of the issue by meeting with relevant industry associations, non-governmental organizations, development experts, environmentalists, human rights advocates, and government officials to determine the best course of action to move the issue forward.

As a result of that, the previous Liberal government initiated national round tables on corporate social responsibility and the Canadian extractive industry in developing countries.

What followed was 10 months of rigorous and meticulous negotiations and discussions with representatives from the extractive industry, advocacy groups, academics, government, and members of the public, all of which culminated in a report containing the very recommendations we are discussing today.

Canadian mining companies do not intend to violate environmental rights or human rights in developing countries. Often they are operating in very difficult jurisdictions that do not have appropriate laws and regulations. The executives of these companies are obviously operating at a distance from where the mining activities are taking place.

As we deplete mining resources, mining operations must go further into the outlands of the various countries in which they operate where no doubt the situation is even more nebulous and hard to monitor.

That is why one of the recommendations that came out of the advisory group's report, namely the recommendation that we create a mining ombudsman, would be so important. It would provide a conduit for information about what is going on in the field in these developing countries, a conduit for information not only to the government and to Canadian citizens at large, but to mining executives in Canada who would no doubt use that information to take appropriate action.

The mining ombudsperson would be mandated to ensure Canadian mining companies conduct their international resource extraction operations while adhering to standards of corporate social responsibility by, one, receiving and investigating complaints regarding potential violations of social or environmental standards by Canadian companies working abroad; two, quickly making recommendations to correct these violations; and three, releasing publicly the results of its investigations and recommendations for actions or sanctions.

For example, the ombudsman might recommend that the government withdraw services to an offending company such as by denying financial backing from Export Development Canada, discontinuing diplomatic support the company receives from Canadian consulates in developing countries, or disallowing Canadian tax deductions for tax paid to foreign governments.

The advisory group also recommends that the mining ombudsman play an advisory role, as I mentioned before, to focus the companies on situations on the ground, perhaps even to the point of helping to prevent conflicts in these countries and those regions of the country where the mining company is operating, before those conflicts begin.

Canada has made numerous contributions in the past to the progress of humankind through its foreign policy. We think, for example, of the treaty to ban antipersonnel landmines, which was a Canadian initiative. We think also of the doctrine of the responsibility to protect, the doctrine that was developed by former Liberal member of Parliament and minister in Liberal governments, the hon. Lloyd Axworthy, an idea that was taken up by Paul Martin before and when he was prime minister, an idea that has been discussed and probed further by the current leader of the Liberal Party.

Canada has also been active through Liberal senators like Senator Dallaire, in terms of helping to address the problems in Sudan, namely in the Darfur region. We have another Canadian, Maude Barlow, who has made great efforts to raise awareness of water as an international environmental issue, an international human issue, and who is now special adviser on water to the president of the United Nations General Assembly.

We have a history as a nation of acting to promote humanitarian progress internationally. This is no different. This is an issue on which we can make a contribution, not least of all because Canada is a mining giant. Half of all mining projects in the world are associated with Canadian companies. We understand this industry, we understand how it operates, we have knowledge and experience, and we should use that knowledge and experience to reduce the hardships that many miners and communities that surround mines have endured for various reasons.

It is even part of our culture to understand that mining has many associated hardships. Of course, just about every province has a mining industry. The likes of Hugh MacLennan have written on the hardships of mining communities, and so on.

It is part of our culture and it is part of economic history, and we should use that to make the world a better place.

Corporate social responsibility and Canadian extractive industry in developing countries
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the very short time remaining I will do my best to build on the comments of my colleague, the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook, as he took the time to comment on this important motion.

First I would like to indicate my thanks for being able to address the House this morning in regard to the issues surrounding corporate responsibility.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard for his motion M-283, dated February 3, and to thank his party for its ongoing interest in this major problem.

We are all certainly aware of the importance the mining sector has for Canada and the imprint mining companies can provide in their operations around the world.

Suffice to say, building on the comments of my colleague earlier, there are a number of checks and balances that are in place to ensure that the activities of Canadian companies abroad are measuring up to the kind of standards that are set multilaterally in cooperation with certainly our stakeholders, but with Canadian companies and also the host countries.

We are well aware that it is fundamentally the responsibility of host countries to set the legislative and regulatory framework by which companies must operate, and Canada and Canadian companies, through our coordination and our multilateral partners, can work together with those developing countries to help them build the kind of capacity they need to make those kinds of improvements on the ground.

After all, Canadian companies working abroad are a success story. That is not to say it is perfect and that there is not more work that can be done. However, the progress on this file continues to improve.

We have, as was mentioned earlier, a national contact, a director general now in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, a senior position that is helping to advance these policies with respect to Canadian companies' operations abroad.

So I would seek the indulgence of hon. members to consider this motion as really redundant in the sense that the work is ongoing and we will continue to make the kind of progress that is needed to keep Canada's respect around the world for extractive industries as high as it is currently.

Corporate social responsibility and Canadian extractive industry in developing countries
Private Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

When this matter comes before the House again, the member will have seven minutes remaining.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and Innovation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

Noon

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

moved:

That, given this government has continually failed to improve Canada’s research funding to build Canada into a competitive, progressive knowledge-based economy, and given that science, research and innovation are the foundations of a strong economy and the creators of the jobs of tomorrow, in the opinion of this House, the government should reinvest in these areas to ensure long term, predictable and globally competitive federal funding.

Mr. Speaker, on a personal note, if there is one reason more than any other that brought me into politics, it is the issue on which I am about to speak.

Simply put, science, research and innovation are the foundations of a strong economy. They will create the jobs of tomorrow.

It is clear to me that the current government does not understand what I have just said. This is particularly apparent if we look at its recent budget and indeed at all its preceding budgets. Notwithstanding all its pronouncements, it has failed to grasp the importance of establishing policies that will ensure long-term, predictable and globally competitive federal funding.

Before I get into details, I want to focus on a crucial part of what I have just said. I am referring to the jobs of tomorrow.

How is this different from the jobs of today?

First, an important observation: the economic blueprint for Canada in the 20th century no longer applies. The Canada that was content to sell its natural resources and low-tech products to the rest of the world can no longer assume that it will remain prosperous in the 21st century. The world has changed, not only because of globalization but for other reasons as well. There is indeed a new paradigm at work.

While resources remain an important component of our economy, it is knowledge and the resulting products and services that result from that knowledge that will ensure that we secure a prosperous future for our children. That is where the jobs of the future lie.

In this world where emerging countries now have hundreds of millions of middle-class, well-educated citizens who have ferociously embraced the virtues of open competition, Canada risks being left standing while others race ahead. Emerging countries are not only producing low-tech manufactured products more cheaply than we are, they are beginning to produce high-tech products that will soon flood the global markets.

In this world where a country such India produces more PhDs than the United States, in this world where the Internet has levelled the playing field in terms of access to knowledge, there are no longer any safe assumptions about the future other than the fact that knowledge and the application of that knowledge will determine who prospers.

In this interconnected world where productivity and innovation determine wealth and economic security, where does Canada stand?

Mr. Speaker, the statistics are discouraging. Canada's productivity has been declining over the last five quarters—its worst performance in 20 years. Basically, Canada is not competitive. In terms of innovation, Canada is 13th of 17 according to a 2008 Conference Board of Canada study. That is certainly nothing to write home about.

Are we creating the jobs of the future? The answer is no. We are proud of our successful companies, such as Bombardier, Research in Motion, Ubisoft and Apotex, and of our space industry, among others, but the truth is that we have to do even better.

We have a very well-educated population, and we have to take advantage of that. To do so, we need federal policies that will enable us to reach our potential. Our neighbours know it, and our competitors know it. Our government is the only one that does not understand.

As a first step, let me say the following. Science, research and innovation require a long-term approach, not an ad hoc, one year at a time approach.

What is really important, if one believes in a long-term approach, is to say it loud and clear. Our scientists and our knowledge-based industries must hear from the government. Hearing it allows them to plan for the long-term. It allows them to truly commit themselves to research and innovation. It sends them the message that what they do is important for the future of our country.

Second, governments should not be trying to pick winners. They should not favour applied research if it means that fundamental research will suffer. They should not focus on commercially-oriented science if this means that other science will suffer. Doing so fails to recognize society's great advance on all fronts and that all research benefits us all, often in ways that had not been anticipated. It is a supreme conceit for a government to assume otherwise.

This does not mean certain strategic areas of research cannot be given an additional impetus. Playing to our strength or trying to take the lead in a particular field is a smart thing to do, as long as it is not done at the expense of other research.

It does not help to create a positive climate of co-operation between the government and our university stakeholders when the Minister of State for Science and Technology bullies the executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, as happened recently. Shouting, interrupting and telling one's visitors to shut up only serves to create a chill between government and those with which it needs to create strong links.

Another illustration of the fact that the government does not understand the importance of science was the elimination of the national science adviser position. The purpose of this position was to offer the Prime Minister an opportunity to consult directly with a respected scientist who would offer not only advice but also the unvarnished truth about Canada's scientific performance.

Both the United States and Great Britain have respected national science advisers. For instance, a Canadian national science adviser could have told the Prime Minister early on in his mandate that climate change really did exist and the Prime Minister could then have acted expeditiously.

Looking at the recent budget, it is clear that the government does not have a coherent strategy for scientific research. While it funded certain areas, it totally overlooked others.

For example, it implemented so-called efficiency cuts of $148 million over three years at the three research granting councils without increasing their operating budgets. It failed to fund Genome Canada in this budget so it could undertake its next cycle of research funding in co-operation with its public and private partners. The National Research Council was not funded for research in this budget. It was instructed to find savings of $27.6 million over three years as part of its strategic review. The program to fund the indirect costs of research was also cut.

Mr. Speaker, everyone agrees that federal organizations have to undergo strategic reviews from time to time to optimize their operations. Our neighbours have clearly recognized the importance of increasing investment in science and research to create the jobs of the future, so the question is, why has the government decided not to allocate more funds to the organizations I just mentioned? Regardless of what the Minister of State says, adjusted for inflation, government spending on research in the natural sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities has diminished since the Conservatives took power.

I would add that government spending on research relative to its total spending generally went up beginning in 1993 under the Liberal government, but has continually gone down since the current government came to power. The Liberal government spent 4.9% of federal money on research. By 2008, that number had dropped to 4.1%. That says a lot about how important research is to this government.

I would also like to point out that this government would like the $2 billion announced for university and college infrastructure to be identified as part of the funds allocated to science and research. In reality, as we all know, this money is for building maintenance and other infrastructure projects and does not represent direct investment in scientific research as such.

Now this government and the universities are fighting about the $2 billion. It seems that the government would like the money to be spent solely on university infrastructure directly related to scientific research whereas the universities would like to have more leeway in how they spend it.

When comparing federal spending on research in 2008 to that in 2005 and adjusting for inflation, research has decreased in the following ministries: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, Industry Canada, National Defence and the National Research Council.

Another interesting statistic deals with the gross domestic expenditure on R and D, or GERD. Canadian gross domestic expenditure on R and D as a proportion of GDP rose significantly under the Liberal government to just over 2%, well over the OEDC average of 1.5%. Unfortunately, over the past two years, GERD as a percentage of GDP has declined, led by a failure of the government to maintain continuing investment in R and D.

Not only is the government failing to rise to the occasion, it is actually sliding backward at a time when it should be demonstrating a strong commitment to research. At a time when President Obama is making massive investments in basic research in fields such as health, renewable energy development, energy efficiency, electronic medical records, broadband, smart electrical grids and other areas, why has the government's approach been so piecemeal and incoherent? Where is the vision? Where is the strategy?

I would now like to focus on innovation and the elements that allow a country such as Canada to be innovative. Let me begin by identifying one area where Canada did very well until the Conservatives took over. I am speaking to the funding by the federal government of our universities and research hospitals. The reason we have done so well in this area is because of visionary decisions that were taken by the Chrétien and Martin governments to re-invigorate research in our public research institutions.

Since 1997, consecutive Liberal governments have committed $12 billion in new funding to support basic research. As a result, Canada is now the G7 leader in terms of university research and development. Liberal governments more than doubled the budgets of Canada's research granting councils to a total of $1.6 billion in 2004-05.

It was under the Liberal leadership that Canada saw the creation of the following important programs: the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canada research chairs program, Genome Canada and the program to fund the indirect costs of research. These far-reaching programs lifted Canada out of a hole and made us leaders in public funding of research.

Establishing programs that support research in our universities and research hospitals is certainly necessary, but not sufficient to ensure that Canada becomes a leader in innovation. It takes more than that. A federal policy on innovation requires a coherent approach that recognizes all the essential elements of innovation. And, as we know, there are many. It is one thing to be creative. Bringing a new product or service to market requires much more.

We all know that research can lead to promising ideas but that many challenges must be solved before the research can be commercialized, that is before it results in goods or services that people want to buy. We must recognize that other elements are essential to innovation.

Let me cover some of those elements essential to innovation. One of them is access to venture capital to allow companies involved in R and D to fund the effort required to develop promising research into a marketable product or service. Often that effort takes many years and often it is undertaken by small and medium-sized companies that have no other source of revenue other than venture capital.

While venture capital pools increased steadily in the United States between 2003 and 2008, they have actually decreased in Canada, according to the Canadian Venture Capital Association. This is cause for concern since venture capital is one of those essential elements required to support innovation. The government should be in active discussion with the venture capital industry to see how it can help improve the growth of venture capital.

Another essential element deals with intellectual property. The reality is Canadian intellectual property laws are weak in Canada and must be strengthened in order that those who generate that intellectual property can own it. Without that protection, innovators are not assured that the fruits of their hard work will remain under their control.

Another important role for government in fostering innovation is to provide tax incentives in the form of credits, some of them refundable, to companies that engage in research. While the current scientific research and experimental development, or SR&ED, program does address the requirement to some extent, it also has proven to be cumbersome to use and restricted in its application. This program needs to be re-examined immediately in order to ensure Canada is using it as effectively as possible to support promising research.

Finally, effective transfer of promising research to the marketplace requires strong linkages between those who perform the research and those who know how to commercialize and market the fruits of that research. Some mechanisms are in place, but we have the right to ask whether they are achieving their intended objectives or do we need to look at other methods that would be more effective in creating effective partnerships between the public and private sectors. We should certainly be pursuing this aggressively if we hope to become a more innovative country.

The government is putting the squeeze on science when it should be committing to an even greater role for science in the 21st century. To paraphrase a recent headline, Canadian research lacks adequate funding and the government a coherent vision. While the U.S. invests heavily in science as a key part of its economic revival, Canada is spending less and putting scientists out of work. I do not think I can say it more succinctly than that.

On top of that, the Conservative minister of state continues to erode relations with the very sector he is there to support. His combative, top-down approach is indicative of the government's failure to work in partnership with stakeholders.

Let me illustrate the stark contrasts between what the government is doing and what our American neighbours are doing.

U.S. President Barack Obama's stimulus package is investing a total of $65 billion over the next two years in the knowledge-based economy. On a per capita basis, this is six times more than Canada's investment. This is why the U.S. will be a leader in creating the companies and jobs of the future, while Canada risks getting left behind. What is it about this that the Conservatives do not understand?

Given that the government has failed to improve Canada's research funding to build Canada into a competitive, progressive knowledge-based economy and given that science, research and innovation are the foundations of a strong economy and the creators of the jobs of tomorrow, for those reasons it is essential that the government reinvest in those areas to ensure long-term, predictable and globally competitive federal funding for science to make Canada a leading innovator on the world stage.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and Innovation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech quite closely. I want to correct some of the facts he has brought forward, one in particular is about cutting funding for Genome Canada. He is an hon. member and he should put the facts before the House.

I want to state publicly that we have not cut funding for Genome Canada. Our government recognizes the importance of this faculty. We have signed two five year agreements to provide it with stable, predictable, long-term funding. In budget 2007 we invested over $100 million over five years and $140 million over five years in budget 2008 to support the important work of Genome Canada. This funding is ongoing.

For example, Genome Canada will receive $106 million this year and $108 million in 2009-10. It has said publicly that it is happy with the support. In fact, the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc voted against new funding for Genome Canada in 2007 and 2008.

Could the member stand and state in the House how he can say that we have cut funding when we have not?

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and Innovation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, either the Conservatives do not understand or they are deliberately misrepresenting the actual situation.

Let me explain it to the Conservatives.

Genome Canada is engaged in long-term research. It does this by working with scientists who do the research, who also have to line up private-sector partners. This is multi-year research.

When Genome Canada receives funding, let us say in 2007, it is given money that it will use for these multi-year projects as part of the new endeavour, a new series of research-related projects that will span several years. That money is then engaged. As a result of the fact that there was no money for Genome Canada in 2009, we cannot start a new cycle now on a new batch of projects that will also be multi-year.

So, yes, there is money in the books for 2011, 2012 and 2013, but that money is already committed to previously-established projects. That is not a difficult point to understand.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and Innovation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague's concern about this issue goes back a number of years. In 2006, he made a report on science and technology for the Liberal Party renewal commission. In that report, he suggested at that time that there is no process within our federal government to allow the development of a national science and technology strategy.

Canada does not have a national science strategy, so quite clearly something has carried on from the previous Liberal administration to the Conservative administration, which turns its back on the development of a national science strategy.

Is this an issue that speaks to the nature of how both these parties view our economy as a branch plant economy, as an economy that is tied more to North America than an economy that can stand on its own feet with its own research?

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and Innovation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to find that somebody from the NDP actually read that report, which I spent a great deal of time putting together back in 2006.

There is a need for a coherent national science policy. It does not exist at this time. As the member has intimated, it would be a good idea for us to put it together.

However, I would remind him of elements of my speech, which clearly indicated that back in the 1990s Mr. Chrétien and Mr. Martin recognized, at a time when the economy was in difficulty and at a time when there were severe government cutbacks--we all remember the 1990s--that it was imperative to reinvigorate our research capacity in the public sector in this country. It is because of their efforts to create programs such as the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Genome Canada, the indirect costs of research and the Canada research chairs that we became the leader among the G7 in terms of public research.

We have started the process. We need to continue it. I hope that the NDP has a similar vision.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and Innovation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Westmount—Ville-Marie for pointing out the woeful and unfortunate absence of vision on the part of the Conservative government when it comes to a technology-based future economy for Canada.

I want to ask a question about the brain drain. The brain drain affects not just Canada's future prospects, but today's economy as well.

We had a visitor from the MITACS centre of excellence regarding advanced science, Dr. Gupta, who estimates that $500 million of investment in post-secondary education and science students is lost each year through students going to the United States because the opportunities are greater there than here.

Would my colleague please comment on the impact of that kind of loss going into the United States as a result of the Conservatives' current budget and policies?

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and Innovation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say point-blank that I believe the scientists and researchers of our country are a precious natural resource and that they have the entire planet to deal with in deciding where they are going to do their research during their lives.

Canada has no vested right, even if we educated some of these brilliant scientists, to claim that they will stay in this country. As I mentioned, at a time when President Barack Obama has announced $65 billion in research, it is clear, based on the amount of correspondence that I have received from scientists across the country, that many of them are once again pondering whether they will go to other countries so that their research can be carried out.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and Innovation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to welcome the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie to the House. I have followed his career, a very honourable one, for more than 25 years, but I am deeply saddened by the degree of partisanship he brings to the House. It may work for other members, but it does not look good on him.

As for the position of a science advisor that used to exist within the Prime Minister's Office, would the hon. member not agree that the 18-member Science, Technology and Innovation Council, chaired by Howard Alper, is possibly a more effective means than an adviser who was ignored by the preceding Liberal Prime Minister?

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and Innovation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his comments.

Of course it is a good thing to have committees of well-known scientists to inform and advise the government. In fact, there were at least two during the time the Liberal party was in power.

But the government must also be advised by other groups. When I was president of the Canada Space Agency, I often spoke with Dr. Arthur Carty, who was the adviser at the time. Mr. Carty was a resource person would could summarize all of Canada's scientific ideas and, with this cross-Canada contribution, he could advise the Prime Minister.

This model has existed in Great Britain and the United States for many years, and this position is a well respected one. I believe that if we were to ask the President and the British Prime Minister, they would say that it is a very good thing to have, in addition to various committees, other sources to advise them on scientific issues.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and Innovation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Cambridge
Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Minister of State (Science and Technology)

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Oshawa.

I am proud to speak today as the new Minister of State for Science and Technology.

I am very proud to stand here today to talk about our government's commitment to Canadian science and technology excellence in all its aspects.

From the very beginning, this government has demonstrated its commitment to building Canada's strong science and technology sector. In fact long ago, in 2006, the Prime Minister actually announced Canada's new science and technology strategy, “Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage”, which was tabled in May 2007.

This is an ambitious strategy, linking the competitive energy of our entrepreneurs to the creative genius of our scientists. It is a multi-year, multi-faceted plan for building a sustainable competitive advantage for Canada through science and technology. We have backed this up with not just words but action, with increased funding in every single budget that we have tabled and put forward in the House.

It is important to note that the global economy, the environment of economics around the world, has changed drastically from when the science and technology strategy was introduced in 2007. That said, the force of our argument for mobilizing science and technology in building distinct Canadian advantages has not changed.

Even before the recession, the global competitiveness of Canadians depended on an entrepreneurial advantage. We knew this and we knew we must redouble our efforts to build a dynamic business environment that supports private sector innovation and promotes the success of Canadian companies at home and abroad. Our plan supports this.

We knew we must also continue our efforts to build a knowledge advantage, targeting resources to support research excellence and leading-edge scientific infrastructure. Technological advances occur rapidly these days, and in the face of a rapidly souring economy we had to adjust the current needs of the nation but stay on course with our plan.

Involved are entrepreneurism, knowledge and, of course, people. The third leg of the strategy is a highly skilled workforce. Canada must also stay the course in building a people advantage that provides Canadians with opportunities to acquire and use science and technology skills and allows Canada to grow its base of scientists and skilled workers while remaining sensitive to our current economic needs.

This government has taken strong action to address all these aspects. Our record on science and technology clearly indicates to anyone who wishes to read it that the government has a strong commitment to basic and applied research in all domains at all levels. Our recent budget shows how we can complete our plan, and do so in the context of the current economy.

Canada is an international leader in post-secondary education and research. We rank first in the G7 and second only to Sweden among the 30 countries that make up the OECD.

All along, our strategy has been supported by the government through substantial science and technology investments. As I have mentioned, in the previous three budgets of 2006, 2007, and 2008, there was almost $2.4 billion in total new funding for scientists, more than any Liberal budget in the past. There was solid new funding for the granting councils for their core programs and to the indirect costs of research programs. I want to emphasize that all these increases are cumulative. They represent ongoing permanent increases in core funding.

These previous three budgets have also included large research investments in arm's-length organizations. For example, the Canada Foundation for Innovation received $590 million in these budgets. There was $240 million, as has been mentioned earlier but ignored by the opposition, given to Genome Canada, and CANARIE received $120 million.

These are great commitments by the government. In building on the strategy, in October 2008 the Prime Minister's plan put me in place as Minister of State (Science and Technology), a position that was cut by the Liberal government.

As all Canadians know that near the end of 2008 the economic situation required creative and innovative thinking. How could we continue with our science and technology strategy, our plan for excellence in science and technology, and, at the same time, help stimulate the economy? Could it be done? With this government, it not only could be done, it has been done.

As I mentioned, the past three budgets, 2006, 2007 and 2008, provided $2.4 billion in new funding. Guess what? Budget 2009 pushes this investment to an all time high of $5.1 billion, an historic and unprecedented injection at a poignant time, a unique time, a critical time for the nation.

Of this $5.1 billion in S and T, $2 billion will go to universities and colleges for their infrastructure, preferably to be used in research initiatives; bricks and mortar. Do members know why? It is because that creates jobs that are immediately required and will help build Canada's S and T future.

Budget 2009 provides $750 million to the Canada Foundation for Innovation for new equipment. That is a brilliant strategy. For the National Research Council's industrial research assistance program, budget 2009 provides $200 million of new money. This is of particular value to the manufacturing sector in Canada.

Budget 2009 also provides $80 million over two years to FPInnovations, a not for profit research institute that focuses on the development of emerging and breakthrough technologies in forestry.

Budget 2009 also provides $50 million to the Institute of Quantum Computing in Waterloo.

Of course, it is the people. It is the scientists in the end who use this great equipment in these great facility, which is why this government established the Canada Excellence Research Chairs program in last year's budget aimed at enabling Canadian universities to recruit and retain the brightest and most promising researchers the world has to offer. This is complemented by the Vanier Canada graduate scholarships program, which will award 500 international and Canadian doctoral students with generous three year scholarships to study and do their work in Canada. We want the best to come here and we want them to stay. They will need the best equipment in the best facilities.

Two weeks ago, I was at McGill University where I announced a $120 million investment for 134 research chairs at 37 different universities across the country.

We have added more scholarships with $87.5 million for 2,500 new scholarships over and above the core programs and 600 graduate internships for our industry.

The investments undertaken to support the science and tech strategy underscore our government's determination to do our part to maintain and build a national competitive advantage.

The global storm will require immediate attention but it will not distract us from our goals. We will use this as an opportunity to drive harder. Our multi-year strategy will secure the nation as the place to invent, to innovate and to discover.

I look forward to working with my parliamentarian colleagues on this important issue.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and Innovation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has put a lot of platitudes on the table.

The assertion made by the mover of the motion is that there has been a decline in real funding. We can play with numbers. The Minister of State for Science and Technology had a recent meeting with representatives of 121 colleges and universities in the country. The representation made by the mover of the motion was that, adjusting for inflation, the investment in Canadian universities since the Conservative government took office has declined by $158 million. It is a very straightforward assertion and it is based on published data.

I wonder if the Minister of State for Science and Technology would like to respond to the drop in that funding, which was presented to him by the Association of University Teachers, 121 organizations, and why they should not get additional funding.