House of Commons Hansard #119 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environmental.

Topics

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about Bill C-38, a budget bill that typically would be less than 40 pages at best. This bill has in excess of 400 pages and it impacts some 70 pieces of legislation. Over 120 pages deal with the environment.

That is why we argue that the government is using the back door of the budget, not only to limit debate on the budget but to sneak through legislation that should be set aside to go through the system separately. Would the member agree with the Liberal Party and acknowledge that the bill should be a number of different bills?

If the Prime Minister has any belief in democracy, he should break up the bill before it even comes to a vote.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, a motion to the effect of splitting up the bill in order that it receive proper scrutiny has already been made by the House leader of the official opposition, and we certainly support that.

In terms of the specifics of the bill being scrutinized, in the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans we heard the other day from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. It works closely with DFO, commercial groups and environmental groups on the whole ecosystem and fish habitat in the Great Lakes. Those officials do not know what the impact of these changes will be. They want to be part of the discussion before the changes go through to ensure they will be able to make them work to protect fish habitat and to protect the ecosystem of the Great Lakes for all Ontarians.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to budget 2012 on behalf of the residents in my riding of Palliser in southern Saskatchewan.

Our government has developed a positive, responsible plan to help keep Canada's economy growing, fuel job creation and secure the long-term prosperity for Canadians. It is a solid plan that will help businesses and individuals within my riding, within Saskatchewan and, indeed, within the boundary called Canada.

In the international financial community, there is admiration for Canada's stable position. These accolades include the World Economic Forum stating that our banks are the soundest the world, and Forbes magazine ranking Canada as the best place in the world to do business, to grow business and to create jobs.

In fact, since July 2009, our economy has created more than 700,000 net new jobs.

I will talk about four parts of budget 2012 that would support businesses, families and communities in my riding: First, creating a more efficient immigration system; second, managing our resources better; third, expanding our trade opportunities; and fourth, creating a sustainable old age security program for future generations.

There are Canadians who are out of work or underemployed. At the same time, there is a labour shortage in Saskatchewan, as well as other parts of the country, for some jobs. This budget contains measures to create new, high quality jobs for Canadians while providing measures to fill vacancies through improving the temporary foreign worker program if, and that is a big if, there are no Canadians to fill these positions.

Since 2006, the government has pursued much needed reforms to focus Canada's immigration system on increasing economic prosperity for Canadians. We need to move to an increasingly fast and flexible immigration system that responds to the needs of the labour market in order to sustain Canada's economic growth.

During the pre-budget consultations, a business owner within my riding mentioned that the processing time for skilled workers needed to be reduced. He also mentioned that there was too much red tape during this process. I heard that from a number of constituents. I am proud to say that the government listened and committed to lessen the processing time for temporary foreign workers who made applications, while reducing the paper burden on all employers.

We propose further improvements to recognize foreign professionals, such as physicians, nurses and engineers, among other much needed roles within the Canadian economy.

Looking at the second pillar, I will talk about how budget 2012 will help to manage our resources.

My home province of Saskatchewan is blessed with many resources that drive the economy and there is demand for these resources worldwide. If we are to compete with other resource rich countries, which would create some of those high quality jobs that I mentioned, we need to put in place an effective, efficient regulatory system to review major projects.

We propose to streamline the review process to encourage responsible resource development. The proposed review process will include fixed timelines and a one project, one review process, while introducing stronger penalties for those who violate our environmental laws.

Turning to number three, I will talk about how our plan will help expand trade. I am supportive of the focus on international trade, as it create jobs for residents in my riding and in Canada. Since 2006, we have finalized nine free trade agreements with other nations and we continue to deepen trade agreements with other nations, including those with fast growing economies. In fact, a Canada-European Union free trade agreement would bring a 20% boost in bilateral trade, which would create approximately 80,000 new jobs.

Agriculture contributes enormously to our country's economy, with nearly $35.5 billion in exports, which makes Canada the world's fifth largest exporter of agriculture and food products.

Our plan includes measures to help our farmers and ranchers succeed, which is good news for my riding where agriculture is the number one industry. They are succeeding partially thanks to efforts in opening markets for our Canadian beef, pork, canola, pulse crops, wheat and more.

We will continue to work on behalf of farmers and ranchers to ensure that people in other countries have access to our high quality Canadian food.

Our efforts and successes have been well recognized by the agricultural sector. Additionally, exporters within my riding would benefit through extending the provision of domestic financing by Export Development Canada.

I would like to take a minute to talk about the old age security program.

Budget 2012 proposes changes to the OAS program to ensure that it will be sustainable for future generations. Our plan outlines that changes will not be introduced until 2023, which means that seniors or those who are nearing retirement will not be affected. Our government is providing many years of lead time to allow individuals to make adjustments to their savings plan as necessary to meet their own goals and aspirations.

I will provide a comment from a constituent who stated, when we were talking about pensions, “The pension reforms are acceptable, seeing that the age change will only take place after 2023 or 2029, allowing the next generation to prepare, and thus manage their economies of scale accordingly”.

Our seniors are realists.

We are also eliminating the application process for OAS and GIS, which has been warmly received by many constituents who contacted my office.

I support changes for the sustainability of the OAS program on behalf of residents in my riding who may need the OAS in future years.

I would ask all hon. colleagues to support Bill C-38, a positive, reasonable plan that encourages job creation and growth within sound fiscal principles and without reducing transfer to persons. It is the right plan for Palliser, for Saskatchewan and for Canada.

Thanks to our elected majority government, I am excited for the opportunities facing Saskatchewan and Canada as our government works to allow businessed to flourish and families and communities to grow and strengthen.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Ève Péclet La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I heard the hon. member talking about trade. I have two very simple questions for him.

Make no mistake: the United States is currently our largest trade partner. I know that the government wants to distance itself and all that, but what is the meaning of this? The government has announced $143 million in cuts to border services. This will have an impact on the safety of Canadians and on wait times at the Canadian border, and it will have a direct impact on our small and medium-sized businesses. How are these cuts supposed to improve trade with our largest trading partner?

The government has also announced millions of dollars of cuts to consular services in the United States, South America and Europe. The hon. member spoke of a free trade agreement with the European Union and other free trade agreements. These cuts show that Canada is not at all interested, because the cuts to consular services will hinder our economic relations with other countries. I would like the hon. member to tell us how these cuts are going to allow Canada to improve—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order. I have to interrupt the hon. member because time is limited.

The hon. member for Palliser.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the mini address. It was very well put but I am afraid I am not quite sure how to respond to it because changes at the border are in a state of flux. That is the best we can say. Nothing has been formulated to really exclude or include different aspects of trade with the U.S.A. The latest information I have is that it continues to be our largest trading partner, so I guess things are not going too bad between America and Canada.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, there are many aspects of the budget I could talk about, and many other aspects I could talk about with regard to the 70-plus pieces of legislation that the government would be changing through the back door with this budget.

There is one issue that kind of eats at a lot of Canadians, and that is an issue of credibility. The Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence have talked a great deal about the need to replace the F-18, something the Liberal Party agrees with. There is a need to replace the F-18. Where we disagree is with the manner in which it has been done.

There has been a great deal of deception from the government to Canadians. At some point, it said $9 billion was going to be the cost, and we are finding out that the cost is going to be more than double that.

My question to the member is this. How can Canadians believe the numbers the government is purporting to talk about on issues like the deficit, when it has really made a whole mess, and there is evidence to show it misled Canadians on the pricing of the F-35 contract? Why should Canadians believe the budget document is a legitimate document in the first place?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly glad I had the opportunity to speak first, because mini questions one and two have pretty well eaten up most of the time.

To answer my hon. colleague as best I can, I would say that the F-35 has been adjudicated by people who fly aircraft. We are talking about fighter pilots and those who train fighter pilots. I am referring to 15 Wing Moose Jaw, the base that trains all the pilots who are trained in Canada.

In discussion with pilots at the base, fighter pilot students and trainers, as well as others from the Winnipeg operation, I am given to understand that there is no plane that equals the F-35 in any which way, regardless of the fact that it is a single-engine plane.

I am not a pilot. I have to accept the word of experts. I do not profess to be an expert, but I know experts. That is their take on it, that we as a country should be looking very carefully at that aircraft because as far as they are concerned it is still the best one.

As far as whether the plane has been tested, it is still in the developmental phases. It has not been tested. Therefore, I am at a loss as to why we would think we could put a price tag on it when it is still in the developmental process. That plane actually being on the production line is a few months or maybe a few years away.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, the short title of the bill includes long-term prosperity, and so we must discuss in my speech funding for basic research, because that is very important for our future prosperity. There has been a trend toward less and less funding for basic research under the government.

Allow me to take a little bit of time to talk about basic research, what it is and why it is important, because I do not know if it has ever been explained in detail in this House by somebody who has spent many years working on it.

What is basic research? It starts with curiosity. Scientists are human beings. They are passionate people. Why is it that scientists spend so much time and work so hard, like crazy, to try to figure out things and discover things? It is because they have passion. We cannot have scientists who are simply told, “Check one, two and three and see which one works the best”. Scientists work best when they do practical work in the world but they are allowed to step back and ask why things are the way they are and they are given the resources and are encouraged to try to answer that question.

Second, basic research is about finding a complete understanding, making logical sense of the world around us. There is a famous paper entitled “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural World” by physicist Eugene Wigner. In mathematics, in any logical system, any falsehood causes the entire logical edifice to fall apart. If we translate that into the natural world, any little inconsistency or oddity is worth sorting out, because it can lead to dramatic new understanding.

There are some really good examples of that. In the discovery of insulin, people noticed that when the pancreas of a dog was taken out, flies would be attracted to the sugar in the urine of dogs. In the discovery of stem cells, people noticed that there were little clumps of cells of different types on the spleens of irradiated mice. The study of the difference between theoretical models and actual measurements of the neutrino flux from the sun led to a complete changing of our understanding, our model for the physical universe and of the cosmos.

I mention these three examples because they are related to basic research that was done in Canada.

If we look very closely at nature, we find that there is always a lot more going on than we think. Science will surprise us, but after we have worked in research, we get used to that. It is why it is always possible to keep discovering new and important things.

That leads to the last thing about basic research, which is that it gives us hope for fundamental changes that will lead to a better life. It is not just technology or medicine; it is about learning better ways to take care of one another, better ways to communicate and co-operate, cleaner and more enduring ways to be prosperous and also for society to realize the real tangible value of intellectually honest pursuits of the truth. There is that value of basic research that I think is important.

The knowledge that comes out of basic research is like a piece of LEGO, a hard piece of plastic, hard, reliable, but it also has a history of dramatically changing the world. Knowledge is not really in books, journals and PowerPoint slides. It is in the minds of people. Basic research is where we train a lot of our graduate students who have the skills and acquire the knowledge, the experience in the ways of looking at the world and the discipline and rigour of working in scientific research, which they can then carry on and use elsewhere in their careers to benefit all of society.

Basic research produces models. It allows us to explain patterns we observe, and we need models. For example, if we want to sequester carbon dioxide underground, a rather important subject, we have to ask ourselves: Do we understand basic geology enough to be able to model the behaviour of that carbon dioxide underground for thousands of years?

The last thing I would say is that basic research produces unexpected discoveries. The results of basic research are uncertain. By definition they are uncertain, and basic, unexpected discoveries can be game changers. An example of that is basic research that was done in my riding on the ability of dissolved carbon dioxide to dissolve things, which may lead to the elimination of the need for tailings ponds in oil sands projects. Basic research can lead to a lot of unexpected things.

Why is government funding for basic research important? There are three reasons I would like to talk about today. One is that basic research leads to a public good. The market does not put a proper value on research that benefits more than just the people who do the research. There is a public good and that is why the government should get involved.

Second, the market fails when the funder of research has a commercial interest in the outcome. So in that case, sometimes private research creates ethical conflicts, and that is another time when government should step in.

Third, because basic research is intrinsically uncertain, it is intrinsically risky and small companies may not be able to take that risk, and that is another reason why a larger partner like the government should step in.

How do we know that funding for basic research in Canada has declined? We could look at the statistics, showing a decrease in funding for NSERC from $420 million in 2006 to $360 million in this year for basic research. Funding at SSHRC has declined after inflation. If we look at the success of grant applications to CIHR for basic research, it has hit 17% recently and has been going down for about a decade. Many research proposals, rated excellent by their peers, are being rejected and this is not limited to CIHR. We hear statements like, “I am appalled by the lack of the support for fundamental research in this country”. This is coming from top researchers in the country.

There is more money being spent on research, but that is money where an industrial-academic partnership is required and it is not basic research. It is a good thing to fund that, but not at the expense of basic research.

Let me give an example of one cut occurring in basic research that is pretty harmful. It is the cut to NSERC's research, technology and instrumentation grants program. This is funding that allows researchers to buy medium-sized equipment. As an analogy, instead of cutting from ten carpenters to nine carpenters, it is like keeping the ten carpenters but not letting them buy any tools. That is the problem with the RTI program. That is why researchers are furious about this grants program being cut. One researcher says:

Without the possibility to maintain and expand these fairly inexpensive research tools, my research will grind to a halt, in turn losing my ability to support the training of highly qualified personnel....

Another researcher says:

The changes to NSERC under the...government have been incredibly destructive, and the RTI cut will be an unmitigated disaster.... If this plan goes forward, then when these essential tools inevitably reach the end of their life, so will my research.

So what could we do besides spend more money? People have been saying we do spend a good amount of money on basic research, but we do not seem to be reaping the economic benefits. What needs to be done already exists out there, and one example of that is something called the GreenCentre in my riding. That is a centre in which there are dedicated scientists who are familiar with the basic research that is done at universities, the discovery centres out there. They look at the discoveries and they are trained to detect or decide on discoveries that may have a commercial application. They talk to their industrial partners and get some advice on which discoveries could be commercialized, and they work to commercialize those discoveries.

So it is not just people in industry saying they have a problem and they want to get the government to pay for a university researcher to figure it out for them. It is unlocking the value that is already there in the research that is at our universities.

In conclusion, we know that businesses do not spend enough on research and development in Canada, and money spent on research does not appear to be affecting rates of innovation and commercialization of research as much as it should. That is because we need a better strategy. We need to not ignore the value of basic research or to cut basic research, but we need to invest our efforts in pushing out the value of the discoveries we already have made in basic research, our world-leading capacity in basic research, and we need to push that out into the marketplace instead of letting everything be driven by industry asking researchers to change what they are doing and simply solve problems of industry.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, my friend, the member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, has a very impressive science background. Therefore, I can understand why he addressed his speech to that point. I will address my question to the same point.

When I saw $67 million in the budget for the National Research Council, I was pleased. However, when I saw it was specifically required under the terms of the budget to be “business-led and industry-relevant”, I asked myself what Albert Einstein would have done with that. The greatest inventions of the modern era have been made by brilliant minds operating unfettered. In other words, it was basic research with an element of serendipity, not trying to get people to make a better widget and confine the human brain to the most base commercial elements.

Would my hon. colleague agree that is where the best inventions have been found?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do agree. There is a good example of that in Canada, which is canola. The research on canola was not done with a one-year research grant. It was planned and it was something that took many years and quite a bit of an investment. Look at what we have now. It is a major part of Canada's agricultural sector. It was developed not with a focus on immediate results, but a long-term vision and careful research to develop a product that could have commercial value.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
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1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the speech on innovation and research by my colleague from Kingston and the Islands. The question I have is not directly related to what he said.

The Government of Canada spent about $8 billion or $9 billion on research and innovation over the last number of years. The Jenkins report talked about moving from the tax credit system to maybe more direct investment. Has the member read the report and what does he think of the Jenkins recommendations?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

May 8th, 2012 / 1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned billions of dollars being spent on research and development. Yes, money is being spent on research and development, but it is really being targeted at industry academic partnerships at the expense of basic research. That was the point I wanted to make in my speech.

I want to answer the member's question about the recommendations of the Jenkins report and replacing tax credits and the scientific research and experimental development tax credit by more direct grants. Reforms needed to take place in the SR&ED program. I disagree with some of the recommendations in the Jenkins panel report, for example, the recommendation to exclude the eligibility of capital expenditures from the tax credit. Some of the direct grant programs are quite good. The reputation of IRAP is very good. The industrial technology advisers have really good knowledge of the region that they are supposed to cover and, as far as government granting goes, are pretty good allocators of capital.

That is a good idea to discuss. We can talk about the details. There are some good things and there are some things that could be improved. It would be a good thing if the government would allow members of Parliament to make these suggestions, take them seriously and—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I am sorry to interrupt, but time is limited.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Guelph.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, everywhere we travel, we hear a common message, and that is our country now relies too much on the exploitation of our natural resources. We are again becoming hewers of wood and drawers of water. On the other hand, I hear from many other people who suggest that we have to rely more on our innovation and that in the future we will be thinking our way to prosperity.

Particularly for non-resource rich provinces, what does my hon. friend have to say about the future prosperity and its reliance on invention and innovation?