House of Commons Hansard #134 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was research.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science Expertise
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat a reaction that I had to the speech by the of the minister of state and I had the same reaction to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry.

I believe the parliamentary secretary has missed the point of this motion. The point is not that we should not be funding the knowledge infrastructure program, the point is whether the government will listen to advice from scientists and people who have made measurements, observed the country, done their homework and figured out and analyzed the situation.

Will the government take advice that it does not agree with or that embarrasses it? Will it have a scientific approach to good governance as opposed to simply funding technology or ensuring that we have good buildings and facilities in our country?

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science Expertise
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member suggests that maybe I missed the point of the opposition motion today. I would suggest that there really is no point to the opposition motion today.

In terms of the member's comment about taking the advice of the experts, the Minister of State for Science and Technology takes the advice of those experts every day. The minister meets with stakeholders across the country on a regular basis in round tables and meetings where he hears their views.

We only have to look as far as economic action plan 2012 to see how the government has taken that advice. We can see things like the reinvesting of $37 million annually, starting in 2012-13, to the granting councils to enhance their support for industry and academic research partnerships. I have more lists I could go through if I get another such question.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science Expertise
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is really obvious how narrow-minded the government opposite is when we hear responses like that, and especially when the minister insults members opposite by belittling what they are saying. For nearly a year, the government has been trying to muzzle any opposition.

We are talking about science and technology. These fields advance civilizations, from Galileo to Newton and from Darwin to Einstein. These people had to face similar opposition.

Now, the government is putting Canadian scientists on the chopping block. Once again, the government's narrow-mindedness is muzzling these voices.

I have to wonder how the government, which claims to be responsible and open-minded, can oppose a motion like the one that was moved today.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science Expertise
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about research and listening to Canadians. Before he voted against the budget in 2012, I wonder if he actually took the time to take a look at the budget document. If he had taken that time, he would have seen some interesting investments that were made in the interests of all Canadians, investments like $60 million for Genome Canada to launch a new applied research competition in the area of human health and to sustain the science and technology centres until 2014-15. It is on page 54 if he wants to read it. There are $6.5 million over three years for a research project at McMaster University to evaluate team-based approaches to health care delivery, $17 million over two years to further advance the development of alternatives to existing isotope production technology and $10 million over two years to the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research to link Canadians to global research networks.

I could continue to read through the budget document for the hon. member, but I would suggest that he take the time to read the document himself.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science Expertise
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the House on the important issue of government science supporting our decision making and, in fact, our government's record of upholding this important function.

It is important for fisheries and oceans because it has a broad and powerful mandate, requiring the minister to regularly make decisions affecting Canadians. Many Canadians whose lives and businesses are directly influenced by this mandate include commercial, recreational and aboriginal fishermen, those in the marine transportation business, developers in proximity of water, aquaculturists, tourism operators and many more. Not least are the many everyday Canadians who rightfully want our aquatic resources to be protected and available for both current and future generations.

Therefore, science at fisheries and oceans is a critical element in ensuring that sound decision making is achieved. Today, in the few minutes I have, I want to focus on this science program, outlining its multifaceted nature and some notable recent achievements and investments in new and continuing science activities since 2006.

The numerous fisheries and aquaculture operations in our country generate a total of $5.3 billion in GDP, and that is 2008 values, and in so doing, support upwards of 71,000 Canadians, including their families and communities. In order to advise the minister on the potential outcomes of the many resource-use decisions that are needed, the fisheries science program at DFO maintains a broad suite of aquatic resource monitoring activities, including research vessel surveys and regular population assessments.

This vital fisheries science program has seen several important investments in recent years, including $8.4 million per year in permanent funding for ecosystem-based science and a total of $68.5 million since 2007 to maintain key collaborative activities with the fishing industry.

Let me begin with aquaculture, where fisheries and oceans aquaculture science is essential and has two main programs. For more than 10 years, the aquaculture collaborative research and development program has partnered with industry to invest $2 million per year in scientific research to improve environmental performance and fish health in aquaculture operations.

The second key aquaculture science program is the program for aquaculture regulatory research. This $7 million program was founded in 2008. It supports the environmental management of the Canadian aquaculture sector.

Both are very important.

I will move on to aquatic invasive species, one of the leading threats to aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem health. DFO's national program on aquatic invasive species was initiated in 2005 and renewed in 2010, at $4 million per year, to assist Fisheries and Oceans Canada to respond to the invasive species challenge. The research completed has yielded much valuable scientific advice.

In addition, on May 28, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans announced a significant investment to protect the Great Lakes from the threat of Asian carp. This new funding, totalling $17.5 million over five years, is in addition to the $8.1 million per year that we invest in the sea lamprey control program which, in collaboration with our partners, keeps the invasive sea lamprey numbers down by more than 90%.

As shown, DFO is committed to the sustainability of the Canadian fisheries and aquaculture industries. However, it also aims to protect aquatic biodiversity upon which these fisheries depend. One key tool used by the department to achieve such protection is the Species at Risk Act of 2003. Species surveys conducted by DFO scientists are the main source of information to identify and protect aquatic species at risk. Budget 2012 made an investment of $75 million over three years to support SARA implementation, including scientific activities.

This government is also serious about supporting responsible energy development. To that end, budget 2012 provided $35.7 million over two years to introduce measures to support that key objective. Details are still being finalized, but the bulk of this funding will go to DFO to support the research activities needed to improve scientific knowledge and understanding of marine pollution risks and to manage the impacts in the event of a marine incident.

We are at the leading edge of science and several highly technical and emerging fields of science like genomics, which is the science that studies DNA in living organisms and how it affects their biological functions. The government has recently invested an additional $1 million in fishery science through the genomics research and development initiative. This DNA analysis is making it possible to better distinguish among fish species, enhance our understanding of their population structures and improve the regulation of fisheries.

For example, as members know, the Fraser River sockeye salmon species on the west coast has been under some stress recently. Although 2010 was a record year, it has been in decline.

The species is made up of a number of different populations. Some come down the west coast of British Columbia and take a left turn at the Fraser River, and some take a right turn at Cultus Lake, and of course we call those the Cultus Lake sockeye. They look like every other sockeye, but to know which are which, we need to do some DNA analysis to know when the exploitation rate has been reached so that we can protect the population. It is an important area of science.

Marine transportation is fundamental to the nation's economic prosperity as well. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, known as UNCLOS, article 76, Canada is invited to provide evidence for territorial delineation of our continental shelf. This could potentially add a significant economic opportunity for Canadians, if rights on the sea bottom and sub-bottom resources on the Atlantic coast and in the Arctic outside our 200-mile exclusive economic zone are accorded to Canada.

Since 2004, over $30 million has been provided to support the continental shelf work. This investment has not only yielded critical data for the Canadian submission to the UN but it has also enhanced our science capacity in hydrography, geology, ocean engineering and modelling of the sea bottom.

Other ocean sciences, such as oceanography, are a key element of the department's science agenda. Canada recognizes the need for ocean sciences; it is the foundation of our understanding of Canada's oceans.

To equip our scientists with the necessary tools to undertake this research, we have made an important strategic investment to construct a new ocean science vessel. This world-class vessel, to be finished in 2015, would ensure that departmental scientists have access to a state-of-the-art vessel and science equipment for their job.

Climate change is also very important. Canadians want to know that government operations and mandates are adapted so that effects of a changing climate will not unduly impact Canadians in the future. For this purpose, the department is benefiting from an investment of $16.5 million over five years for science funding to assist the department adapt to climate change. These funds enable the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to identify the key risks of climate change and take action in response.

Our scientists are also well engaged with other scientists on the domestic front as well as the international area. Many DFO scientists have close links with universities, doing research in partnership and supervising graduate students. In recent years, we expanded this collaboration by teaming with NSERC and several Canadian universities to fund specific research networks that focus on research themes relevant to oceans and fisheries research.

In 2008, the NSERC Canadian Healthy Oceans Network, based at Memorial University, was created to develop scientific guidelines for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity resources in partnership with policy makers. DFO contributes more than $1 million in ship time to this network. We have also contributed financially into a number of other similar networks that focus research on the impact of hydroelectric facilities, invasive species and fisheries research issues important to the fisheries industry.

To wrap up, we are proud of the excellent work done by our scientists and will continue to build on existing knowledge about our oceans, waterways and fisheries resources. Our government understands that science is essential to the long-term sustainability of Canada's fisheries. However, the government must continually review its operations to make sure that taxpayer dollars are focused and spent in a way to achieve the best results for Canadians and our marine environment and to address the needs of a changing world.

Over and above the approximately $150 million the department spends on science programming each year in core funding, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, our government has invested an additional $100 million to support key research for Canadians, the details of which I have summarized in my remarks here today. These are the types of projects on which we believe the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should continue to focus.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science Expertise
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, rattling off a list of projects that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans spends money on misses the point of the motion.

Let me address one of the points of the motion by asking the minister about muzzling scientists and not letting them talk to people.

If we go back to the announcement that Conservative Minister John Crosbie made in 1992 announcing the moratorium on the cod fishery and we try to understand how it is that we fished out all the cod without realizing it, we realize that fishery scientists thought there was a bunch of fish out there but the inshore fisherman, who actually went out and tried to catch fish, were saying that the number of fish was decreasing, as was their size.

The government scientists and the inshore fishermen were not talking. What they really should have done was sat down and said, “Boy, we disagree on the state of the cod population. We'd better sit down and resolve this”. If they had done that, we may not have fished out the Atlantic cod.

What I want to ask my hon. colleague is this. Does he not agree with me that, if the government scientists had been talking with the people in Canada and exchanging ideas and information, we would have been in a better state in this country?

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science Expertise
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raises an interesting point. In fact, he knows that there are a number of reasons why the Atlantic cod experienced a serious decline, including overfishing, but that was only one of them. There were some environmental issues as well.

In fact, I was in a study on the Atlantic coast trying to determine why the cod had not rebounded. That was in 2005. In effect, some people did tell us that they had told DFO that the stocks were declining and that we should stop fishing. I remember distinctly asking one of them, “Did you stop fishing?” He said, “Of course we didn't stop fishing.” Therefore, there was a fair bit of blame to go around.

On the other point the member raised, the scientists at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are talking to people regularly. They do more than 300 interviews a year with the media and certainly interact and relate, as I said in my comments, with other scientists, and they will continue to do that.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science Expertise
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's participating in this debate. I wanted to go back to him with a question on the Experimental Lakes Area project and the decision of this government to cut funding for that organization. I mentioned earlier that this is a unique research facility that has been in existence for almost 50 years and has been instrumental in identifying environmental problems caused by acid rain, phosphorus in detergent and mercury from coal-fired power plants. It is one of the only facilities in the world where scientists can look at the impact of contaminants on the whole ecosystem.

I ask the parliamentary secretary if he would explain why the cut to this organization is in any way in the interests of the fishery.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science Expertise
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, from a broader point of view, let me say that the nature of science is such that science programs, science research projects and so on need to keep evolving because we are faced with new challenges and new questions that need to be answered. They will not all be answered by government scientists by any means, but they keep changing. That means we will be adding programs and at times we will be discontinuing programs that may not be as important as they once were. I think that is the case with the Experimental Lakes. It has done some good work and we hope it continues under the management of either a non-governmental organization or perhaps a university.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science Expertise
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order. We have run out of time again for questions and comments.

I just have a reminder for hon. members. I do see on a number of occasions that members are getting up to put questions to the member who has just spoken. We appreciate the co-operation of hon. members, when they do get recognized for a question, to keep that to around a minute or so. That way we can maybe get three questions in each round of five minutes.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Windsor West.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science Expertise
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise in the House to speak about an issue that is very important to Canadians. I will read the motion, but a lot of my comments will be focused on some of the issues I have dealt with in the past, one being the long form census, which we no longer have in this country, and my concerns about the process of eliminating that census and what the consequences are for this country.

The motion by my colleague states:

That, in the opinion of the House, Canadian scientific and social science expertise is of great value and, therefore, the House calls on the Government to end its muzzling of scientists; to reverse the cuts to research programs at Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Library and Archives Canada, National Research Council Canada, Statistics Canada, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada; and to cancel the closures of the National Council of Welfare and the First Nations Statistical Institute.

It is really important to note that over $1 billion of cuts have taken place to a number of different departments, which are going to affect the competitiveness of Canada. When we look at the opportunity for research in the modern economy, it is the value-added economy that we need to be enhancing. This is why science and research are so important.

Canada has a tradition of falling from actually producing the end results of science and research. We do not often bring enough products to market. There has been a real conscious effort to work with universities and other entrepreneurs to try to bring some patents and other types of inventions into the manufacturing world, because we have seen hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in the manufacturing sector over the last number of years. My constituency has been particularly affected, as well as Ontario, Quebec and other places across Canada where the value-added economy has been lost. That is what is important about research and science. It is the backbone of the value-added society we really need to have for our exports.

One of the statistics that is important to recognize is that in 2005 the Government of Canada at the time had a $16 billion manufacturing export deficit. It is the value-added work done through manufacturing that is being lost because we were importing $16 billion more than we were exporting out to the world. That grew in 2010 to $80 billion. That is a significant shift. It is important to recognize that there is a significant place for a natural resource sector in our country, but it should not be only about lifting things out of the ground or chopping things down and then sending them away to be refined or processed elsewhere. We are more than just being able to take a piece of lumber or a tree and sending it off to China and then buying the table back later on. That is no way to organize our labour force, to sustain our cost of living or to encourage innovation. Often those decisions are made elsewhere in terms of the research and how it takes place.

One thing I will touch on briefly is the Investment Canada Act. As we have been seeing, the hollowing out of our manufacturing sector has occurred partly because there have been many takeovers of Canadian companies that have been uncontested by the government. In fact, recently it raised the threshold to $1 billion. We are losing decision-making capabilities. For example, there is a situation in Hamilton where U.S. Steel has a very capable plant, workforce and environment. Despite all the government's rhetoric of lowering taxes to create jobs, U.S. Steel is not using this facility to its fullest capacity. It is barely using this facility.

I neglected to inform you, Mr. Speaker, that I am splitting my time with the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

Getting back to the Investment Canada Act and the U.S. Steel facility, it has not been fired up again in terms of providing the proper resources in jobs and elements that could take place. In fact U.S. Steel has redirected some work back to the United States. Part of that is because of the Investment Canada Act that was changed, and it is being changed in the budget again.

An interesting sidebar is that by amending these acts and the types of things we are debating here today without using the parliamentary process often does not fix legislation. The Investment Canada Act, which is again being altered in this budget, has not gone to committee in the past, like it should have. We did study it indirectly but did not study the actual legislative changes. These are some of the unintended consequences that would actually be addressed, even if the government had the right intent or the right agenda, because we could even get government amendments to legislation that have not properly thought through or there is a twist in something that did not work out through the process and that needs to be addressed.

It is important to note that one thing that will change is the statistics with regard to the census. What took place was that the minister at the time talked about personal privacy and that was one of the reasons the government would amend the long form census into a short form census. That is an issue that I am particularly concerned about because back in the day, a number of years ago under another administration, the government decided to outsource the census. Lockheed Martin actually got the contract. People might know Lockheed Martin for its manufacturing of arms across the globe but it also does censuses. It did the British census and a number of others. It picked up the Canadian census.

I was very concerned about that outsourcing and fought a long campaign to keep the data here in Canada. Lockheed Martin was going to assemble the Canadian data in the United States. What does that mean? It means that when our data leaves our soil and goes to the United States it is then subject to its privacy act. The privacy act is very particular. If the Government of the United States wants to access information from any source, it will get that information. What is important to note is that the company cannot disclose that the information has been accessed because of national security reasons. Therefore, if Lockheed Martin, for example, were storing the Canadian data in the United States and it was accessed by the U.S. government, it could not even disclose to us that this had taken place. We fought a long campaign to protect Canadians' privacy and ensure that the assembly of information at least took place here in Canada.

When the minister came forward and started talking about the privacy issues over the census, it was very disturbing because we did not have that type of a push back from Canadians. What we have done now is moved to a short form census. What that does is it takes away all the previous materials and censuses done in the past, which leaves us with no comparables. What ends up happening is that the data information we have today from this short form census cannot be compared with the previous years. There are no measurables in there. People often do not know that we have a lot of surveys in Canada and a lot of those surveys are backstopped by the science behind the census. Therefore, by losing this data and then having further cuts, we are actually undermining a lot of the programs.

Back in the year 2000, I was part of the complete count in Windsor, Ontario, where we actually went door to door to get the information. It is important because the information about age, sex, ethnicity with regard to living standards and all kinds of different things are used for important economic decisions.

I know I only have about a minute left but it is important for people to realize that the long form census was an investment so that when decisions are made about how the public and how governments decide about transit, housing, the aging population and a number of different services, they have an educated backbone of science behind it. It is sad that we have lost this element because the privacy issue was never there. Ironically, the minister often talked about jailing people with regard to the census. We had a couple of Canadian citizens recently harassed about it but nothing took place. At the same time, the minister has yet to correct this legislation problem on which we agreed from all sides of the House to do so.

I will finish by thanking my colleague for bringing this very important issue forward. Science is the basis of our economy for the future. We need to be able to compete but we cannot do so with these cuts and we cannot do so if we break down the science and eliminate the data we use to make important decisions.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science Expertise
Business of Supply
Government Orders

June 5th, 2012 / 12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member spoke on different topics but several times he talked about the long form census as if it has disappeared.

Is the hon. member aware that there is still a long form census going out and that it is now voluntary? There are no jail sentences associated with not completing the long form census. Does he know what the response rate is on the long form census? There were more census forms sent out and we are still receiving that data.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science Expertise
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Actually, Mr. Speaker, that census is costing Canadians more money, around $30 million more, to do a voluntary census.

All the statisticians, a number of businesses, organizations and groups, including the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada wrote supporting our census back in 2010 as an example.

All has basically been a waste. The voluntary census does not get into the specific details that the mandatory long form census had, ensuring that the demographics are represented by the return rate. We could have certain return rates that are higher or lower in different regions and that contaminates and skews the data.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science Expertise
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to pinpoint that science is actually knowledge. Science means knowledge and science is the basis for everything we do.

I heard the minister make a speech this morning and talk about the fact that we are a very small population compared to other countries in the world. The point is that because we are so small we cannot be competitive unless we are the best and the brightest, unless we carve out for ourselves, using basic science, niche markets that will allow us to be competitive and thrive in a global economy.

When we talk about cutting scientists and research, as the government, no matter what it says, has done, we are destroying our ability to be competitive in the world market. We have destroyed our ability, for instance, to look at something that Canada was well-known for around the world, which is biomedical research, the information that allowed us to make vaccines--

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science Expertise
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I do not wish to interrupt the hon. member but the time is limited and we are trying to keep those questions and responses to about one minute.

The hon. member for Windsor West.