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 scientists.

Topics

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

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. He spoke specifically about the muzzling of scientists that is going on. I would like to remind the House that, since this Parliament began, this government has shut down debate many times, and its gag orders have extended beyond these walls.

I am extremely concerned because men and women, and more specifically our democracy, are being silenced.

My colleague met with agencies and scientists who told him about the direct impact of this muzzling on competitiveness. What are the direct consequences of muzzling these experts for Canada's competitiveness?

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

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, there is a direct and indirect effect of this muzzling, first of all, where we have kind of government flak sitting beside scientists at conferences telling them what they can and cannot say, we have a direct muzzling. Of course, we have an indirect muzzling where the colleagues who I have spoken to and members of the scientific community are now fearful of what they can and cannot say because they are worried about cuts to their own funding and the impacts that will have on Canadians in the future.

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

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Madam Speaker, the decisions of legislators must be based on thorough and objective data.

Parliament Hill is a special place. Since I became an MP, and as the science and technology critic for the first year of my mandate, then as the industry critic, I have had the opportunity to meet with stakeholders in academia, government, industry and science. I have also attended conferences and participated in symposia and panels. In the past year, I have learned a great deal, and that has been very rewarding. As parliamentarians, we have access to a multitude of voices and points of view, as well as invaluable knowledge. It would be of no help to Canadians to close our eyes and ears.

It is my responsibility and my duty, as a parliamentarian, to take into account the point of view of researchers and scientists in order to make informed decisions. Canada and the Canadian government are full of these people who are passionate about research. For years, with patience, perseverance and know-how, they have helped us better understand the demographic evolution and the state of our environment and economy; they help us grasp what is going on. And then it is up to us, as parliamentarians, to propose evidence-based legislation and policy, with full knowledge of the facts.

I do not understand why a government would want to silence these voices. I do not understand why this government continues to censor scientists and undermine the work of Statistics Canada. Ottawa has to stop muzzling scientists, start basing its decisions on scientific evidence and get to work on repairing Canada's reputation as an open and enlightened society.

In Davos, the Prime Minister promised that innovation would be the cornerstone of Canada's future. How can he talk about innovation when he is not open to debating ideas? Ideas are the genesis of innovation.

Since coming to power, this government has been on a veritable crusade against any policy based on scientific evidence. The government tends to cast aspersions on any research or any agency that contradicts its ideological agenda.

We have here a government that has made censoring researchers central to its science policy. Everyone is now aware of the controversy surrounding internationally renowned scientists and researchers, such as David Tarasick, whom this government muzzled because he knew that its inaction on climate change would be disastrous to our environment. Mr. Tarasick had published the results of his research in the British journal Nature. The government also banned researcher Kristi Miller from talking to the media about her research on the diseases threatening Pacific salmon.

The prize definitely goes to the censorship of Scott Dallimore, a scientist at Natural Resources Canada. The research that Dr. Dallimore had published in Nature was on the impact of climate change on our country's north. These findings would have been quite disconcerting to the government, which was probably already planning to withdraw Canada from the Kyoto protocol. However, there was no need to be concerned, because Dr. Dallimore was talking about the climate change that occurred 13,000 years ago.

Censorship is at the heart of the science policy of the government. Last February I attended the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science with more than 6,000 scientists and specialists from 50 different countries. One of the conferences was titled “Unmuzzle Government Scientists” to denounce the muzzling of government researchers. I had the honour of representing the NDP at the conference. I met scientists, experts, engineers, mathematicians, physicists and science journalists.

Our scientific community is worried and it is fully aware of the climate change caused by human activities. It proposed innovative solutions to address the biggest challenge faced by humanity at this time.

Once the ribbon cutting to officially open the conference was done, none of the members of Parliament were present, not even the Minister of State for Science and Technology.

Nature magazine took note of the crusade the Conservatives have undertaken to undermine science-based information decision making. In an editorial, Nature magazine denounced the censorship by the government on the scientific community saying, “Canada's generally positive foreign reputation as a progressive, scientific nation masks some startlingly poor behaviour.”

The way forward is clear. It is time for the Canadian government to set its scientists free.

For this government, a policy in favour of innovation also means eliminating Statistics Canada's long form census and $8.3 billion in cuts. These cuts will total $33.9 billion by 2014-15.

The Conservative government's decisions have proven lethal to Statistics Canada and its activities. In other words, in the middle of a demographic crisis, without the long form, a census of the Canadian population will not paint an accurate picture of that population. How can we propose sound legislation if we do not know what Canadians need? How can we keep an eye on demographic trends and trends in health, the economy and services to the public?

These decisions—like many other government decisions—to slash government sources of information and research and to undermine the knowledge-based decision-making process have been universally criticized.

At the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, during a study on e-commerce in Canada, witnesses condemned the fact that Canada did not have any recent data to compare Canadians' online shopping habits with other countries or any studies on how small and medium-sized businesses use e-commerce. This is because the Survey of Electronic Commerce and Technology has been eliminated by the government's budget cuts.

Critical up-to-date information was missing, preventing the committee from doing a thorough and enlightened job. Our researchers and scientists know full well that, if we, as a country, do not use their knowledge and research, the whole nation will pay the price. These Government of Canada professionals are serving the public because they are committed to their mission of serving the country. They are an invaluable source of information for parliamentarians and all Canadians. They help us to better understand our world, and they can enlighten us on how to find solutions that will help us meet the challenges of today and of tomorrow.

In response to those challenges, the NDP is proposing practical solutions to encourage dialogue with our scientists and to ensure that we have the tools we need to make well-informed decisions in the true interest of Canadians.

I therefore call on the Prime Minister to adopt guidelines on scientific communications similar to those adopted in the United States. I also ask the government to reinstate Statistics Canada's long form census. A number of organizations, including the Canadian Science Writers' Association and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, have asked the government to adopt guidelines.

I call on the government to reinstate the long form census in Canada.

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

10:35 a.m.

Cambridge
Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Madam Speaker, it seems to me that perhaps one thing that the opposition is not clear on is that the decisions to fund science all across this country are made by independent councils, scientists and peer review panels. Scientists make the decision as to who gets funding and who does not.

In the case of MRS for example, that was a decision that was made by the council. The government, politicians, we stay separate from telling scientists what they can and cannot do.

Is the opposition suggesting we change that policy and disallow the scientific peer review process and let government officials make these decisions? I do not agree with that. Is that what the member is suggesting?

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

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Madam Speaker, in my proposals, I suggest that the voices of scientists be heard within the government and that we open the door to make sure that there is real dialogue between parliamentarians and scientists. That is the main objective of the motion.

I also hope that the government will bear in mind that the cuts within various departments, particularly to research and monitoring, will have a significant impact in the long term.

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

10:40 a.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, as a scientist myself, I am very concerned about cuts to things like the Experimental Lakes Area, marine research, atmospheric research, especially climate research, and the anti-science attitude of the government.

The Conference Board of Canada has rated Canada 14 out of the 17 countries it examined. It gave Canada a D in innovation. That is our Conference Board of Canada. A key element in innovation is basic science research.

Does the hon. member share my concerns about the anti-science attitude of the government and that bad grade from The Conference Board of Canada? Would she like to add to my concerns?

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

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Madam Speaker, to properly understand innovation and the entire innovation chain, we must understand that the major innovations and achievements we benefit from today, in the comfort of our own homes, have come out of fundamental research. This involves making a commitment to the research process without exactly knowing what the results and applications will be. With a long-term vision, there will be long-term benefits for society.

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

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Jean-François Larose Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, to illustrate this situation, I will say that this reminds me of a time in the 1940s when a famous government decided to burn books to try to control information. I believe it is a matter of trust. It is more a comment than a question that I have.

Scientists are always portrayed as mechanical and robotic individuals who are driven by data. I believe that these are people I can trust.

These are my cousins, brothers, sisters and parents who get up every day to ensure that their children have a better future. The put on their rubber boots to collect data in regions that are sometimes very dangerous, where no one else would dare go.

These are Canadian citizens who vote and want the best for our future. These are the people being muzzled. The government is destroying trust in our society, for reasons that are completely beyond me.

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

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned, scientists inform us about the state of our planet and our environment. These are the people who collect and interpret data to give us a privileged view of both nature and the nature of our society.

This information and these voices are very important in helping us better understand what is going on in our society, in terms of the challenges we will face and how we can do so with sensible policies, based on objective scientific data.

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

10:40 a.m.

Cambridge
Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Madam Speaker, I rise today in the House with great pride as Minister of State for Science and Technology and as the member of Parliament for Cambridge and North Dumfries. I am here to speak on our government's strong support for science, technology and research.

Our government understands clearly that Canada's long-term economic competitiveness depends on supporting science, technology and innovation that will drive the growth of jobs, the growth of our economy and long-term prosperity for our citizens. It has been a fundamental priority of our government since we took office in 2006, including with the introduction of the science and technology strategy in 2007.

Over the past five years, our government has been implementing that strategy significantly and with commitment. It has provided nearly $8 billion in additional, new investments in Canadian talent, world-class research excellence, and the linkages between knowledge and the capacity to innovate in a global economy. Federal science and technology expenditures reached $11.3 billion in 2011-12, more than double the year before we took office. That is a significant increase by any imagination.

These investments have helped drive Canadian leadership in research, science and technology, and enhanced the ability to turn ideas into social and economic benefits for Canadians. Indeed, according to the Science, Technology and Innovation Council's “State of the Nation” report published in June 2011, Canada ranks first among all the G7 countries for higher education and research, and Canada's scientists perform at a world-class level.

OECD data notes that Canada produces 2.7% of the world's scientific output and 6.8% of the world's top cited research papers. Getting that scientific data out there at this level means that we are punching well above our weight, especially given that Canada accounts for only half a percent of the world's population. I would also note that Canada ranks first among the OECD countries for its share of working-age population with college and university degrees.

We have systematically enhanced federal support for advanced research. We are promoting partnerships between industry and academia through our three federal granting councils, namely the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

We are supporting research in human health and genomics technology through Genome Canada as well as studies to improve patient outcomes and cost-effectiveness of health care. We are promoting the development of alternative technologies for producing medical isotopes and linking Canadian researchers to the world through the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

Moreover, we are providing significant support for leading-edge research infrastructure. Two budgets ago, the investment made in the Canada Foundation for Innovation was three-quarters of a billion dollars and in this budget it is half a billion dollars. We are investing in Canada's ultra high-speed research network CANARIE, satellite data reception facilities, Canada's continued participation in the international space station mission and the Canadian High Arctic Research Station. As well, we are supporting key activities in fisheries, agriculture and environmental sciences.

Beyond this, our government is also investing in institutions that are pushing the frontier of pure, basic knowledge and research. I am talking about the Institute for Quantum Computing and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, which leveraged significant private sector money for their work that is going to benefit not only Canada but all the nations around the world.

Canada's history of discovery, I am very pleased to say, tells us that we play an important role on the world stage through research and development. From the pacemaker to Canadarm to the first mass market smart phone, Canadian entrepreneurs, researchers and businesses have made their mark time and again and proven they can be world-class innovators.

Our government is committed to helping these types of breakthroughs happen. We know Canadians want results for their investments. This means bringing innovative products and processes to the marketplace, which of course will in turn create high-quality, high-paying jobs, economic growth, long-term prosperity and, indeed, a better quality of life for Canadians.

However, we also know that competition remains fierce. The pace of technological change is lightning quick, and it is happening in both developed and emerging economies. This means that to ensure Canada's long-term economic competitiveness, we must create and nurture globally competitive businesses that do research, develop that research, innovate and create those high-quality jobs.

Beyond our borders, no one would be surprised if I said the global economic growth remains quite tentative and fragile. Any potential setbacks would have a negative impact on Canada. Canadian businesses face ever-increasing competition, not just from the emerging countries and the speed of technological advancement but also because of realities associated with our aging population and demographic shifts.

Now as a world leader in post-secondary research with a highly skilled workforce, Canada has some very strong fundamentals for innovation. Where we can do better is in our support of business expenditures on research and development. Canada continues to lag behind other peer nations in this sense. We are number one in a number of ways, but where we are not number one is in this particular area.

That is exactly why, with so many generous incentive programs for business research, we asked an expert panel led by Mr. Tom Jenkins to review all the federal investments in this area and provide advice on how we could optimize this expenditure of tax dollars.

Now through the response of this expert panel this particular budget, economic action plan 2012, takes a huge step forward at creating a comprehensive and forward-looking agenda that will deliver high-quality jobs, economic growth and sound public finances.

It builds on our positive record of achievement to help further unleash the potential of Canadian scientists, Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs to innovate and thrive in a modern economy to the benefit of all Canadians.

By focusing on the drivers of growth and job creation, which clearly are innovation, investments, education, skills and training and healthy communities, we will solidify, strengthen and draw upon the entrepreneurial sector's role as the driving force behind Canada's economy.

Economic action plan proposes a new approach to federal support for innovation, including $67 million new dollars to the National Research Council to refocus this council and all its efforts and its expertise towards business-driven industry-relevant applied research. This refocused NRC will help more Canadian businesses commercialize and develop innovative products and services.

We intend to build on a proven approach that we have seen used by global innovation players, carefully adapted and modified to the Canadian reality. The government's new approach also increases direct support for innovation and research by doubling the research and development assistance from the NRC's industrial research and assistance program.

Furthermore, our new approach in this budget supports innovation through procurement by connecting Canadian companies with federal departments and agencies to build their capacity to again compete in the global marketplace. We go on. This approach also seeks to help our high-growth firms to access risk capital by committing $400 million to leverage private sector investments in early venture capital stages.

It would support, indeed, private and public research collaboration through more internships for graduate students and funding of business-led research and development networks.

It would streamline the SR&ED tax incentive program and, as always, reinvest any savings in other support programs that would reinforce innovation in Canada.

These important measures would be aimed at building our innovation economy and driving improved competitiveness and prosperity for the betterment of all Canadians as we move into the future.

I will turn to a different topic. That is this government's ongoing support and commitment to basic science. The notion that the government is abandoning basic research is yet another fearmongering tactic by the opposition, which is irresponsible. The notion is completely false. I want to repeat that. Even someone with minimal mathematics would see that our increases show our commitment.

Through budget 2012, our government would build, yet again, on earlier investments by proposing significant new resources to the Canada Foundation for Innovation, half a billion dollars to support advanced research and leading-edge scientific infrastructure in universities, colleges, research hospitals and other not-for-profit research institutions all across Canada. This funding would play a crucial role in attracting and retaining the world's top minds, training the next generation of researchers and, of course, driving cutting-edge research.

As well, it is important to hear that Canada's economic plan, our budget that is before the House right now, would also commit a new $37 million annually to the three granting councils to enhance their support for research partnerships between industry and academia. Support for core granting council programs in support of discovery research and support for students would all be maintained. To suggest there would be a decrease is, again, false. In fact, I can tell this House that this would mean, on average, more than a 20% increase for the granting councils since we have taken office.

In terms of other investments made in budget 2012, we would also provide new funding for research in human health and genomics technologies through an enormous amount of support to Genome Canada.

We have invested heavily in research infrastructure at Canada's post-secondary institutions. This came out in budget 2009, which was also voted against by the NDP. In that budget, we provided $2 billion for research and advanced learning infrastructure at universities and colleges. Laboratories and all kinds of new state-of-the-art equipment would come from the three-quarters of a billion dollars I mentioned earlier, through CFI.

Now, the good news here is that this funding was leveraged by the provinces and other private individuals, the colleges and universities, and ended up being about $5 billion in support of rebuilding our research capacity all across our nation, which we need to attract and retain the brightest minds the planet has to offer.

The government is maintaining Canada's position as a world-leading supporter of research while strengthening one area that needs to be improved, results-driven applied research and development.

In doing so, this absolutely does not mean we are stepping back from our commitment in any other area. In fact, this is Canada. We can do more than one thing at a time. I believe firmly that our government can fund research across the board, as we have shown consistently, consecutively in every single budget. It is support for the basic, the applied, and all the way through to commercialization and marketization, getting those ideas out of the minds of our scientists, through our laboratories, on to our factory floors and into the living rooms and hospitals of the world. That is exactly what our government is doing.

Since coming to office, we have also introduced significant new investments in other areas. We have turned around Canada's brain drain and now have a brain gain. We have introduced such brilliant initiatives as the Banting post-doctoral fellowships program, the Vanier Canada graduate scholarships program and the Canada excellence research chairs program, attracting world-class talent and teams that have come to Canada to do their research.

We recognize also the importance of science and technology in forming public policies. That is exactly why the government, all the time, seeks the opinions from our scientists, through various independent as well as published scientific advice forums and a variety of sources. For instance, we have sustained the Council of Canadian Academies with a $30 million grant. The CCA conducts independent science-based assessments drawing together panels of experts to inform us on public policy initiatives. To date, the council has published 11 different science-based assessments on issues of importance to Canada and our citizens. Through the CCA and other bodies such as the Science, Technology and Innovation Council, the Government of Canada demonstrates its commitment to independent science and its crucial role in informing decision making.

Within the federal government, our scientists play an important role in informing policy decisions, assisting the enforcement of regulations and facilitating program delivery. Indeed, the multidimensional contribution of government science is critical to good governance. Federal scientists here in Canada are among the best in the world. These public officials are encouraged to publish regularly in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and many of them do just that.

Federally funded scientific knowledge is also shared directly with the public through other means. For example, science-based departments and agencies regularly produce accessible publications, highlighting research activities and findings. Second, public portals are available, such as science.gc.ca. It is a website we have developed to communicate information on federal science directly to Canadians.

I am very proud that our scientists participate in conferences and lectures all around the world. They are sought after for their expertise and innovations and they give thousands of interviews every year.

I must reiterate that funding for core federal granting councils aimed at supporting discovery-driven research is continuing. Our history supports that; our future will see that. We are also supporting student scholarship programs. Moreover, 2012-13 savings realized from operational efficiencies, or from reallocated funding from lower priority programs, are being fully reinvested back into granting councils' activities that they deem will help strengthen their activities.

We will ensure continued and growing funding for the programs and services that are priorities for Canadians. Economic action plan 2012 makes a wide range of important investments that bear witness to that commitment. These actions will yield real dividends for Canadians. They will support a return to balanced budgets at an appropriate pace as the economy continues to recover from the global crises. Three years after the stimulus phase of Canada's economic action plan was launched in response to that crisis, our economic recovery is advancing and of course it is clear that our policies are working.

I want to let the House know that scientific discoveries and new technologies are very important to a stronger economy. We are very proud of our scientists, which is why we have invested historically in science and technology and why it has been a pivotal point of all of our budgets, including this one.

Once again I would ask the opposition to support our recent budget and for once show its support for scientists, students and researchers.

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

11 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I can see that the Minister of State for Science and Technology is a very slick salesman on these matters. However, I am trusting the scores of scientists who are sending me letters and contacting me personally saying that the government is fundamentally changing how we support and approach science in this country. It is shifting from scientists asking the questions and deciding funding to politicians asking the questions and basing funding on whims.

I worry that we are turning the scientific approach and innovation in this country into some kind of sausage machine where we put the meat in one end and the sausage comes out the other. That is not how science works, and that is what scientists are telling me.

Earlier in the day, the minister of state stated that the MRS cuts were solely decided by NSERC but I doubt this. However, does he think these cuts are a mistake?

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

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Madam Speaker, we were asked by the Canadian people to find efficiencies in how the government operates. We did that process. We received a strong mandate to complete that promise.

We have increased our investments in science and technology. The member is talking about 37 agencies. I sympathize with that. Approximately $100,000 per agency. To pare that to 1.1 billion new dollars for science and technology where we can find efficiencies and do a better job for Canadians but continue to invest more so that we can do the new challenges of the new economy and allow scientists to continue basic research as well as applied and getting it to the market is a brilliant idea. It not only helps Canadians, it can actually save the lives of people all around the world.

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

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, while listening to the hon. minister of state give his speech, my impression was that he had totally missed the point of this motion.

We are not debating whether we value science. Many people on both sides of this House value science. We are not debating whether we should try to encourage businesses to invest more in research and development or whether we should encourage industry-academic partnerships.

What we are debating is whether, when government scientists give the government advice that it does not want to hear because it embarrasses the government, it should, nevertheless, pay attention to those scientists and give those scientists the resources they need to do their job.

Why is the government afraid of what its own scientists are telling it? This is not about industrial policy or making Canadian businesses competitive. It is about whether the government will listen to its own scientists and take their advice in formulating the best possible policies for the people of Canada?

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

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Madam Speaker, the simple answer is that we do that all the time.

I just mentioned in my speech organizations like the Canadian Council of Academies and the Science Technology Innovation Council. These are organizations that publish the state of the nation address. For example, the Canadian Council of Academies and a number of organizations provide advice to the government. It is not always favourable to the government, which is why we listen and why we massage our policies. We re-invest in new areas because our scientists actually tell us that they have invented something over here and that they now need to work on this thing over here. That is how policy changes and how scientific research evolves.

The NDP thinking that because we are modernizing for the benefit of Canadians by moving our resources from one area that may no longer be necessary to an area of great need for the nation moving forward is a cut is completely wrong because the resources that were here are actually reinvested over here, and then some.

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

June 5th, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, there are many Canadians who do not understand the difference between science and technology. There are profound differences. I have no doubt that our government and the minister understand and support technology but I wonder if they really understand and support science.

I have a broad question for the minister. Does he really believe in science and the implications of scientific inquiry? I have a more specific question that will put a fine point on it. There is a vast bunch of science out there that says that life was created on this planet three to four billion years ago, and there are other theories. Does the minister believe that life was created on this planet through evolution three to four billion years ago or does he subscribe to a different theory?