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

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, the point of this debate today is not so much a chance for the government to rattle off the ways it spends money, but to ask whether it takes seriously the advice of scientists, natural and social scientists in Canada. However, I am pleased to have the chance to ask a question of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment.

To talk to natural scientists and social scientists, namely economists, they will tell us that the government needs to do much more than it currently has done on the issue of climate change. In particular, it needs to do a lot more to compensate for the negative externality, the fact that we do not have to pay for emitting fossil carbon into the atmosphere.

How can the parliamentary secretary talk about supporting scientists when the government will not listen to scientists on something which is probably one of the most important pieces of advice that natural scientists and social scientists have given to the government today?

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

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, as opposed to the party opposite, what our government does is listen to Canadians. In 2008 Canadians clearly said that they did not want a tax on everything. They did not want a carbon tax.

When we talk about economics, we are under a time of fragile economic recovery. As legislators, we need to be cognizant of the fact of new taxes, regressive taxes, that could increase the price of consumer goods across the spectrum. Across the world we see economies suffer because of government policies that are not cognizant of the need to balance the budget and ensure that there are policies in place to grow the economy.

At this point in time, we need to be very careful about looking at taxes that increase the cost of consumer goods across the spectrum.

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

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, we all know in the House it was 13 long years that the previous Liberal government did absolutely nothing and created a huge environmental mess. I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for her hard work in getting things done on the environment.

Environment Canada science was recently audited by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. I understand the commissioner had very positive comments to make about the department's science management. Could the parliamentary secretary elaborate on that?

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

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I also congratulate the member for Langley for his wonderful job in chairing the environment committee of the House of Commons. He is a great chair.

On his question, the commissioner wrote:

—Environment Canada has incorporated standards of quality and that it uses a range of systems and practices—including peer reviews of scientific publications and accreditation of environmental testing laboratories—to ensure the quality of the science it conducts.

On top of that, I should note that last year Environment Canada scientists published over 684 articles, attended 326 conferences and they did over 1,200 media interviews. Our scientists are busy, they are active and we are proud of them.

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

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take this opportunity to speak to our government's very strong support for both basic and applied research, not only in my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo but across the country.

Guided by the 2007 science and technology strategy, we have been systematically enhancing federal support for world-class research and building on Canada's knowledge advantage. The federal government has demonstrated a strong commitment to promote and to prioritize science and technology and build a sophisticated knowledge-based economy. Canada's economic action plan 2012 builds on earlier investments by proposing significant new resources to support leading-edge research and infrastructure through investments that strengthen Canada's position as a leading supporter of research.

Budget 2012 announces $341 million over two years to support research, education and training. This ongoing support for advanced research has contributed to a very strong system of innovation in our country. We are helping to ensure that Canadian researchers continue to generate new ideas and that businesses have access to the resources they need to bring this knowledge to market and create high quality jobs. That is a goal that we should all share in this House.

Our government has invested significantly at a time when it is needed most. We are building on a record and providing our innovators, our colleges, universities, businesses and industries, with the support they need to work together and create high quality jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. We have invested in world-class research through our three granting councils, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Through these councils we have introduced such initiatives as the Banting post-doctoral fellowships, the Vanier Canada graduate scholarships and the Canada excellence research chairs. To illustrate this, I would like to highlight that two of the current Canada excellence research chairs have in fact come to Waterloo, to my riding, to pursue their research. Dr. David Cory, who was attracted from MIT, is a leading global innovator in experimental quantum physics and quantum engineering and whose work is already being used in a range of applications from the medical field to the oil industry. Dr. Philippe Van Cappellen, who is a world-leading expert in ecohydrology, came from France to pursue his work in Canada.

We have systematically enhanced federal support for advanced research. Recent investments are supporting research projects across Canada as well as Canadian involvement in major international research projects. We have continued to support large-scale research in genomics. Since 2000, the Government of Canada has invested more than $1 billion to ensure that Canada remains at the forefront of this important field, supporting amazing breakthroughs in health and life sciences. In budget 2012, our government announced an additional $60 million for Genome Canada, helping continue to support research excellence in genomics.

Moreover, we are committed to building a strong and vibrant research environment to strengthen our ability to compete in the knowledge-based economy. We are providing significant support for leading edge research infrastructure. To date, the federal government has allocated $5.5 billion to the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which has committed support to more than 7,300 projects at 130 research institutions across Canada.

To support the foundation's core activities, the plan announced $500 million over five years starting in 2014-15. The funding will support new competitions, including the college-industry innovation fund.

Investments are also being made in Canada's ultra high-speed research network, CANARIE, satellite reception facilities and Canada's continued participation in the international space station mission, as well as the Canadian High Arctic Research Station.

In addition, at the University of Waterloo in my own riding, investments in automotive research and development through Automotive Partnership Canada will result in a more efficient and sustainable automotive industry that continues to create jobs for Canadians and provide greener transportation solutions.

I am also proud to highlight another impressive research partnership anchored at the University of Waterloo, the Southern Ontario Water Consortium. Our government is investing almost $20 million in this project that will strengthen our position as a world leader in clean water technologies, create new jobs and develop solutions for communities across the globe that lack easy access to clean water.

Beyond this, our government is also investing in institutions that are pushing the frontiers of knowledge. I am talking specifically about the Institute for Quantum Computing and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, which I am proud to say are both in my riding of Kitchener--Waterloo.

The Institute for Quantum Computing is a recognized international leader in the field of quantum computing. Our government contributed $50 million to support the construction of a new state-of-the-art scientific research facility. With the grand opening of the Quantum Nano Centre this fall, IQC will become the world's largest research centre devoted to quantum information science.

In addition, our government is also proud to support the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. We continue to invest in this world-leading institution. In budget 2011 we announced a further $50 million over five years to support its leading research, education and public outreach activities. A recent evaluation concluded that the Perimeter Institute has markedly improved Canada's science capacity and global reputation in the field of theoretical physics.

Investments like these in PI and IQC enable these premier institutions to attract the best researchers from around the world and bring them together in Waterloo to engage in basic scientific research. We have not only reversed the brain drain, we have ensured that Canada is becoming a powerful magnet for talent.

Members may remember the NDP took the unfortunate step of dragging the reputations of the Perimeter Institute, the Auditor General and our government through the mud with its conspiracy theory that the Perimeter Institute received more funding than we committed. The funds received by the Perimeter Institute are consistent with our government's commitments year after year. Unfortunately the press release that makes the false accusations remains on the NDP's website today. This is unfortunate and I do hope that the NDP finally takes the opportunity to apologize.

I should also note that the Government of Canada provided, through budget 2009, $2 billion for research and advanced learning infrastructure at universities, colleges and CEGEPs through the knowledge infrastructure program. This funding helped leverage an additional $3 billion in contributions from the provinces, territories and private partners. For example, in my riding this program provided $25 million to the University of Waterloo to construct facilities for environment, engineering and math research and education.

This is how we are helping industry partners bring technology to market, provide our students with hands-on applied research experience and create a highly skilled Canadian workforce. Taken cumulatively, these measures, along with our efforts to support business innovation, demonstrate this government's support for world-class science, technology and innovation. We are ensuring that Canada continues to lead in the knowledge economy.

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

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, this member has talked about all the investments the government is making. I have often been asked by the government if I support its aerospace research and development, for instance. In February, the Montreal aerospace industry said that there is not enough research and development in the aerospace industry in Canada and that the government should be doing a lot more to make us competitive.

Why does the government not understand that it needs to be putting publicly funded research as a priority in order to increase our innovation and competitiveness internationally?

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

June 5th, 2012 / 1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find the question from my hon. colleague from the NDP quite interesting and somewhat amusing. This is a member of a party claiming to support the aerospace industry, which is largely based in the Montreal area but has other important aspects of the sector across the country.

This is a sector that is anxious to see the government move forward with our next generation fighter aircraft, and of course the NDP finds every opportunity to oppose that. We have renewed our government's commitment with Canada's involvement in the international space station, and we continue to lead the world in the aerospace industry.

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

1:40 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, an internationally famous scientist, Dr. Cynthia Gilmour, is a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center who has done research all over the world with her team in mercury, acid rain, acid lakes and climate change. She has used the Experimental Lakes Area for experimentation. She is not from this country. She has no political stake in this. This is what she said in a letter last week to the minister involved, “By shutting down ELA, you remove a critical tool for finding the most reasonable and cost-effective solutions to national and international environmental issues. The small federal investment in the research station has been returned thousands of times over in public, in ecosystem, in human health.”

My question to this hon. member, and to every member on that side of the House is, will they all follow in mindless lockstep in muzzling scientists and killing research, or will a few of them dare to stand up to their party?

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

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is important to point out that with respect to the Experimental Lakes project, our government is looking to transition this particular project to a partner that will take on responsibility for whatever remaining research priorities there may be.

It is important to point out that our science and technology policy, first developed by this government in 2007, is really unprecedented in the Government of Canada's support for science and technology. As part of that, we embrace and we celebrate the work that our Canadian scientists and researchers do in this country, at our universities, for our federal government departments. We will continue to celebrate the excellent work they provide.

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

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, while the member opposite certainly pointed out some investments that the government has made, I think he has misled us to a certain degree with respect to the exodus of scientists from this country.

The agriculture committee has travelled across Canada on at least one occasion in the last couple of years. All we heard about was the exodus of our scientists to other countries because of the lack of investment by the government in basic science. The agricultural adaptation program was ended completely. It was science-based.

My question to the hon. member is, why would he mislead us like this and suggest that our scientists are staying, when in fact they are leaving this country?

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

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Guelph is clearly out of touch. Under the previous Liberal government, there was a brain drain. Since our government has taken office, there has clearly been a brain gain.

We are attracting some of the world's greatest researchers. Many are coming to my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo. I would be happy to host a visit of the hon. member for Guelph to show him the fantastic research that is taking place, not only at our two universities, Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo, but also at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the Institute for Quantum Computing.

He should come on down Highway 7.

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

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is probably a good thing for the member that his time ran out before I had a chance to ask him a question. I would have been asking the member about the RADARSAT Constellation mission. I introduced a motion in the industry committee to have MacDonald, Dettwiler and industry ministry officials come to the committee to explain what has happened with that program and why we are off track. Unfortunately the member opposite who just spoke introduced a motion to take the meeting in camera. I cannot imagine why we would need to discuss such important issues in secret. They concern all Canadians.

I am proud to stand today in defence of science and research. Canada's ability to compete in the 21st century is inextricably linked to science and research. Science and research touch every aspect of our daily lives and must be preserved and enriched. In Canada, we must foster an environment that encourages more research and science. Sadly, the 2012 budget and recent changes by the Conservative government take Canada down a path of darkness rather than enlightenment.

The muzzling of scientists and the assignment of chaperones by the government is repugnant. This has been widely condemned and rightly so. Only ideologues and people afraid of the truth would resort to such actions. If nothing else, scientists must be free to report the findings of their work, free from political interference. They should only need worry about the critiques of their peers, which in the end leads to better scientists. Peer review and not political review must be the standard.

The cuts announced affect far more than I could possibly say in 10 minutes. The Conservative members of the industry, science and technology committee have a much better understanding of just how much I have to say on this issue.

It really is a shame that this morning's meeting was also cancelled and that industry ministry officials were not available to discuss the estimates so that we could learn more about these reckless cuts. We are still looking forward to seeing them and, we hope, the minister before the summer recess.

The first issue I want to raise is about good government. One might ask why. It is pretty simple. To provide good government, one needs to assemble a tremendous amount of facts, primarily obtained through large quantities of research from places like Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Library and Archives Canada, National Research Council, Statistics Canada, and of course the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

I forgot to request to have my time split with the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, so I would like to do that now.

Limiting research at all levels of government and all agencies of government restricts everyone's ability to make fact- and evidence-based policy. This is a critical issue because I cannot possibly see how limiting that information would be a good thing. Yet here we are, debating a motion being brought forward by our science and technology critic and our industry critic.

The seconding by the member for LaSalle—Émard is significant because these cuts also largely touch industry. Cuts to Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, and the National Research Council affect our ability to monitor industry to ensure adherence to environmental regulations that are there to protect us, the air we breathe and the water we drink. As an aside, I will definitely be taking a pass on drinking tailing pond water. There is absolutely no way, but the Minister of Natural Resources can do as he likes.

Cuts to research and science affect our ability as parliamentarians to make the best policies to foster innovation and economic growth. I am proud to stand as deputy industry critic with our industry critic, our science and tech critics, and all NDP members of this House to say that cuts need to be reversed for the long-term benefits of Canadians. The government needs to knock it off.

A lot of research is done independently and in conjunction with industry that has a great impact on our economy, and that will only grow with time. Cuts to Statistics Canada from the policy-making side and the National Research Council from the innovation side will only hinder our long-term development. The time to invest and not pull back is now.

I would like to address two of the looming cuts in wildly different areas that are of particular concern to me.

The closing of the Experimental Lakes Area, as we have already heard today, is particularly troubling because of its international importance and its repeated successes that have only proven its worth.

I would like to cite from an article in the June 1 Globe and Mail about its pending closure:

Former top researchers at the centre say the decision is emblematic of the government’s anti-science approach to environmental policy and its emphasis on resource development with little regard for impacts on the ecosystem unless they affect commercially important fish stocks.

“I think they are uninterested in the environment and scientific research into the environment,” said John Rudd, who served as chief scientist at ELA and now consults for private labs. “They don’t want to see things that might get in the way of promoting industry.”

Now a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in the United States, Dr. Gilmour, said:

By shutting ELA you remove a critical tool for finding the most reasonable and cost-effective solutions to national and international environmental issues.

She also wrote:

The small federal investment in the research station has been returned thousands of times over in public and ecosystem health.

Frankly, the further we go on, the more I start to believe the government's motto is, “Never let a good policy get in the way of bad decision making”.

On a similar note, we have the RADARSAT Constellation mission, where a committed minister and a committed parliamentary secretary say they are on board, but the money is just not in the budget.

This vital Canadian satellite program, with the multi-mission of environmental monitoring, Arctic sovereignty, ocean safety and ice monitoring, and disaster management, as well as the ability to attract other governments and agencies as clients, all makes good business sense and science and safety sense, yet the government has put the program in jeopardy.

What is worse, the government is, unlike what the former member said, precipitating a brain drain from a company that is of such strategic importance to Canada that the government blocked the sale of MacDonald Dettwiler.

Delays in this project could also put Canadian lives at risk. If the Constellation satellites are not in space before RADARSAT-2's end of mission, we could have a coverage gap, and that would put Canadians' lives at risk. It is critical that the situation not be allowed to occur or to continue. The government needs to get off the mat.

These and many other reasons are why we are calling upon all parliamentarians to support and adequately fund these agencies and programs because the return is better government through a fact-based evidence policy, a better and stronger economy that has fewer negative impacts on the environment, through science and innovation dependent from and in conjunction with industry. It is as simple as that.

The cuts just go on and on in this budget, as we mentioned, with several different agencies. The cuts that are happening at Environment Canada and ozone monitoring and with the Arctic monitoring stations, they just have absolutely no basis to be there. These are the programs that keep us safe. They are the programs that keep our air clean. They are the programs that keep our water drinkable. They need to be given the appropriate amount of funds in order to continue to keep us safe. As well of course, on the innovation side, which is very important to me, we certainly need to do a lot more in order to foster innovation and productivity, not a lot less, which is what the government proposes.

There are also disturbing reports that hundreds of small and medium-sized enterprises have disappeared from Canada in the last several years. Of course, these are companies that, by and large, are more productive. They contribute more heft to the Canadian economy than their sizes would indicate. Yet they are disappearing because there is a lack of investment, there is a lack of opportunities, they are being gobbled up by larger enterprises or the unbalanced approach that the government has taken to the economy has put them out of business.

I could, of course, go on for another 20 or 30 minutes, or maybe a couple of hours, as I may or may not do in committee before long, but I will leave it at that. I look forward to hearing what the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel has to say.

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

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, could the hon. member tell my why the Conservatives have decided to eliminate the National Council of Welfare? This organization gives advice to the federal government on how to best improve the living conditions of low-income Canadians. In addition, it only costs about $1 million, which is 10% of what the Conservatives are planning to spend on advertising in their budget.

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

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question, since it is definitely a topic that I did not have time to address.

I personally do not see why they think it makes sense to cut the program, given that the research conducted by the council helps parliamentarians make better legislation, creating more opportunities for the poorest people in the country.

In my view, the only reason that explains why the Conservatives want to eliminate the National Council of Welfare is that they are afraid of what information we might find.

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

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am aware that the hon. member is very knowledgeable on this matter, as the former science and technology critic and current industry critic.

It is interesting that, on the one hand, we are talking about reducing the number of scientists, muzzling them and preventing them from speaking, and, on the other hand, we often hear arguments about how much it costs the public to keep these “bureaucrats”. In reality, these scientists provide us with data that can help us create good laws and govern properly, which will reduce the costs of environmental damage in the long term.

Keeping these scientists on the job will permit us to introduce legislation to ensure that the next generation can count on a healthy environment with all the benefits that go with it. Could the hon. member expand on that?