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

Syria
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

Syria
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Syria
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Syria
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Syria
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I move the following motion:

That, at the conclusion of today's debate on the opposition motion in the name of the Member for Burnaby—Douglas, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion be deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred to Wednesday, June 6th, 2012, at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and social science expertise
BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise today in support of this motion, which focuses attention not only on the massive cuts to research, data and evidence that can be found in the budget bill currently before the House, but also to speak to the government's contempt for information, research and advocacy since the beginning of its mandate.

Research is a core driver of economic competitiveness, environmental protection, and health and safety. Objective, publicly funded research and statistical data is necessary for our public service to be able to serve all Canadians, especially since service provision is the majority of the work of the federal government. The government has made it its mandate to obscure objective facts in favour of controlling and privatizing information to create narratives that suit its priorities.

It is crucial that research be credible. In order for it to maintain this integrity we must be sure that private funding of our research respects the autonomy and independence of our researchers in their objectives and in their methodologies. Yet this last budget has proposed refocusing the National Research Council to be “business-led”, and is increasingly concentrating on targeting post-secondary research to meet “business needs”. I know that research often relies on private funding, as much as private interests rely on the research provided to them.

I know that much innovation comes from these partnerships, but this is not what the government is proposing. What it has done is increase the control that it and private interest have on what research is being done and how it is being done. That is a frightening move for the credibility of Canada's research.

By increasingly removing critical financial supports and increasingly correlating research to demand-driven funding models in order to service profit-driven demands, we are systematically inhibiting our research integrity and competitiveness.

We have seen many instances of the government obstructing research before. One of the first things the government did in 2006 was slash $5 million from the Status of Women agency and make a series of changes to its purpose. The independent research fund was abolished, and the mandate of the women's program was changed to explicitly exclude any project having to do with research and advocacy. While the funds themselves have since been recommitted to the agency, the independent research fund has not reappeared and the mandate of the agency continues to forbid research and advocacy. The purpose of this is clear. The government is ignoring the deeper, systemic injustices that women repeatedly encounter because the injustices do not fit the government's world view. Effective, long-term planning and investment in social programs, while proven to be in the best interests of women and the economy at large, are something the government fears.

As a member of the status of women committee, I hear every week from expert witnesses who are still suffering from the long-term effects of this strategic shift.

Carmela Hutchison is president of the DisAbled Women's Network Canada, which is the only organization that represents disabled women, the largest minority group in Canada. She wrote to me to say:

We could write volumes about the health and safety consequences to millions of women and girls with disabilities in Canada which are due to the lack of publicly funded research and statistical information already! How can this Government propose any further cuts to research and data collection when this information is essential to informing your honourable Members and all Canadians about the health, safety and the economic well being of millions of women with disabilities in this country, who continue to be the poorest citizens of this country!

When we look at Bill C-38 and its anti-information cuts, which are overwhelming in their scope, we see that what happened to women in Canada will happen in almost every community and sector, from first nations to academia. It is most acute in the field of environmental science. The fact of climate change is something that the government needs to suppress as quickly as possible in order to serve the corporate interests of its friends.

However, the ethically repugnant muzzling of scientists is certainly not all we are facing. The cuts to Library and Archives Canada, Statistics Canada, the National Council of Welfare, the First Nations Statistical Institute, and even the CBC are moves against the cultural identity of Canada.

Our heritage and history are deeply affected by these cuts. There is a relationship between dismantling Library and Archives Canada, discrediting Statistics Canada and disabling the CBC, which becomes clear when one considers that the government is aggressively pursuing a mandate to create a Canadian narrative that suits its interest rather than reality.

If it targets Library and Archives, we will have fewer resources available that describe what Canada once was. If it utterly destroys our ability to produce credible statistical data, we will not know who we are now. When it entirely abolishes the National Council of Welfare and the First Nations Statistical Institute, it is preventing social scientists from understanding trends and finding solutions. Couple this with the witch hunt we are witnessing against the CBC and the subsequent slashes to its budget and we see a weakening of the only mainstream Canadian broadcaster that is mandated with communicating our diverse heritage and cultures.

I was alarmed when the Minister of State for Science and Technology announced this past March that he was planning on refocusing the National Research Council and in May announced that he was changing the direction of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in order to strengthen its ties with the private sector. SSHRC, like the NRC, is a public research-funding body that is mandated with funding innovative research that benefits all Canadians, not just the business sector. Yet, in his own words, the Minister of State for Science and Technology said that this is a great opportunity to focus the NRC more toward the business end to be “a one-stop, 1-800, 'I have a solution for your business problem'.”

Coming from an academic background, I know that privately commissioned research where the objectives are determined by private interests and not the researchers themselves is simply not credible. As an MP, I have witnessed the fact that our public service providers require our research councils to conduct research on behalf of all demographics and communities, not just businesses. As a citizen, I do not agree that my taxes be spent to subsidize the needs of businesses before the needs of families.

In conclusion, without credible research all Canadians will see a decline in the quality of their service provisions the way women have over the past eight years. Innovation will be stalled by the control of private interests over what it is we study.

I seriously urge this House to consider the long-term effects of these cuts and I urge us to ask ourselves this. Who does the suppression and rewriting of information benefit? When did the needs of big business supplant the needs of citizens? Where will Canada be in 5, 10, 20 years without credible statistical data upon which we can base future planning?

If there is one thing the now abolished National Council of Welfare has taught us through its research, it is that short-term investments in human capital and communities reap long-term economic gains. It is frivolous, short-sighted and fiscally irresponsible for the government to be dismantling these institutions.

I hope that this debate enlightens the members opposite as to the dangers they are precipitating in the budget bill. I hope that they will support the opposition motion.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and social science expertise
BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on her very thoughtful and well considered speech.

During our budget consultations, I met with residents of Vancouver and spoke to them about the budget, this Trojan Horse, since the Conservatives do not want to consult Canadians. One scientist told me that he did not want to reveal his views on the environment for fear that this government would arrange for him to lose his job.

Could the hon. member respond to that comment? What does this tell us about the academic community in general when a scientist is so afraid of talking about his information and his research? What message is being sent to the scientific community?

Opposition Motion—Scientific and social science expertise
BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville for this excellent question.

In fact, the government is sending a message to Canada's scientists that it does not want their research to be credible. It wants them to reflect what it wants to show and what it is doing. It wants to be able to say that it is investing a great deal of effort in the environment, even though that is not true.

In order to do so, the government consistently prevents scientists who are conducting innovative research from showing their results. It is trying to control the research being done, in all academic fields but especially the environment.

It is clear that the government is not concerned about the Canadian environment and it does not want to show that a problem currently exists.