Mr. Speaker, I am very happy today to participate in the debate on Bill C-4.
The bill is now at third reading. The Reform Party is interested in having this pass the House, proceed to the Senate and receive royal assent so that we can implement Canada's obligation under the agreement we signed with the other parties to this agreement.
It is my pleasure today to speak to Bill C-4, which the Reform Party supports very heartily. It is a new and exciting frontier which Canada is privileged to participate in.
Bill C-4 implements the agreement that Canada signed last year with the United States, Japan, Russia and 11 countries of the European Union. The agreement formulates Canada's participation in the international space station.
The space station is a bold and exciting project which has nations around the world working together in a spirit of co-operation rather than rivalry. We have moved to a new point in our world development where we are seeing more and more international co-operation on many projects. I certainly welcome it.
This is quite different than the environment that existed only 10 years ago when the collapse of the Soviet Union brought a new era to world peace and world co-operation. We need to welcome that spirit of co-operation that exists today. We know what happened when we had 50 or more years of cold war and the difficulties that led to, including the Berlin wall which divided East and West Germany. We have seen in the papers just recently the 10 year anniversary of the fall of the great wall. It signified a change in direction that was very welcome in terms of international co-operation.
I believe this is a step that will enhance co-operation. We will have the ability to study our globe from the outlook of the space station orbiting above the earth. I think this will be very beneficial to Canada.
We have this spirit of co-operation. It is the largest science and technology project in the history of humanity. Canadians should be proud of the role we are playing and will continue to play in this key role of its development.
In its final form, the station will cover an area as large as a football field, weigh 450 tonnes and be clearly visible in the night sky as it orbits the earth.
More and more young people are interested in astronomy and have telescopes to observe the different constellations and stars. I think it will be interesting that they will see pictures coming back from the space station. They will see pictures of Canada's involvement in building the space station. They will also be able to use their telescopes to see the space station in the night sky as it orbits the earth and does its good work.
The habitation modules and the laboratories will accommodate a permanent international crew of seven astronauts dedicated to advancements in areas of biotechnology, engineering, earth observations and telecommunications. Those are all key areas in which Canada is striving to develop new technology.
In my capacity as the critic for the area of industry, these are all areas that we recognize in Canada as areas of growth for Canadian business. The telecommunications industry is one that Canada is very, very good at. Nortel comes to mind as a case in point. According to an announcement last week, it is expanding right here in the Ottawa.
Telecommunications in a large country like Canada is a very important aspect. We are now able to have satellite phones with connections in the Arctic. It does not really matter where we live in Canada these days, we can develop a home based business because of the ability of Canadians to be able to use the new technologies that are developed through telecommunications. I suggest that will be enhanced by the Canadian involvement in the space station. I would think companies like Nortel and others could take advantage of the space station to develop new technologies, try them out, deliver them to the Canadian space station and apply the scientific results that accrue from that.
The area of biotechnology is a very big industry in Canada these days. I know there is work being done at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. It has an expanding role in agriculture, but not just agriculture, and it is certainly one that I believe is going to serve us well into the future.
Again, this is an opportunity for Canadian companies to have a vehicle for research and development, perhaps with some co-operation through the labs that are on board with the United States and Russia.
In terms of Earth observation, I will be speaking to that a bit later, but I see that as an important aspect of this as well.
I am pleased to say that the Reform Party will support the speedy passage of the bill. I recognize that there is some urgency in getting it passed quickly to meet the commitments that we have made to our partners in this project.
I have to say, though, that we have some concern about the way these international agreements are developed and the role that the House of Commons plays, or in this case does not play, in the development of those agreements. I am not speaking only about international agreements, I am also speaking about agreements such as the one that was made between the government and the Nisga'a people where there has been very little consultation in places like British Columbia. Even here in parliament the government brings the Nisga'a deal to us and has us rubber stamp it without amendment.
We have concerns about the way these agreements are developed. I know the former minister for international trade, Mr. Marchi, decided that it was important to consult civil society. Therefore, I think there is a new era developing in Canada in terms of how we develop international agreements. The only reason I am talking about it in light of the space station bill is that it is just another example of an agreement that is brought here. I know that amendments can and are being made in this particular case, but the basic agreement was put in place and brought here with the intent that parliament would just approve it and not alter it in any meaningful way.
In this particular case I do not think we need to alter it in any substantial way, but parliament would like to have the ability to do that and not just act as a rubber stamp for government. That is a concern that we have in the Reform Party.
The leader of the Reform Party, the hon. member for Calgary Southwest, and many of my colleagues have a keen interest in the area of space development. It is the new frontier. It is a frontier that is probably comparable in many ways to the industrial revolution, a frontier that was opened up by the steam boat and trains back in the early 1800s in England, eventually leading to development all over the world, in particular North America. We know what happened when the steam locomotive was developed, how it opened up Canada and the United States.
I had a distant relative who was involved in developing and in fact was credited with being the first person to manufacture the first locomotive and the first railway, George Stephenson, which took place in northern England in the Newcastle area. He observed that there was rail track on which coal cars were hauling coal from the mines to the ocean for export. Those coal cars were being pulled by oxen. At the same time there were stream pumps being used in the mines.
My great great uncle was a 10 year old boy working in the mine. His job eventually led to making sure the steam pump worked to pump the water out of the mine. This man had a son, his only son, Robert Stephenson, who became famous in his own right. He had enough money to send his son to school. That was not a common occurrence in those days in early England.
It is very significant that George Stephenson was illiterate. He was the man who developed the steam locomotive which opened up the world in terms of having railways across Canada, the United States, Brazil and Europe, which enabled us to have speedy transportation. He scraped every cent together so that he could send his son Robert to school. Robert came home with his books and George Stephenson learned to read and write with the help of his eight year old son. It is a very interesting story. His son went on to do famous things. They worked together on the improved model of the steam locomotive, the rocket, which is still on display in northern England. Robert Stephenson built railways all over the world. He built the railway bridge, the first bridge across the St. Lawrence River in Canada, which was called the Victoria Bridge. The bridge has been rebuilt and remains in the same location.
A number of us in the Reform Party are interested in this new technology. I suggest that it is not much different from what happened in the early days of the steam locomotive and the industrial revolution. We are on the verge of a launch into space. We are on the verge of being able to observe our planet much better with our involvement in the space station and we will learn a lot more about ourselves in the process.
I had the opportunity a couple of years ago to visit the NASA space science centre in Houston. I saw some of the rockets that boosted some of the early satellites into orbit, as well as the early shuttles. I marvelled at the technology.
It is an exciting frontier. In 1957 Russia sent the first satellite, Sputnik, into orbit and now we are co-operating with that very country, which was formerly a communist country. Russia had a tremendous difference in philosophy from that of the United States and Canada. In just over 40 years we have moved from the first satellite in orbit to co-operating with Russia to build the international space station.
We have to be thankful that Russia is involved in this project. It has the ability with its rockets to send up a lot of the material that is needed to build this very big space station. It takes a lot of capacity to do that. Russia has that capacity. Even though it is having some difficulty these days financially, we think it is going to meet its commitments in delivering its part of the space station into orbit.
We have to be thankful to Russia for another reason. When it joined the international space station project it insisted that the orbit of the space station would fly on a more northerly route from time to time. Over a period of one month the international space station will vary its orbit from 52° south to 52° north. That is very good news for Canada because it will fly over parts of Canada where it probably would not have flown if Russia had not insisted that development take place. It wants to observe its country as well and it is basically on the same latitude as Canada.
The space station will be angled. It will be 400 kilometres above the earth, and at 52° latitude we will be able to see a big part of our country and observe what is happening.
Before I get to the reasons we are supporting this bill, I will provide listeners with a bit of background as to when and how the space station got its start. Its history goes back to 1984. President Reagan of the United States directed NASA to develop and place into orbit a permanently manned space station. At the time, President Reagan invited friends and allies to participate in its development and to share in its benefits.
People may remember President Reagan talking about the star wars concept at the same time. That has not actually developed in any meaningful way, but the space station is a survivor. The first section of the space station has already been delivered into orbit and different components are going to be set up and joined together shortly.
At the Quebec summit in March 1985, Canada accepted the invitation to confirm Canada's interest in the co-operation at a summit meeting in Washington the following year. At the same time, various other countries expressed interest in the project and over the years signed memorandums of understanding.
It was recognized that Russia could greatly enhance the capabilities of the space station. Not only does it have the boost capacity, it has a long list of accomplishments in the area of human space flight and missions of long duration. Russian astronauts have been in space for long periods of time and that has greatly enhanced our ability to study whether we can have permanent life on space stations in the future.
On December 6, 1993 Russia was invited to take part in the project. Arrangements were then made for co-operation on human space flight activities, including the Russia and United States Mir shuttle program, to prepare for the building of the space station.
Russia will derive benefits from this as well. Russia is a very big country. Now that the Soviet Union has broken up, we naturally think that Canada must be the largest country in the world. Large parts of the Soviet Union broke away from Russia when the mentality of the eastern bloc started to come apart. We know of countries such as Ukraine which claimed independence on its own. However, we have to recognize that even though that happened, Russia is still twice as big as Canada, and Canada is the second biggest country in the world. We have much land and water to view from the space station, but Russia has even more and I know its people would be greatly interested in using the space station to do that. In fact, they are building a science lab of their own to perform scientific studies.
On January 29, 1998 the countries got together and signed the civil international space station agreement which established a framework for the design, development, operation and utilization of the space station. Bill C-4 seeks to implement the agreement signed last year.
The international agreement that was signed by Canada, the United States, Japan, Russia and 11 European countries contains 28 articles and an annex which summarizes the tasks to which the various countries have committed themselves. In Canada's case the space agency will provide three elements: a mobile servicing centre, a special purpose dexterous manipulator, the new generation Canadarm that is going to be used to put the space station together and service it afterward, and space station unique ground elements.
The articles lay out the objective and scope of the agreement, international rights and obligations, ownership of the elements and the equipment and the management of the space station. As well, aspects of design and development are covered, the right to provide qualified crew, transportation and right of access to the space station and the provision of a communications network, which are all important things that need to be settled early in the project.
Each partner will bear the cost of fulfilling its respective responsibilities under the agreement, including sharing on an equitable basis a common systems operating cost and activities attributed to the operation of the space station as a whole.
My understanding is that there has been some delay in the project because of the involvement of the United States in the lift capacity. The space shuttle program is undergoing repair and some of the shuttles need fairly extensive work. On the other side, the last couple of Russian delivery rockets have failed to deliver satellites into space and have actually burned up. There is some work to do to make sure that these important components which they will be lifting into orbit will be able to deliver the merchandise. It is very expensive technology that we are delivering and we want to be absolutely sure that something does not go awry. We do not want to have to start over again with building different modules to replace anything that might happen to be accidentally destroyed.
Everybody is pretty hopeful that after a short delay some of these problems will be ironed out, we will be back on track and the space station will be developed in an orderly manner.
Article 19 of the agreement deals with the exchange of data and goods. Each partner to the agreement agrees to transfer all technical data and goods considered necessary for the fulfilment of the responsibilities of the partners. Bill C-4 actually contains provisions in clause 7, giving the agreement the power to force companies, individuals and third parties that are not in direct contractual relationship to the crown to release information related to the space agency.
One might ask why that would be necessary. It is necessary in the event that a company working under contract to the government on a project is bought out by another company which may be unwilling to honour the company's contractual obligations. The partners did not want to be held up to ransom if that were to happen. This is the reason for the particular clause.
Clause 8 of the bill provides safeguards to ensure that documents so produced are not unduly communicated to other parties. Because they will require these companies, if they are bought out, to fulfil their contractual obligations, they want to safeguard that they will not be produced and sent out, that the information in those contractual arrangements will not be sort of public knowledge, and that they would be guaranteed with some process defined in clause 8.
While the exchange of information and scientific data is crucial to the successful development of the entire project, the protection of intellectual property rights is also very important. We talked about this point in committee.
The parliamentary secretary referred to the fact that we had pretty speedy passage in committee of Bill C-4, but when the space agency people appeared before the committee that was one of the questions I raised because I think it is important that intellectual property rights or any product development in the space station be guaranteed.
There are many partners involved in the space station and many people from different countries working there. It is absolutely important that any research and development that leads to product development or new service development is not stolen. It needs to be protected. That is the reason we were concerned that intellectual property rights have proper protection. We were assured that was the case. The agreement contains article 21 which states the following:
For the purposes of intellectual property law, an activity occurring in or on a Space Station flight element shall be deemed to have occurred...in the territory of the Partner State of that element's registry.
If a Canadian is developing it, it is essentially protected as if it were developed in Canada. Normal patent procedures will apply, which means that the person or entity first filing a patent is the owner of that intellectual property.
The bill also contains amendments to the criminal code. The amendments ensure that any criminal acts committed in space by a Canadian crew member fall under Canadian law. While that is not likely to happen, we did not know what developments could occur there. We wanted to make that each country would try that particular person under its own law. That is important for Canada's well-being as well.
Canada's involvement in this matter goes goes back away. Recently Julie Payette became the first Canadian to board the first component of the space station. In the year 2000, which is not far away, Marc Garneau will participate in his third space mission as a crew member on the shuttle. He will be followed by Chris Hatfield who will instal Canada's space station robotic manipulator system, the new generation Canadarm, and the main element of the mobile servicing system. It is called MSS for short. Once installed, the MSS will move around the space station doing assembly and repair work.
We learn a lot from nature. Even in flight itself we have learned from nature. Here again they are sort of emulating how the inchworm moves, and the new Canadarm will move in exactly the same way. It will attach itself, loop, attach to the other end and pick up. It will be able to assemble components of the space station by moving around the space station as if it were an inchworm doing its work. Canadians will be able to see this happening as the space station is developing.
We are also contributing a vision system for the operators of this remote manipulator. They have to be inside the space station when they are doing it to minimize exposure to danger. They will be doing this from a windowless space station, so there is a need for a vision system.
On the ground the MSS operation complex at the Canadian Space Agency in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, will plan missions, monitor the condition of the remote manipulator, and train the space station crew in its use. The cost of designing, developing, operating and launching the MSS into orbit is approximately $1.4 billion over 20 years. That project actually started in 1984 so it includes the years 1984 to 2004.
Approximately $3 per Canadian taxpayer per year is Canada's contribution. Although Canada's contribution will be $1.4 billion, it is still relatively small in terms of the total project at just 2.5%. It is important nonetheless. The 1999 federal budget provides the Canadian Space Agency with $430 million in new funds over three years, which stabilizes the agency's budget at $300 million per year starting in the year 2002-03.
The scientific benefits for Canada from the space station will be our ability to monitor the earth; to study our environment including agriculture, crop monitoring and the Arctic ice pack; and to aid navigation for shipping. These are all very important elements. That is one reason we are so happy the deflection in the orbit will take it to 52.5° north, which will probably fly over somewhere between Red Deer and Edmonton, Alberta, on its most northerly flight.
Canada is a very large country, as I said earlier. We have a lot of land mass and water to monitor. We want to make sure, for example, that our environment is being protected. We will have the ability through the Canadian space station to do just that.
In terms of agriculture and crop monitoring, we will be able to see where areas are under stress because of lack of moisture or too much moisture. We will see where there is stress in terms of erosion that is affecting agriculture over the years and will design programs to fix it. Of course that is assuming there will be any Canadian farmers to worry about in the future. Because agriculture is in a very tough state right now the Liberal Party needs to do some work to make sure that Canadian farmers are here down the road in 10 years when the space station will be doing the majority of its work.
I saw an interesting infrared picture one time of the Canada-U.S. border taken from a satellite. This is the type of monitoring we will be able to do. Some people asked how we could see the 49th parallel between North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Alberta, how we could tell that was the border. We could tell because the infrared rays picked up what types of crops were being grown.
It has to do with government policy. Government policy has its shortcomings but one reason we can see the Canada-U.S. border is that the United States subsidizes its grain farmers so extensively that right up to the 49th parallel in North Dakota and Montana grain crops were being grown. On the Alberta and Saskatchewan side, the land was left in grass because there was not sufficient money to encourage farmers to grown grain crops. The different colours that showed up on the infrared picture because of the different crops being grown showed the Canada-U.S. border for hundreds of miles. That is the type of thing we will be able to see from the Canadian space station.
Approximately 90% of Canada's investment is going into contracts to Canadian firms. The rest is going to universities. Since 1987 over 150 contracts have been let for automation and robotics technology development. During the space station's estimated 10 year lifespan Canada will be able to expand it research in micro-gravity with applications into human disorders such as osteoporosis and cancer. Canada will also continue its research into protein crystallization in space for the medical industry.
A very important element in Canada's involvement is that we have the ability to do quite a bit of research to aid Canadians in the future in terms of important studies into subjects like osteoporosis. A lot of the female population at a certain age suffers from this condition. The Russians who worked in space for long periods of time have been studied as a result, because the same conditions exist in space and space travel where significant bone density loss occurs if a person stays too long.
It is an important area to Canada. How that happens and what can be done to correct it will help an aging population in Canada, and we have an aging population as baby boomers start to work through our system.
Cancer research is very important work that will be done by scientists on the space station. There will be co-operation with other countries such as the United States in its space laboratories.
Technologies that have already resulted from our space involvement include the first robotic refuelling station. When we are spending this amount of money, $1.4 billion, people have to see some concrete physical example of how it helps us on an everyday basis.
We live in a northern country. In northern Alberta, where I come from, sometimes during the winter, in January, the temperature reaches -40°C and even lower. We know that shopping centres with indoor stores help to combat the cold. In downtown Ottawa we can go through a network of malls for several blocks.
As a northern country we need to find ways to work with the Canadian winter. The new technology for refuelling stations being developed by a firm in British Columbia in partnership with Shell is doing just that. While the first development is actually in California, it is my understanding we can now drive our cars to service stations and not even get out because a robotic system fills the cars with fuel. I can imagine the application and benefit of that when it is 45° below outside. We will not have to get out of our cars and freeze a bit in the process. There will be developments which apply to us and have everyday application.
A Quebec firm applied space expertise to develop a digital imaging system for x-rays which eliminates the need for photographic film. In addition, a company in Newfoundland has developed a sensitive skin, originally developed for space robotic manipulators, that is now being applied to artificial limbs and even car bumpers to control the release of airbags.
These are examples of technology we will be using on an everyday basis. I believe many more of those kinds of advances will be used in practical ways in our own country as a result of this development.
Even in the horrific wars in which Canada has been involved in the 20th century there have been technologies and new product developments because of the need to win which have actually benefited Canadians in civilian use. Various examples of expertise have been developed in a warring fashion. Why can we not have the same kind of development in the peaceful co-operation that is taking place as a result of the international space station?
I think international space station co-operation will be expanded into the future. Although the space station's life is scheduled to be only about 10 years, in talking to Mac Evans, head of the Canadian Space Agency, and others, I am told that there are components which will be obsolete in 10 years. Because they are components, a shuttle flight can be sent up with a new component. The old section that has become obsolete because of the new technologies can be replaced with the new one. Plug it in and it becomes part of the new space station. It will be a continual process of upgrading over time.
Many firms have succeeded in entering the international market by landing contracts based on the expertise they have gained from working on various aspects of the space project. Other firms are helping partner countries with their own contribution to the space station.
For example, the Ottawa company EMS Technologies recently won a $9.5 million contract with Mitsubishi to supply electronics for Japan's contribution to the space station. Ripples occur and Canadians benefit beyond our own involvement. In this case we are taking advantage of Japan's involvement by supplying it with electronics for the space station itself.
It is clear that Canada's involvement has produced tremendous returns so far. Satellites are being used for telecommunications, as I said earlier, in such areas as our very remote Arctic. I travelled in the Arctic a few years ago with the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. People were using cell phones that had direct linkages to satellites. They could talk to someone thousands of miles away in the Arctic without using any wire control telephone system. The wireless system takes advantage of the new technologies in space provided by our satellites. Canada is continually putting up more satellites to increase this capability.
It is important to us that we have this co-operation and that we be involved with the space station. On our own we would never be able to develop or fund a project of this magnitude. It is very big. As I said, Canada's involvement amounts to 2.5%.
The potential for a meaningful contribution therefore has to come from co-operating with others. The potential for this meaningful contribution and rewarding spinoffs is very great. We do not know where it is going to lead.
There have been unmanned flights to Mars to explore the surface of that planet and there has been talk about a manned flight. We hope that this international agreement and co-operation can lead to other successful ventures in the future such as a manned flight to Mars. I think there would have to be some new lift capacity. My understanding is a trip to Mars and back takes about three or four years which is a pretty significant investment of time. I am not sure who would want to make that investment.
Our co-operation in the international space station is most important for the young people of Canada. They will follow Canada's achievements in space thereby sparking their interest in the fields of science and technology.
Canada needs a very well educated population to compete in the future. Our astronauts Julie Payette, Chris Hadfield and Marc Garneau have been travelling around the country. They have travelled to space and have worked to develop the space station. Their interest will spark the interest of our young people to get involved in science and perhaps work in that area in the future themselves.
We do not need to be reminded that our future prosperity lies in our ability to encourage the pursuit of knowledge for those following behind us. As in the past, they are the building blocks in scientific areas.
I want to inform the House that the Reform Party is supporting this bill. We are very supportive of our involvement in the space agency. My colleagues and I wish Canada well in the future in whatever endeavours we might undertake in a co-operative nature with other countries to explore far beyond where we are now.