Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-13, an act to establish the Canadian institutes of health research and to repeal the Medical Research Council Act.
It is not very often in the House when I compliment the government on its direction, but I must compliment the government in recognizing the need for Canadian medical and science researchers to be supported financially. It is the hope of the official opposition that the new institutes of health research will be accountable to the Canadian taxpayers who will be providing the financial resources in order for the research to take place.
Research and development has had very strange support from governments. I remember the former Conservative government made lots of promises to the people of British Columbia, particularly to the University of British Columbia with the Kaon project but it became very apparent that it was only a vote-getting promise. Other promises have been made across the country by governments maintaining that they recognize the need for research and development, but when the time comes the financial support is never there.
We are very supportive of research and development because that is how Canada will lead the way. That is how the Canadian economy will be able to compete with other nations of the world. So often and for so long we have watched our best and our brightest go elsewhere because the financial support has not been available in our country to develop and fund research projects and to put those research projects into a viable market.
We are very pleased that the government at least is recognizing the need to put financial resources into research and development, but even more so the need to be accountable to the taxpayers for that money, not only with this direction on research and development, but certainly with other government programs. What has happened is that money has gone into an area and the taxpayers have had no idea where it has gone, if the money has been well spent or if there is any benefit from that money being put there. It is quite clear that the government recognizes the need to hold these new institutes accountable to the taxpayer.
The amount of dollars will be divided between the institute development fund, which will get 20% of the earmarked dollars, and the strategic initiative fund, which will get 80% of the total budget. Both will be overseen by a body. Although the director may be appointed by the government, the other members who will be sitting on the committee will be appointed or nominated by their peers.
That is a very important step forward. There will not be more patronage positions for the government to fill. Rather, the people who will be showing leadership and who will be determining which project will be prioritized, that determination will be made by the peers of the scientific community and the medical research community. They understand and will be able to weigh the importance of the projects. They will be able to prioritize them in such a way that the taxpayers' funds will be well spent.
It is also important to note that the government is not interested in creating a new bureaucracy. The government is not interested in long term appointments to government paid salaried positions. The individuals who will serve as an advisory board will not be paid a salary. They will be paid a per diem fee for the amount of time spent in committees or the number of committee meetings they attend. Instead of having somebody on a salary of $80,000 to $125,000, we are talking about a per diem fee with expenses being covered.
I think we will get people who really want to serve the scientific community and the Canadian people. They will not be out for their own personal benefit, they will be out for the good of the whole. That is a very important step for our government to take.
It is important not to create an establishment where the majority of the dollars goes to support the bureaucracy itself. I understand that only 4% to 5% of the total funds will go toward administration. I think Canadians will uphold the government's decision. Hopefully we will see in the long run that taxpayers' dollars do not go toward an increasingly huge bureaucracy or, as we sometimes hear people call them, these little kingdoms that develop, but rather that the money will actually go into research and development.
We are very pleased the government is going in this direction. We hope in the end these appointments will prove that the system is right and that this model of an agency can be used in other areas.
The head of the institution will be appointed by the governor in council and the other members will be appointed by their peers. The names of individuals from the scientific community will be given to the individual who will be appointed to run the institute. He or she will select from the names. It is an interesting direction for the government to be going in.
We understand the agencies will be reporting twice annually. Their spending can be watched by the Canadian people. Over the years we will be able to assess whether or not they are doing the best they can, whether they are using the money wisely through the reporting process that has been put in the act.
It is important to acknowledge that the scientific community has been hard done by in years past. Most of the money which has gone into scientific research has been used for administrative purposes or for supporting bureaucracies. I think the scientists themselves are looking to the new act to free up dollars for actual research projects and that the money will go into research.
Hopefully at the end of the day not only will Canadian taxpayers be pleased with the results, but those in the scientific and medical research community will also be pleased. This will mean more money will go into research than into the bureaucracy. The appointment of members and the overseeing body will be done in an open and democratic manner which will be accountable to the people with a reporting process involved.
Years from now we look forward to seeing a strong scientific and medical research community which will lead the way internationally. Hopefully this will stop the serious brain drain of our best and our brightest.