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House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was funding.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say point-blank that I believe the scientists and researchers of our country are a precious natural resource and that they have the entire planet to deal with in deciding where they are going to do their research during their lives.

Canada has no vested right, even if we educated some of these brilliant scientists, to claim that they will stay in this country. As I mentioned, at a time when President Barack Obama has announced $65 billion in research, it is clear, based on the amount of correspondence that I have received from scientists across the country, that many of them are once again pondering whether they will go to other countries so that their research can be carried out.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to welcome the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie to the House. I have followed his career, a very honourable one, for more than 25 years, but I am deeply saddened by the degree of partisanship he brings to the House. It may work for other members, but it does not look good on him.

As for the position of a science advisor that used to exist within the Prime Minister's Office, would the hon. member not agree that the 18-member Science, Technology and Innovation Council, chaired by Howard Alper, is possibly a more effective means than an adviser who was ignored by the preceding Liberal Prime Minister?

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his comments.

Of course it is a good thing to have committees of well-known scientists to inform and advise the government. In fact, there were at least two during the time the Liberal party was in power.

But the government must also be advised by other groups. When I was president of the Canada Space Agency, I often spoke with Dr. Arthur Carty, who was the adviser at the time. Mr. Carty was a resource person would could summarize all of Canada's scientific ideas and, with this cross-Canada contribution, he could advise the Prime Minister.

This model has existed in Great Britain and the United States for many years, and this position is a well respected one. I believe that if we were to ask the President and the British Prime Minister, they would say that it is a very good thing to have, in addition to various committees, other sources to advise them on scientific issues.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Cambridge Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear ConservativeMinister of State (Science and Technology)

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Oshawa.

I am proud to speak today as the new Minister of State for Science and Technology.

I am very proud to stand here today to talk about our government's commitment to Canadian science and technology excellence in all its aspects.

From the very beginning, this government has demonstrated its commitment to building Canada's strong science and technology sector. In fact long ago, in 2006, the Prime Minister actually announced Canada's new science and technology strategy, “Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage”, which was tabled in May 2007.

This is an ambitious strategy, linking the competitive energy of our entrepreneurs to the creative genius of our scientists. It is a multi-year, multi-faceted plan for building a sustainable competitive advantage for Canada through science and technology. We have backed this up with not just words but action, with increased funding in every single budget that we have tabled and put forward in the House.

It is important to note that the global economy, the environment of economics around the world, has changed drastically from when the science and technology strategy was introduced in 2007. That said, the force of our argument for mobilizing science and technology in building distinct Canadian advantages has not changed.

Even before the recession, the global competitiveness of Canadians depended on an entrepreneurial advantage. We knew this and we knew we must redouble our efforts to build a dynamic business environment that supports private sector innovation and promotes the success of Canadian companies at home and abroad. Our plan supports this.

We knew we must also continue our efforts to build a knowledge advantage, targeting resources to support research excellence and leading-edge scientific infrastructure. Technological advances occur rapidly these days, and in the face of a rapidly souring economy we had to adjust the current needs of the nation but stay on course with our plan.

Involved are entrepreneurism, knowledge and, of course, people. The third leg of the strategy is a highly skilled workforce. Canada must also stay the course in building a people advantage that provides Canadians with opportunities to acquire and use science and technology skills and allows Canada to grow its base of scientists and skilled workers while remaining sensitive to our current economic needs.

This government has taken strong action to address all these aspects. Our record on science and technology clearly indicates to anyone who wishes to read it that the government has a strong commitment to basic and applied research in all domains at all levels. Our recent budget shows how we can complete our plan, and do so in the context of the current economy.

Canada is an international leader in post-secondary education and research. We rank first in the G7 and second only to Sweden among the 30 countries that make up the OECD.

All along, our strategy has been supported by the government through substantial science and technology investments. As I have mentioned, in the previous three budgets of 2006, 2007, and 2008, there was almost $2.4 billion in total new funding for scientists, more than any Liberal budget in the past. There was solid new funding for the granting councils for their core programs and to the indirect costs of research programs. I want to emphasize that all these increases are cumulative. They represent ongoing permanent increases in core funding.

These previous three budgets have also included large research investments in arm's-length organizations. For example, the Canada Foundation for Innovation received $590 million in these budgets. There was $240 million, as has been mentioned earlier but ignored by the opposition, given to Genome Canada, and CANARIE received $120 million.

These are great commitments by the government. In building on the strategy, in October 2008 the Prime Minister's plan put me in place as Minister of State (Science and Technology), a position that was cut by the Liberal government.

As all Canadians know that near the end of 2008 the economic situation required creative and innovative thinking. How could we continue with our science and technology strategy, our plan for excellence in science and technology, and, at the same time, help stimulate the economy? Could it be done? With this government, it not only could be done, it has been done.

As I mentioned, the past three budgets, 2006, 2007 and 2008, provided $2.4 billion in new funding. Guess what? Budget 2009 pushes this investment to an all time high of $5.1 billion, an historic and unprecedented injection at a poignant time, a unique time, a critical time for the nation.

Of this $5.1 billion in S and T, $2 billion will go to universities and colleges for their infrastructure, preferably to be used in research initiatives; bricks and mortar. Do members know why? It is because that creates jobs that are immediately required and will help build Canada's S and T future.

Budget 2009 provides $750 million to the Canada Foundation for Innovation for new equipment. That is a brilliant strategy. For the National Research Council's industrial research assistance program, budget 2009 provides $200 million of new money. This is of particular value to the manufacturing sector in Canada.

Budget 2009 also provides $80 million over two years to FPInnovations, a not for profit research institute that focuses on the development of emerging and breakthrough technologies in forestry.

Budget 2009 also provides $50 million to the Institute of Quantum Computing in Waterloo.

Of course, it is the people. It is the scientists in the end who use this great equipment in these great facility, which is why this government established the Canada Excellence Research Chairs program in last year's budget aimed at enabling Canadian universities to recruit and retain the brightest and most promising researchers the world has to offer. This is complemented by the Vanier Canada graduate scholarships program, which will award 500 international and Canadian doctoral students with generous three year scholarships to study and do their work in Canada. We want the best to come here and we want them to stay. They will need the best equipment in the best facilities.

Two weeks ago, I was at McGill University where I announced a $120 million investment for 134 research chairs at 37 different universities across the country.

We have added more scholarships with $87.5 million for 2,500 new scholarships over and above the core programs and 600 graduate internships for our industry.

The investments undertaken to support the science and tech strategy underscore our government's determination to do our part to maintain and build a national competitive advantage.

The global storm will require immediate attention but it will not distract us from our goals. We will use this as an opportunity to drive harder. Our multi-year strategy will secure the nation as the place to invent, to innovate and to discover.

I look forward to working with my parliamentarian colleagues on this important issue.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has put a lot of platitudes on the table.

The assertion made by the mover of the motion is that there has been a decline in real funding. We can play with numbers. The Minister of State for Science and Technology had a recent meeting with representatives of 121 colleges and universities in the country. The representation made by the mover of the motion was that, adjusting for inflation, the investment in Canadian universities since the Conservative government took office has declined by $158 million. It is a very straightforward assertion and it is based on published data.

I wonder if the Minister of State for Science and Technology would like to respond to the drop in that funding, which was presented to him by the Association of University Teachers, 121 organizations, and why they should not get additional funding.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member must be talking about the 50% inflation number because that is the amount by which we have increased scholarships; from $50 million to $75 million, which is a 50% increase.

The overall budget for science and technology initiatives in this country is about $10.1 billion, again, a significant increase over the Liberals.

As I just mentioned for the member, and I am sure he was listening, this budget alone put in an additional $5.1 billion. By anyone's imagination, $10.1 billion is the average annual expenditure on science and tech in this country.

The hon. member mentioned that everything the United States was doing was $60 billion. Normally it is a 10:1 ratio with 10 times the population. Canada is doing significantly better. We are continuing to do that and our increase this year, which is way above inflation, as I am sure the member knows, is done to do two things; to continue to strengthen our science and tech community but also to shore up our universities and colleges where they asked us to put money. So we put additional money there, which will create jobs right now.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank the minister for everything he has done for science and technology. As he knows, I come from Oshawa and we have had some significant challenges with this global recession and how it affects our job numbers.

With the minister's strategy and his approach to science and technology, I know he commented about the importance of bricks and mortar. All these institutions are having problems attracting the best. It is a competitive world out there.

I would like him to comment on how his approach to infrastructure, research chairs and the Vanier scholarships will allow us to better attract the best and create jobs in communities like Oshawa. As well, could he comment on the slump and how things with infrastructure went down under the previous government and what steps he has taken to improve that?

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health has had a very significant and active participation on this file and health. He is a great representative for his riding. We have had many discussions.

The world scientists need the very best places. Some of these facilities require state of the art ventilation, electron microscopes and particle accelerators. If we are not able to provide that type of equipment, then the researchers will not come here. We, therefore, have provided that type of equipment and we have kicked in another $750 million for it.

However, we cannot have leaky roofs at our universities leaking on the brand new electron microscopes. When we had our prebudgetary consultations, the number one issue we heard from our research community, our colleges and universities, was infrastructure. Under the previous government, universities and colleges were allowed to lapse and became in disrepair that some estimate is between $5 billion and $10 billion.

This government took that opportunity to put $2 billion, matched by the provinces or other partners, which equals $4 billion that will go into universities and colleges to give our researchers the very best buildings with the very best equipment. Add that on top of our new money and existing money for scholarships and research programs, we have it all together under one stool. It is the best in the world and it will only get better.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank my colleague, the minister of state, for his excellent work with science and technology and for his leadership at this very important time.

The Government of Canada has invested extensively in health research in the past three years. In fact, the government has increased the annual base budget of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the CIHR, by more than $142 million. This year, CIHR plans to spend approximately $917 million on peer review health research projects conducted at universities, hospitals and research centres across our great country.

In budget 2008, we pledged $25 million over two years for the new Vanier scholarships; $21 million over two years to establish up to 20 university research chairs to attract top science leaders; and $20 million to the Canada Gairdner international awards for health research. In budget 2009, we expanded our commitment to supporting new scientists with an additional $35 million over the next three years for the Canada graduate scholarships program, the CGS program, which will help support 200 doctoral candidates and 400 master's students.

Furthermore, in budget 2007 the government allocated $195 million over two years for 11 new Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research. We followed that with another $163 million in budget 2008. CIHR is also leveraging this investment to attract additional resources. In 2006-07, CIHR partners contributed nearly $90 million to health research. Industry partnered programs leveraged public sector funding at a rate of two to one or more. As these numbers demonstrate, health research ranks very high on this government's agenda.

Why do we feel it is so important to support our health researchers? It is because their work has a profoundly positive impact on the lives of all Canadians. Health research is the key to optimal health care and improved health services. I would like to add that the Government of Canada has achieved a great deal with these investments, which is exactly why we are continuing to contribute generous levels of funding to help Canadian researchers continue their excellent work.

As an example, with the funding available from the Government of Canada, CIHR supported over 12,000 researchers active in all parts of Canada. Health research produces huge benefits. One does not have to tell Luis and Oksana Delgado from Edmonton. The Delgados were at a CIHR funding announcement with the hon. Tony Clement, the Minister of Industry, along—

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I remind the member that he is not to use the names of other members in the House when he speaks.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, my apologies.

The Delgados were at a CIHR funding announcement with the Minister of Industry, along with a CIHR supported researcher from the University of Alberta, Dr. Po-Yin Cheung. The Delgados directly benefited from a new resuscitation technique developed by Dr. Cheung. When their 22-month-old son, Adrian, suffered from low oxygen and its complications at birth, he received medical care from Dr. Cheung. Using state of the art resources and knowledge from his research, Dr. Cheung and his health care team helped Adrian make a full recovery.

Think about Cecil Condo from Cape Breton. One of Canada's growing number of seniors, and a residential school survivor, Cecil had one leg amputated and was trying to adjust to life in a wheelchair. Cecil benefited directly from a special rehabilitation program developed by CIHR supported researcher, Dr. Lee Kirby, at Dalhousie University. Cecil is now able to pop a wheelie in his wheelchair which, as Dr. Kirby's research has demonstrated, is an important survival skill for any wheelchair user who hopes to get around independently. Here is what Cecil said about Dr. Kirby: “That man is a saint”.

There are all kinds of human stories linked to health research. Health research helps improve health and improve lives. We know that and that is why we are investing in it. Health research helps to address pressing health challenges such as mental health, which is a multi-million dollar drain on productivity. Health research helps keep people healthy and productive, something with real value during this economic downturn.

Health research also produces lots of important and fundamental discoveries. CIHR is helping support important stem cell research which is helping deliver important new insights. It is also helping to create research excellence and an international reputation.

As a result, Canada gets a seat at the table with the world's best. Canada now has a major collaborative research agreement with California for cancer stem cell research. Canada is also helping lead a major three country initiative called the Structural Genomics Consortium, the SGC. The SGC is an ongoing partnership between public and private sector research organizations in Canada, the U.K. and Sweden. It is helping to produce valuable information about proteins known to play a role in human diseases. This information is shared for free through an online database.

The SGC comprises over 180 researchers and is led by Dr. Aled Edwards of the University of Toronto. Under Dr. Edwards' leadership the SGC has been producing ahead of schedule and under budget. In its first phase, from 2004-07, the SGC was mandated to produce 386 novel protein structures. It has exceeded this goal and now in its second phase is working to produce a further 660 structures. Access to these structures can cut months, even years, off the lengthy drug development process.

This is research excellence and this is Canada's advantage. The Government of Canada recognizes that science, research and innovation are today among the most promising investment opportunities for producing long-term dividends such as highly educated workers and new intellectual property. That is why the government has pledged many millions of dollars for funding for research that will benefit Canada's research community, health researchers included.

In all of this we never lose sight of the ultimate goal of health research: to improve the health of Canadians and of people around the world.

We know that investing in research, particularly health research, is one of the wisest, most efficient and most prudent investments any society can make. Seeing the impact that health research has on individuals reaffirms for all of us the importance of the work the CIHR does.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, some time ago Parliament passed the reproductive technologies act. A lot of that had to do with creating a committee that was going to establish a review committee for research grants for the best and brightest in Canada. The chair of that committee was never appointed. The committee was never created. The guidelines that Parliament had established are not in force and in fact, the CIHR is free to do whatever it wants. The CIHR is not subject to any review by Parliament. We are waiting for the regulations under that legislation so that we can have a say in directing the research that is conducted in Canada.

The member seems to paint a much rosier picture, but the fact remains that for over five years now, Health Canada has not done the job. It is not getting the job done. We have not seen the regulations and those regulations have to go to the health committee before they can be promulgated. Will the member undertake to make sure Health Canada gets those regulations gazetted and promulgated so that we can get on with important research?

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his very important question. He has raised something that is valid. These regulations have been out for about five years. The process is ongoing and I am looking forward to when they do come before committee.

In the member's previous statement, he talked about the cuts in research overall. As a matter of fact, there have been massive increases in the amount of money our government is putting toward research. I want to run through some of those very important things.

With respect to the knowledge infrastructure program, in the 2009 budget, there is over $2 billion. For clean energy technologies, which I think everyone supports, there is $1 billion over five years. For the Canada Foundation for Innovation, there is another $750 million. For the Canada Health Infoway, which is very important for electronic health records, there is $500 million. To modernize our federal labs, there is $250 million. For the industrial research assistance program, there is $200 million over two years. This government is getting it done.

One of the things that was close to my heart when I was on the industry committee was the Canadian Space Agency. There were no raises in funding when the member for Westmount--Ville-Marie was head of the Canadian Space Agency. This year the minister has put an extra $110 million into the Canadian Space Agency, something of which all of us in this House should be very proud.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, over the past several weeks I have been reviewing the budget, and I do want to commend the government for allocating infrastructure money to many of the buildings on campuses across the country. That is a positive step.

I am also a strong proponent of all post-secondary institutions in our country. In my riding and in my city, we have Langara College, Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia. All are important places of learning and are critical to our economy.

From my reading of budget 2009 it seems to cut almost $150 million over three years from NSERC, SSHRC and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. I am just wondering if my reading of this budget is incorrect in this regard. I would be curious to hear the member's comments to enlighten me in this respect.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has brought up an important aspect of the budget, and that is accountability.

One of the first things this government did was to be accountable to Canadian taxpayers. All the different programs will be looked at with respect to getting the best bang for the buck. In these very difficult times, this government has to take into account the importance of Canadian taxpayers' dollars. What we are doing is spending record amounts on research and science and technology.

The member mentioned how important it is in his riding, but his party does not support the budget. In my community the importance of these investments is huge as well. I am supporting these investments in research, science and technology because these are the jobs of the future.

What I would ask the member to do, if the budget implementation bill comes back into this House, is to please get his leader onside with the budget implementation bill, because Canadians need that money. Researchers need those dollars. We need those high value-added jobs and we need them now.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert.

I rise today on this Liberal Party opposition day to speak to the motion calling on the federal government to significantly increase funding for research and development.

As a progressive political party, we are obviously in favour of this motion, because we believe that research and development can help create the jobs of tomorrow and, of course, contribute to economic prosperity.

Because of globalization, Quebec, like many other nations, is faced with growing challenges not only from our traditional competitors, but also from emerging economies. But to prosper, we have to spend more and more on research and development to improve productivity.

We also have to invest as much as our competitors in research and development, or else rapidly close the gap between our spending and our main competitors'.

What is the status of federal support for research and development?

In a nutshell, the federal government is not a reliable partner for Quebec—and I will prove it—and things have gotten worse since the Conservative Party of Canada came to power.

The federal government invests far less in research and development than the other OECD member countries—we have the statistics to prove it—and Ottawa's share of research funding in Canada is steadily decreasing.

In fact, Canada spends less than 2% of its GDP on research and development, which puts it in 13th place among OECD countries, which generally spend 2.26% of their GDP on R and D. That is a big difference.

This is especially disappointing since the federal share of R and D funding has declined steadily over the past 30 years.

Whereas in 1971 the federal government accounted for 40% of total research and development spending in Canada, the figure was only 18.7% in 2003. The government has slashed research and development spending in spite of the demands of globalization.

By the way, members will have noticed that this previous decline took place under the Liberal Party.

Not only does the federal government not invest enough in research and development, but Quebec gets less than its fair share of federal R and D funding.

As is the case for many files of this nature, although Quebec accounts for 29% of all of Canada's spending on research and development, it receives only 24% of federal funding—once again, Quebec loses out within this federal system—compared to the 48.3% that Ontario receives.

The only area in which Quebec receives an adequate share of federal funding is that of business research, although much of that support is in the form of tax credits that are accessible to everyone, so Ottawa has no say as to the geographic distribution of that assistance. That is not right.

As for research done directly by the federal government, when the government itself decides where the money will be spent, Quebec receives only 19.4% while Ontario receives 58.3% of spending. There is a remarkable discrepancy there.

Yet the Quebec economy relies on the high-tech sector, like the aerospace industry and the pharmaceutical industry, much more than the Canadian economy does. That is why the Government of Quebec attaches much more importance to supporting research activities than the federal government does. However, as I have already indicated, the federal government is not contributing as much as it could be. Thus, with research and development spending totalling 2.73% of its GDP, Quebec is making a much greater effort than the federal government, which invests less than 2% of its GDP.

Although funding was already insufficient under the Liberals and Quebec was at a disadvantage compared to Ontario, with the Conservatives in power, the situation has only gotten worse. For instance, in the fall of 2006, the Conservative government eliminated the main federal support program for industrial research, called technology partnerships Canada, a program that was very important to the Quebec industrial sector, and it did so at a time when our manufacturing sector is shrinking.

A few months later, it announced an aerospace research support program. In reality, it was just the announcement of some semblance of a program, Technology Partnerships Canada, from which it had itself slashed a third of the budget and excluded all industrial sectors except aerospace. While Quebec is a world class leader in that field, it cannot count on the support of the Conservative government.

For several years now we have been calling upon the government to establish an aerospace policy that would ensure businesses of reliable and predictable support and thus allow them to plan developmental projects. Yet the feds have always refused to do anything. In the meantime, other cutting edge industries—pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, environmental— solidly entrenched in Quebec have also been left to fend for themselves by the Conservative government.

That is why the Bloc Québécois is calling upon the federal government to cancel the cuts imposed on the Technology Partnerships Canada program, on support to the development of the aerospace industry, and to restore that program's availability to all cutting edge sectors that the Conservatives have left without any support. In addition to support for our cutting edge industries, our manufacturing sector also needs support. For example, in my own riding the furniture manufacturing industry plays an important role.

In this period of major economic downturn, businesses including those in traditional sectors such as furniture manufacturing, should be looking at innovations now in preparation for the coming recovery—innovations involving new technologies in order to improve productivity and be competitive with the industries in Asia. If the Quebec furniture industry wants to make any progress in this increasingly difficult context, it must act promptly to invest in new manufacturing techniques. By investing in research and development, the furniture industry will be better able to integrate new technologies in order to achieve lower production costs as soon as possible and with an eye to customer specifications and demands. The ability is there, but support is needed.

In order to achieve these objectives for the furniture sector and all the rest of the manufacturing sector, federal government support must be obtained for research and development. The federal government must improve tax support for research and development, for instance by increasing tax deductions for research and development as well as the types of expenses that are eligible. The Bloc also proposes making the research and development tax credit a refundable one, so that companies can benefit from it even if they are still in the development stage and not yet making any profit. It is convinced that these few measures could be extremely beneficial to the furniture industry in Quebec.

In reality, in this area as in several others, we realize once again that it is best to count on ourselves rather than Ottawa, a partner that is not very dependable.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, under the Liberal governments between 1996 and 2005, the investment in science and research nearly doubled. We have evidence now that since 2006, the current government has decreased its investment in research and innovation. For example, it is $307 million lower in engineering, social and humanities research and about $158 million in research for Canada's universities.

It seems to me there is an issue here about whether or not there is a belief that research and innovation is an important investment at a critical time in Canada's economic future. There is some concern obviously that has been expressed by the mover of the motion about the loss of some of the best and brightest in Canada following the money where it is being offered, particularly the United States and other countries.

I would ask the member whether or not he has seen a tendency of the government not supporting investment in research and development, and in fact is Canada really experiencing a brain drain?

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in my speech, the Liberals had also somewhat ignored Quebec in terms of research and development. Ottawa has yet to put in place, in this House, a true aerospace policy, for example.

Under the Conservatives, the federal government seems intent on putting Canada out of commission and its actions are catastrophic. Not only do they not have an aerospace policy, but all their efforts are contributing to the weakening of this pillar of our economy, either through incompetence or lack of imagination. I believe that research and development is the future. Americans invest a great deal in this area. It is not right that, among the OECD industrialized countries, we invest the least in research and development.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his intervention in the debate this afternoon.

Over the last number of years we have seen a number of concerns come up around funding for research. We have seen increasing pressure on people doing research in Canada to ensure that their work can be easily commercialized. There has been this whole trend toward the commercialization of research.

We have also seen, certainly around this place, members of Parliament, often from the Conservative Party or its predecessors, the Reform Party, questioning a lot of the curiosity based research that is done in Canada, especially research in the arts and in the humanities where they have often thrown contempt on some of those research projects, mainly by often rehearsing and reciting the titles of certain works that they somehow think are not deserving of research support.

We have also seen recently the Canadian Association of University Teachers calling into question the distribution of research money based on priorities established by politicians and not through scientific merits. The scientists are not as directly involved in this and the latest budget is another indication of the government setting research priorities that have not gone through a rigorous process of determining their scientific merit.

I wonder if the member might comment on the importance of research based on scientific merit.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague for the question.

We will recall that the forerunner of the Conservative Party was the Reform Party. At the time, the Prime Minister, a Conservative, had awarded an aerospace research contract to Bombardier and the Reform members were against the research and development to be carried out by Bombardier under this contract.

The consequences of this philosophy and tactics of the Conservative Party were felt not only by the aerospace industry but also by the manufacturing sector in general. In a context of globalization, when agreements are signed with many other countries and emerging nations are invading our markets, we must have more rigorous research and development to improve our productivity.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé on his excellent speech. He has spoken eloquently about the issue. He has enlightened us on research and development and the consequences on the furniture industry in his riding.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of today's opposition day motion and hopes that the Conservative government will reinvest in science, research and innovation, all of which are pillars for a solid economy and job creators for the future.

I would like to point out the significant role the aerospace industry plays in the riding of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert. Quebec's expertise in this economic sector is world-renowned. The aerospace industry is so important to Montreal's south shore that I am fond of calling it the aerospace region. I call it this because of the airport, the aerospace industry, the space agency and the aeronautics college. For us, Montreal's south shore, the aerospace region, is important.

The Saint-Hubert airport is the oldest civilian airport in Quebec and Canada and was, for some time, the largest. Across from Montreal, the south shore, particularly Saint-Hubert, is all about the airport and aerospace industry. Dozens of innovative small, medium-sized and large businesses based there and their subcontractors employ thousands of workers. These are companies like Héroux DevTech, Pratt & Whitney and Dev-Yhu, and organizations like the Canadian Space Agency. As I said earlier, Saint-Hubert is also home to the National Institute of Aeronautics, which is part of the Cégep Édouard-Montpetit and a leader in technical aeronautical training in Quebec.

Aerovision Quebec has also helped build our reputation in aeronautics. The foundation's president, Lucien Poirier, promotes Quebec's exceptional contribution to achievement in air travel and is dedicated to preserving our aeronautical heritage.

My colleague did such a great job of explaining why we need more support for research and development that I will skip some of the pages I prepared.

He also pointed out that Quebec has been left to its own devices.

If I may, I would also like to talk about research centres. When it comes to research conducted directly by the federal government, also known as intramural research, where the government makes its own decisions about allocating funds, Quebec receives only 19.4% of the funding, while Ontario receives 58.3%. In fact, the city of Ottawa alone receives $912 million—almost three times more than the $320 million spent in the entire province of Quebec.

There are 118 federal research centres, and only 16 of them—13.5%—are located in Quebec. Ontario has 50 centres. The government spends nearly a billion dollars—$960 million—on research and development in the national capital region. Of that, 95%—$912 million—goes to Ontario, and a mere 5%—just $48 million—goes to the Outaouais. The greater Ottawa area has 27 federal research centres. Every single one is located in Ontario.

Quebec should get its fair share of federal research and development funds. The federal government should relocate some of its own research centres from Ottawa to the Outaouais. That would only be fair.

A former Liberal industry minister used to say that the aerospace industry is to Quebec what the automobile industry is to Ontario. He was right and the Bloc Québécois has often repeated that. The Quebec aerospace industry represents 51% of jobs, 57% of salaries, 62% of sales volumes and 70% of R and D expenditures in the Canadian aerospace industry. Quebec is a world leader in this sector.

In the aerospace sector, competition exists not only among corporations, but also among governments. Indeed, because this sector generates significant economic and technological spinoffs and creates extremely high quality jobs, governments step up their efforts and their imagination in order to support their aerospace sectors better. The dispute between the United States and Europe regarding subsidies to Boeing and Airbus is an excellent example, not to mention Embraer.

Unfortunately, the federal government seems to have decided to take Canada out of play. Not only does it have no aerospace policy, but all of its actions serve only to weaken this pillar of our economy, either by incompetence or negligence—or both—or perhaps for some other reason.

I would like to quote an article by Alain Dubuc that appeared in the Friday, March 6 edition of La Presse:

That is the same logic, the same obscurantism, the same misunderstanding of the development of an advanced society that led the government to cut funding that allowed artists to tour internationally.

In the same column a few paragraphs later, Alain Dubuc writes:

In fact, the Conservative government is adopting the same approach to research as it did to arts and culture. We are seeing the same prejudices and the same notion of the settling of scores. It is pretty clear that the Conservatives are cutting the financial livelihood of a sector that it does not like...

This Conservative government has not announced any new measures to support industry. It has changed the repayment terms of its main R and D investment program, so that it no longer really shares the risk with businesses. It also carries out all of its military aerospace procurements abroad, thereby providing no spinoffs for the hub of Canada's aerospace industry, namely, Quebec.

It must be said that the Canadian and Quebec aerospace industries are different. Quebec has a real industry, with those who give the contracts surrounded by suppliers, whereas the Canadian industry is essentially made up of equipment manufacturers and suppliers.

By the way, Montreal is the only place in the world where an entire aircraft can be assembled within a radius of less than 50 kilometres.

So while the Canadian industry depends a great deal on the health of the American industry, because Canada provides the U.S. with equipment and parts, Quebec's industry is a centre in itself.

When the government makes military purchases abroad and lets Boeing choose the spinoffs, it is a safe bet that its Canadian suppliers will benefit, but not its Quebec competitors. While Canada can accommodate an aerospace policy designed in Washington because the Canadian industry is integrated into the American industry, Quebec cannot.

The aerospace industry has particular challenges that call for industry-specific tools. First, because the investments in research and development that are needed to launch a new aerospace product must be made over a very long time and are expensive and risky, the government must share the risk with the aerospace companies. Otherwise, they will develop their products elsewhere.

Second, because their products are very expensive and their clients, the airlines, are going through tough times because of competition from low-cost carriers and higher fuel prices, aerospace companies need ways of financing sales contracts. Otherwise, they will have a hard time finding buyers.

Third, because SMEs in the aerospace industry have to take part in developing products in order to create their own niche in the industry, but do not necessarily have the capital to do so, measures that apply specifically to SMEs, such as access to credit and working capital, are needed.

Lastly, because military purchases are excluded from trade agreements and mean good-quality contracts that lead to technological advances, the industry needs the government to adopt procurement policies that have attractive economic and technological spinoffs.

These four elements are the foundations of any aerospace policy. Such a policy is especially needed here as our domestic market is fairly limited and the government, which decided last year to renew its fleet of aircraft abroad at a cost of $13 billion, will not be making any purchases of a similar size for another generation or two.

The challenges facing the aerospace industry will not go away. The market will remain fragile, because fuel prices will remain high. The value of Canada's petrodollar will remain high as well, which will hurt manufacturing, including the aerospace industry.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, since the tabling of the budget and the budget implementation bill, many concerns and questions have been raised in the House about accountability around infrastructure spending, about the $3 billion slush fund, about financial accountability and about political pork-barrelling.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers has raised another issue of accountability with regard to research funding in Canada. One of its concerns is it is looking for assurances that funding through the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the college and university infrastructure initiatives are judged on the basis of their scientific merit by people in the research community, not by political considerations, not by political priorities established by politicians.

Could the member comment on that suggestion from the Canadian Association of University Teachers?

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, we believe this Conservative government is clueless about research and development, just as we believe that, when it comes to heritage, it has no understanding of creativity, artists and culture.

With respect to culture, we could say that the Conservatives confuse the arts with entertainment. However, in the case of research and development, they really have research, development and production mixed up. With their obscurantism, their laissez-faire policies, and their principle of “let the best man win”, they imagine that all research and development efforts must be profitable and result in advantages, whereas the complete opposite holds true.

Research and development means—as the words indicate—research that leads to development, of course; yet, trial and error is involved. Some research may not seem quite necessary at the outset. However, it is a tool that is useful to the development of other industrial sectors.

This government just does not understand what research and development is all about.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, back in 2006 the government indicated that it would increase research funding by $500 million for university-based research. We know now from the figures placed on the floor during debate that in fact the funding, in real terms, has gone down by $158 million. To me, this says that the government is always easy on the promises and continues to re-promise or re-gift the same promises, but never ultimately gets around to deliver.

That has been the case with regard to the infrastructure funding, for instance, for the last fiscal year. There are $4 billion that could be available right away and we would not have to wait for the current budget implementation act to be passed for the year commencing April 1, 2009, but the government will not deliver them. It is simply to window dress the bottom line for the current year rather than put the interests of people ahead of its own political interests.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Mississauga South for his very relevant question. I trust the member will allow me to draw a parallel with the supposed additional monies for the Department of Canadian Heritage by this government.

Although the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages boasts of investing many more millions of dollars in heritage, we see that there is nothing new, nothing fresh and useful for artists and organizations who want to tour abroad.

When asked for $45 million to allow artists to present their cultural works abroad, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages comes up with the Canada prize program into which he puts $25 million. This program will provide six-figure prizes—I will say it again, six-figure—to foreign artists. That is exactly the opposite of what is needed.

Furthermore, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages told me in this House that he had transferred artists' money to the Olympic torch relay. It is evident that this government's priorities are not where they should be.