Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Burlington.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the motion brought forward by the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie for it addresses an issue that is of particular importance during a time when Canadians are increasingly feeling the pressures of a global economic downturn.
At the outset I would like to stress that this government's commitment to supporting science and technology is unwavering. We recognize that investment in science and technology, or S and T, holds the key to fostering the innovation, talent and ideas that enable modern environments to improve their competitiveness and productivity. We also recognize that this imperative is only further amplified when we consider that we are currently in the midst of the most synchronized recession of the post-war period. That is why budget 2009 makes S and T investments a central component of its efforts to help Canadians' economic prosperity.
Indeed, the more than $5 billion in new S and T spending announced in budget 2009 represents one of the largest ever federal budget allocations in this area. This major historic investment builds significantly on this government's already substantial commitment to S and T. In 2007-08, federal spending on S and T surpassed $10 billion, including $2.7 billion in spending on higher education research and development.
As a proportion of gross domestic product, that level of support for higher education R and D places Canada in a leadership position among G7 nations, a position that this government is committed to maintaining. It is our ongoing commitment to higher education R and D that I would like to focus on today.
In recent years, the Government of Canada has substantially increased funding for Canada's federal granting councils, the most direct way that we support academic research. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada received successive increases of $40 million a year, $85 million a year and $80 million a year in the budgets of 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively. These increases are cumulative, ongoing and permanent.
I would like to take a moment to speak a little more about the important work of the granting councils. These agencies are arm's length organizations created by acts of Parliament. Their role is to support our nation's best research and brightest minds. Over the past couple of years, we have introduced a suite of multi-year flagship programs that are helping them do just that.
Budget 2007 saw the introduction of new programs focusing on fostering research partnerships involving businesses, academics and the public sector, partnerships that are critically important for translating Canadian efforts into world-class success and innovation.
These programs include, for instance, the business-led Networks of Centres of Excellence program. This initiative funds world-class, business-led, national networks that perform research in support of private sector innovation to deliver economic, health, social and environmental benefits to Canadians.
Another key initiative flowing from budget 2007 is the Centres of Excellence in Commercialization and Research program. This initiative brings together people, services and infrastructure to maximize the benefits of the government's investments in skills and research, and to encourage greater private sector involvement in science and technology.
As for budget 2008, it saw the introduction of programs emphasizing international research excellence. These include two major programs to position Canada as a magnet for the world's top students and researchers, and to promote the development and application of leading edge knowledge.
One is the Vanier Canada graduate scholarship program that will award 500 international and Canadian doctoral students with scholarships valued at $50,000 per annum for up to three years. These awards are internationally competitive, similar in value and prestige to the Fulbright scholarships in the U.S. and the Rhodes scholarships in the U.K.
The other is the Canada Excellence Research Chairs program to help Canadian universities compete for world-class researchers working in areas that will contribute to the competitiveness of our industries and help generate economic and social benefits for Canadians.
Our government's contribution to higher education R and D does not end with the granting councils. The previous three budgets have also included large research investments in other organizations. For instance, there is $590 million for the Canada Foundation for Innovation for the modernization of research infrastructure at Canadian universities, colleges and other not-for-profit research institutions. There is $240 million for Genome Canada for large genomic research projects. There is $120 million for CANARIE to improve Canada's research broadband system. These entities are still spending the multi-year funding we provided to them in previous budgets. Now that I have discussed the past, let me look toward the future.
Budget 2009 builds even further on our ongoing support for higher education R and D. It includes a massive university and college infrastructure program that will provide up to $2 billion to support deferred maintenance and repair projects at post-secondary institutions. These projects will not only put Canadians to work and provide stimulus to communities throughout the country, they will also enhance the research capacity of post-secondary institutions, enabling them to attract talent and provide a better educational experience for the highly skilled workers of tomorrow.
To compliment this major investment in university and college infrastructure, budget 2009 also provides $750 million for leading-edge research infrastructure through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, or CFI. What is more, budget 2009 recognizes the important need to create opportunities for students and recent graduates to deepen and apply their skills, this at a time when they are facing a weakening labour market and businesses are investing less in research and development.
To this end, budget 2009 provides $87.5 million over the next three years to temporarily expand the Canada graduate scholarships program. This investment will provide an additional 500 doctoral scholarships and an additional 2,000 master's scholarships to support Canada's top students in pursuing advanced research training. Moreover, budget 2009 allocates an additional $3.5 million over two years to offer 600 more graduate internships through the industrial research and development internship program launched in budget 2007. This investment will help students gain hands-on research experience and firms will in turn benefit from an infusion of new knowledge and skills.
I trust that my remarks today have helped to illustrate our government's ongoing commitment to science and technology and to higher education research and development in particular. We know that investments in this area are essential to helping Canadians weather the current economic storm and creating a national competitive advantage in today's knowledge-based global economy.