Mr. Speaker, Charles Townes, in describing the discovery of the laser, showed how much that discovery depended on a massive amount of research on atomic spectroscopy and the study of atomic beams, work seemingly of little commercial use.
This observation, reported in the journal Physics in Canada last summer, is at the heart of the debate on innovation in Canada.
The best-known Canadian scientific institution is undoubtedly the National Research Council of Canada. The NRC is behind one of the greatest symbols of Canadian scientific achievement, the Canadarm.
In March, the Minister of State for Science and Technology announced the dramatic restructuring of the NRC. In a speech to the members of the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa on March 6, he stated that the National Research Council of Canada “will be hopefully a one-stop, 1-800, ‘ 'I have a solution for your business problem’.”
The Minister of State for Science and Technology must realize that the NRC is more than just a one-stop Staples store. The National Research Council of Canada plays a crucial role in Canada's science culture. It is a symbol of our commitment to the advancement of science.
Between 2007 and 2012, the government gradually reduced core funding for the three granting councils: SSHRC, NSERC and CIHR. Social science research has been reduced by 10%, or $40 million, and health research has been cut by 4%, or $41 million, according to the memorandum submitted by the Canadian Association of University Teachers as part of pre-budget consultations.
Cuts to basic scientific research are leaving Canadian researchers with less and less money to pursue research that could contribute to advances in physics, chemistry and biology. Essentially, innovation is not getting any easier; rather it is becoming more difficult.
Eventually, underfunding for basic research will jeopardize the overall size of our scientific community. In other words, it will shrink, and this will reduce our chances for innovation.
The second outcome of this government's policy is that it will threaten technology transfers themselves between universities and the private sector. The marketing pipeline has two ends and if the source dries up, nothing can come out the other end. In other words, good ideas are needed before they can be marketed.
The third outcome of the government's science policy is that it will create a new brain drain in Canada. The vice-president of research at the University of British Columbia agrees. In Research Money he states, and I quote:
“We're now starting to lose talented mid-career researchers to the EU. The EU Framework program, France and Germany are all increasing their basic research envelope. Germany is increasing funding for basic research by 5%....These are huge increases in funding. They (European countries) can do targeted recruitment and the are making spectacular offers. That's my main concern. Canada has built a very strong university research community and I don't want to see it taken apart by foreign competition”.
My question is the following: will the $67 million announced in budget 2012 for restructuring the National Research Council be used to give severance packages to Canada's top researchers?