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House of Commons Hansard #134 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was scientists.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise in the House to speak about an issue that is very important to Canadians. I will read the motion, but a lot of my comments will be focused on some of the issues I have dealt with in the past, one being the long form census, which we no longer have in this country, and my concerns about the process of eliminating that census and what the consequences are for this country.

The motion by my colleague states:

That, in the opinion of the House, Canadian scientific and social science expertise is of great value and, therefore, the House calls on the Government to end its muzzling of scientists; to reverse the cuts to research programs at Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Library and Archives Canada, National Research Council Canada, Statistics Canada, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada; and to cancel the closures of the National Council of Welfare and the First Nations Statistical Institute.

It is really important to note that over $1 billion of cuts have taken place to a number of different departments, which are going to affect the competitiveness of Canada. When we look at the opportunity for research in the modern economy, it is the value-added economy that we need to be enhancing. This is why science and research are so important.

Canada has a tradition of falling from actually producing the end results of science and research. We do not often bring enough products to market. There has been a real conscious effort to work with universities and other entrepreneurs to try to bring some patents and other types of inventions into the manufacturing world, because we have seen hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in the manufacturing sector over the last number of years. My constituency has been particularly affected, as well as Ontario, Quebec and other places across Canada where the value-added economy has been lost. That is what is important about research and science. It is the backbone of the value-added society we really need to have for our exports.

One of the statistics that is important to recognize is that in 2005 the Government of Canada at the time had a $16 billion manufacturing export deficit. It is the value-added work done through manufacturing that is being lost because we were importing $16 billion more than we were exporting out to the world. That grew in 2010 to $80 billion. That is a significant shift. It is important to recognize that there is a significant place for a natural resource sector in our country, but it should not be only about lifting things out of the ground or chopping things down and then sending them away to be refined or processed elsewhere. We are more than just being able to take a piece of lumber or a tree and sending it off to China and then buying the table back later on. That is no way to organize our labour force, to sustain our cost of living or to encourage innovation. Often those decisions are made elsewhere in terms of the research and how it takes place.

One thing I will touch on briefly is the Investment Canada Act. As we have been seeing, the hollowing out of our manufacturing sector has occurred partly because there have been many takeovers of Canadian companies that have been uncontested by the government. In fact, recently it raised the threshold to $1 billion. We are losing decision-making capabilities. For example, there is a situation in Hamilton where U.S. Steel has a very capable plant, workforce and environment. Despite all the government's rhetoric of lowering taxes to create jobs, U.S. Steel is not using this facility to its fullest capacity. It is barely using this facility.

I neglected to inform you, Mr. Speaker, that I am splitting my time with the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

Getting back to the Investment Canada Act and the U.S. Steel facility, it has not been fired up again in terms of providing the proper resources in jobs and elements that could take place. In fact U.S. Steel has redirected some work back to the United States. Part of that is because of the Investment Canada Act that was changed, and it is being changed in the budget again.

An interesting sidebar is that by amending these acts and the types of things we are debating here today without using the parliamentary process often does not fix legislation. The Investment Canada Act, which is again being altered in this budget, has not gone to committee in the past, like it should have. We did study it indirectly but did not study the actual legislative changes. These are some of the unintended consequences that would actually be addressed, even if the government had the right intent or the right agenda, because we could even get government amendments to legislation that have not properly thought through or there is a twist in something that did not work out through the process and that needs to be addressed.

It is important to note that one thing that will change is the statistics with regard to the census. What took place was that the minister at the time talked about personal privacy and that was one of the reasons the government would amend the long form census into a short form census. That is an issue that I am particularly concerned about because back in the day, a number of years ago under another administration, the government decided to outsource the census. Lockheed Martin actually got the contract. People might know Lockheed Martin for its manufacturing of arms across the globe but it also does censuses. It did the British census and a number of others. It picked up the Canadian census.

I was very concerned about that outsourcing and fought a long campaign to keep the data here in Canada. Lockheed Martin was going to assemble the Canadian data in the United States. What does that mean? It means that when our data leaves our soil and goes to the United States it is then subject to its privacy act. The privacy act is very particular. If the Government of the United States wants to access information from any source, it will get that information. What is important to note is that the company cannot disclose that the information has been accessed because of national security reasons. Therefore, if Lockheed Martin, for example, were storing the Canadian data in the United States and it was accessed by the U.S. government, it could not even disclose to us that this had taken place. We fought a long campaign to protect Canadians' privacy and ensure that the assembly of information at least took place here in Canada.

When the minister came forward and started talking about the privacy issues over the census, it was very disturbing because we did not have that type of a push back from Canadians. What we have done now is moved to a short form census. What that does is it takes away all the previous materials and censuses done in the past, which leaves us with no comparables. What ends up happening is that the data information we have today from this short form census cannot be compared with the previous years. There are no measurables in there. People often do not know that we have a lot of surveys in Canada and a lot of those surveys are backstopped by the science behind the census. Therefore, by losing this data and then having further cuts, we are actually undermining a lot of the programs.

Back in the year 2000, I was part of the complete count in Windsor, Ontario, where we actually went door to door to get the information. It is important because the information about age, sex, ethnicity with regard to living standards and all kinds of different things are used for important economic decisions.

I know I only have about a minute left but it is important for people to realize that the long form census was an investment so that when decisions are made about how the public and how governments decide about transit, housing, the aging population and a number of different services, they have an educated backbone of science behind it. It is sad that we have lost this element because the privacy issue was never there. Ironically, the minister often talked about jailing people with regard to the census. We had a couple of Canadian citizens recently harassed about it but nothing took place. At the same time, the minister has yet to correct this legislation problem on which we agreed from all sides of the House to do so.

I will finish by thanking my colleague for bringing this very important issue forward. Science is the basis of our economy for the future. We need to be able to compete but we cannot do so with these cuts and we cannot do so if we break down the science and eliminate the data we use to make important decisions.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2012 / 12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Conservative Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member spoke on different topics but several times he talked about the long form census as if it has disappeared.

Is the hon. member aware that there is still a long form census going out and that it is now voluntary? There are no jail sentences associated with not completing the long form census. Does he know what the response rate is on the long form census? There were more census forms sent out and we are still receiving that data.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Actually, Mr. Speaker, that census is costing Canadians more money, around $30 million more, to do a voluntary census.

All the statisticians, a number of businesses, organizations and groups, including the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada wrote supporting our census back in 2010 as an example.

All has basically been a waste. The voluntary census does not get into the specific details that the mandatory long form census had, ensuring that the demographics are represented by the return rate. We could have certain return rates that are higher or lower in different regions and that contaminates and skews the data.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to pinpoint that science is actually knowledge. Science means knowledge and science is the basis for everything we do.

I heard the minister make a speech this morning and talk about the fact that we are a very small population compared to other countries in the world. The point is that because we are so small we cannot be competitive unless we are the best and the brightest, unless we carve out for ourselves, using basic science, niche markets that will allow us to be competitive and thrive in a global economy.

When we talk about cutting scientists and research, as the government, no matter what it says, has done, we are destroying our ability to be competitive in the world market. We have destroyed our ability, for instance, to look at something that Canada was well-known for around the world, which is biomedical research, the information that allowed us to make vaccines--

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I do not wish to interrupt the hon. member but the time is limited and we are trying to keep those questions and responses to about one minute.

The hon. member for Windsor West.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was trying to combine some of the Investment Canada Act and the statistical changes that took place. The real cue here is the fact that our value-added economy is being left behind.

When we have a small population, a wide geography and climate differential, the science is even more important for us to be effective in this world.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

Not only is the government muzzling scientists, but it is also mortgaging our future and the future of research. Could my colleague elaborate a bit more on the brain drain and its impact?

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have seen that with RADARSAT and a few other projects. It is very important. If we do not have a directive, we lose people from our field.

For example, right now we do not have an automotive strategy of any sort while the United States is very aggressive on that. So I have concerns. A number of plants across Ontario will be retooling and decisions need to be made soon. The United States and state governments have had an actual auto policy. Now Europe is creating an auto policy. We are not providing the opportunities for the scientists and the researchers.

My concern is that we have been very much on the forefront on automotive research, development and the movement into a greener sector and I am very worried that industries like that will be left behind.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Independent Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, Dr. Assaf Sukenik, a senior scientist at Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research, said:

By shutting down the ELA facility, the Government of Canada is stamping out the ability of the world scientific community to conduct the research required to formulate sound environmental policies.

Could the well-spoken member for Windsor West comment, please?

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

It is critical, Mr. Speaker. In the last budget, only $8 million were provided for the Great Lakes. Per capita, the fake lake in Muskoka actually received more money than the Great Lakes per capita.

With the U.S. pumping a lot of money into science and research, we are losing out on the opportunity to be a part of that.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, 15 years ago, in 1997, three respected Canadian university scientists wrote a paper with a fascinating title, “Is scientific inquiry incompatible with government information control?”. In other words, if that were not put simply enough, can science coexist with government manipulation? That is a very good question.

A line from that 1997 controversial report reads:

Scientists were also explicitly ordered then, as they are today, not to discuss “politically sensitive” matters...with the public, irrespective of the scientific basis, and publication status, of the scientist's concerns.

Does that sound like scientists have been muzzled? It does to me.

I will read from the summary of that 1997 report because that 1997 report is as relevant today as it was then. It reads:

There is a clear and immediate need for Canadians to examine very seriously the role of bureaucrats and politicians in the management of Canada's natural resources. The present framework of government departments such as the DFO is based on the belief that the conservation of natural resources is best ensured by science integrated within a political body. Recent history would suggest otherwise.

The recent history that would suggest otherwise was the fall of the fisheries. Scientists were just a bit off when they missed the collapse of what was once the world's biggest fish resource on planet earth, northern cod off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

The trouble with science in Canada, fish science for example, is that it is tainted by politics. Science is manipulated and massaged by politicians and bureaucrats to meet their own objectives. That is the way it works.

The short answer is, no, scientific inquiry is not compatible with government information control, the key word being “control”. I have seen too many examples over my time as a journalist and an editor and my short time as a member of Parliament.

As for the motion that we are debating here today calling on the government to end its muzzling of scientists, the Conservative government will say that scientists are not being muzzled, that science is not being manipulated. That is not the case.

Back in December, on the floor of the House of Commons during question period, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans was questioned about how scientists were reportedly afraid to go public with concerns about cuts to Fisheries and Oceans. In response, the minister asked a question. He asked, “Do I look like a bully?”. I was next to speak and I answered the minister's question. I said that the minister did indeed look like a bully, although I later apologized and it was a sincere apology, but I answered his question. The minister does not look like a bully. He looks like a stereotypical Canadian grandfather. That is not how government scientists are bullied, not directly by ministers. It does not work that way. It is not in-your-face bullying. It is not blatant muzzling. It is a lot more subtle than that.

On that particular day in December, when the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans asked whether he looked like a bully, he was responding to questions about how employees fared. They could face sanctions or suspensions for remarks on federal job losses within the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

According to their union, scientists were worried about cuts to Fisheries and Oceans but would not speak for fear of being blacklisted. As with all cuts, the Conservative government said that there would be no negative impact on research, but what else is it going to say? The scientists say otherwise, or they would if they were not going to be blacklisted “for the rest of their lives”.

The media policy in place at Fisheries and Oceans Canada is similar to what has been implemented at Environment Canada. Scientists there cannot speak to reporters even about their own research until it is cleared through a network of public relations and even the Prime Minister's Office. Scientist Kristi Miller was recently told not to give interviews about her research on the causes of the sockeye salmon decline on B.C.'s Fraser River even though her research had been published in Nature.

Scott Dallimore, a Natural Resources geoscientist who had an article published in Nature about a flood 13,000 years ago in northern Canada, was denied the right to speak to the media until after the media's deadline had elapsed. This is frequently how muzzling occurs.

I was a journalist for 20 years. I was a reporter and I was a persistent one. I was like a dog with a bone. Early in my career, I would be allowed to sit down with a scientist one on one. There was no problem. That was the way it worked. By the end of my career, I was not allowed to sit down with a scientist, even with a public relations official at the scientist's side. I had to submit questions in advance, in writing, and get an official formal response. Are scientists being muzzled? Take it to the bank.

The prestigious British journal Nature has written two editorials in the last two years calling on the Canadian government “to set its scientists free”. The truth will set us free—not as the Conservatives see it, but as it is: pure, untainted truth.

The Conservatives are taking the art of muzzling to another level. The ultimate muzzling is to eliminate the person being muzzled altogether, to eliminate the position, to eliminate search and data-gathering programs. If under the Liberals we had the decade of darkness, under the Conservatives we have entered another period of dark ages, the darkest of ages, the con age. “Conage” is a new term, according to the Urban Dictionary. It means “completely and utterly owned”. The Conservative government is attempting to eliminate all opposition and all opposing opinion by eliminating the information at the source. Welcome to the con age.

The Conservative government's Trojan Horse budget makes sweeping cuts to departments, agencies and organizations that engage in research and data collection, meaning that scientific research is being increasingly corralled into demand-driven funding models to serve profit-driven demands from big industry, and big industry is what the Conservative government caters to.

Budget 2012 eliminates the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. By the year's end, funding would be cut to a team of seven smokestack air pollution specialists who crack down on toxic pollution that kills more than 21,000 Canadians a year. Environment Canada will lose 20% of the budget for a key program that checks to see whether the mining industry meets emission standards. The unit of Environment Canada that responds to oil spill emergencies would be dramatically scaled back, and most regional offices would be closed. The list goes on and on. The Conservatives will say that they do not see a trend, but that is because their heads are stuck in the con age.

The last thing I want to touch on is the proposed elimination of the National Council on Welfare, created in 1962 to provide research on poverty in Canada. The National Council on Welfare has been described by a former director as a friend to the opposition and a royal pain in the butt to a party once it takes government. No wonder it has been eliminated.

I have been wearing a wristband since before the federal election. I have not taken it off. The wristband says, “Make poverty history”. Before making each and every decision as a politician, I ask how the decision will impact the Canadian poor, and the Conservative government should ask itself the same question with respect to the elimination of the National Council on Welfare. This decision will not help Canadians; rather, it will make their plight that much harder.

This past weekend, I held a town hall in my riding to discuss the Conservative Trojan Horse budget. One of the speakers was Chris Hogan, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Network. Chris said something about the Conservative government's gutting of environmental legislation and cuts in general that has stuck with me. He said, “Less science equals less knowledge. It's basically like driving with the lights off”.

The Conservative government is at the wheel of this country, and it is driving full speed with the lights off. Not only that: the Conservative government is eliminating the police, so there is no chance it will be pulled over.

The Conservative government is an accident waiting to happen. Let us make no mistake: there will be a public roadblock in 2015, the Conservative government will be forced off the road and the con age will come to a dead stop.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, on May 15 I was on a panel on Power Play, and the host asked the NDP environment critic for something she felt the National Round Table on the Environment advocated—not a carbon tax, but something that was useful and that perhaps the government should have paid attention to.

The host was asking the environment critic to name a report that she used. She responded, “Pulling it off the top of my head like that, I am not sure.”

I would like to ask my colleague opposite which report he would point to.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to speak for the New Democratic critic for the environment. She can speak for herself.

However, I will say this: if there is one quick thing that I could say to the member opposite and to the government opposite, it would be that there has to be balance. There has to be balance in life, there has to be balance in politics and there has to be balance in this country between industrial development and the environment.

The Conservative government has lost that balance.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I note that the hon. member talked about science and about some of the cuts that were made. He also mentioned 10 years of darkness under the Liberal government.

I would like to inform the member that Technology Partnerships Canada and all of the research that moved us from number seven in the G8 to number one in the G8 came in under the 10 years of Liberal government, and $10 billion was spent just on the Foundation for Innovation alone.

I want to ask the hon. member a pertinent question. We notice cuts in the water and air quality analysis are going on. I am speaking as a physician, and my concern is that when all these scientists who are monitoring water and air quality are cut, what is going to happen to the safety of the water we drink? How is this going to impact on the health of Canadians across this country and the diseases they will get from drinking non-potable water?

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, if cuts are made to basic science research in any area, be it research for air, water, fish, mining or oil and gas development—and the point was made here earlier that science is another word for research—then the environment will suffer, and we as Canadians will suffer in the end. Our knowledge base will not be there, and mistakes will happen.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his excellent speech. I thought his analogy of the Conservative government's wilful dismissal of scientists and scientific information and data is appropriately like driving a car full speed ahead in the dark with our eyes closed.

It also seems that the government does not even want to look in the rear-view mirror. There are massive cuts to libraries and archives. More than 20% of the workforce will be eliminated. The government said it is just getting rid of duplication and modernizing, but apparently only 2% of our archives are digitized, which means that Canadians will lose their history.

Can the member comment about the loss of this important Canadian information?

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I like how the member took my analogy one step further.

The Conservatives are like a government driving a car without the lights on and not looking in the rear-view mirror. The member is absolutely right.

In the case of libraries, for example, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans had 11 libraries across the country. That number is being cut to seven. Are most of those libraries digitized? The answer is no, they are not.

What is going to happen with the information in those libraries? It will be lost. What will that mean? That will mean we will not learn by past mistakes. How big are the past mistakes made by consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments? Huge. There were huge environmental mistakes. I am a member from Newfoundland, and the Grand Banks off Newfoundland were utterly destroyed. There were huge mistakes made.

Now the government is going to destroy the libraries. That makes no sense.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to this opposition motion today, partially because I spent the better part of my career working in research administration and working at the University of Calgary with some of what I would like say are the greatest scientists in the country. I witnessed first-hand, at ground level, the support that our government has given to research and development across the spectrum of research disciplines. I have also seen first-hand the results of funding that research, which is some of the world-class research that has been published in this country over the last several years.

Today I would like to speak specifically to research at Environment Canada.

As we have said all along, our government recognizes the importance of scientific research. At Environment Canada, science is central to the department's work, promoting a clean, safe and sustainable environment for all Canadians.

As a measure of its commitment, this government has made significant investments in science to support environmental protection.

Mr. Speaker, I should also say that I will be sharing my time with the member for Kitchener—Waterloo.

Last year, Environment Canada spent about $600 million on science and technology and plans to spend a similar amount this year. These funds support a wide range of research and monitoring activities focused on air, water and wildlife.

Science is the foundation of Environment Canada's work and is central to its performance as a world-class regulator. The department's scientific expertise spans a wide range of fields, including water, air, climate, weather, wildlife, pollution prevention and environmental toxicology. Research and monitoring at Environment Canada generates invaluable data, information, and tools that are central for developing and implementing the policies, regulations and services that help Canadians make decisions about the environment and that protect the environment for present and future generations.

In spite of what the opposition might say, scientific research remains strong at Environment Canada. One way to measure that strength is to look at the scientific publications we have produced. The department's scientists have published, on average, more than 600 peer-reviewed scientific publications per year in recent years. This makes environment Canada a global leader in environmental research. It is also one of the most productive institutions in the world in this field.

Of course, Environment Canada does not do its work in isolation. In fact, the department maintains strong relations with experts in academia and in other international organizations. These collaborations help Environment Canada build synergies, leverage resources and access expertise in other organizations, resulting in the world-class science we need as a country to ensure our environment is clean, safe and sustainable.

In December 2011 the Commissioner of the Environment tabled an audit of environmental science at Environment Canada. The findings of the audit were positive, recognizing that Environment Canada has good systems and practices in place to manage and ensure the quality of its science and that the science performed by the department is being communicated to decision-makers and delivered to meet user needs.

It is true that Environment Canada, like all of government, is reducing its spending in order to contribute to Canada's return to a balanced budget, something that we heard very clearly from Canadians in the last election.

However, the department is doing so in a way that will not compromise environmental protection. Rather, Environment Canada will focus on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of all of our science activities through improved coordination and streamlined management.

The department has developed an integrated and risk-based approach to environmental monitoring. This would see more resources devoted to issues and areas that pose the greatest risks to our environment. This approach is consistent with the recommendations made by recent reports of the Commissioner of the Environment, and Environment Canada is moving forward by being flexible and adaptable. The department is maintaining the capacity and expertise needed to carry out its mandate.

Let me give members some details.

This year Environment Canada plans to spend nearly $50 million on water science and technology. This includes activities such as monitoring freshwater quality and studying climate change impacts on aquatic ecosystem health. For example, Environment Canada will spend $1.5 million this year to track harmful chemicals through the Great Lakes, investigating where they come from and where they end up.

The department also plans to spend nearly another $50 million on its atmospheric science and technology research this year. This includes key research on emissions from industry and transportation, monitoring greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions and research to support weather prediction. For example, the department will spend more than $600,000 this year to study the impact of air pollutants in the Arctic. This would help to ensure northern development happens responsibly.

Other important science and technology investments include nearly $20 million to support the chemical management plan and more than $7 million on research to maintain and sustain healthy wildlife populations and ecosystem habitat.

Another example is environmental monitoring in the oil sands region. The government recognizes that action is needed to ensure that the oil sands are developed responsibly and in a way that respects the environment. That is why the government has listened to eminent Canadian scientists and experts and is turning that advice into action on this important issue.

This past February, the hon. Minister of the Environment and his Alberta colleague, the minister of environment and water, announced the joint Canada-Alberta implementation plan for oil sands monitoring. This plan commits Canada and Alberta to an integrated environmental monitoring program for the region that is scientifically robust and transparent.

The implementation plan outlines the path forward to enhance the monitoring of water, air, land and biodiversity in the oil sands by sampling more sites for more substances more frequently. It is designed to improve our understanding of the long-term cumulative effects of oil sands development and activities under the plan have already begun.

Data from the new monitoring program and the methods on which it is based will be transparent, supported by necessary quality assurance and will be made publicly available to allow independent scientific assessments and evaluations. In short, the program is founded on external scientific peer review that will encourage informed discussions and analysis on the impact of oil sands development based on factual, high quality scientific information.

Canadians gave us a strong mandate to deliver on our priorities. Scientific research remains central to the work Environment Canada and many other departments within government do. This government is confident that Environment Canada's ongoing science and technology efforts and activities will remain well funded, scientifically robust and focused on those areas which matter most to Canadians.

I would also like to point to the hundreds of millions of dollars that budget 2012 committed to research and development, including basic research. We heard today that perhaps my colleagues opposite had not read that part of the budget. The Association of Universities and Colleges said that it was very supportive of the levels of funding that were included in budget 2012 and our government's focus on research and innovation as a key driver of the economy.

I would also like to speak to some of the other things with regard to scientific research that Environment Canada has been doing over the last six years, including $1 billion to support clean energy research development demonstration projects, including carbon capture and storage. I saw some of these projects first hand at the University of Calgary. These are projects that look at new technologies to capture carbon in all sorts of different industrial settings and research to look at the viability of sequestration. We are also funding research across the country that looks at clean energy policy. It is not just about the research on the engineering side; it is also about funding research in social sciences and humanities.

Our government values the support of innovation. It is evident. We are attracting some of the key research professionals from across the world. The Canada excellence research chair program is now in its second iteration. It has recruited dozens of some of the brightest minds from around the world to Canada, supported not only through research infrastructure funding, but ongoing operating funding that allows them to bring their research teams to the country.

We are also seeing the economic effects of investment into research and development. I encourage my colleagues opposite to look at that component of the budget, wherein we say that by investing in research and development, we know that we can diversify the economy. We have seen that in the transfer of early stage technology through the life cycle of technological development into the marketplace. There are technologies that come through biomedical research, for example, that affect Canadians when they enter the health care system. There is research into how best to deliver primary care.

Our government fundamentally understands that investment in research and development on good policy and scientific outcomes in the environment equals economic growth. We took the findings of the Jenkins panel to heart and that is why we funded the granting councils at record levels. I certainly hope my colleagues opposite will support this rather than just sticking to their talking points.

I asked my colleague opposite a question about the national round table. I certainly hope he and his party will look into these funding principles to find out where they can better apply these funds and better support innovation. That is what our government has been about in budget 2012.

This is probably one of the first budgets in a long time that has seen such a pronounced focus on research and development in innovation. As someone who has spent the better part of my career in the administration of research and who has worked with folks on the ground who conduct our nation's research, I am certainly proud to speak to the budget and the levels of funding that we have established.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member spoke about a strong mandate.

When the government got barely 40% of the vote, and that 40% was obtained through the use of robocalls, I would not consider that a very strong mandate. The government could do with a little modesty and reserve.

We have heard everything she said before. Exactly same thing was said in Ontario before the Walkerton crisis, and that is the problem. When scientists tell us that we are headed towards a wall and a dangerous situation, they are muzzled. The government does not want to hear about the massive environmental deterioration in the far north; it does not want to hear about isolated water problems, and that is the problem.

Why muzzle public servants and scientists who are informing us of an imminent danger that goes against what she is saying?

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, by my colleague's math, then over 70% of the population of Canada did not vote for his party. I would ask him to check his figures on that as well.

He said that what I had said was well known. Absolutely, it is well known. Across the world, our government is becoming known as a place for the brightest minds in the world to come and work. That is a great message to come across. I certainly hope he supports the budget for that reason.

With regard to our scientists, they provide tens of thousands of peer reviewed publications to internationally renowned research journals. How is that muzzling scientists? By supporting research and development in our country, we unleash the potential of scientists across the country. I am proud to support this budget.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, the point of this debate today is not so much a chance for the government to rattle off the ways it spends money, but to ask whether it takes seriously the advice of scientists, natural and social scientists in Canada. However, I am pleased to have the chance to ask a question of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment.

To talk to natural scientists and social scientists, namely economists, they will tell us that the government needs to do much more than it currently has done on the issue of climate change. In particular, it needs to do a lot more to compensate for the negative externality, the fact that we do not have to pay for emitting fossil carbon into the atmosphere.

How can the parliamentary secretary talk about supporting scientists when the government will not listen to scientists on something which is probably one of the most important pieces of advice that natural scientists and social scientists have given to the government today?

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, as opposed to the party opposite, what our government does is listen to Canadians. In 2008 Canadians clearly said that they did not want a tax on everything. They did not want a carbon tax.

When we talk about economics, we are under a time of fragile economic recovery. As legislators, we need to be cognizant of the fact of new taxes, regressive taxes, that could increase the price of consumer goods across the spectrum. Across the world we see economies suffer because of government policies that are not cognizant of the need to balance the budget and ensure that there are policies in place to grow the economy.

At this point in time, we need to be very careful about looking at taxes that increase the cost of consumer goods across the spectrum.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, we all know in the House it was 13 long years that the previous Liberal government did absolutely nothing and created a huge environmental mess. I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for her hard work in getting things done on the environment.

Environment Canada science was recently audited by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. I understand the commissioner had very positive comments to make about the department's science management. Could the parliamentary secretary elaborate on that?

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I also congratulate the member for Langley for his wonderful job in chairing the environment committee of the House of Commons. He is a great chair.

On his question, the commissioner wrote:

—Environment Canada has incorporated standards of quality and that it uses a range of systems and practices—including peer reviews of scientific publications and accreditation of environmental testing laboratories—to ensure the quality of the science it conducts.

On top of that, I should note that last year Environment Canada scientists published over 684 articles, attended 326 conferences and they did over 1,200 media interviews. Our scientists are busy, they are active and we are proud of them.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take this opportunity to speak to our government's very strong support for both basic and applied research, not only in my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo but across the country.

Guided by the 2007 science and technology strategy, we have been systematically enhancing federal support for world-class research and building on Canada's knowledge advantage. The federal government has demonstrated a strong commitment to promote and to prioritize science and technology and build a sophisticated knowledge-based economy. Canada's economic action plan 2012 builds on earlier investments by proposing significant new resources to support leading-edge research and infrastructure through investments that strengthen Canada's position as a leading supporter of research.

Budget 2012 announces $341 million over two years to support research, education and training. This ongoing support for advanced research has contributed to a very strong system of innovation in our country. We are helping to ensure that Canadian researchers continue to generate new ideas and that businesses have access to the resources they need to bring this knowledge to market and create high quality jobs. That is a goal that we should all share in this House.

Our government has invested significantly at a time when it is needed most. We are building on a record and providing our innovators, our colleges, universities, businesses and industries, with the support they need to work together and create high quality jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. We have invested in world-class research through our three granting councils, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Through these councils we have introduced such initiatives as the Banting post-doctoral fellowships, the Vanier Canada graduate scholarships and the Canada excellence research chairs. To illustrate this, I would like to highlight that two of the current Canada excellence research chairs have in fact come to Waterloo, to my riding, to pursue their research. Dr. David Cory, who was attracted from MIT, is a leading global innovator in experimental quantum physics and quantum engineering and whose work is already being used in a range of applications from the medical field to the oil industry. Dr. Philippe Van Cappellen, who is a world-leading expert in ecohydrology, came from France to pursue his work in Canada.

We have systematically enhanced federal support for advanced research. Recent investments are supporting research projects across Canada as well as Canadian involvement in major international research projects. We have continued to support large-scale research in genomics. Since 2000, the Government of Canada has invested more than $1 billion to ensure that Canada remains at the forefront of this important field, supporting amazing breakthroughs in health and life sciences. In budget 2012, our government announced an additional $60 million for Genome Canada, helping continue to support research excellence in genomics.

Moreover, we are committed to building a strong and vibrant research environment to strengthen our ability to compete in the knowledge-based economy. We are providing significant support for leading edge research infrastructure. To date, the federal government has allocated $5.5 billion to the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which has committed support to more than 7,300 projects at 130 research institutions across Canada.

To support the foundation's core activities, the plan announced $500 million over five years starting in 2014-15. The funding will support new competitions, including the college-industry innovation fund.

Investments are also being made in Canada's ultra high-speed research network, CANARIE, satellite reception facilities and Canada's continued participation in the international space station mission, as well as the Canadian High Arctic Research Station.

In addition, at the University of Waterloo in my own riding, investments in automotive research and development through Automotive Partnership Canada will result in a more efficient and sustainable automotive industry that continues to create jobs for Canadians and provide greener transportation solutions.

I am also proud to highlight another impressive research partnership anchored at the University of Waterloo, the Southern Ontario Water Consortium. Our government is investing almost $20 million in this project that will strengthen our position as a world leader in clean water technologies, create new jobs and develop solutions for communities across the globe that lack easy access to clean water.

Beyond this, our government is also investing in institutions that are pushing the frontiers of knowledge. I am talking specifically about the Institute for Quantum Computing and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, which I am proud to say are both in my riding of Kitchener--Waterloo.

The Institute for Quantum Computing is a recognized international leader in the field of quantum computing. Our government contributed $50 million to support the construction of a new state-of-the-art scientific research facility. With the grand opening of the Quantum Nano Centre this fall, IQC will become the world's largest research centre devoted to quantum information science.

In addition, our government is also proud to support the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. We continue to invest in this world-leading institution. In budget 2011 we announced a further $50 million over five years to support its leading research, education and public outreach activities. A recent evaluation concluded that the Perimeter Institute has markedly improved Canada's science capacity and global reputation in the field of theoretical physics.

Investments like these in PI and IQC enable these premier institutions to attract the best researchers from around the world and bring them together in Waterloo to engage in basic scientific research. We have not only reversed the brain drain, we have ensured that Canada is becoming a powerful magnet for talent.

Members may remember the NDP took the unfortunate step of dragging the reputations of the Perimeter Institute, the Auditor General and our government through the mud with its conspiracy theory that the Perimeter Institute received more funding than we committed. The funds received by the Perimeter Institute are consistent with our government's commitments year after year. Unfortunately the press release that makes the false accusations remains on the NDP's website today. This is unfortunate and I do hope that the NDP finally takes the opportunity to apologize.

I should also note that the Government of Canada provided, through budget 2009, $2 billion for research and advanced learning infrastructure at universities, colleges and CEGEPs through the knowledge infrastructure program. This funding helped leverage an additional $3 billion in contributions from the provinces, territories and private partners. For example, in my riding this program provided $25 million to the University of Waterloo to construct facilities for environment, engineering and math research and education.

This is how we are helping industry partners bring technology to market, provide our students with hands-on applied research experience and create a highly skilled Canadian workforce. Taken cumulatively, these measures, along with our efforts to support business innovation, demonstrate this government's support for world-class science, technology and innovation. We are ensuring that Canada continues to lead in the knowledge economy.