Madam Speaker, I want to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
Yesterday, hundreds of Canadians took part in the Black Out Speak Out campaign. Environmental groups and organizations such as Équiterre, Greenpeace, Ecojustice and the David Suzuki Foundation, as well as scientists and ordinary Canadians participated. All these Canadian Internet users came together to condemn the Conservative government's approach to the environment and democracy. Therefore, today it is very timely that we are debating the opposition motion concerning cuts to science and technology.
I believe this is a real tragedy because it will be some years until we see the impact of these cuts on our daily lives. Once again, it seems that the Conservatives are trying to mortgage our future with this omnibus bill. Honestly, as a young Canadian, I find it revolting.
Basically, the opposition motion is taking the government to task for three things: muzzling scientists; showing contempt for basic research and the social sciences; and cutting the research programs of various departments, including Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Statistics Canada and the various Canadian research councils, as well as closing the National Council of Welfare and the First Nations Statistical Institute.
The Conservatives had shown their contempt for science and research long before this most recent budget. During their first year in power, they cut off funding to a dozen or so research programs. That was also around the time when Status of Women Canada's budget was reduced in a draconian way and its mandate changed in order to specifically exclude any work related to research. The Conservatives had no interest in acknowledging gender inequality because that went against their ideology.
Then, in 2010, the Conservatives got rid of the long form census, an essential decision-making tool used by various federal departments, the provinces and municipalities, businesses and non-governmental organizations.
We cannot underestimate the importance of science and technology when it comes to the governance of the country. Let us not forget that several members of the Conservative government question basic climatology. Countless statements from across the way deny the impact of human activity on climate change. Just this week, journalist Mike De Souza reported that a Conservative MP wondered whether volcanoes might be the real culprits behind climate change.
I am not using this example to embarrass my hon. colleagues, but rather to underscore the importance of scientific experts in the governance of this country. After all, very few members in this House are experts in climate change. However, instead of learning more about the issue, my Conservative colleagues prefer to slash funding to the organizations and projects that used to play key roles in the governance of this country. The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy is one example of this. In short, we have a government that does not trust science and is willing to do whatever it takes to advance its ideological agenda, even denying the facts.
This leads me to another problem with this government: the muzzling of scientists. For some time now, it appears as though the Conservative government has been trying to hide important information from the public by preventing government scientists from speaking to the media.
For the record, I would point out the case of Mr. Tarasick, who was denied the right to speak to the media regarding his research on climate change. The same thing happened to Kristi Miller who studied the causes of the sockeye salmon collapse in British Columbia.
The prestigious publication Nature even called on the Canadian government on two separate occasions to give its scientists their freedom of expression back.
This is the context in which the majority Conservative government has presented its first budget. The scientific community had every reason to be wary. For the past five years, this government has been choosing to ignore any scientific proof that goes against its ideology and trying to muzzle anyone who does not think the same way, even going as far as cutting funding to anyone who does not share its ideology.
Several times now in this House, I have had the opportunity to criticize the cuts to science and the environment made by the Conservatives in the most recent budget.
In particular, I have condemned the government's decision to dismantle the round table on the environment. I am shocked that the government is eliminating this valuable policy tool just because the organization insisted on talking about the cost of failing to address climate change.
I am also appalled by cuts to science programs and jobs at Environment Canada. For example, a key mining and paper industry emissions monitoring program will be cut, as will the unit responsible for sustainable water management and the oil spill intervention team. To me, that is simply irresponsible.
At Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the situation is even grimmer: 1,000 jobs will be cut because of restructuring.
According to the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is likely to cut all of its science teams working on the impact of contaminants on aquatic ecosystems. In Quebec, this means that the St. Lawrence estuary, one of the most contaminated in North America, is at risk.
At the Maurice Lamontagne Institute in Mont-Joli, 22 employees are in danger of losing their jobs. The Laboratory of Expertise in Aquatic Chemical Analysis will be closed. And another three biologist positions will be cut in Sept-Îles, Gaspé and Cap-aux-Meules.
Lyne Morissette, co-holder of the UNESCO Chair in Integrated Analysis of Marine Systems at the Université du Québec à Rimouski, did not hesitate to speak out about this attempt to silence science:
[This laboratory] is a jewel of marine science research in Canada. It provided scientific information that was crucial, but that probably did not suit the government, because these people worked extensively on the impact of hydrocarbons....It is no coincidence that these people were affected. Scientists are being muzzled, and the government does not want to hear what they have to say. It is clear that if [the Prime Minister] is not happy with something, he strategically cuts those who are getting in his way.
Also at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, the only French-language science library on fisheries will be shut down. The government is taking this opportunity to transfer administrative positions to Fredericton, in the fisheries minister's riding.
In response to these changes, as well as the changes to the Fisheries Act regarding fish habitat protection, four former federal fisheries ministers, including two Conservatives, have spoken out publicly.
Tom Siddon, the Conservative fisheries minister from 1985 to 1990, said this:
[The Conservatives] are totally watering down and emasculating the Fisheries Act. They are really taking the guts out of the Fisheries Act and it’s in devious little ways if you read all the fine print...they are making a Swiss cheese out of [it].
The cuts to Fisheries and Oceans Canada are tarnishing our international reputation. Indeed, a group of scientists from Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research denounced the closing of the Experimental Lakes Area, an open-air laboratory made up of 58 lakes, with the following statement:
The general public in Canada and across the globe has gained from the numerous insights resulting from the trail-blazing research at ELA over the past 45 years. It seems incredible that, at this time, the Canadian government should choose to destroy this unique, world-class research facility.
In addition to cutting the research being done as part of various departments' regular activities, the Conservative government has begun to fundamentally change the activities of the main centres that are conducting research across the country.
Not content with reducing the overall research funding envelope, the government is embarking on a reorientation of the research being done at the National Research Council Canada towards applications that are geared to the needs of private business.
The major losers in this ideological reorientation are the human sciences and the basic research activities that have been deemed less “useful” or less “profitable” by this government.
Let me conclude by expressing the hope that Canada may one day have a government that respects its scientists and that bases its decisions on reason and facts rather than on ideology and calculating partisanship.
Our sick and our elderly deserve governments that know where to invest in health. Our provincial, municipal and aboriginal governments deserve a government with the data that allows for better support. Our anglers and hunters deserve a government with the information necessary to ensure the sustainable development of those resources. Our children and our generations to come deserve a government that is looking out for their economic, social and environmental future.
In short, Canadians deserve a government that takes into account the importance of science—something this Conservative government refuses to do.