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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

Question No. 594Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

With regard to Budget 2012: (a) what is the breakdown of each portfolio’s review base in Table 5.1 by department, agency and organization; (b) where the full budget of the department, agency, or organization is not included in the calculation of a portfolio’s review base in Table 5.1, (i) which components of that department, agency, or organization are included in that review base and which are not, (ii) for those components included in the review base, what is the breakdown of their funding by vote or statutory authority; (c) what is the breakdown of expected savings in Table 6.7 under Budget 2012 reductions in departmental spending, for each department, agency and organization in each of the fiscal years 2011-2012, 2012-2013, 2013-2014, 2014-2015, 2015-2016, 2016-2017, and ongoing; and (d) how does the answer to (c) for each department, agency and organization reconcile with the annual breakdowns included in Annex 1 of Budget 2012?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 597Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

With regard to Old Age Security: (a) has Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) or any other department undertaken new estimates since 2009 of the number of people over the age of 65 who are not receiving their OAS pension despite being eligible for it, and, if so, what are those estimates; (b) has HRSDC or any other department undertaken new estimates of the number of people aged 60-64 who are not receiving their OAS Spouse's Allowance despite being eligible for it, and, if so, what are those estimates; (c) Has HRSDC or any other department undertaken new estimates of the number of people aged 60-64 who are not receiving their OAS Survivor's Allowance despite being eligible for it, and, if so, what are those estimates; (d) how many of the people included in the estimates referred to in (a), (b) or (c) are currently in receipt of benefits under the Canada Pension Plan; (e) what outreach activities or initiatives has HRSDC, Service Canada or any other department undertaken to notify eligible seniors who are not currently in receipt of OAS pension, Spouse's Allowance or Survivor's Allowance; (f) has HRSDC, Service Canada or any other department undertaken any notifications by mail to eligible seniors who are not currently in receipt of OAS pension, Spouse's Allowance or Survivor's Allowance; and (g) if the answer to (f) is affirmative, (i) in what years were letters mailed, (ii) how many were sent in each of those years, (iii) what was the response rate in each of those years?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 598Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

With respect to Treasury Board numbers for public sector employees as of March 31, 2012: (a) what is the number of public sector employees broken down by the following regions for the fiscal years ending March 31, 2009, March 31, 2010, March 31, 2011, and March 31, 2012, namely: (i) Newfoundland and Labrador, (ii) Prince Edward Island, (iii) Nova Scotia, (iv) New Brunswick, (v) Quebec, exclusive of the National Capital Region, (vi) National capital Region, Quebec portion, (vii) Natioanl Capital Region, Ontario portion, (viii) Ontario, exclusive of the National Capital Region, (ix) manitoba, (x) Saskatchewan, (xi) Alberta, (xii) British Columbia, (xiii) Yukon, (xiv) Northwest Territories, (xv) Nunavut, (xiv) outside Canada; and (b) for the answers in (a), what are the numbers in each region broken down by (i) indeterminate employees, (ii) specified term employees, (iii) casual employees, (iv) student employees?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 600Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

With regard to government offices, how many offices have been newly opened or relocated since January 1, 2006, specifying: (a) the department or agency; (b) the division, unit, or other like descriptor; (c) in the case of relocated offices, the former location, including full address; (d) the location of the newly-opened or relocated office, including full address; and (e) in the case of leased space, the name of the firm or person leasing the space to the government?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 602Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

With regard to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP): (a) in the past five years, have officials at the CPP, Finance Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat or Human Resources and Skills Development Canada performed any assessment or estimate of the cost of making changes to the limitation on benefits paid retroactive from the date of application; (b) if the answer to (a) is affirmative, (i) what were the resulting assessments or estimates, (ii) what are the file or reference numbers of these assessments; (c) has any assessment or estimate been made of the cost of matching the Quebec Pension Plan's policy of making retroactive payments for up to 60 months; (d) if the answer to (c) is affirmative, (i) what were the resulting assessments or estimates, (ii) what are the file or reference numbers of these assessments; (e) has any assessment or estimate been made of the cost of removing the limitation altogether, and allowing applicants to receive payment for all retroactive benefits; (f) if the answer to (e) is affirmative, (i) what were the resulting assessments or estimates, (ii) what are the file or reference numbers of these assessments; and (g) was any evaluation made about the impact of each option examined as per (a), (c), and (e) on the actuarial soundness of the CPP?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 604Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

With regard to the Canada Pension Plan: (a) Has Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) undertaken new estimates since 2005 of the number of people over the age of 70 who paid into the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), who might still be alive, but who were not in receipt of their CPP retirement benefits; (b) how many people over the age of 70 years and believed still alive are estimated to be currently missing out on their CPP retirement benefits, (c) how many of the people in (b) are currently in receipt of (i) survivor benefits, (ii) Old Age Pension, (iii) the Guaranteed Income Supplement; (d) since February 2006, (i) what outreach activities or initiatives has HRSDC or Service Canada undertaken to notify eligible seniors over the age of 70 who are not currently in receipt of their CPP retirement benefits, (ii) what are the costs of those activities; (e) since February 2006, has HRSDC or Service Canada undertaken any notifications by mail to eligible seniors over the age of 70 who are not currently in receipt of their CPP retirement benefits; and (f) if the answer to (e) is affirmative, (i) in what years were letters mailed, (ii) how many were sent in each of those years, (iii) what was the response rate in each of those years?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2012 / 10:10 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

moved:

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.

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the diligent and very hard-working official opposition industry critic from LaSalle—Émard.

I rise today to introduce our official opposition day motion. We in the NDP believe the scientific approach to knowledge is something we should cherish and rigorously defend. This opposition day motion stresses action to counteract the ways in which this approach is being actively undermined by the Conservatives.

While my colleagues will speak to the specifics and give real world examples throughout the day, in my short time I will speak to why we should value and defend the scientific approach to learning and acquiring knowledge.

Whether it is in the hard sciences, such as chemistry, physics or biology, or the social sciences, such as political science or economics, scholars around the world apply a universal approach to understanding humanity and its problems. This involves first asking important questions. These questions are sometimes driven by the needs of society but they are sometimes driven by dreaming. However, they are always driven by the researchers' own curiosity. Wanting to know what is within and what is beyond is what drives researchers.

Therefore, whether it is the force for change in society or the force of colliding atoms, scientists begin by first identifying the important “why” question, why something is occurring, identifying problems and asking why it is happening.

After asking the “why” question, researchers form theories and then gather data to test these theories. However, most important, they truthfully report test results and the methodology by which these results were obtained.

All those who believe in science and the scientific approach are driven to seek and report the truth and, if these truths are unpopular, it is imperative upon the researcher to speak truth to power. Where we get into real trouble is when those with power do not want to hear the truth and try to undermine or suppress these truths. Of course, the most famous example of this clash between truth and power occurred during the birth of modern science when Galileo was imprisoned for life for daring to suggest that the earth revolves around the sun.

Three and a half centuries later, we find ourselves facing the same underlying problem where those who believe in science are threatened by those following ideological doctrine. With their cuts and muzzling of scientists, the Conservatives attack our hard-won culture of scientific inquiry. Worse still, they are creating an atmosphere of fear among Canadian scientists. They give Canadian scientists a reason to fear. These scientists shake their heads in disbelief and think to themselves, “I never thought it would happen in this day and age and certainly not in this country”.

I have had the great pleasure of working in academic institutions for the greater part of the last two decades and I have recently been in touch with many of these scientists. I can tell members that there is an atmosphere of fear that is pervading Canada and it is spreading among Canadian academic institutions. I have been hearing from tenured professors who, for example, fear what is coming next. They have told me stories of colleagues who have been warned against speaking out and that their programs would be cut as retribution if they make their fears known, or if they move from science to become politically active and speak out against the massive change in culture that the Conservatives are bringing with their recent legislation.

However, many scientists are taking the risk and making public their concerns. For example, yesterday I received a letter from 12 prominent members of the scientific community, and I mean prominent. Deans, chairs, program directors and many senior scientists were of these 12 who stated that they were “...deeply concerned by the erosion of funding for fundamental scientific research in Canada”.

In this letter, the scientists list three major programs for which they are particularly concerned. The first is the cancellation of the major resources support program, the MRS program; the second is the research tools and instruments program, the RTI program; and the third, very troubling, is that these 12 prominent members of the scientific community state that there is a 50% reduction in the number of NSERC graduate and post-doctoral scholarships. This cuts at the heart of our approach to learning and discovery in this country, and they are deeply concerned.

These scientists see these cuts as undermining Canada's long-standing commitment to basic science and fundamental scientific learning. These eminent scientists argue that the Conservatives are creating “a 'perfect storm' that will jeopardize Canada's international reputation and competitive edge...”.

The letter concludes that the scientists “welcome the opportunity to work with NSERC to find alternative measures”. However, as is the case with so many other measures taken by the government, there is little or no opportunity for the public to provide input in the decision-making process and, of course, there is no difference here.

I also have a similar letter from 47 other top-grade scientists describing their pride in what they and their colleagues have accomplished and hope to accomplish in the coming years. I have made an effort to personally speak with these 47 scientists, and in these private conversations they have described to me how they and their lives are filled with an intense sense of purpose, how they wade through the setbacks and failures of experiments with resilience and spend long hours in Arctic labs or even in howling winds day after day because their desire for truth and knowledge keeps them there.

They also expressed to me their sheer joy of passing their knowledge to younger generations. Training the next wave of great scientists will employ this scientific approach to knowledge, and key to this training is bringing students into Canadian labs and research centres in order to provide hands-on training and first-hand experience.

However, instead of being secure in the knowledge that robust and reliable funding programs are in place to support the freedom to innovate and advance knowledge in its variety of forms, they now have to wonder whether they are being unfairly targeted because their life work no longer constitutes what the government deems is worth supporting. Across the country, they are asking why and beginning to mobilize. As someone who has spent almost 20 years undertaking academic study and working in universities, I have never before encountered this kind of mobilization of scientists. To see letters signed by so many prominent biologists, physicists and chemists makes me think there is something very wrong in the government's approach to funding and learning in this country.

This opposition day motion is meant to express the NDP's intent to stand with scientists and social scientists and show that we on this side of the House are their allies. We pledge to listen to the fears and fight for academic freedom, because when scientists succeed, they show Canadians and the world what is possible.

Here in the House we hear the attacks every day. Members of the government on the front bench sneer when I say the word “academic”. They refuse to acknowledge the value of Statistics Canada research. They openly chastise the environment commissioner's citing of scientific evidence and refuse to let government scientists speak at conferences, but scientists should not have to subject the product of their work to political tests of faith from the regime of the day. The evaluation and examination of the true value of their work must remain with the review of their peers.

I am a strong adherent of the Haldane principle, which simply states that research funding decisions should be made by researchers, not politicians. Conservatives have tried to bury their attacks within this Trojan Horse budget. They have sought to suppress some of the brightest voices in this country here at home and on the world stage. In fact, I can say that they have declared a war on knowledge, and Canadians are caught in the crossfire.

I call on my colleagues opposite to join New Democrats and support the scientists, researchers and others who will be adversely affected by these cuts in their own constituencies, and to support our motion.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Cambridge Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear ConservativeMinister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Madam Speaker, I listened to the member's speech. I know he was not here for the previous budgets this government brought forward, but I can tell him that we have increased our investments in science and technology all across the board, from basic, pure fundamental research—like the Perimeter Institute, like the Institute for Quantum Computing and many others—all the way through to applyied research, yet at every opportunity that we have increased investments, the NDP has voted against those initiatives.

It is one thing for the member to stand and say that the NDP supports scientists, but the actions of the NDP seem to indicate that it does not. I know New Democrats think natural resources are a disease. Perhaps they also think that science and students are also a disease, because they vote no. Would he care to respond to that truth?

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, of course this is a disingenuous question.

The government buries its cuts in these giant omnibus bills and then blames us for not voting for them, but how could we support such a budget in which so many cuts to science and attacks on fundamental knowledge are buried within?

I would challenge this member to break apart those pieces of legislation from the omnibus bill and allow us to discuss them separately, and of course then the scientists' voices would really be heard.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for introducing the motion today. I would like to ask him a question about his question, which is why scientists like to ask the question “Why?”. It is on the issue of drug shortages.

In the United States, the Senate passed Bill S.3187, in which they decided to study the correlations between drug shortages and factors such as the number of manufacturers, the pricing structure and the contracting practices, while here in Canada we seem to be content to simply set up a website where people can track what drugs are in shortage and we do not seem to be interested in thinking about and investigating the root cause.

I would ask my hon. colleague to comment on the government's performance on this issue with regard to asking the question of why.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, of course I recognize the member's great training at Princeton University. My colleague's point outlines what is happening in general here in Canada, which is that in other countries where scientists are allowed to pursue their craft with state sponsorship, they again respect the Haldane principle whereby scientists are the ones who decide which projects are funded.

The Conservatives are moving away from that principle. They are deciding the questions, and when they get answers they do not like, they either cut the funding or muzzle scientists so that the truth does not come out.

I thank the member for his question. I respect his judgments and opinions.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. He spoke specifically about the muzzling of scientists that is going on. I would like to remind the House that, since this Parliament began, this government has shut down debate many times, and its gag orders have extended beyond these walls.

I am extremely concerned because men and women, and more specifically our democracy, are being silenced.

My colleague met with agencies and scientists who told him about the direct impact of this muzzling on competitiveness. What are the direct consequences of muzzling these experts for Canada's competitiveness?

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, there is a direct and indirect effect of this muzzling, first of all, where we have kind of government flak sitting beside scientists at conferences telling them what they can and cannot say, we have a direct muzzling. Of course, we have an indirect muzzling where the colleagues who I have spoken to and members of the scientific community are now fearful of what they can and cannot say because they are worried about cuts to their own funding and the impacts that will have on Canadians in the future.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Madam Speaker, the decisions of legislators must be based on thorough and objective data.

Parliament Hill is a special place. Since I became an MP, and as the science and technology critic for the first year of my mandate, then as the industry critic, I have had the opportunity to meet with stakeholders in academia, government, industry and science. I have also attended conferences and participated in symposia and panels. In the past year, I have learned a great deal, and that has been very rewarding. As parliamentarians, we have access to a multitude of voices and points of view, as well as invaluable knowledge. It would be of no help to Canadians to close our eyes and ears.

It is my responsibility and my duty, as a parliamentarian, to take into account the point of view of researchers and scientists in order to make informed decisions. Canada and the Canadian government are full of these people who are passionate about research. For years, with patience, perseverance and know-how, they have helped us better understand the demographic evolution and the state of our environment and economy; they help us grasp what is going on. And then it is up to us, as parliamentarians, to propose evidence-based legislation and policy, with full knowledge of the facts.

I do not understand why a government would want to silence these voices. I do not understand why this government continues to censor scientists and undermine the work of Statistics Canada. Ottawa has to stop muzzling scientists, start basing its decisions on scientific evidence and get to work on repairing Canada's reputation as an open and enlightened society.

In Davos, the Prime Minister promised that innovation would be the cornerstone of Canada's future. How can he talk about innovation when he is not open to debating ideas? Ideas are the genesis of innovation.

Since coming to power, this government has been on a veritable crusade against any policy based on scientific evidence. The government tends to cast aspersions on any research or any agency that contradicts its ideological agenda.

We have here a government that has made censoring researchers central to its science policy. Everyone is now aware of the controversy surrounding internationally renowned scientists and researchers, such as David Tarasick, whom this government muzzled because he knew that its inaction on climate change would be disastrous to our environment. Mr. Tarasick had published the results of his research in the British journal Nature. The government also banned researcher Kristi Miller from talking to the media about her research on the diseases threatening Pacific salmon.

The prize definitely goes to the censorship of Scott Dallimore, a scientist at Natural Resources Canada. The research that Dr. Dallimore had published in Nature was on the impact of climate change on our country's north. These findings would have been quite disconcerting to the government, which was probably already planning to withdraw Canada from the Kyoto protocol. However, there was no need to be concerned, because Dr. Dallimore was talking about the climate change that occurred 13,000 years ago.

Censorship is at the heart of the science policy of the government. Last February I attended the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science with more than 6,000 scientists and specialists from 50 different countries. One of the conferences was titled “Unmuzzle Government Scientists” to denounce the muzzling of government researchers. I had the honour of representing the NDP at the conference. I met scientists, experts, engineers, mathematicians, physicists and science journalists.

Our scientific community is worried and it is fully aware of the climate change caused by human activities. It proposed innovative solutions to address the biggest challenge faced by humanity at this time.

Once the ribbon cutting to officially open the conference was done, none of the members of Parliament were present, not even the Minister of State for Science and Technology.

Nature magazine took note of the crusade the Conservatives have undertaken to undermine science-based information decision making. In an editorial, Nature magazine denounced the censorship by the government on the scientific community saying, “Canada's generally positive foreign reputation as a progressive, scientific nation masks some startlingly poor behaviour.”

The way forward is clear. It is time for the Canadian government to set its scientists free.

For this government, a policy in favour of innovation also means eliminating Statistics Canada's long form census and $8.3 billion in cuts. These cuts will total $33.9 billion by 2014-15.

The Conservative government's decisions have proven lethal to Statistics Canada and its activities. In other words, in the middle of a demographic crisis, without the long form, a census of the Canadian population will not paint an accurate picture of that population. How can we propose sound legislation if we do not know what Canadians need? How can we keep an eye on demographic trends and trends in health, the economy and services to the public?

These decisions—like many other government decisions—to slash government sources of information and research and to undermine the knowledge-based decision-making process have been universally criticized.

At the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, during a study on e-commerce in Canada, witnesses condemned the fact that Canada did not have any recent data to compare Canadians' online shopping habits with other countries or any studies on how small and medium-sized businesses use e-commerce. This is because the Survey of Electronic Commerce and Technology has been eliminated by the government's budget cuts.

Critical up-to-date information was missing, preventing the committee from doing a thorough and enlightened job. Our researchers and scientists know full well that, if we, as a country, do not use their knowledge and research, the whole nation will pay the price. These Government of Canada professionals are serving the public because they are committed to their mission of serving the country. They are an invaluable source of information for parliamentarians and all Canadians. They help us to better understand our world, and they can enlighten us on how to find solutions that will help us meet the challenges of today and of tomorrow.

In response to those challenges, the NDP is proposing practical solutions to encourage dialogue with our scientists and to ensure that we have the tools we need to make well-informed decisions in the true interest of Canadians.

I therefore call on the Prime Minister to adopt guidelines on scientific communications similar to those adopted in the United States. I also ask the government to reinstate Statistics Canada's long form census. A number of organizations, including the Canadian Science Writers' Association and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, have asked the government to adopt guidelines.

I call on the government to reinstate the long form census in Canada.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Cambridge Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear ConservativeMinister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Madam Speaker, it seems to me that perhaps one thing that the opposition is not clear on is that the decisions to fund science all across this country are made by independent councils, scientists and peer review panels. Scientists make the decision as to who gets funding and who does not.

In the case of MRS for example, that was a decision that was made by the council. The government, politicians, we stay separate from telling scientists what they can and cannot do.

Is the opposition suggesting we change that policy and disallow the scientific peer review process and let government officials make these decisions? I do not agree with that. Is that what the member is suggesting?

Opposition Motion—Scientific and Social Science ExpertiseBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Madam Speaker, in my proposals, I suggest that the voices of scientists be heard within the government and that we open the door to make sure that there is real dialogue between parliamentarians and scientists. That is the main objective of the motion.

I also hope that the government will bear in mind that the cuts within various departments, particularly to research and monitoring, will have a significant impact in the long term.