Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here this afternoon, speaking about such a critically important, although I must admit somewhat boring, topic. When the words “intellectual property” are put together in the same sentence, most Canadians would probably be turned off about now.
However, for reasons that have been well expressed already by my colleagues, this area truly is a significant part of Canada's future. We need to ensure that we have harnessed intellectual property and, as I will argue, worked more closely with our universities in order to do so. That, of course, is the thrust of many of the excellent recommendations, all 12 of them, that were made in this report of the industry committee, entitled “Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer: Promoting Best Practices”.
It will not surprise the House that I will say a few things about my riding of Victoria, because we are the home of a number of universities and colleges that have been integrally involved in intellectual property accumulation that has then been transferred to our burgeoning high-tech sector. Many Canadians will be surprised to learn that our main industry, in fact, is high tech, which depends on some of the things that the committee has quite astutely observed and made recommendations upon.
Let me therefore begin by looking at some of the recommendations. I would like to highlight only a couple of them that I think are important. Then I will talk about the situation in my part of the country. Lastly, I will end with something that is rarely talked about in this House but which ties very directly into this issue, and that is the so-called Naylor report.
Let me start with the recommendations that I think are particularly important to the university and college sector.
Recommendation 3 of the industry committee report is that the Government of Canada facilitate access to information relevant to technology transfer for Canadian small and medium enterprises.
Why? It claims “in order to promote collaborations between post-secondary institutions and the private sector, notably for the purpose of the commercialization of academic research.”
Sometimes Canadians think that universities are simply an ivory tower place, and that is so far from the reality that exists today. Many of the discoveries that are happening across our country—and Canadians should be immensely proud of those discoveries and the researchers that are making them—can be commercialized and should be commercialized. It troubles and pains me that so many of our young entrepreneurs think there is no sense in trying to commercialize it in this country and that they should just go down to Silicon Valley or Boston or maybe Ireland, which has become such a high-tech sector in and of itself.
That should not be the future of Canada. We need to keep the best and the brightest who make these discoveries, so we need to provide the protection of intellectual property that is needed to keep them in this country, where they create jobs and a better future for us and our children and grandchildren.
That recommendation deserves some emphasis.
Recommendation 5 reads like this:
...that the Government of Canada consider launching a pilot program designed to provide small businesses access to strategic intellectual property advice.
That will be a challenge thrown directly to the Government of Canada, which I hope they will take up as a pilot project.
The last one that I will focus on is that the committee recommends:
...that the Government of Canada study the opportunity to renew and expand funding allocated to programs supporting technology transfers between post-secondary institutions, (universities, colleges and polytechnics), and Canadian enterprises.
It is abundantly clear that the committee gets it and sees the incredibly important need. However, forgive me if I focus this debate on the community with which I am most familiar, Victoria.
I confess a lot of Canadians do not understand it and have a very unfortunate stereotype about what our community is, thinking of it perhaps as a retirement centre, a government centre, and so forth. That is why I think Canadians need to understand that greater Victoria's technology sector is now a $4-billion industry, making it the largest industry in the capital regional district. It is $4 billion. It is the largest industry. I think that will come as a surprise to Canadians. It has been that way since 2007, when it quietly moved up the ranks and hit $1.6 billion. According to recent studies, for every high-tech job, four other jobs are created.
Here I need to do a shout-out to Mr. Dan Gunn, who deserves a lot of credit for that. He heads up the Victoria Innovation Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council, which uses an enormous number of very amusing and engaging techniques to engage the young members of that burgeoning high-tech community. He deserves credit for putting it together, creating that umbrella, having fun with people, getting them to collaborate informally at what they call “Fort Tectoria” on Fort Street, and has helped to turn the downtown area into what San Francisco calls “the mission district”, full of entrepreneurs and young people.
A long time ago the Liberal government of British Columbia moved many of the government jobs away. It downsized and moved them to different parts of the province. Those buildings are now increasingly being occupied by 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds who are creating a future.
The law firm I used to be with rented the building where all these computers were just sitting, because the people we took the lease from simply sold their entire business and moved to Silicon Valley, leaving thousands of dollars of material laying around.
That is just one of many start-ups that have been so successful in our community, and we are very proud of them. To return to the point I made earlier, it saddens me that many of them think they have to go abroad to succeed.
I commend the committee for recommending that there be a pilot project to make sure we know how to best harness this future and grow it, as we have done so well in our community.
As I said earlier, the high-tech sector employs a younger group of talent compared to workforces like those in government. It is also very diverse. Moreover, its employees make more money than the average worker in other industries.
How about this? Technology employs about 5% of British Columbia's workforce. That is more than forestry, mining, and oil and gas combined. If I said that to most Canadians in other parts of the country, they would scratch their head and say, “That's not what I understand. That's not the image of British Columbia that appears on TV. It's totally different.”
British Columbia has the University of Victoria, Royal Rhodes University, and Camosun College. It has enormous tech innovation centres that are succeeding. It also has what I think is the most important thing, a commitment in our communities to make this happen.
I salute entirely the report that has been provided.
I promised that I would also refer to the Naylor report. What is the Naylor report? David Naylor is the former president of the University of Toronto. He did a remarkable job for Canadians, and I am here to salute him today.
Last year, he chaired Canada's fundamental science review and produced an enormously important report called “Investing in Canada's Future: Strengthening the Foundations of Canadian Research”. That report is, as we might expect, very detailed.
One of the things he recommended, which I think dovetails quite nicely with the recommendations I referred to earlier, is that we create a panel to look at Canada's federal research infrastructure and that the Government of Canada by an act of Parliament create what he calls the national advisory council on research and innovation.
After enormous consultation, the committee thought that we needed such a federal statute to create such a council if we were going to have oversight of the federal research and innovation ecosystems around this country. It is obvious how that dovetails with the recommendations the industry committee made. I commend this Parliament to think about whether that act of Parliament ought to be created. I think it should.
Among the responsibilities of that committee would be to advise the Prime Minister and cabinet on federal spending, as well as broad goals and priorities for research and innovation; to improve the co-ordination and strategic alignment of different elements of federal support for research and innovation; and to evaluate the performance of the extramural research enterprise and so forth and so on.
The report spends an enormous amount of time talking about our proud funding agencies, NSERC, SSHRC, the medical research council, and the funding agencies, but makes very specific recommendations. I am advised that our universities are in broad agreement with the Naylor report, so it would be a win-win for the government to introduce that act of Parliament, and do what Dr. Naylor and his team suggested and get on with the job of harnessing the technology of intellectual property, which I have spoken about and the committee addresses and takes so seriously.
The new economy, the digital economy, is not based on land or money or the resources one normally thinks of, but on information. Technology in a digital economy is harnessing that intellectual property, be it medical research or research into applications on the Internet and the like. If we do not get our hands around how we can preserve and protect that intellectual property, obviously we are not going to thrive in the 21st century. We are not a country anymore of hewers of wood and drawers of water. We are not a country that simply uses the land and the resources provided to us as Canadians as our legacy and our heritage to create a new economy.
Our children are working in jobs many of us do not even understand. My son has a high-tech job that I do not even know what it involves. I am not the only parent in that situation. He does geographic information systems. I do not even know what they are, but all I know is that he is doing well, making money, and staying in Victoria because in our community we have people who do that. It is part of this new economy that I speak of.
However, if we do not have intellectual property rules that are effective in the 21st century and that understand the technological basis of that new economy, as a Canadian public, we are going to be the losers. Every time I see one of those planes going from the airport in Victoria down to the Bay area, which happens a couple of times a day, I do not know whether to laugh or cry. Many times they are going down to get the financing they need to advance the technology, which I am delighted they do. However, many times, they are going down so that people can take up new jobs in the Bay area, and we are losing that opportunity for our children and grandchildren here.
I commend the industry committee for recognizing the urgent need to get our hands around the preservation of intellectual property, the commercialization of the research it generates and, finally, to get jobs for Canadians, high-paying, family-supporting jobs in technology that will sustain the future of our country.
As for what those jobs are, let me talk about my community and the technology sub-sectors in greater Victoria. I do not think people will believe this. These jobs are in software; performance marketing and ad tech; fintech, which is technology for the finance industry; gaming; virtual reality; aerospace; life sciences; biotech; advanced manufacturing; telecom and wireless; ocean sciences and marine technology; technology services; and clean tech. It goes on and on. Again, not every Canadian knows what each of those words means, but they do know when their daughter or son comes home with a big paycheque from something they are working at. They do not even have to know what the word means. I had to look in the dictionary when my son came home and told me he got a job in this field, because I did not even know what it was. That is a bit disconcerting, but that is the new reality many of us here will understand only too well.
I cannot overemphasize the critical importance of the work this industry committee has done for Canadians. Of course, the question then always turns to this side of the House and whether they get it and if they want to keep Canada on track. I support some of the things the government has done with technology development and innovation. I accept that it has done better than the last government, that there is funding required, and that it has made significant investments in this. It would be disingenuous of me not to recognize and salute that. However, intellectual property preservation, boring though it might sound, is at the root of this. The government needs to figure out with us in this place how we can harness it.
Naylor suggested that we have a statute. I think that is a very good idea. Most university professors and presidents with whom I have spoken accept that as a critical first step to do what has to be done. There is lots of work we can do as Canadians to get on with the job.
I salute this report, I salute the committee, and I say, “Let's do it.”