Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to introduce discussion on the bill before the House, that is to say the intergovernmental agreement which is listed on the order paper.
It is a tribute to endeavours made during the cold war and which to some extent if adopted at the time might have put us another quarter century in advance of where we are now. It is often forgotten that when President Nixon and Secretary Brezhnev met in Moscow in 1972, they did initial an agreement on co-operation in space research, space exploration and space science. It was originally devoted to the development of co-operation in international telecommunications satellites and their utilization in broadcasting. The initial proposal was for co-operation between the western organization, which is essentially managed by an American consortium. INTELSAT was the western organization and Intersputnik was the Russian organization.
With President Nixon's departure and changes in the Soviet Union, to some extent those plans for co-operation and formation of a single international space agency were put on ice. What remained, however, was a tradition of co-operation. We saw that reach fruition as the cold war ebbed and détente expanded in co-operative U.S. and Soviet, or in the broader sense, western and Soviet explorations or participation in common space missions.
The spinoff from all this is of course that Canada was one of the pioneers in space research in scientific principles and in administration. I was director of a space law institute in Montreal and one could see the beginnings of what may now be the newest developments in Canadian scientific industrial partnerships to take us into the 21st century.
I could note that it is an important source of research, job creation and the development of export markets for industries in British Columbia and in other parts of Canada. I take pride in noting that in British Columbia we are at the leading edge of applied space engineering. Everybody knows about the space arm, which was developed and used in space rescue operations. But in other areas of pure science and its application in the finest forms of communication, British Columbia industry has made a major contribution.
The significance of this bill is that it heralds and institutionalizes co-operation across what used to be the old political ideological boundaries in co-operation with the countries that are most advanced in space research, space science and space engineering. We have them in the preamble to this bill and we notice the United States, Japan, Russia and Canada as key parts of that.
Our work in this area has involved allocations of 150 contracts to Canadian firms and universities since 1987 for automation and robotics technology development projects. There has been approximately $2 million invested in Canadian firms for this particular year, 1999-2000.
I would note that a B.C. firm developed the first automated robotic refuelling station in partnership with Shell. Newfoundland has done interesting work here on a sensitive skin developed for space robotic manipulators and it is being applied in the technology on prosthetics and bumpers of cars to control the deployment of air bags. We can see the spinoff from the most refined and esoteric form of engineering to common, everyday application in our society.
A Sainte-Foy, Quebec company has developed space robotic expertise to produce a digital imaging system for medical radiology. It provides real time x-ray images and eliminates the need for photographic film.
Further, Canada's participation in this venture entitles us to what is called a “one rack” or one laboratory shelf per year for science and technological experiments and this in a station that has an estimated 10 year lifespan. It will let us expand the work we are already doing in the microgravity field and it is an area for which the potential application includes direct connections to the medical relief of osteoporosis. Protein crystallisation in space provides tangible solutions for problems here on Earth. The spinoff is in the direct application to contemporary local medicine, the spinoff in terms of companies. EMS Technologies of Ottawa recently won a $9.5 million contract from Mitsubishi of Japan to supply the electronics to Japan's contribution to the international space station. It expects $24 million in additional orders.
This is the promise to invest in science, technology and pure research. It is not ivory tower work. In the end there is a concrete application in industry leading-edge technology and the spinoff is direct. There was the investment we made six years ago in TRIUMF funding at the University of British Columbia, pure research with the spinoff we noted there. In industry there has been the creation of advanced technological jobs for skilled Canadians. It is all there.
In voting on this bill we signal our co-operation and we signal that it is something in which we have as much to gain as we contribute. We can be very proud of Canada's role in contributing to the science and technology of the 21st century.
Some references have been made, in part by my good friend, the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, who raised what is a favourite constitutional project of his for reform in, as he sees it, the foreign affairs power. I think that deserves discussion at another time and in another place. I would simply note, however, that in this particular area and in this particular treaty I believe there has been exhaustive consultation with all the Canadian scientific community from Quebec, Ontario and all the other provinces. As to the umbrella agreement, which I am not sure was used in this case, the input from scientists in all Canadian universities and research centres was there. This is a non-self-executing treaty. By its nature it requires federal legislation and the opportunity there is to present contributions on the specific subject of the treaty.
Today, however, I have not heard any criticism of the substantive content of the treaty or what it proposes, which is I think a tribute to the prior extensive consultation with the scientific community. Be not afraid, I would say to members of the Bloc.
The member for Beauharnois—Salaberry conceded this in his response to my question this morning. The Australian analogy simply does not apply. Under the Australian treaty power, as interpreted, the mere fact of making a treaty gives the federal government power to implement that treaty notwithstanding provincial or state power. To the contrary, in Canada, as a result of the privy council's decision in the Labour Conventions case of 1937, which the member opposite rightly saluted, we cannot by making a federal treaty impinge on provincial law-making power under the constitution. We need to co-operate and speak to the provincial governments.
I see no conflict here. I heard none suggested by my friend the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry. If it were to arise, then the courts would properly recognize, if it was challenged, the area of provincial power. However, it would necessitate what is going on anyway because the imperative of co-operation is there in the common interest, close continuing consultation between federal and provincial governments in implementing this treaty and in making sure that everybody in Canada shares from its benefits.