House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was million.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for St. John's South—Mount Pearl (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Lost her last election, in 2011, with 29% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Small Business March 11th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, small businesses are the biggest generator of jobs in this country. They are being hit hard by this economic crisis. Tourism bookings are down. Seafood prices are falling. Retail outlets are cutting back on staff. Companies viewed as success stories months ago are now cutting operations and some are even closing their doors. People are losing jobs and people are losing hope.

When will the Conservatives stop denying and deflecting and give small businesses and their employees help from this deepening crisis?

Business of Supply March 9th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague a question with regard to the knowledge infrastructure program. It is a very important program. I fully support the investments in this regard. However, I am concerned that money has not been placed to ensure that scientists could actually sit in these laboratories to do the work that is so important to Canada and to the world. I would ask my hon. colleague to comment on that.

Second, I would ask my hon. colleague to comment on the fact that Canada is not necessarily one of the top investors in science and technology. As I mentioned earlier, in the OECD we are perhaps number 10 or 12 on the list, with less than 2% of expenditures, while the top countries are at close to 4% of expenditures. These are concerns we have heard from the science and technology community. That community is quite concerned about the impacts this will have on the future of development in Canada.

Business of Supply March 9th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the fact that over the last eight or nine years successive governments, first the Liberal government and now the Conservative government, have chosen to continue to involve themselves in the knowledge-based economy in science and technology, because they recognize that it is the future of our country. It is the future of our medical system. It is the future of the jobs in this country, so I applaud the investments in universities. I applaud the fact that, over time, we have been able to recognize the investments required in science and technology.

However, a stimulus budget that has nothing in it for continued development in science and technology places us at a global disadvantage.

Business of Supply March 9th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is absolutely correct when he says that what we need for science and technology in this country is stable funding. There has been quite a bit of talk about Genome Canada and the investments in it. What we did not see were new investments in Genome Canada, for example, or projects for the future.

I can say that these are incredibly important. They are incredibly important not just for the medical discoveries and the scientific endeavours of today, but for tomorrow. We cannot be involved in developments with international consortia. For example, I talked a bit about what is being done in the United States with regard to cancers. We do not have any new moneys to put on the table. There is no new funding. Projects that were accepted two years ago are being funded, absolutely, but there is no new money for new endeavours.

Also, I would like to add another huge concern. My other hon. colleague raised the same issue. We are concerned about the biotechnology industry, which does not have any secure funding at the moment. In the economic downturn, we are seeing challenges with regard to venture capital investments, and this is stymied as well.

At a time when we should be encouraging more investment and a knowledge-based economy, we have seen $148 million cut from the granting councils and no new money for Genome Canada. Of course, we all know that the venture capital market is also very tight. I am very sad to see this happening in our great country, and very sad that we will not be on the leading edge as we move forward.

Business of Supply March 9th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today on the requirements for funding in science and technology. I know the biotech industry well. I have spent the last eight years of my life involved in the industry. It is an industry that offers both great challenges and great opportunities.

The Canadian biotech industry, the bio-based economy, is valued at about $78.3 billion. It employs 52,000 people. The GDP for bio-based companies is 6.4% of the economy, larger than both the automotive sector and the aerospace sector.

It positions Canada as a knowledge-based economy with the jobs of the future. However, today there are concerns in this growing industry. The change in investment strategy by the Conservative government has delayed projects and clinical trials work for many works, such as work being done on multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, cancers, and diabetes to name but a few.

Increased investment, a new infusion of moneys, is needed to secure Canada's position as a world leader in science and technology. It is vital that Canada look to the future and assure the country has the necessary science and technology infrastructure to retain and attract world-class scientists.

Why is this so important? Investments in science and technology may seem like vague concepts without much impact on our day-to-day lives, but allow me to tell the story of a dear friend, a kind and smart colleague, a man who loved life and his family.

Rod Benson met every day with a smile. He worked hard, loved golf, was thrilled when he married, and overjoyed when his daughter was born. He was a person we would all like to call a friend. On a summer's day, at the age of 32, Rod played a game of golf surrounded by his friends and family. With no notice, no warning, his heart stopped. His first symptom of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy was death. That was about seven years ago. Today, because of investments by the people of Canada in science and technology, his life would have been saved.

Research pioneered at Memorial University, located in Newfoundland and Labrador, by Dr. Terry-Lynn Young with Dr. Pat Parfrey and Dr. Sean Connors led to a discovery of a mutation in a novel gene. Newfoundland and Labrador has a founder population that makes it a powerhouse for genetic research. It is a globally recognized resource and offers great opportunity.

This discovery went from the laboratory bench to the bedside when my former company, Newfound Genomics, developed a diagnostic tool that would determine with relative ease and little expense who carried the gene.

I recently read the publication Research that Makes a Difference, published by Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, that told the story of Vicki Connolly. When Ms. Connolly was tested last year and found not to have the gene, she cried for days. Not all the members of her family were so fortunate. Her brother died at age 42, her son at age 38, and her sister died young. Her sister had eight children, five of whom have the gene, as well as three of her grandchildren.

Because of groundbreaking science and research, defibrillators have now been implanted in those with the gene and lives have been spared. That is the impact of investments in science and technology. This was all made possible through investments in Genome Canada, the Atlantic Innovation Fund, and the granting councils, who make groundbreaking globally impacting research able to be done in this country: lives saved, health care costs lowered, highly skilled and internationally recognized researchers working in our communities, companies like Newfound Genomics working towards discoveries that could lead to medical breakthroughs, prospering and employing people, not abstract concepts but tangible results.

Governments around the globe are making decisions to invest in science and technology, decisions that give their citizens a foot forward on the road to innovation, discovery and economic recovery. In recent weeks, in his address to the American people, Barack Obama set his sights on finding a cure for cancer within the next decade and has made a clear commitment to restoring the emphasis on research and development.

The U.S. has recognized the value of scientific endeavour and is investing billions of stimulus dollars in advanced biomedical research, energy efficiency and renewable energy exploration. This investment is a strategy to build a competitive, progressive, knowledge-based economy, one that Canada should clearly be embracing.

In Norway, governments have committed a full 15% of that country's stimulus package to research and support for innovation in the life sciences sector and information technologies. The United Kingdom recently created the Ministerial Industry Strategy Group. It consists of CEOs of pharmaceutical and biotech companies and its purpose is to identify mechanisms to protect pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies from the current downturn. Further steps are being taken in Europe by the EU to provide fiscal incentives, grants and subsidies to further R and D investments.

Clearly, Canada must invest strategically in R and D. We must not be outpaced by competing governments that have recognized the opportunities that exist in the biotech industry. This is not simply a question of striving for current competitiveness and making comparable investments. We need to look beyond the immediate fiscal crisis to a vision of a success for the future.

By setting the right framework for scientific investment today, we can ensure that Canada's biotech companies and researchers are well positioned for success down the road. We must define our path of success now, as we are ready to compete as the global economy changes. Failure to do so is an unparalleled opportunity lost by the Conservative government.

As parliamentarians, we have to ask ourselves and each other how we can improve our great country. How do we move it forward? How do we ensure a better future for our citizens, a future that holds the promise of good health, a clean environment, better jobs and an improved standard of living? How do we achieve the promise of tomorrow? One way to do so is through continued, improved, secured, stable investments in science and technology.

Let us not waver in our determination to build a better Canada. Let us ensure that the government reinvests in research funding to build Canada into a competitive, progressive, knowledge-based economy. Let us work toward discoveries that lead to medical breakthroughs. Let us remember Rod Benson.

Business of Supply March 9th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I noted with interest the hon. member's comments with regard to the OECD and Canada's ranking of second in investments in higher education. I also note, in terms of the OECD on Canada's rank as a percentage of R and D spending of the GDP, that Canada ranks behind Sweden, Finland, Japan, Korea, the United States, Germany, Austria, Denmark, France and Australia. Canada has a 1.94% investment to Sweden's 3.74%.

Does the member recognize that more investment is required for Canada to be internationally competitive?

Pay Equity March 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, pay equity has been long since established in this country as a human right, not only federally but by the provinces of Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. Rather than moving forward on women's rights and showing leadership to the world as we have done in the past, the government is regressive.

I ask the minister this question. How can the government take a recognized human right, such as pay equity, and make it an item that is now up for negotiation, contrary to what the provinces are doing?

Business of Supply February 26th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I do have a question for the hon. member.

Over the last number of days I have spoken to a number of municipal leaders in my communities. The mayor of Mount Pearl, who calls the gas tax fund one of the most innovative new programs we have delivered in the last 100 years, thought this kind of program gets legitimate revenues moving forward in communities very quickly. He has a number of projects waiting to be done that he wants done. Mayor Simms would be very encouraged if we could move this motion through.

I spoke as well to Councillor Tom Hann in the city of St. John's who said he had over $92 million in projects waiting for funding today. If we were to actually move forward on this motion, he could have shovels in the ground, people at work and good economic development in the city of St. John's and the city of Mount Pearl immediately.

My question is to the member, and I appreciate his comments. Why would the government not consider this motion? Why would it not consider this move toward putting some of the infrastructure dollars in the hands of communities immediately so that we can move forward on economic development, on good infrastructure development, and on getting people to work immediately?

Mount Pearl Sports Alliance February 13th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, it is with pride that I rise today to recognize the outstanding work of the Mount Pearl Sports Alliance. The Mount Pearl Sports Alliance is a model of community sports development. It is a partnership of sports organizations that work together in consultation and coordination, maximizing resources and improving sporting opportunities in the vibrant community of Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Recently the Mount Pearl Sports Alliance honoured those with the highest achievement in sport. The criteria for selection involved not only individuals and teams that excel, but also recognized service to organizations. I would like to recognize: Adam Keating, Kelly Whitelaw, Pearlgate Girls Bantam Bowling Team, Janet Maher, Eddie Hynes, Darren Reid, Stephanie Dyer and Chris Bishop.

I want to congratulate the award winners and the Mount Pearl Sports Alliance for their good work in promoting sports and active living.

The Budget January 30th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the previous Liberal government had the foresight to make changes to the Atlantic accord, changes that helped the people of Newfoundland and Labrador get their economy back on track. However, since the current government has come to power, it has tried to claw back any advances the province has made, breaking an election commitment the Prime Minister made to the people of the province. This latest budget includes more harmful and offensive cuts to the province. Early calculations indicate cuts will amount to at least $1.5 billion over three years. These changes are not right. They are not just.

I cannot help wonder if it is a direct retaliation for the “anything but Conservative” campaign the premier raised during the election.

This approach to federalism breeds an atmosphere of mistrust that will cause a number of problems. The province of Quebec and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador are targets of the Conservative government today.

Now is not the time to play politics. Now is the time to do what is right.