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.