|| That, given this government has continually failed to improve Canada’s research funding to build Canada into a competitive, progressive knowledge-based economy, and given that science, research and innovation are the foundations of a strong economy and the creators of the jobs of tomorrow, in the opinion of this House, the government should reinvest in these areas to ensure long term, predictable and globally competitive federal funding.
He said: Mr. Speaker, on a personal note, if there is one reason more than any other that brought me into politics, it is the issue on which I am about to speak.
Simply put, science, research and innovation are the foundations of a strong economy. They will create the jobs of tomorrow.
It is clear to me that the current government does not understand what I have just said. This is particularly apparent if we look at its recent budget and indeed at all its preceding budgets. Notwithstanding all its pronouncements, it has failed to grasp the importance of establishing policies that will ensure long-term, predictable and globally competitive federal funding.
Before I get into details, I want to focus on a crucial part of what I have just said. I am referring to the jobs of tomorrow.
How is this different from the jobs of today?
First, an important observation: the economic blueprint for Canada in the 20th century no longer applies. The Canada that was content to sell its natural resources and low-tech products to the rest of the world can no longer assume that it will remain prosperous in the 21st century. The world has changed, not only because of globalization but for other reasons as well. There is indeed a new paradigm at work.
While resources remain an important component of our economy, it is knowledge and the resulting products and services that result from that knowledge that will ensure that we secure a prosperous future for our children. That is where the jobs of the future lie.
In this world where emerging countries now have hundreds of millions of middle-class, well-educated citizens who have ferociously embraced the virtues of open competition, Canada risks being left standing while others race ahead. Emerging countries are not only producing low-tech manufactured products more cheaply than we are, they are beginning to produce high-tech products that will soon flood the global markets.
In this world where a country such India produces more PhDs than the United States, in this world where the Internet has levelled the playing field in terms of access to knowledge, there are no longer any safe assumptions about the future other than the fact that knowledge and the application of that knowledge will determine who prospers.
In this interconnected world where productivity and innovation determine wealth and economic security, where does Canada stand?
Mr. Speaker, the statistics are discouraging. Canada's productivity has been declining over the last five quarters—its worst performance in 20 years. Basically, Canada is not competitive. In terms of innovation, Canada is 13th of 17 according to a 2008 Conference Board of Canada study. That is certainly nothing to write home about.
Are we creating the jobs of the future? The answer is no. We are proud of our successful companies, such as Bombardier, Research in Motion, Ubisoft and Apotex, and of our space industry, among others, but the truth is that we have to do even better.
We have a very well-educated population, and we have to take advantage of that. To do so, we need federal policies that will enable us to reach our potential. Our neighbours know it, and our competitors know it. Our government is the only one that does not understand.
As a first step, let me say the following. Science, research and innovation require a long-term approach, not an ad hoc, one year at a time approach.
What is really important, if one believes in a long-term approach, is to say it loud and clear. Our scientists and our knowledge-based industries must hear from the government. Hearing it allows them to plan for the long-term. It allows them to truly commit themselves to research and innovation. It sends them the message that what they do is important for the future of our country.
Second, governments should not be trying to pick winners. They should not favour applied research if it means that fundamental research will suffer. They should not focus on commercially-oriented science if this means that other science will suffer. Doing so fails to recognize society's great advance on all fronts and that all research benefits us all, often in ways that had not been anticipated. It is a supreme conceit for a government to assume otherwise.
This does not mean certain strategic areas of research cannot be given an additional impetus. Playing to our strength or trying to take the lead in a particular field is a smart thing to do, as long as it is not done at the expense of other research.
It does not help to create a positive climate of co-operation between the government and our university stakeholders when the bullies the executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, as happened recently. Shouting, interrupting and telling one's visitors to shut up only serves to create a chill between government and those with which it needs to create strong links.
Another illustration of the fact that the government does not understand the importance of science was the elimination of the national science adviser position. The purpose of this position was to offer the an opportunity to consult directly with a respected scientist who would offer not only advice but also the unvarnished truth about Canada's scientific performance.
Both the United States and Great Britain have respected national science advisers. For instance, a Canadian national science adviser could have told the early on in his mandate that climate change really did exist and the could then have acted expeditiously.
Looking at the recent budget, it is clear that the government does not have a coherent strategy for scientific research. While it funded certain areas, it totally overlooked others.
For example, it implemented so-called efficiency cuts of $148 million over three years at the three research granting councils without increasing their operating budgets. It failed to fund Genome Canada in this budget so it could undertake its next cycle of research funding in co-operation with its public and private partners. The National Research Council was not funded for research in this budget. It was instructed to find savings of $27.6 million over three years as part of its strategic review. The program to fund the indirect costs of research was also cut.
Mr. Speaker, everyone agrees that federal organizations have to undergo strategic reviews from time to time to optimize their operations. Our neighbours have clearly recognized the importance of increasing investment in science and research to create the jobs of the future, so the question is, why has the government decided not to allocate more funds to the organizations I just mentioned? Regardless of what the Minister of State says, adjusted for inflation, government spending on research in the natural sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities has diminished since the Conservatives took power.
I would add that government spending on research relative to its total spending generally went up beginning in 1993 under the Liberal government, but has continually gone down since the current government came to power. The Liberal government spent 4.9% of federal money on research. By 2008, that number had dropped to 4.1%. That says a lot about how important research is to this government.
I would also like to point out that this government would like the $2 billion announced for university and college infrastructure to be identified as part of the funds allocated to science and research. In reality, as we all know, this money is for building maintenance and other infrastructure projects and does not represent direct investment in scientific research as such.
Now this government and the universities are fighting about the $2 billion. It seems that the government would like the money to be spent solely on university infrastructure directly related to scientific research whereas the universities would like to have more leeway in how they spend it.
When comparing federal spending on research in 2008 to that in 2005 and adjusting for inflation, research has decreased in the following ministries: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, Industry Canada, National Defence and the National Research Council.
Another interesting statistic deals with the gross domestic expenditure on R and D, or GERD. Canadian gross domestic expenditure on R and D as a proportion of GDP rose significantly under the Liberal government to just over 2%, well over the OEDC average of 1.5%. Unfortunately, over the past two years, GERD as a percentage of GDP has declined, led by a failure of the government to maintain continuing investment in R and D.
Not only is the government failing to rise to the occasion, it is actually sliding backward at a time when it should be demonstrating a strong commitment to research. At a time when President Obama is making massive investments in basic research in fields such as health, renewable energy development, energy efficiency, electronic medical records, broadband, smart electrical grids and other areas, why has the government's approach been so piecemeal and incoherent? Where is the vision? Where is the strategy?
I would now like to focus on innovation and the elements that allow a country such as Canada to be innovative. Let me begin by identifying one area where Canada did very well until the Conservatives took over. I am speaking to the funding by the federal government of our universities and research hospitals. The reason we have done so well in this area is because of visionary decisions that were taken by the Chrétien and Martin governments to re-invigorate research in our public research institutions.
Since 1997, consecutive Liberal governments have committed $12 billion in new funding to support basic research. As a result, Canada is now the G7 leader in terms of university research and development. Liberal governments more than doubled the budgets of Canada's research granting councils to a total of $1.6 billion in 2004-05.
It was under the Liberal leadership that Canada saw the creation of the following important programs: the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canada research chairs program, Genome Canada and the program to fund the indirect costs of research. These far-reaching programs lifted Canada out of a hole and made us leaders in public funding of research.
Establishing programs that support research in our universities and research hospitals is certainly necessary, but not sufficient to ensure that Canada becomes a leader in innovation. It takes more than that. A federal policy on innovation requires a coherent approach that recognizes all the essential elements of innovation. And, as we know, there are many. It is one thing to be creative. Bringing a new product or service to market requires much more.
We all know that research can lead to promising ideas but that many challenges must be solved before the research can be commercialized, that is before it results in goods or services that people want to buy. We must recognize that other elements are essential to innovation.
Let me cover some of those elements essential to innovation. One of them is access to venture capital to allow companies involved in R and D to fund the effort required to develop promising research into a marketable product or service. Often that effort takes many years and often it is undertaken by small and medium-sized companies that have no other source of revenue other than venture capital.
While venture capital pools increased steadily in the United States between 2003 and 2008, they have actually decreased in Canada, according to the Canadian Venture Capital Association. This is cause for concern since venture capital is one of those essential elements required to support innovation. The government should be in active discussion with the venture capital industry to see how it can help improve the growth of venture capital.
Another essential element deals with intellectual property. The reality is Canadian intellectual property laws are weak in Canada and must be strengthened in order that those who generate that intellectual property can own it. Without that protection, innovators are not assured that the fruits of their hard work will remain under their control.
Another important role for government in fostering innovation is to provide tax incentives in the form of credits, some of them refundable, to companies that engage in research. While the current scientific research and experimental development, or SR&ED, program does address the requirement to some extent, it also has proven to be cumbersome to use and restricted in its application. This program needs to be re-examined immediately in order to ensure Canada is using it as effectively as possible to support promising research.
Finally, effective transfer of promising research to the marketplace requires strong linkages between those who perform the research and those who know how to commercialize and market the fruits of that research. Some mechanisms are in place, but we have the right to ask whether they are achieving their intended objectives or do we need to look at other methods that would be more effective in creating effective partnerships between the public and private sectors. We should certainly be pursuing this aggressively if we hope to become a more innovative country.
The government is putting the squeeze on science when it should be committing to an even greater role for science in the 21st century. To paraphrase a recent headline, Canadian research lacks adequate funding and the government a coherent vision. While the U.S. invests heavily in science as a key part of its economic revival, Canada is spending less and putting scientists out of work. I do not think I can say it more succinctly than that.
On top of that, the Conservative minister of state continues to erode relations with the very sector he is there to support. His combative, top-down approach is indicative of the government's failure to work in partnership with stakeholders.
Let me illustrate the stark contrasts between what the government is doing and what our American neighbours are doing.
U.S. President Barack Obama's stimulus package is investing a total of $65 billion over the next two years in the knowledge-based economy. On a per capita basis, this is six times more than Canada's investment. This is why the U.S. will be a leader in creating the companies and jobs of the future, while Canada risks getting left behind. What is it about this that the Conservatives do not understand?
Given that the government has failed to improve Canada's research funding to build Canada into a competitive, progressive knowledge-based economy and given that science, research and innovation are the foundations of a strong economy and the creators of the jobs of tomorrow, for those reasons it is essential that the government reinvest in those areas to ensure long-term, predictable and globally competitive federal funding for science to make Canada a leading innovator on the world stage.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the hon. member for .
I am proud to speak today as the new Minister of State for Science and Technology.
I am very proud to stand here today to talk about our government's commitment to Canadian science and technology excellence in all its aspects.
From the very beginning, this government has demonstrated its commitment to building Canada's strong science and technology sector. In fact long ago, in 2006, the actually announced Canada's new science and technology strategy, “Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage”, which was tabled in May 2007.
This is an ambitious strategy, linking the competitive energy of our entrepreneurs to the creative genius of our scientists. It is a multi-year, multi-faceted plan for building a sustainable competitive advantage for Canada through science and technology. We have backed this up with not just words but action, with increased funding in every single budget that we have tabled and put forward in the House.
It is important to note that the global economy, the environment of economics around the world, has changed drastically from when the science and technology strategy was introduced in 2007. That said, the force of our argument for mobilizing science and technology in building distinct Canadian advantages has not changed.
Even before the recession, the global competitiveness of Canadians depended on an entrepreneurial advantage. We knew this and we knew we must redouble our efforts to build a dynamic business environment that supports private sector innovation and promotes the success of Canadian companies at home and abroad. Our plan supports this.
We knew we must also continue our efforts to build a knowledge advantage, targeting resources to support research excellence and leading-edge scientific infrastructure. Technological advances occur rapidly these days, and in the face of a rapidly souring economy we had to adjust the current needs of the nation but stay on course with our plan.
Involved are entrepreneurism, knowledge and, of course, people. The third leg of the strategy is a highly skilled workforce. Canada must also stay the course in building a people advantage that provides Canadians with opportunities to acquire and use science and technology skills and allows Canada to grow its base of scientists and skilled workers while remaining sensitive to our current economic needs.
This government has taken strong action to address all these aspects. Our record on science and technology clearly indicates to anyone who wishes to read it that the government has a strong commitment to basic and applied research in all domains at all levels. Our recent budget shows how we can complete our plan, and do so in the context of the current economy.
Canada is an international leader in post-secondary education and research. We rank first in the G7 and second only to Sweden among the 30 countries that make up the OECD.
All along, our strategy has been supported by the government through substantial science and technology investments. As I have mentioned, in the previous three budgets of 2006, 2007, and 2008, there was almost $2.4 billion in total new funding for scientists, more than any Liberal budget in the past. There was solid new funding for the granting councils for their core programs and to the indirect costs of research programs. I want to emphasize that all these increases are cumulative. They represent ongoing permanent increases in core funding.
These previous three budgets have also included large research investments in arm's-length organizations. For example, the Canada Foundation for Innovation received $590 million in these budgets. There was $240 million, as has been mentioned earlier but ignored by the opposition, given to Genome Canada, and CANARIE received $120 million.
These are great commitments by the government. In building on the strategy, in October 2008 the 's plan put me in place as , a position that was cut by the Liberal government.
As all Canadians know that near the end of 2008 the economic situation required creative and innovative thinking. How could we continue with our science and technology strategy, our plan for excellence in science and technology, and, at the same time, help stimulate the economy? Could it be done? With this government, it not only could be done, it has been done.
As I mentioned, the past three budgets, 2006, 2007 and 2008, provided $2.4 billion in new funding. Guess what? Budget 2009 pushes this investment to an all time high of $5.1 billion, an historic and unprecedented injection at a poignant time, a unique time, a critical time for the nation.
Of this $5.1 billion in S and T, $2 billion will go to universities and colleges for their infrastructure, preferably to be used in research initiatives; bricks and mortar. Do members know why? It is because that creates jobs that are immediately required and will help build Canada's S and T future.
Budget 2009 provides $750 million to the Canada Foundation for Innovation for new equipment. That is a brilliant strategy. For the National Research Council's industrial research assistance program, budget 2009 provides $200 million of new money. This is of particular value to the manufacturing sector in Canada.
Budget 2009 also provides $80 million over two years to FPInnovations, a not for profit research institute that focuses on the development of emerging and breakthrough technologies in forestry.
Budget 2009 also provides $50 million to the Institute of Quantum Computing in Waterloo.
Of course, it is the people. It is the scientists in the end who use this great equipment in these great facility, which is why this government established the Canada Excellence Research Chairs program in last year's budget aimed at enabling Canadian universities to recruit and retain the brightest and most promising researchers the world has to offer. This is complemented by the Vanier Canada graduate scholarships program, which will award 500 international and Canadian doctoral students with generous three year scholarships to study and do their work in Canada. We want the best to come here and we want them to stay. They will need the best equipment in the best facilities.
Two weeks ago, I was at McGill University where I announced a $120 million investment for 134 research chairs at 37 different universities across the country.
We have added more scholarships with $87.5 million for 2,500 new scholarships over and above the core programs and 600 graduate internships for our industry.
The investments undertaken to support the science and tech strategy underscore our government's determination to do our part to maintain and build a national competitive advantage.
The global storm will require immediate attention but it will not distract us from our goals. We will use this as an opportunity to drive harder. Our multi-year strategy will secure the nation as the place to invent, to innovate and to discover.
I look forward to working with my parliamentarian colleagues on this important issue.
Mr. Speaker, my apologies.
The Delgados were at a CIHR funding announcement with the , along with a CIHR supported researcher from the University of Alberta, Dr. Po-Yin Cheung. The Delgados directly benefited from a new resuscitation technique developed by Dr. Cheung. When their 22-month-old son, Adrian, suffered from low oxygen and its complications at birth, he received medical care from Dr. Cheung. Using state of the art resources and knowledge from his research, Dr. Cheung and his health care team helped Adrian make a full recovery.
Think about Cecil Condo from Cape Breton. One of Canada's growing number of seniors, and a residential school survivor, Cecil had one leg amputated and was trying to adjust to life in a wheelchair. Cecil benefited directly from a special rehabilitation program developed by CIHR supported researcher, Dr. Lee Kirby, at Dalhousie University. Cecil is now able to pop a wheelie in his wheelchair which, as Dr. Kirby's research has demonstrated, is an important survival skill for any wheelchair user who hopes to get around independently. Here is what Cecil said about Dr. Kirby: “That man is a saint”.
There are all kinds of human stories linked to health research. Health research helps improve health and improve lives. We know that and that is why we are investing in it. Health research helps to address pressing health challenges such as mental health, which is a multi-million dollar drain on productivity. Health research helps keep people healthy and productive, something with real value during this economic downturn.
Health research also produces lots of important and fundamental discoveries. CIHR is helping support important stem cell research which is helping deliver important new insights. It is also helping to create research excellence and an international reputation.
As a result, Canada gets a seat at the table with the world's best. Canada now has a major collaborative research agreement with California for cancer stem cell research. Canada is also helping lead a major three country initiative called the Structural Genomics Consortium, the SGC. The SGC is an ongoing partnership between public and private sector research organizations in Canada, the U.K. and Sweden. It is helping to produce valuable information about proteins known to play a role in human diseases. This information is shared for free through an online database.
The SGC comprises over 180 researchers and is led by Dr. Aled Edwards of the University of Toronto. Under Dr. Edwards' leadership the SGC has been producing ahead of schedule and under budget. In its first phase, from 2004-07, the SGC was mandated to produce 386 novel protein structures. It has exceeded this goal and now in its second phase is working to produce a further 660 structures. Access to these structures can cut months, even years, off the lengthy drug development process.
This is research excellence and this is Canada's advantage. The Government of Canada recognizes that science, research and innovation are today among the most promising investment opportunities for producing long-term dividends such as highly educated workers and new intellectual property. That is why the government has pledged many millions of dollars for funding for research that will benefit Canada's research community, health researchers included.
In all of this we never lose sight of the ultimate goal of health research: to improve the health of Canadians and of people around the world.
We know that investing in research, particularly health research, is one of the wisest, most efficient and most prudent investments any society can make. Seeing the impact that health research has on individuals reaffirms for all of us the importance of the work the CIHR does.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I rise today on this Liberal Party opposition day to speak to the motion calling on the federal government to significantly increase funding for research and development.
As a progressive political party, we are obviously in favour of this motion, because we believe that research and development can help create the jobs of tomorrow and, of course, contribute to economic prosperity.
Because of globalization, Quebec, like many other nations, is faced with growing challenges not only from our traditional competitors, but also from emerging economies. But to prosper, we have to spend more and more on research and development to improve productivity.
We also have to invest as much as our competitors in research and development, or else rapidly close the gap between our spending and our main competitors'.
What is the status of federal support for research and development?
In a nutshell, the federal government is not a reliable partner for Quebec—and I will prove it—and things have gotten worse since the Conservative Party of Canada came to power.
The federal government invests far less in research and development than the other OECD member countries—we have the statistics to prove it—and Ottawa's share of research funding in Canada is steadily decreasing.
In fact, Canada spends less than 2% of its GDP on research and development, which puts it in 13th place among OECD countries, which generally spend 2.26% of their GDP on R and D. That is a big difference.
This is especially disappointing since the federal share of R and D funding has declined steadily over the past 30 years.
Whereas in 1971 the federal government accounted for 40% of total research and development spending in Canada, the figure was only 18.7% in 2003. The government has slashed research and development spending in spite of the demands of globalization.
By the way, members will have noticed that this previous decline took place under the Liberal Party.
Not only does the federal government not invest enough in research and development, but Quebec gets less than its fair share of federal R and D funding.
As is the case for many files of this nature, although Quebec accounts for 29% of all of Canada's spending on research and development, it receives only 24% of federal funding—once again, Quebec loses out within this federal system—compared to the 48.3% that Ontario receives.
The only area in which Quebec receives an adequate share of federal funding is that of business research, although much of that support is in the form of tax credits that are accessible to everyone, so Ottawa has no say as to the geographic distribution of that assistance. That is not right.
As for research done directly by the federal government, when the government itself decides where the money will be spent, Quebec receives only 19.4% while Ontario receives 58.3% of spending. There is a remarkable discrepancy there.
Yet the Quebec economy relies on the high-tech sector, like the aerospace industry and the pharmaceutical industry, much more than the Canadian economy does. That is why the Government of Quebec attaches much more importance to supporting research activities than the federal government does. However, as I have already indicated, the federal government is not contributing as much as it could be. Thus, with research and development spending totalling 2.73% of its GDP, Quebec is making a much greater effort than the federal government, which invests less than 2% of its GDP.
Although funding was already insufficient under the Liberals and Quebec was at a disadvantage compared to Ontario, with the Conservatives in power, the situation has only gotten worse. For instance, in the fall of 2006, the Conservative government eliminated the main federal support program for industrial research, called technology partnerships Canada, a program that was very important to the Quebec industrial sector, and it did so at a time when our manufacturing sector is shrinking.
A few months later, it announced an aerospace research support program. In reality, it was just the announcement of some semblance of a program, Technology Partnerships Canada, from which it had itself slashed a third of the budget and excluded all industrial sectors except aerospace. While Quebec is a world class leader in that field, it cannot count on the support of the Conservative government.
For several years now we have been calling upon the government to establish an aerospace policy that would ensure businesses of reliable and predictable support and thus allow them to plan developmental projects. Yet the feds have always refused to do anything. In the meantime, other cutting edge industries—pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, environmental— solidly entrenched in Quebec have also been left to fend for themselves by the Conservative government.
That is why the Bloc Québécois is calling upon the federal government to cancel the cuts imposed on the Technology Partnerships Canada program, on support to the development of the aerospace industry, and to restore that program's availability to all cutting edge sectors that the Conservatives have left without any support. In addition to support for our cutting edge industries, our manufacturing sector also needs support. For example, in my own riding the furniture manufacturing industry plays an important role.
In this period of major economic downturn, businesses including those in traditional sectors such as furniture manufacturing, should be looking at innovations now in preparation for the coming recovery—innovations involving new technologies in order to improve productivity and be competitive with the industries in Asia. If the Quebec furniture industry wants to make any progress in this increasingly difficult context, it must act promptly to invest in new manufacturing techniques. By investing in research and development, the furniture industry will be better able to integrate new technologies in order to achieve lower production costs as soon as possible and with an eye to customer specifications and demands. The ability is there, but support is needed.
In order to achieve these objectives for the furniture sector and all the rest of the manufacturing sector, federal government support must be obtained for research and development. The federal government must improve tax support for research and development, for instance by increasing tax deductions for research and development as well as the types of expenses that are eligible. The Bloc also proposes making the research and development tax credit a refundable one, so that companies can benefit from it even if they are still in the development stage and not yet making any profit. It is convinced that these few measures could be extremely beneficial to the furniture industry in Quebec.
In reality, in this area as in several others, we realize once again that it is best to count on ourselves rather than Ottawa, a partner that is not very dependable.
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate my colleague from on his excellent speech. He has spoken eloquently about the issue. He has enlightened us on research and development and the consequences on the furniture industry in his riding.
The Bloc Québécois is in favour of today's opposition day motion and hopes that the Conservative government will reinvest in science, research and innovation, all of which are pillars for a solid economy and job creators for the future.
I would like to point out the significant role the aerospace industry plays in the riding of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert. Quebec's expertise in this economic sector is world-renowned. The aerospace industry is so important to Montreal's south shore that I am fond of calling it the aerospace region. I call it this because of the airport, the aerospace industry, the space agency and the aeronautics college. For us, Montreal's south shore, the aerospace region, is important.
The Saint-Hubert airport is the oldest civilian airport in Quebec and Canada and was, for some time, the largest. Across from Montreal, the south shore, particularly Saint-Hubert, is all about the airport and aerospace industry. Dozens of innovative small, medium-sized and large businesses based there and their subcontractors employ thousands of workers. These are companies like Héroux DevTech, Pratt & Whitney and Dev-Yhu, and organizations like the Canadian Space Agency. As I said earlier, Saint-Hubert is also home to the National Institute of Aeronautics, which is part of the Cégep Édouard-Montpetit and a leader in technical aeronautical training in Quebec.
Aerovision Quebec has also helped build our reputation in aeronautics. The foundation's president, Lucien Poirier, promotes Quebec's exceptional contribution to achievement in air travel and is dedicated to preserving our aeronautical heritage.
My colleague did such a great job of explaining why we need more support for research and development that I will skip some of the pages I prepared.
He also pointed out that Quebec has been left to its own devices.
If I may, I would also like to talk about research centres. When it comes to research conducted directly by the federal government, also known as intramural research, where the government makes its own decisions about allocating funds, Quebec receives only 19.4% of the funding, while Ontario receives 58.3%. In fact, the city of Ottawa alone receives $912 million—almost three times more than the $320 million spent in the entire province of Quebec.
There are 118 federal research centres, and only 16 of them—13.5%—are located in Quebec. Ontario has 50 centres. The government spends nearly a billion dollars—$960 million—on research and development in the national capital region. Of that, 95%—$912 million—goes to Ontario, and a mere 5%—just $48 million—goes to the Outaouais. The greater Ottawa area has 27 federal research centres. Every single one is located in Ontario.
Quebec should get its fair share of federal research and development funds. The federal government should relocate some of its own research centres from Ottawa to the Outaouais. That would only be fair.
A former Liberal industry minister used to say that the aerospace industry is to Quebec what the automobile industry is to Ontario. He was right and the Bloc Québécois has often repeated that. The Quebec aerospace industry represents 51% of jobs, 57% of salaries, 62% of sales volumes and 70% of R and D expenditures in the Canadian aerospace industry. Quebec is a world leader in this sector.
In the aerospace sector, competition exists not only among corporations, but also among governments. Indeed, because this sector generates significant economic and technological spinoffs and creates extremely high quality jobs, governments step up their efforts and their imagination in order to support their aerospace sectors better. The dispute between the United States and Europe regarding subsidies to Boeing and Airbus is an excellent example, not to mention Embraer.
Unfortunately, the federal government seems to have decided to take Canada out of play. Not only does it have no aerospace policy, but all of its actions serve only to weaken this pillar of our economy, either by incompetence or negligence—or both—or perhaps for some other reason.
I would like to quote an article by Alain Dubuc that appeared in the Friday, March 6 edition of La Presse:
|| That is the same logic, the same obscurantism, the same misunderstanding of the development of an advanced society that led the government to cut funding that allowed artists to tour internationally.
In the same column a few paragraphs later, Alain Dubuc writes:
|| In fact, the Conservative government is adopting the same approach to research as it did to arts and culture. We are seeing the same prejudices and the same notion of the settling of scores. It is pretty clear that the Conservatives are cutting the financial livelihood of a sector that it does not like...
This Conservative government has not announced any new measures to support industry. It has changed the repayment terms of its main R and D investment program, so that it no longer really shares the risk with businesses. It also carries out all of its military aerospace procurements abroad, thereby providing no spinoffs for the hub of Canada's aerospace industry, namely, Quebec.
It must be said that the Canadian and Quebec aerospace industries are different. Quebec has a real industry, with those who give the contracts surrounded by suppliers, whereas the Canadian industry is essentially made up of equipment manufacturers and suppliers.
By the way, Montreal is the only place in the world where an entire aircraft can be assembled within a radius of less than 50 kilometres.
So while the Canadian industry depends a great deal on the health of the American industry, because Canada provides the U.S. with equipment and parts, Quebec's industry is a centre in itself.
When the government makes military purchases abroad and lets Boeing choose the spinoffs, it is a safe bet that its Canadian suppliers will benefit, but not its Quebec competitors. While Canada can accommodate an aerospace policy designed in Washington because the Canadian industry is integrated into the American industry, Quebec cannot.
The aerospace industry has particular challenges that call for industry-specific tools. First, because the investments in research and development that are needed to launch a new aerospace product must be made over a very long time and are expensive and risky, the government must share the risk with the aerospace companies. Otherwise, they will develop their products elsewhere.
Second, because their products are very expensive and their clients, the airlines, are going through tough times because of competition from low-cost carriers and higher fuel prices, aerospace companies need ways of financing sales contracts. Otherwise, they will have a hard time finding buyers.
Third, because SMEs in the aerospace industry have to take part in developing products in order to create their own niche in the industry, but do not necessarily have the capital to do so, measures that apply specifically to SMEs, such as access to credit and working capital, are needed.
Lastly, because military purchases are excluded from trade agreements and mean good-quality contracts that lead to technological advances, the industry needs the government to adopt procurement policies that have attractive economic and technological spinoffs.
These four elements are the foundations of any aerospace policy. Such a policy is especially needed here as our domestic market is fairly limited and the government, which decided last year to renew its fleet of aircraft abroad at a cost of $13 billion, will not be making any purchases of a similar size for another generation or two.
The challenges facing the aerospace industry will not go away. The market will remain fragile, because fuel prices will remain high. The value of Canada's petrodollar will remain high as well, which will hurt manufacturing, including the aerospace industry.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the motion by the hon. member for regarding the slashing of federal support to scientific research in Canada.
The government fails to understand the importance of scientific research to the Canadian economy, to our competitiveness, to our long-term sustainability and to our quality of life.
The Conservative budget, regrettably supported by the Liberals, includes significant cuts to the critical work of Canada's scientific community. Three National Research granting councils, the Canadian Institute of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council will suffer major cuts over the next three years.
Their collective budgets are to be reduced by an aggregate of more than $100 million over the next three years. All three councils play a vital role in funding the scientists and their trainees who conduct the research at our universities, hospitals and our research institutes in Canada.
Ironically, as the government commits more money to fund science infrastructure, it is handicapping research capabilities by slashing investments in the researchers and operating costs, the very purpose of science pursuits. Grand buildings with plaques do little to advance science or health.
What kind of economic or science advancement strategy sets out to replace researchers and their trainees with temporary construction jobs?
On NSERC, our Natural Science and Engineering Research Council, I have heard from polar scientists and other noted Canadian scientists, working in the field of contaminants, water and Arctic studies, expressing grave concerns with declining federal support for science and engineering research, for their polar work, for water studies, for tracking contaminants, for innovations in energy generation and efficiency and for students, the very foundation of our hope for a sustainable future.
Just last week many of the members of the House attended a presentation by Dr. Warwick Vincent, an internationally renowned polar scientist. He presented his research findings on life, climate and the vanishing ice on the top of Canada. It was an absolutely incredible presentation, where we discovered that right at the point in time where the funding of the polar research was coming to an end, they were discovering such things as natural biota that created the fuel that could run our economy.
Instead of taking our dollars in the Department of Environment and putting them into companies like Imperial Oil to build a pipeline to the north and potentially threaten the Arctic, we should be replacing and expanding the money for polar scientists who are working with scientists around the world. However, no, the government has decided to end those programs.
At the same time in the budget, the government has chosen to end all of the research funding and support for the development and deployment of renewable technologies, technologies that President Obama has come out and endorsed and given hundreds of millions of dollars, which the International Energy Agency is endorsing and telling all governments of the world they should be supporting. The United Nations is supporting this.
All the world's thinkers and major investors are saying that if a country is smart, if it is going to come out of the recession ahead of the game and be able to be competitive, it should be putting its money and investments into the new energy stream. What is the Conservative government doing? It is cutting the funding.
In the area of health research, I heard from Dr. Ian MacDonald, chair of Ophthalmology at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton and one of North America's acclaimed clinical researchers, expressing his grave concerns with the cuts to the federal health research program. Dr. MacDonald was invited back to Canada from the renowned U.S. National Institute of Health to direct the clinical research program at the Royal Alexandra. The clinic conducts research of direct value to the health of Canadians. Yet his funding is threatened to be cut, an absolutely leading stellar Canadian scientist who could be contributing to Canada, giving us the international acclaim and the benefit for Canadians and worldwide of the results of his research. However, no, the government is cutting funding to health research.
I heard from neurologists at the University of Alberta who are concerned, at a time when medical research is already suffering, that federal funding is to be cut. I am told that every dollar lost means cuts to thousands of jobs for senior researchers and students alike, our future brain trust. Many students already subsist at the poverty level. I am advised that the cuts will result in thousands of jobs losses and the closing of research programs across our country.
We must share their consternation that at the very moment in time the Obama administration is infusing 700-plus millions of new research dollars to eye research alone, our federal government has chosen to cut its support for health research.
In a time of recession, it is not reasonable to download an even greater burden on the health NGOs that are trying to raise funds from the public for competing health priorities: cancer, heart attacks, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, macular degeneration, and the list is endless. We all receive their funding pleas.
At a time when Canada is in a leadership position in many fields of science, we are about to suffer a serious brain drain of the very scientific expertise we invested tax dollars in to develop that in-demand expertise. These will be significant losses, not only to our science reputation, but also to our economy and our health.
The budget promises almost $500 million for the Canada foundation for innovation to hold a research infrastructure competition by 2011, with the priority areas to be set by the federal , not by scientists or those who understand where needs are, and where additional research could be most strategically focused. Yet, CFI is a flawed concept if no researchers are hired to use the equipment. A great deal of expensive equipment already sits idle due to the lack of skilled scientists to operate it.
These cuts come on the tail of the complete elimination of the senior scientist position at Health Canada, a position created less than a decade ago to enhance science capacity at the federal level. It may be recalled that the first scientist filling that position left to head the heritage health institute in Alberta.
At the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, similarly, the government proposes to spend 70-plus million dollars over three years for 500 new doctoral and 1,000 new master scholarships under the Canada graduates scholarships program, but an unspecified percentage is designated for business-related degrees. The very generous grants are allotted over one year, though the pursuit of the degrees almost always carries over into other years thought the funding cannot be carried over.
By cutting funding to the research granting agencies, the federal government has betrayed the research community and damaged the ability of Canadian universities to undertake innovative research. Losses to the base budgets of granting councils more than offset the gains made by the Canada foundation for innovation and graduate students under the Canada graduate scholarships.
In addition to measures designed to ease the financial burden faced by American students, the U.S. stimulus package proposed by President Barack Obama includes: a $3 billion investment in the national science foundation, $3.5 billion for the national institutes of health and $50 million for the national endowment for the arts. In total, President Obama is recommending increasing research funding in the United States by more than $12 billion.
Our government has chosen to interfere in the grant selection process and ignore the advice of researchers.
The national graduate caucus of the Canadian Federation of Students represents more than 60,000 graduate students. That is 60,000 jobs at risk.
We must come forward and give greater support to scientific research. The government must fund discovery-based research, not just targeted research. The government has changed its priorities twice in two years. It cannot even decide its own priorities. There is no real strategy for science and engineering.
We need to fund basic research, not just buildings, equipment and the stars. It is like building ski hills and rinks, and buying a spanking new Zamboni, but denying the funds to hire anyone to flood the rink, run the Zamboni or coach the kids.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
I am privileged in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca to have truly some outstanding researchers, from the NRC Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, as well as Camosun College, Royal Roads University and the University of Victoria. Some really outstanding work is done there, such as the Neptune project and the climate change modelling. In fact, Dr. Andrew Weaver from the University of Victoria was on the world-class, Nobel-winning, international panel for climate change. In that kind of milieu, it is inspiring to see the work that these men and women do.
Therefore, it was with a great deal of sadness—and dismay, I might add—that we saw in the budget an absence of recognition of the importance of publicly funded research in Canada.
We know that in these harsh economic times the government has an obligation to provide a short-term stimulus package that is going to deal with the acute needs of our country, but it is also very important for the government to think into the future. What kind of vision, what kind of Canada, do we want to have in the future?
If we answer that question, we have to come to the conclusion that public funding of basic research is absolutely essential for a vision that enables our country, our nation, to be able to capitalize on the economic challenges in the future. Conversely, the absence of addressing this challenge will put Canadians at a huge disadvantage in terms of the economic and social needs of our country and of our world.
Said another way, the absence of funding into basic research is going to severely cripple the ability of our country, our workers, our economy, and our post-secondary institutions to be able to maximize the opportunities that do exist now and will exist into the future.
The government rightly, for which I compliment it, has put money into infrastructure in science. The problem is this: If we look at infrastructure as being the car, what actually does the research is the driver. What the government has failed to do is invest moneys into the driver. It has failed to invest moneys into those who do the research in our nation.
One of the first things that the government did when it came to power, which was actually shocking, was to eliminate the actual role and position of the national science adviser in Canada. Arthur Carty is an extraordinary scientist. Unfortunately, the government actually eliminated the position of the science adviser to the. What kind of a decision is that, and why on earth would the government actually do that?
If we look at the input in terms of what of research and development does, public research funding of our universities has a ten-to-one outcome. In fact, it can represent 2% of our GDP. Back in 1999, this represented over $15 billion and over 200,000 jobs. In our country today, that represents a much larger amount of money.
The government rightly gave the three granting councils—the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, or NSERC; the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; and the CIHR—money for their infrastructure. What the government failed to do was to enable these granting councils to implement and invest money in those who do the actual research.
In fact, I might add that the government is asking these three research councils to actually cut $146 million from their budgets over the next three years. Why on earth is the government asking our research councils, in this time of economic need, at this time when we need to make these investments into research, to cut moneys?
Compare this to the United States. President Obama is actually investing over $10 billion into basic research. What that is going to do is cause a significant challenge for us to be able to retain the scientists we have in our country right now. This is a serious challenge, because we cannot manufacture these scientists overnight. They will go to where they have the greatest opportunities.
As I said before, we have more than 121 post-secondary institutions and 65,000 academic researchers in Canada.
In advancing the needs of our nation, I want to draw the attention of the House to a few very specific requests. One is for a 30-metre telescope. I think many Canadians would be very surprised to know that our nation is always in the top three in astronomy in the world. The Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics laboratory, in my riding, is the number one centre in all of Canada for the type of research in optics and applied research and engineering. Investment in the telescope, which is $150 million over three years, is critical to maintain our ability to be at the forefront of applied science and research in this very technically difficult area. The benefits to our country are ten to one for the investment.
In terms of high-tech parks, high-tech parks have been built all over the world. China is building dozens of high-tech parks. In our country, there is a very cogent request from Dale Gann, who is the president of the Canadian Association of University Research Parks. This very modest investment would enable our high-tech parks to expand and take advantage of the collaboration that is necessary for us to capitalize on the research that exists. The absence of investing in these high-tech parks will actually cripple our economy in the future.
In regard to the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, at this time when we know the challenge of global warming, would Canadians not find it shocking to know that the government is failing to invest in this area of excellence? However, that is what the government has done. In fact, the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences will have to close its doors in 2010, and the more than 12 research networks it has built will be eliminated.
We have people such as Dr. Andrew Weaver, as I said before, who was on the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Why on earth, during one of the great challenges of our world, climate change, do we have a government that will actually cut funding for this organization, for this group of scientists who do cutting-edge research to deal with one of the most pressing challenges of our time?
Genome Canada is a group that funds world-class research in proteomics and genomics. At its heart is the ability of that research to be applied to some of the great diseases that affect humankind. We have some of the best scientists in the world, at the University of Toronto, at the University of British Columbia, at the University of Victoria, Winnipeg, Montreal, and in other centres, who do cutting-edge research into genomics and proteomics.
If we do not allow these researchers to be funded, it will cripple the ability of our nation to be at the forefront of dealing with some of the great diseases of our planet that affect our population. I think most of our citizens would be shocked to hear that the government has not invested new moneys into these groups that would enable our researchers to deal with the diseases that affect Canadians and their families.
The other issue I want to address is the issue of government interference. Public research should not be influenced by the minister in terms of meddling in who should or should not be able to do research. Basic research is fundamental for commercial research in the future, but it is also a cornerstone for many other types of research in our society. Not all research is for commercialization. Our public institutions, our universities and colleges, and other public research facilities do research in order to broaden the scope of our understanding and to create that base so that commercial research can take place.
However, the minister is actually saying that the government will have a hand in the crafting of the types of proposals that CFI, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, can actually fund. That kind of interference is appalling because it will affect the type of research that will be supported. In other words, the government is saying to the scientists that only research that is done with the priorities of the government of the day will be funded.
The issue, though, is that research, basic research in particular, does not take place over a month or a couple of years, but over several years, if not decades. That is the length of time it takes to make sure the research is taking place. That is the kind of surety and confidence that our researchers need to have in terms of their funding to undertake some of the great challenges our world faces.
In closing, I have to say this. The government has an enormous opportunity. It has failed to execute and articulate a vision for our researchers and for basic research in Canada. It can change it, and I demand that it changes it now.