Dan's statement on the NDP motion to stop the muzzling of scientists
Mr. Speaker, it is probably a good thing for the member that his time ran out before I had a chance to ask him a question. I would have been asking the member about the RADARSAT Constellation mission. I introduced a motion in the industry committee to have MacDonald, Dettwiler and industry ministry officials come to the committee to explain what has happened with that program and why we are off track. Unfortunately the member opposite who just spoke introduced a motion to take the meeting in camera. I cannot imagine why we would need to discuss such important issues in secret. They concern all Canadians.
I am proud to stand today in defence of science and research. Canada's ability to compete in the 21st century is inextricably linked to science and research. Science and research touch every aspect of our daily lives and must be preserved and enriched. In Canada, we must foster an environment that encourages more research and science. Sadly, the 2012 budget and recent changes by the Conservative government take Canada down a path of darkness rather than enlightenment.
The muzzling of scientists and the assignment of chaperones by the government is repugnant. This has been widely condemned and rightly so. Only ideologues and people afraid of the truth would resort to such actions. If nothing else, scientists must be free to report the findings of their work, free from political interference. They should only need worry about the critiques of their peers, which in the end leads to better scientists. Peer review and not political review must be the standard.
The cuts announced affect far more than I could possibly say in 10 minutes. The Conservative members of the industry, science and technology committee have a much better understanding of just how much I have to say on this issue.
It really is a shame that this morning's meeting was also cancelled and that industry ministry officials were not available to discuss the estimates so that we could learn more about these reckless cuts. We are still looking forward to seeing them and, we hope, the minister before the summer recess.
The first issue I want to raise is about good government. One might ask why. It is pretty simple. To provide good government, one needs to assemble a tremendous amount of facts, primarily obtained through large quantities of research from places like Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Library and Archives Canada, National Research Council, Statistics Canada, and of course the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
I forgot to request to have my time split with the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, so I would like to do that now.
Limiting research at all levels of government and all agencies of government restricts everyone's ability to make fact- and evidence-based policy. This is a critical issue because I cannot possibly see how limiting that information would be a good thing. Yet here we are, debating a motion being brought forward by our science and technology critic and our industry critic.
The seconding by the member for LaSalle—Émard is significant because these cuts also largely touch industry. Cuts to Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, and the National Research Council affect our ability to monitor industry to ensure adherence to environmental regulations that are there to protect us, the air we breathe and the water we drink. As an aside, I will definitely be taking a pass on drinking tailing pond water. There is absolutely no way, but the Minister of Natural Resources can do as he likes.
Cuts to research and science affect our ability as parliamentarians to make the best policies to foster innovation and economic growth. I am proud to stand as deputy industry critic with our industry critic, our science and tech critics, and all NDP members of this House to say that cuts need to be reversed for the long-term benefits of Canadians. The government needs to knock it off.
A lot of research is done independently and in conjunction with industry that has a great impact on our economy, and that will only grow with time. Cuts to Statistics Canada from the policy-making side and the National Research Council from the innovation side will only hinder our long-term development. The time to invest and not pull back is now.
I would like to address two of the looming cuts in wildly different areas that are of particular concern to me.
The closing of the Experimental Lakes Area, as we have already heard today, is particularly troubling because of its international importance and its repeated successes that have only proven its worth.
I would like to cite from an article in the June 1 Globe and Mail about its pending closure:
Former top researchers at the centre say the decision is emblematic of the government’s anti-science approach to environmental policy and its emphasis on resource development with little regard for impacts on the ecosystem unless they affect commercially important fish stocks.
“I think they are uninterested in the environment and scientific research into the environment,” said John Rudd, who served as chief scientist at ELA and now consults for private labs. “They don’t want to see things that might get in the way of promoting industry.”
Now a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in the United States, Dr. Gilmour, said:
By shutting ELA you remove a critical tool for finding the most reasonable and cost-effective solutions to national and international environmental issues.
She also wrote:
The small federal investment in the research station has been returned thousands of times over in public and ecosystem health.
Frankly, the further we go on, the more I start to believe the government's motto is, “Never let a good policy get in the way of bad decision making”.
On a similar note, we have the RADARSAT Constellation mission, where a committed minister and a committed parliamentary secretary say they are on board, but the money is just not in the budget.
This vital Canadian satellite program, with the multi-mission of environmental monitoring, Arctic sovereignty, ocean safety and ice monitoring, and disaster management, as well as the ability to attract other governments and agencies as clients, all makes good business sense and science and safety sense, yet the government has put the program in jeopardy.
What is worse, the government is, unlike what the former member said, precipitating a brain drain from a company that is of such strategic importance to Canada that the government blocked the sale of MacDonald Dettwiler.
Delays in this project could also put Canadian lives at risk. If the Constellation satellites are not in space before RADARSAT-2's end of mission, we could have a coverage gap, and that would put Canadians' lives at risk. It is critical that the situation not be allowed to occur or to continue. The government needs to get off the mat.
These and many other reasons are why we are calling upon all parliamentarians to support and adequately fund these agencies and programs because the return is better government through a fact-based evidence policy, a better and stronger economy that has fewer negative impacts on the environment, through science and innovation dependent from and in conjunction with industry. It is as simple as that.
The cuts just go on and on in this budget, as we mentioned, with several different agencies. The cuts that are happening at Environment Canada and ozone monitoring and with the Arctic monitoring stations, they just have absolutely no basis to be there. These are the programs that keep us safe. They are the programs that keep our air clean. They are the programs that keep our water drinkable. They need to be given the appropriate amount of funds in order to continue to keep us safe. As well of course, on the innovation side, which is very important to me, we certainly need to do a lot more in order to foster innovation and productivity, not a lot less, which is what the government proposes.
There are also disturbing reports that hundreds of small and medium-sized enterprises have disappeared from Canada in the last several years. Of course, these are companies that, by and large, are more productive. They contribute more heft to the Canadian economy than their sizes would indicate. Yet they are disappearing because there is a lack of investment, there is a lack of opportunities, they are being gobbled up by larger enterprises or the unbalanced approach that the government has taken to the economy has put them out of business.
I could, of course, go on for another 20 or 30 minutes, or maybe a couple of hours, as I may or may not do in committee before long, but I will leave it at that. I look forward to hearing what the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel has to say.