Overheard at the Standing Committee on Science and Research

Thursday, December 16, 2021 - 14:24

The Standing Committee on Science and Research (SRSR) is now in session. We will continue to share updates on the Committee’s activities, so be sure to bookmark this page and check back soon.

What is the Standing Committee on Science and Research?

Earlier this year, the Honourable Member of Parliament (MP) Kirsty Duncan (LPC) put forward a motion, titled M-38, to create a new Standing Committee on Science and Research. The motion received unanimous support from all Members of Parliament (MP), and called on the House of Commons to:

“(i) recognize that science and research are of critical importance to all Canadians, including, but not limited to, improving the health of Canadians, improving the environment, driving innovation and economic growth, and improving the quality of life of Canadians, (ii) recognize that science and research are more important than ever, as the economic, environmental and social challenges we face are greater, (iii) affirm its commitment to science, research and evidence-informed decision-making.”

With Canada’s 44th session of Parliament now underway, this new Standing Committee is also underway. So far, the mandate “includes, among other matters, reviewing and reporting on all matters relating to science and research, including any reports of the Chief Science Advisor, and any other matter which the House refers to the standing committee.” 

Members of the new committee are as follows: Tony Baldinelli (CPC), Maxime Blanchette-Joncas (Bloc Québécois, Vice-Chair), Valerie Bradford (LPC), Richard Cannings (NDP), Chad Collins (LPC), Lena Metlege Diab (LPC), Kirsty Duncan (LPC, Chair), Mike Lake (CPC), Stéphane Lauzon (LPC), Ron McKinnon (LPC), Gerald Soroka (CPC) and Corey Tochor (CPC, Vice-Chair).  

You can find the Standing Committee’s upcoming meetings and completed work here. 

We will continue to provide updates on what we overhear at the Standing Committee on Science and Research (#EyesOnSRSR). Keep scrolling for updates!

Meeting Summaries

Meeting 1

(Tuesday 14 December 2021 | Recording)

  • Members approved the selection of a Chair (Kirsty Duncan) and two Vice-Chairs (Corey Tochor and Maxime Blanchette-Joncas).
  • Next, members approved a series of routine procedural motions, including the creation of a Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure, and approving the time available for witness testimony and questioning. To note: witnesses will be allocated five minutes for their opening statements.
  • The remainder of the meeting involved open discussion on expectations from committee members. Here is a summary of key points raised:
    • Members have a few key issues in mind already: Ron McKinnon spoke to investigating the “state of the art in different areas of science” (such as fusion technology, quantum computing, and stem cells), and surveying “where we need to put our scientific expertise in this country, so that eventually we can make recommendations to the Parliament on how to proceed.” Stéphane Lauzon emphasized a need to increase access for rural regions by taking advantage of any technology or research related to communications, energy and transport, such as 5G technology, smart transport, robotics and green energy.
    • Some members expressed a desire to pursue a broader focus: Richard Cannings noted that “it would be fun to go off in all directions” but that “we should be aware that this is the science and research committee.” Cannings proposed a focus on fundamental and applied sciences, and to start off with a “broad study to teach us all about where Canada does well…look at those successes, and also look at the challenges where science could use some help from the government.” The latter broad point was later echoed by Valerie Bradford. Maxime Blanchette-Joncas noted that Canada is the only G7 country to reduce investments in research and development, and the only G7 country to not produce COVID-19 vaccines. Blanchette-Joncas also pointed out that the Fundamental Science Review has already put forward recommendations since 2017, and pointed to lessons to be learned from Québec. Mike Lake noted that the general interest of Canadians should be kept in mind, such as addressing the lack of clarity around Canada’s COVID-19 response, and that it’s not all about money — researchers also “want to see their research actually being used for meaningful action on behalf of the Canadians they are working with.”
    • Science communication made an appearance in the discussion: Lena Metlege Diab said that we “need to shine a light on our strong research sector and to help to tell the story in our own communities, our own backyards, in our own provinces, but also to the media and to everybody of the hard-working scientists and research that is going on across the country.”
    • Funding was raised as a critical issue: Maxime Blanchette-Joncas’ meetings with scientists have clarified that despite the government’s investment in science, it has not been enough to fill “the gap that has been dug in recent years.” Blanchette-Joncas says that “we will have to assess whether funding currently is fair, given the talent and potential that exists here in Canada.” Blanchette-Joncas remarked that there are competent scientists who have not been able to access funding due to the equity, diversity and inclusion criteria set out by the Government of Canada. Blanchette-Joncas said he is planning to table a motion to address this matter, and believes that the effect of these criteria on research should be examined.
    • Facts and evidence were mentioned a few times: Mike Lake noted that “if we’ve learned anything over the last couple of years, it’s that we’re in a world where ‘information’ is everywhere, and there’s a lack of clarity on what information is actually evidence-based.” Similarly, Corey Tochor stated that their hope was that this would not become a partisan committee, and that “facts are kind of facts — they don’t care what your political leanings are.”

We’ll be back with updates in the new year!

 

Farah Qaiser

Director of Research and Policy

In 2020, Farah completed a Master of Science at the University of Toronto, where she carried out DNA sequencing to better understand neurological disorders, and later worked as a researcher at the University Health Network’s Epilepsy Genetics Clinic.