Speech: Response to Budget 2016

June 6, 2016

Mr. Lloyd Longfield (Guelph, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise on behalf of my constituents in Guelph to extend my wholehearted support for budget 2016, growing the middle class, Bill C-15. The budget has many bona fides, from the emphasis on the environment, to infrastructure investments, to building the economy, but there is no doubt in my mind that the budget’s greatest asset is its focus on innovation.

However, I feel compelled to ask the House this: what is innovation exactly? Innovation is much more than a buzzword. It is a perspective, a new way of seeing our world. Innovation is creativity with a job to do, as John Emmerling defined it. Innovation is the route to developing a prosperous future for business and a more efficient government for the Canadian people. Assembling new technologies, best practices, and ideas is critical, but the process does not stop there. In fact, that is just the beginning.

By bringing together experts and entrepreneurs with new technologies and by utilizing the best available practices from around the world, Canada will flourish, cementing our place as a prosperous nation. That not only adds to the value of our economy but adds to the value of economies around the world.

As I was the former president of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce and co-founder of Innovation Guelph, I have seen this work, and we did our part to grow our community.

As a result of hard work and creativity, Guelphites now have the lowest unemployment rate in Canada. Guelph is ranked number one in the agricultural biotechnology cluster in Ontario. It is also one of the top two in Canada. Guelph’s advanced manufacturing sector has 360 businesses employing over 14,000 people in Guelph, with employment growing at close to 10% annually.

Clean technology is a rapidly growing sector in my riding. Canada’s largest solar panel manufacturer is located in Guelph, and many businesses are working around the world on water and air quality as well as on alternative energy.

The University of Guelph and Conestoga College have been key to shaping Guelph’s growth. Focusing on innovation through business, academic, and government partnerships has been key to Guelph’s success, and it will be the key to Canada’s success going forward.

If this is what the city of Guelph can accomplish with an innovation network, just imagine what Canada could accomplish if there were a string of innovation networks linking coast to coast to coast.

Building this new future for Canada begins where this government does; it begins with engaging Canadians. Creative and entrepreneurial citizens are at the heart of this new innovation agenda.

Investing in education is a crucial step in developing Canadian talent and as a means of attracting talent from abroad. Through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Government of Canada has already made significant investments in research infrastructure at Canada’s universities, colleges, and research institutes.

Provinces and territories also provide substantial funding for campus renewal every year. Nevertheless, much of Canada’s post-secondary infrastructure is over 25 years old and is nearing the end of its useful life. This presents an opportunity to invest in greener and innovation-friendly spaces.

As chair of the innovation and post-secondary education caucus, I strongly support budget 2016, as it will invest $2 billion dollars in a new post-secondary institutions strategic investment fund.

Commercialization and growth is truly an indispensable element of the innovation process. Dynamic, globally interconnected firms will propel clean economic growth, increase Canada’s productivity, and support well-paying jobs for the middle class.

Connections between knowledge producers and users, including researchers and firms, and collaboration within supply chains, driven by market opportunities, create value through innovation while supporting economic growth. Information gaps and coordination challenges may prevent these linkages from being developed to their full potential, impacting the strength of innovation ecosystems.

Therefore, to help address these challenges, budget 2016 proposes to make available up to $800 million over four years, starting in 2017-18, to support innovation networks and clusters as part of the government’s upcoming innovation agenda.

Last, but certainly not least, science and technology is the fuel that makes innovation possible. Technology has always shaped the course of human events, and the future will be no different. Therefore, we cannot ignore or become mere bystanders while other nations in the world race past us in an effort to gain the technological upper hand.

Canada’s universities, colleges, and other research institutions play a fundamental role in our society by developing the leading technologies of the day, just as we did in the past with penicillin, the Avro Arrow, and the telephone, to name just a few examples of Canadian technology.

In keeping with Canada’s long history as a global leader in research and development, budget 2016 proposes an additional $95 million per year, on an ongoing basis, to be provided to granting councils. This will be the highest amount of new annual funding for discovery research in more than a decade. As well as demonstrating the foresight of budget 2016, this initiative will support up to 50% of the eligible costs of infrastructure projects at post-secondary institutions, paving the way for success for hundreds of thousands of Canadian youth.

As a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, I recently visited businesses in Montreal’s aerospace industry that form part of Canada’s aerospace cluster. These businesses show the power of industry-academic collaboration, but also the importance of collaboration with the federal government, to compete and partner with each other and with countries in this area.

I am a member of the automotive caucus, and the same can be said about that sector. It is critically important that government, industry, and academia work together to develop our innovation agenda. Budget 2016 gives us first steps to focus government as a key partner in innovation.

Budget 2016 provides Canadians with the tools they need to innovate and build a stronger, healthier, and greener Canada for future generations. I eagerly await the advances in science and technology that will come about as a direct result of the investments we make here today.

No less than Mahatma Gandhi said that we must be the change we wish to see in the world. By embracing and embodying innovation as a perspective, acting as a lens through which we can see the world, Canadians will once again be the change they wish to see in the world and being the trailblazers to whom the world can look as a model for success.

Ms. Dianne L. Watts (South Surrey—White Rock, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for a lot of that information on innovation. As a former CEO of a health-tech innovation foundation, I am glad to hear that the Liberals are continuing the great work that we started.

Most universities have incubators, commercialization centres, and the network of clusters, from Halifax all the way to British Columbia and through North America. That network is very strong. I wonder if the member has reviewed the database to look at those clusters. What is the plan in terms of funding those innovation centres?

Mr. Lloyd Longfield: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for South Surrey—White Rock. It is great to hear that she also has a passion for innovation.

We are looking at the clusters across Canada through the innovation and post-secondary education caucus. We are looking at a way forward where the federal government can partner with the provincial governments and the educational institutes to try to get research commercialized and have commercialization fund new jobs in Canada. It is a long-term project, but it starts with budget 2016.

Mr. Wayne Stetski (Kootenay—Columbia, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I very much share the interest in innovation and green energy the member spoke of.

I recently held a climate change workshop in Nelson in my riding, and 250 people showed up for it. One of the presentations was by a fellow who has a solar company, and he was quite concerned that there are no grants available for people to invest in solar energy in their homes currently. I wonder if the member is aware of any programs that can help Canadians do the right thing, whether it be with the purchase of electric vehicles or solar panels for their homes, that are part of this particular budget.

Mr. Lloyd Longfield: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Kootenay—Columbia for his very astute question. Nelson, B.C. is kind of a twin city to Guelph, where we have a lot of environmental efforts and a lot of people focusing on the world ahead of us. The funding we are looking at in our budget is in green technology investments through our green technology funds. We hope to see those rolling out through the provinces to the municipalities so that people, such as the person the member described, will have access to some assistance in developing green technology going forward.

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member’s thoughts about innovation. I would ask the member to comment on how important it is that we incorporate stakeholders. I will use the example of Magellan Aerospace, a great aerospace company in Winnipeg. One of the things I appreciated when I had the tour was the fact that the company had a space for Red River College, a post-secondary institution. By having that relationship, students are able to use world technology that the college would not likely have been able to use without that type of co-operation.

Could the member provide some of his thoughts on how important it is to have co-operation between the private and public sectors on the issue of innovation?

Mr. Lloyd Longfield: Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Winnipeg North. It is wonderful to get a question from my hometown. I am a graduate of Red River College. In fact, the person who is working on the aerospace sector is a former classmate of mine.

It is very important to have all three partners at the table. Something I really saw develop strongly through my work with the chamber of commerce in Guelph was that government, education, and business all need to work together. Government needs to provide policy, direction, and assistance to compete globally. Education needs to provide the new ideas and the young people coming into the market with new ideas to move us forward as a country. Business needs to backstop some of this and be an honoured member at the table, bringing forward funds and opportunities to create globally.