The Honourable Greg Rickford, PC, MP
Minister of State (Science and Technology)
September 25, 2013
Check Against Delivery
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, Dr. Goldstein, for your kind introduction.
It's always a pleasure to be back at McGill—somewhere I call home.
I am even more pleased to be here in my capacity as Minister of State for Science and Technology to welcome the newest distinguished chair under our Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program, Dr. Luda Diatchenko.
In today's global economy, knowledge, education and innovation are at the heart of economic growth and success. This is something that our government understands. Indeed, promoting greater investment in scientific research and discovery is one of our government's top priorities.
Ladies and gentlemen, since coming to office, our government has invested more than $9 billion in initiatives supporting science, technology and the growth of innovative firms in Canada, including $5 billion for advanced research, education and training; $2 billion for post-secondary infrastructure; and $1 billion for applied research and financing.
Why? Because we are looking down the road to tomorrow and realize that our investments today pave the way to the future.
This funding has helped to make Canada a world leader in post-secondary research and research training and to create the knowledge and highly skilled workforce required for a prosperous economy.
As you may know, some of Genome Canada's inspiring work is taking place at the Génome Québec Innovation Centre, right here on McGill's campus. Through Economic Action Plan 2013, our government has committed $165 million in new multi-year funding for Genome Canada.
We are making these investments because we understand the importance of science and the power of partnerships across sectors—whether academia, industry or government—to the growth of our country's economy. As Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said, "Science powers commerce."
Indeed, I'm proud to say that, as a result of such strong support and partnership, Canada leads the G7 in higher education research and development expenditure as a share of our economy.
What's more, thanks to a host of new initiatives, Canada has now become a top destination for many of the world's best scientists.
In the past, some Canadian commentators spoke of a "brain drain." Thanks to the vision of our government through programs such as the Canada Excellence Research Chairs, this drain has transformed into a tremendous "brain gain."
Folks, the innovative people we want in our country are choosing to stay right here in Canada at our academic institutions, contributing to our economy and the growth of our communities.
These chairholders, leading teams of researchers over multi-year projects, are helping their host universities forge strong research and business partnerships while, at the same time, creating jobs. The researchers are creating hubs of excellence at Canadian universities. They are helping to build the foundations necessary to enable innovation to flourish well into the future.
Today, we welcome Dr. Diatchenko, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Human Pain Genetics, to the ranks of these influential and talented researchers.
As we all know, McGill University's researchers excel in several fields. And the Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain holds an impressive reputation of excellence and is considered to be one of the best in the world. The Centre is already home to three exceptional Canada Research Chairs.
Dr. Diatchenko and her team will join the Centre and will help build on the 40‑year tradition of excellence in pain research.
Dr. Diatchenko is considered one of the best pain researchers in the world. Her choice to come to Canada to seek out new opportunities is a wonderful endorsement of the innovation ecosystem we are building for the benefit of all Canadians.
On behalf of our government and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, I would like to welcome you to Canada and to your new home here in Montréal.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, I think it is safe to say that Dr. Diatchenko made this decision in part because of the Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program. Since the program's launch in 2008, the Harper Government has committed nearly $190 million over 7 years to support research excellence at Canadian institutions.
The program was designed to attract and retain the world's best researchers—and with every competition, it continues to draw a distinguished and impressive group of candidates from around the world.
Folks, the best and the brightest are coming to Canada. They are choosing Canada.
Canada Excellence Research Chairs are already well on their way to making groundbreaking discoveries, achieving technological breakthroughs and establishing important international research facilities.
Take, for example, Dr. Marcel Babin, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Remote Sensing of Canada's New Arctic Frontier at Université Laval. He and his team have launched a major research program that will involve several Canadian, American and European teams on the function and productivity of Arctic marine ecosystems.
Or, Dr. Matthew Farrer, Chair in Neurogenetics and Translational Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia, whose team has identified a genetic mutation that causes late-onset Parkinson's disease.
Or, Dr. Michael Houghton, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology at the University of Alberta, who is confident that his team will develop a vaccine against the hepatitis C virus and be able to test it in Canada within the next four or five years.
All of these distinguished chairholders will allow Canada to be at the leading edge of breakthroughs that are expected to generate social and economic benefits, improving the quality of life of countless Canadians and others around the world. As a former nurse on the front lines of the health field, let me assure you that these advancements in technology and knowledge will be welcome and appreciated.
Ladies and gentlemen, with today's appointment of Dr. Diatchenko, I am confident that Canada will continue to drive many of the transformative discoveries of tomorrow, leading to the long-term prosperity of all our communities, like right here in Montréal.
On behalf of our government, I sincerely congratulate McGill University and Dr. Diatchenko. I look forward to seeing the fascinating results of your discoveries.