Major investment in genomics research will improve the lives of Canadians

Speech

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, PC, MP
Minister of Science and Sport

Guelph, Ontario
February 4, 2019

Check Against Delivery

Good afternoon.

I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg, Haudenosaunee and Métis peoples.

It’s a pleasure to be here today on the campus of the University of Guelph.

And I am pleased to be joined here by a dear friend and colleague, Member of Parliament Lloyd Longfield. Thank you for being a tireless champion for Guelph, this university and the people of this wonderful community.

My friends, you have a real champion for research in Lloyd, who went to PEARL research facility in the High Arctic and down to SNOLAB.

Together, Lloyd and I are working with our government to make life easier for Canadians.

Our government introduced the Canada child benefit, which gives more money to 9 out of 10 Canadian families, and we cut taxes for the middle class. And Canada now has the lowest unemployment rate in over 40 years.

Our government will keep fighting to grow the middle class and for a better, more affordable future for all Canadians.

Allow me to now thank Dr. Vaccarino, my long-time friend and former colleague, and Dr. Campbell for hosting us here today at Guelph University. And thank you to Marc LePage and his team at Genome Canada for their leadership on genomics research in Canada.

Since I was last here, this campus has been through some changes. I know the MacNaughton Building has had an overhaul as well as the McLaughlin Library and four other projects.

Our government provided more than $26 million toward these critical upgrades, and it’s great to see the amazing progress that has been made.

Congratulations to all those at the university who helped bring these projects to fruition.

Now I would like to turn to why we are here today. Since 2015, we have worked hard to return science and research to their rightful place.

We have encouraged scientists to speak freely, brought back the long-form census, re-instituted the office of the Chief Science Advisor, and we are investing more than $4 billion in research—the largest investment in Canadian history.

With this historic investment, we are making sure that it powers fundamental change in the research ecosystem in Canada—that it puts researchers and students first.

We are also making sure to fund research that will accelerate the pace of innovation and make a difference to our health, environment, communities and economy.

As a former researcher, I understand the important role of genomics research in building a healthier, stronger and more prosperous Canada.

As you may know, Canada is a world leader in this area. Genomics is an area of research that has produced some of the most dramatic breakthroughs of the past two decades.

And it is showing no signs of slowing: in the coming years, genomics research is expected to transform our understanding of living organisms and our biotechnological capabilities.

Genomics research is driving innovation across sectors, including agriculture, energy, the environment, fisheries, forestry, health and mining.

It creates new market opportunities for businesses and high-quality jobs for Canadians.

This is clearly an area with enormous potential to improve Canadians’ lives.

So naturally, we are investing to make sure Canada maintains a position of international leadership in genomics research.

Today, we are celebrating 37 new genomics teams from across Canada that will share more than $56 million to pursue their groundbreaking research.

Today’s funding will support research that has a wide range of real-world applications, like protecting our water and improving the diagnosis of rare diseases and cancer.

Here at Guelph, our brilliant recipients are looking to improve the health and welfare of cattle through a patented test that identifies animals with a naturally superior immunity.

This test is being developed to fight Bovine Respiratory Disease, which costs Canada more than $100 million a year.

I’m pleased to note that the project will also support internships for students, giving them the hands-on training and experience they need to position themselves for the genomics jobs of tomorrow.

Running this project is the amazing Dr. Bonnie Mallard.

Dr. Mallard, as I’m sure you are all aware, received a Governor General Innovation Award for her development of this technology in 2017.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Mallard and her team.

Today’s announcement also supports a collaborative project with the University of Guelph, researchers from the World Wildlife Fund, and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The team, led by Dr. Mehrdad Hajibabaei, will use “environmental DNA barcoding” to generate and monitor the biodiversity of Canada’s watersheds.

This will help us better understand the impacts of resource projects like mines, hydro dams and energy projects.

We are very proud to support genomics research projects like these.

These projects encourage strong partnerships between researchers and innovators in Canada.

As a government, we know that supporting talent is one of the best paths towards a healthy and sustainable research ecosystem.

And we know, we need research to make sound policy decisions for Canadians.

This is a principle our government respects fully and has honoured since day one.

And we have made a promise not just to invest in Canadian research but also to change the culture in Canada.

Research is fundamentally important, and we are restoring respect for data and evidence in decision making across the country.

We want to promote a culture of curiosity in which young Canadians are encouraged to explore the possibilities and to dream.

To researchers and students, your research matters.

I wish each of you every success with your promising work.  Your efforts help ensure a better future for us all.

I would now like to turn the floor over to Drs. Mallard and Hajibabaei, who—along with their partners—will tell you more about their work.

Thank you.


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