Liveblogging the Industry Committee, clumsily

So this is where MPs hide. I’ve been wondering where André Arthur, the talk-radio independent MP from Quebec, has been. Last week he was in Mitchel Raphael’s column, and now here he is listening to Elliot Phillipson (all name spellings the result of sheer guesswork) from the Canada Foundation for Innovation say nice things about the feds’ science-and-technology strategy. Well, it might be an exaggeration to say he’s listening. He’s kind of staring out the window. In his defence, it’s a lovely morning out there.

11:28:10 a.m.
This berry blogging is highly non-intuitive. No wonder ITQ is so good at it; she’s non-intuitive too. Anyway, as I was saying, this committee is a treasure trove of people who don’t often speak in Question Period, i.e. people who aren’t Pierre Poilievre. If you’ve been wondering what became of Scott Brison and Mark Eyking, here they are. If you’ve been wondering what became of Robert Vincent and Paule Brunelle, well, you’re really geeky but here they are anyway.

11:29:30 a.m.
Scott Brison wants to know about the “tension” between private-sector and university research. Robert Best from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada says there’s a “complex network of inter-relationships.” André Arthur is still looking out the window. Best says the private sector “in many cases doesn’t have the receptor capacity” to take advantages of bright ideas from the lab. That got Arthur’s attention. Briefly.

11:31:30 a.m.
Peggy Nash. She’s here too. Raymond Simard.Dan McTeague, the vice-chair in the chairman’s seat. Not that people normally wonder where McTeague has been. He’s generally pretty easy to find. Scott Brison’s asking another question while a staffer sitting behind the Bloc MPs nods off. To be fair, last night was Wednesday night and it’s often a late night in Ottawa.

11:40:20 a.m.
Robert Best from the AUCC is into the heart of the university sector’s challenge: the “global competition” for highly mobile doctoral and post-doc students. But like the other witnesses and the university sector generally, Best is reluctant to say much, positive or negative, about the current government’s (governments’: it’s a fed-prov challenge, not just Ottawa’s) success in making Canada’s universities able to attract those valuable young brains.

11:44:20 a.m.
Diet Coke. There’s Diet Coke here, and potato salad, so if we go into a lockdown I can survive here for days.
Colin Carrie, an Ontario Tory MP, has put his finger on what might be the major problem in the government-funded science-and-research sector: the Chrétien government spent the late ’90s radically building up research capacity, and now a lot of those labs and investigators have trouble meeting their operating costs. Can the private sector be enticed to help run some of those labs? “Questionable,” the AUCC’s Best says, but it’s certainly true that researchers at major labs “spend a lot of their time cobbling together money one, two, three years at a time.”
Carrie asks Best why he doesn’t talk about community colleges, and is he maybe a bit too fancy-pantsy (I paraphrase). Best says the AUCC doesn’t represent community colleges, it represents “university-level colleges.”

11:52:30 a.m.
Okay, kids, I’m gonna pack it in. André Arthur is a wise man, as it turns out; this is the kind of meeting that encourages staring-out-windows. I like to think it’s because I was here, and I’m a calming influence. Anyway now I have honed my live-blogging chops for the next, higher-tension episode. I’m ready to go when Stéphane Dion brings down the government and the next election campaign begins.
Not that you should be getting your hopes up.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.