Carole’s speech at the Life Sciences BC Breakfast Speakers Series in Vancouver

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Thank you Paul, for that kind introduction.

I’d also like to thank President Don Enns, Chair Doug Janzen and BC Life Sciences for the invitation to speak.

It’s great to be here.

Also, thank you to Dr. Simon Pimstone for his contribution to life sciences in BC during his tenure as Chair.

We’ve just heard two presentations outlining some of the leading life science research being done right here in B.C.

I want to recognize TRIUMF and the Genome Sciences Centre for their work and for their commitment to research and innovation that improves our health and our lives.

I want to use my time with you today to talk about the role government can and should play in supporting research and innovation and the work your companies do.

Work that is vital to our economy and our society.

I, along with every person in this room, know how important innovation is to increasing our productivity, to growing our economy, to creating high-value jobs. 

To making B.C. competitive in the 21st century and beyond.

Each of you recognizes the lasting economic benefits created by investments in innovation, benefits that far outstrip the initial costs.

As your last keynote speaker, UBC President Stephen Toope, noted… every dollar invested in research and innovation at UBC results in 10 dollars in economic benefits to the Province.

Looking specifically at the life sciences sector, British Columbia is fortunate to have a strong and growing health research base.

The Michael Smith Foundation, an initiative of the NDP government in 2001 helped put B.C. on the map.

The Foundation was a multi-year investment that enhanced our capacity to do leading-edge evidence based, peer reviewed health research in B.C.

With a mandate to strengthen BC’s health research enterprise, it has in turn improved the health of British Columbians, boosted our knowledge economy, created new jobs, built research capacity and developed research excellence in many areas.

It has also helped us attract and recruit fresh talent and create the momentum for a thriving health research and technology cluster.

For example, the Foundation has supported approximately 300 health researchers, one-quarter of whom were recruited to BC from other parts of Canada and from other countries. In addition, they have supported over one thousand health research trainees throughout BC’s universities and teaching hospitals.

Despite these and many other successes, funding for the Foundation was cut dramatically in 2007 and the current funding level is 33 per cent less than in 2001.

That’s the wrong approach. And it will have huge consequences for our capacity to do the cutting edge research we are capable of.

Because now more than ever, we should be supporting programs that give B.C. health researchers a leg up.

Today, we’re Canada’s fastest-growing biotech centre.

We’re leading the world in HIV/AIDS research, in genomics, in biopharmaceuticals, in innovations that help people live better and healthier lives.

These are all positive signs of B.C.’s capacity for innovation and research excellence.

Work made possible by the dedication and hard work of the people in this room today.

Government should be supporting that work.

What B.C. needs now more than ever, is a long-term strategy to support and promote a culture of innovation.

To make sure the innovative businesses that work here stay here.

And to make sure all British Columbians benefit from the growth and prosperity innovation brings.

Because the competition is fierce.

And while B.C. has tremendous advantages, like a well-educated workforce, world class universities, a strong private sector economy, an attractive environment and climate… the reality is that every jurisdiction is seeking to take advantage of this opportunity.

And indicators suggest we’re already being outrun in the innovation race.

The B.C. Progress Board ranks us 5th out of 10 provinces for investments in R&D.

In fact, the lion’s share of spending on R&D spending in this province comes from you, from businesses engaged in the sector.

The provincial government’s share of total annual R&D spending is less than 5%.

If we want B.C. to be a leader in research and innovation we need to change that.

Under my leadership, New Democrats will work with you to create the conditions for the life science sector to thrive.

This does not mean we are going to agree on every issue. For example, the Therapeutics Initiative is something we may not see eye to eye on. We have been clear that we support it because it ensures independent advice and protects patients through evidence based policy.

But it does mean we will bring together business, industry, higher learning and government, as true partners to develop and commercialize solutions. And to make BC a leader in creating and innovating.

So, how are we going to create that culture of innovation in British Columbia?

First, we must show through our words and our actions that B.C. is a smart and safe place to invest.

That means maintaining a fair and competitive tax environment.

That means making sure B.C. is an attractive and easy place to set up business.

That means promoting open trade and investment.

That means a commitment to simple, yet fair regulation for industry.

And strong economic stewardship that gives businesses confidence that B.C. is a good bet for growth and investment.

That’s step one.

Second, government must work with industry to make smart investments in research and innovation.

How easy would it be for you to run your company… if you didn’t know how much money was coming in next month?

How easy would it be to jump on the latest lead that could lead to a breakthrough in human health…

…if you weren’t sure if the funds you were getting today would be there a month from now, or a year from now?

That’s not a good climate for your business and it’s not a good climate for innovation.

We are all better served when your attention, your energy is focused on your work.

That’s why New Democrats are looking at ways to promote certainty and stability in terms of government funding for R&D.

Some of the solutions New Democrats are looking at:  multi-year funding so that you can plan ahead.

We’re also looking at matching federal funds year-over-year as a possible solution. And we are committed to working with federal government to look at strategic capital investments and incentives.

If we want to reap the benefits of research and innovation, governments have to be prepared to make a lasting commitment.

Now, government can’t do it all. But what we can do is create the conditions to encourage investment and growth over the long term.

For example, governments can play a key role in promoting further growth of B.C.’s health research and innovation clusters.

One of the ways to do this is in partnership with B.C.’s colleges and universities, connecting our centres of educational excellence to our partners in industry to create opportunity for all regions of our province.

The government of Ontario has developed a partnership model where universities and colleges are connected with biotech companies, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies and the financial community… to grow the sector and develop an overall strategic vision.

We’re going to be looking at that model very closely, to see if it might work for B.C.

Another way that government can create the conditions for smart investments in research and innovation is to bring all stakeholders together in a coordinated approach.

I know you have requested the establishment of an Office of Science and Technology led by a Chief Scientific and Technical Officer reporting to the Premier.

Again, looking to Ontario, they have a stand-alone ministry of Research and Innovation… where they have put together a life science economic strategy team to maximize their advantage and grow their industry.

These are the kind of approaches that are worth looking at for B.C. 

Third, government needs to invest in public services that will attract and train the brightest minds.

Many people talk about innovation in terms of the technology, the products that result from innovation.

There’s no question that’s a key part of innovation. But it’s also a social process.

Because every product, service or technology pioneered here in British Columbia… began as an idea.

Behind that idea was a person, who had the vision to imagine a better way, a different way of doing things, who had the courage and capacity to act on it.

That person, that idea was supported by strong public services that promoted good health and a better quality of life.

By a safe, inclusive community with opportunities for culture, recreation and engagement with others.

And by a strong public education system that equipped them with the requisite skills and provided them with infrastructure, opportunities and support to make new discoveries.

Quadra Logic Technologies is just one example of a successful life science business that developed and commercialized research breakthroughs incubated at the University of British Columbia.

New Democrats will create the social infrastructure for innovation.

We are pursuing specific educational policies that promote innovation including expanding research and student grants, improving on the number of science and technology graduates, as well as B.C.’s overall high school graduation rates.

It's expected BC may be short by as many as 30 thousand high-tech workers over the next 30 years.

We need to ensure that we have the skills training and educational opportunities to maximize our changes of closing this gap.

New Democrats also understand that healthy, well-rounded people are more creative and capable.

That’s why we’re committed to making B.C. a healthy and supportive environment for all British Columbians to attract and keep educated, motivated and talented people.

And fourth, we must promote and market B.C. as a hub of innovative activity.

I want our province to be known around the world as a destination of choice for health innovation. For high-tech development.  For the best, most creative minds.

We need a long-term marketing plan, involving industry, business, labour, and government to ensure that the world knows that B.C. is a prime destination for high-tech, for bio-tech, for excellence in research and innovation.

Tourism BC – a marketing initiative at arm’s length from government and driven by the needs of the industry – is an excellent example of the kind of model we could follow to promote innovation and research in B.C.

These are the four parts of a New Democrat strategy to build B.C.’s innovation economy and create the jobs of tomorrow.

A strong, dynamic economy.

Smart investments in research and innovation.

Investments in human capital … and the social infrastructure that supports innovation.

And a marketing strategy to show the world B.C.’s innovation potential.

It’s all part of our plan to build a strong, fair, sustainable and dynamic province for all British Columbians.

In closing, I’d like to remind everyone in this room that the conversation were having is not just about economic and social progress. It’s about building the kind of future we all want for our province, for future generations.

Working together, as partners, we can achieve this vision for our province and our future.

And I look forward to working with all of you… to make it our reality. Thank you.