New worldclass laboratory to be included in the federal budget?

In 2008, I had the opportunity to tour the level 4 laboratory in Winnipeg Manitoba with my boss Preston Manning.  In my day job, I am the science policy and communications adviser for the Manning Centre for Building Democracy and part of our mandate at the Centre is to track policy initiatives that move Canada forward on the science, technology and innovation front.

During our visit, we were briefed on the national integrated network of research facilities and the technology which innervates it all to rapidly respond to biological hotspots as they emerge in Canada and around the world.  For example, rapid genotyping of pathogens to trace origin and spread is but one function of tracking function of the national lab in Winnipeg.  Communication is critical to rapid assessment and control of biological threats and we were treated to a glimpse of where outbreaks are monitored in the state-of-the-art “war-room” of the facility complete with banks of LCD televisions, situation desks and and digital maps with epidemiological data overlays.  While the facility serves to track and address global infectious disease, the research of level four biosafety pathogens such as the Marburg and Ebola viruses are at the foundation of the facility’s work.

Recently, I learned that the International Centre for Infectious Diseases and the University of Manitoba among others have forwarded an ambitious proposal for the upcoming federal budget which is getting a lot of buzz in the corridors of power in Ottawa.  A level 5 laboratory (L5L) has been proposed for the Winnipeg facility and such an infrastructure development would make it the facility the only one of its kind in the world.  The facility would continue to study biosafety level 4 pathogens but would do so in a sophisticated and unparalleled environment which would include a realistic hospital-like training facility, simulation facilities and a containment hospital ward replete with multiple airlocks.

Of course, Marburg and Ebola are of periodic global concern.  From a Canadian public policy perspective, the greatest sustained value of the facility would be tracking, research and containment of hospital acquired infections such as C. difficile, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus.  Hospital patients that acquire surgical infections find their survivability halved.

The proponents of the new facility project a 20% reduction in cases of hospital acquired infections by 2019.  They suggest that over 30 years of innovation and subsequent intervention accomplished through work at the facility, over $40 billion (healthcare costs and would-be lost wages) would be saved.

I know that this proposal has been presented to the ministers of industry, health, transport (infrastructure) and the minister of state for science and technology.  It has been well-received by many of them and I know that the proposal is being seriously considered.  If the budget this month is to include significant infrastructure development, such a world-class project would solidify Canada’s position as a leader in the research and treatment of infectious disease.  The $300 million facility would create highly skilled jobs, retain high value workers in Canada, export skills training to the US and overseas, provide testing facilities for commericial research and products and provide extensive support for the health services sector.

Thank you!

To everyone that made the Rally for Canada rallies a success, I want to say a sincere thank you. In Ottawa, we braved -10C weather and managed to turn out between 2000-4000 (RCMP said 3000, Ottawa Citizen reports 3500!!). In Toronto, about 1500 turned out to the rally there. Calgary had reports of up to 5000 people in the city core rallying. We rallied people in cities from Halifax to Victoria and places like London, Kitchener, Saskatoon, and Kelowna in BC. In total, over 20 cities held rallies today. Looks like we have a real grassroots movement on our hands here. We’re having the debate that they didn’t want us to have. Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible.

It’s been a busy day, and I expect a busy couple of days wrapping up this event. Please pass on your stories from the day and I’ll post them here!

UPDATE: Winnipeg had 600 people in about -25C weather (with windchill). The rally was bigger than the coalition rally which was held in a warm hotel ballroom.

Quebec as nation policy resolution scrapped

I’ve learned that the Conservative Party scrapped a motion before the convention that sought to affirm as Party policy the status of Quebec as a nation within a united Canada.

Political observers remember that last year, in a move of political brinkmanship against the Bloc Quebecois, the Prime Minister pre-empted a Bloc motion of Quebec’s nation status by including the distinction that Quebec as a nation exists within a united Canada.

Policy officials of the convention didn’t want to have a policy resolution go to the floor in plenary which would be voted up by Quebec delegates and voted down by Western Conservatives that some observe as resentful of la belle province for not delivering more seats for the party during the previous election. People close to the process concede that such a move could have been political dynamite and may have had the deleterous effect of putting shockwaves through the national media and within the province of Quebec.

As one policy official told me, the gain would be minimal and potential damage significant. The policy itself was redundent as the party itself moved and passed the similar motion in the House of Commons.

Vote results on policy resolutions

P-106 healthcare (No)
P-110 at-risk workers (Yes)
P-113 dangerous offender status (Yes)
P-114 faint-hope clause (Yes)
P-119 human trafficking (Yes)
P-202 affirm Charter (Yes)
P-203 human rights commission jurisdiction (Yes)
P-207 protecting pregnant women (Yes)
P-213 women (Yes)
P-218 diversity principles (Yes)
P-222 temporary workers (Yes)
P-223 program coordination and outcome audits (Yes)
P-301 new securities regulator (Yes)
P-303 capital gains (Yes)
P-305 income splitting (Yes)
P-306 tax code simplification (Yes)
P-308 striking workers (Yes)
P-321 agricultural trade agreements (Yes)
P-101 climate change in the North (Yes)
P-104 energy from garbage (Yes)
P-105 offshore oil and gas development (Yes)
P-111 complementary health (No)
P-122 veterans principles (Yes)
P-205 advancing arctic sovereignty (Yes)
P-208 student loans (No)
P-209 EI for summer students (No)
P-307 innovation (No)
P-311 invest in arctic research (Yes)
P-312 long-term energy framework (Yes)
P-316 rural family businesses (No)

Rob Nicholson on section 13a

Here is P-203:

P-203 Modify HRC Jurisdiction PROPOSED BY VICTORIA AND KELOWNA – LAKE COUNTRY

iii) The Conservative Party supports legislation to remove authority from the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal to regulate, receive, investigate or adjudicate complaints related to Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The vote concluded at the plenary and passed. Nicholson voted “yes”.

Scott Reid on riding weighting

Scott Reid is the Conservative MP from Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington. Reid is the proponent of the following Conservative constitutional amendment at the policy convention in Winnipeg, MB.

RESOLUTION C-107 (Delegates based on number of EDA members)

Delete the words that are struck through and add the words that are underlined in
Article 7.5 as follows:

7.5 The following shall be entitled to vote as delegates to a national convention:

7.5.1 one delegate elected from each electoral district association for every ten (10)
members of that association (always rounding the number of delegates upward),
to a maximum of ten delegates per association
, an equal number not exceeding
10 from each electoral district association
each of whom shall reside in the
electoral district or who shall have been elected as a director of the electoral
district association at the most recent annual general meeting
, in such number
and
, elected in such manner as determined by National Council which shall
include a requirement that where ten (10) delegates are to be elected at least one
such delegate reflect youth participation, and as an additional delegate the
president of the electoral district association as of a date set by National
Council;