Liberals, NDP name science and technology critics

Political debates over science and technology issues will be hearing some new voices as the Liberals and NDP have announced opposition critics to counter Conservative cabinet members.

Political debates over science and technology issues will be hearing some new voices as the Liberals and NDP have announced opposition critics to counter Conservative cabinet members.

The Liberals on Friday said Gerard Kennedy, MP for Parkdale-High Park, will be the new Industry critic, replacing Scott Brison, who is moving to Finance. Kennedy will oppose new Minister of Industry Tony Clement, who Prime Minister Stephen Harper named to the post last month. Former industry minister Jim Prentice was shifted to the environment portfolio.

Marc Garneau, the Liberal MP for Westmount — Ville-Marie, is the opposition critic for the newly created cabinet position of Minister of State — Science and Technology, which is held by Gary Goodyear, who was also appointed last month.

The NDP on Monday named Brian Masse, MP for Windsor West, as its Industry critic. He replaces Peggy Nash, who lost her riding seat in Toronto to Kennedy in the October election. Charlie Angus, MP for Timmins — James Bay, will move from his previous role as Public Safety critic to Heritage but will remain the NDP's spokesman for digital issues, including net neutrality and copyright reform.

Clement will continue the traditional role of the Industry minister, which is to oversee the country's economic development. Part of the portfolio includes oversight of the telecommunications industry, which is responsible for providing internet access and mobile phone services. He will also be responsible for the Canadian Space Agency.

Goodyear will focus more on scientific issues and organizations such as the National Research Council and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and will be responsible for implementing the government's science and technology strategy, according to his spokesman.

Kennedy was the minister of education in the Ontario provincial parliament under Premier Dalton McGuinty. He resigned his position to run for the leadership of the federal Liberal party in 2006, which ended up being won by Stéphane Dion. He has also been instrumental in setting up or running food banks in Edmonton and Toronto.

Garneau, a former astronaut, was the first Canadian in space and was president of the Canadian Space Agency between 2001 and 2006. He ran in the 2006 election in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges riding but lost to his Bloc Quebecois opponent, Meili Faille.

Masse worked as a job developer for the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities and a program co-ordinator for the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County before entering politics in 1997.

Two of the most pressing technology issues both cabinet ministers and opposition critics will have to deal with are net neutrality and copyright reform.

The issue of net neutrality, or keeping the internet free from anti-competitive interference by service providers, has simmered over the past year as the industry awaits a ruling by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. The CRTC has since April been pondering a complaint by small internet providers that Bell Canada Inc. has violated net neutrality principles. The regulator has said it will make a decision by the end of November.

The Conservatives also saw their controversial copyright reform legislation, Bill C-61, die on the order paper when the election was called in the fall. The government has promised to reintroduce the legislation, although tens of thousands of Canadians have called for the bill to offer an increased balance between consumers and copyright holders.