This is part 3 of an interview with Member of Parliament, Peter Julian, NDP (New Democrat Party) who tabled the first Canadian bill to regulate nanotechnology. Yesterday, Mr. Julian explained why he favours the application of the precautionary principle to nanotechnology, noted the research he used before writing his bill, and commented on a national inventory scheme. Today, Julian wraps up with answers to questions about why someone who’s shadow portfolio includes international trade is interested in nanotechnology and the potential costs for his proposed legislation.
I’m curious as to why someone who is the shadow minister for International Trade, the Asia-Pacific Gateway, and the 2010 Olympics is interested in nanotechnology? Do you see this as having an impact on international trade or the Asia-Pacific Gateway?
Nanotechnology has a tremendous impact on trade; more than a thousand nano products were created and are currently traded across the globe and between countries.. Precautionary measures are necessary not only for public health related issues, but also to ensure that Canada is willing to participate in sharing the development of nanotechnology. Canada needs to maintain the highest standard for nanotechnology safety in the broad application of science. I want our country to reap the benefits of nanotechnology. A sound regulatory oversight and nano-enabled product safety protocols will build trust. It will help avoid potential trade barriers similar to what has occurred with the introduction as well as the marketing of biotechnology products.
I may have missed it but after very quickly skimming the bill I didn’t see any provisions or mention made of additional funds to support your proposed initiatives. Are you expecting Environment Canada and Health Canada to cut back activities to accommodate your initiative or are you expecting additional funds be given?
Bills that introduce new taxes or programs that would require public expenditure are the prerogative of the Government. Private Members bills are not monetary bills and, if funds were discussed, it is very likely that bill C-494 would be rejected by the government at third reading.
The House of Commons procedure and practice book (2009) states:
“…With respect to the raising of revenue, a private Member cannot introduce bills which impose taxes. The power to initiate taxation rests solely with the government and any legislation which seeks an increase in taxation must be preceded by a ways and means motion. Only a Minister can bring in a ways and means motion. However, private Members’ bills which reduce taxes, reduce the incidence of a tax, or impose or increase an exemption from taxation are acceptable.”
“There is a constitutional requirement that bills proposing the expenditure of public funds must be accompanied by a royal recommendation, which can be obtained only by the government and introduced by a Minister. Since a Minister cannot propose items of Private Members’ Business, a private Member’s bill should therefore not contain provisions for the spending of funds. However, since 1994, a private Member may introduce a public bill containing provisions requiring the expenditure of public funds and it may proceed through the legislative process provided that a royal recommendation is obtained by a Minister before the bill is read a third time and passed. Before 1994, the royal recommendation had to accompany the bill at the time of its introduction…”
Nevertheless, Canadians expect their Government to ensure that the introduction of high safety standards for nanotechnology or nanomaterial will not be done at the expense of other Environment Canada and Health Canada programs.
Thank you Mr.Julian for taking the time to answer my questions about Bill C-494 and for explaining a little bit about procedures for private member’s bills. Monday, I’ll be publishing comments (assuming I get more than 1) about the proposed bill that I’ve solicited from various interested parties.
For anyone curious about the precautionary principle (which I’ve written about a number of times), here’s a definition from Wikipedia,
The precautionary principle states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is not harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those who advocate taking the action.
This principle allows policy makers to make discretionary decisions in situations where there is evidence of potential harm in the absence of complete scientific proof. The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk. These protections can be relaxed only if further scientific findings emerge that provide sound evidence that no harm will result.
In some legal systems, as in the law of the European Union, the application of the precautionary principle has been made a statutory requirement.
I’m a scientist – Get me out of here
Andrew Maynard on his 2020 Science blog has featured a UK science public engagement project for school children and scientists. Called I’m a scientist – Get me out of here, the project has scientists competing for a cash prize to communicate more about their work. The catch is that the kids who participate get to ask the scientists questions and decide who’ll get the money. I didn’t have any luck going to the site directly so I suggest visiting Andrew here to learn more about it and gain access to some very ‘engaging’ questions and answers.
Webcast on reinventing technology assessment
This is a very early announcement of an upcoming Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies webcast on April 28, 2010. From the news release,
Around the world the pace, complexity, and social significance of technological changes are increasing. Yet the broad social ramifications are often not considered until after new technologies become widely adapted and entrenched. This makes the need for technology assessment (TA) greater than ever, sparking renewed interest in TA models, practices, and evaluation.
Join us on Wednesday, April 28th, at 3:00 p.m. for a discussion of a new report that explores possible future options for technology assessment and ways to use citizen participation, collaboration, and expert analysis to inform and improve decision-making on issues involving science and technology.
The event will take place from 3-4 pm EST with a reception to follow. Anyone in the Washington, DC area who’s interested in attending live can RSVP here. There’ll be a live webcast, no RSVP required for that. I’ll mention this again closer to the date.
I came across an interesting post (thanks Pasco Phronesis) about science metrics and a discussion on the subject taking place on the Nature website. The discussion has been kicked off with an opinion piece written by Julia Lane and comments are invited. Unusually, the article is not behind a paywall (at least not for now) and anyone can comment as long as they register on the Nature website.
Nanowerk’s Michael Berger has featured the winners of a nano image contest run by the company NT-MDT. The challenge was to collect images based on data gathered by NT-MDT’s atomic force microscope (AFM) probes. From the news story on Nanowerk,
Though equipment is important in gathering a great AFM image, the result also depends on the probe being used. The purpose of the contest was to compile the most intriguing images collected from ventures into the nano-universe with NT-MDT tips.
Another aim of the ProIMAGE Contest was to show a great variety of scientific and artistic results obtained with a wide range of specialized probes.