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Fact Files

Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006



Department: Industry Canada
Brian Tobin
Tobin at a glance:
• MP for Bonavista-Trinity-Conception Bay in Newfoundland
• Appointed industry minister in 2000.
• Was fisheries minister from 1993 to 1996 before leaving federal politics to become premier of Newfoundland.

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Brian Tobin
Industry
Research and development
Internet access

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• Industry Canada - home page

Minister in charge: Brian Tobin

What happened: $110-million over three years to build and operate a broadband network called CA*net 4 which is essentially a high-speed research computer network used primarily by academic institutions.

Industry Minister Brian Tobin's project to create a multi-billion broadband Internet project linking rural areas of the country received neither a direct mention nor anywhere near the $1-billion Mr. Tobin had sought.

Financial details: Long criticized for allowing this country to fall behind its American cousin, Ottawa stepped up spending on innovation in the last federal budget. Finance Minister Paul Martin said - while it's up to the private sector to improve access to capital and exploit technologies like the Internet - government must "help fill the gaps in the economy which is increasingly moving from brick to click." Spending included more than $4-billion for high-tech initiatives, including the establishment of 2,000 new research chairs at universities. Funding for the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which subsidizes research projects, was nearly doubled. In the red book, the Liberals promised to increase research-and-development spending by $1-billion annually.

Responsibilities: Industry Canada's mandate, according to its Web site, is to "improve conditions for investment, improve Canada's innovation performance, increase Canada's share of global trade and build a fair, efficient and competitive marketplace."

What to expect: Ottawa's long-promised innovation agenda will take a back seat after the terrorist attacks in the United States and the subsequent havoc wreaked on the Canadian and global economies. Mr. Tobin still wants to see spending on research and development, high-speed broadband Internet access across Canada - which has a price tag around $1-billion - and university education. Those measures, however, are likely to get less attention as the government focuses on the suddenly more pressing issues of national security and economic stability.

Critics:
Canadian Alliance: Charles Frederick (Charlie) Penson
Bloc Québécois: Stéphane Bergeron
New Democratic Party: Bev Desjarlais
PC/DR Coalition: Charles (Chuck) Strahl


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