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The discussion took place at Tabaret Hall on March 6. Photo: Savannah Awde.

Federal budget, climate change among topics of discussion

On Tuesday, March 6, the University of Ottawa hosted American TV personality and climate change advocate Bill Nye and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in an armchair discussion about Canada’s investment in science in 2018.

Member of Parliament Kate Young moderated the public talk, which kicked off at 9 a.m. at Tabaret Hall and was met with a full house.

The event was held following the release of the 2018 federal budget, and Trudeau’s commitment to invest close to four billion dollars into science and research.

“It takes a confident nation willing to say ‘you know what, we’re going to invest now in our young researchers who are gonna follow their curiosity because we know 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now, that’s going to make a massive difference in the everyday life of everyone, we hope,’” Trudeau said. “But that knowledge for knowledge’s sake… is a big part of what this budget is all about.” The Prime Minister added that he’s “optimistic about the future we have in a challenging world.”

A recurring theme in the talk was climate change, and Nye questioned Trudeau’s decision to approve the Kinder Morgan Pipeline, as opposed to looking into renewable sources of energy.

Trudeau highlighted the need to maintain a balance between Canada’s responsibility to the environment and the growth of the economy “that still is reliant on fossil fuels and will be for another number of years.” He also made a call to students in saying, “how many years that is depends a lot on the scientists in this room as we innovate.”

Following the event, Nye took questions from the media, and explained his line of questioning, saying he received emails from respected colleagues asking him to speak out against the pipeline.

“I’m charmed by the term oil sand, it’s charming,” Nye said, “but everybody, it’s tar.”

“It’s your country, Canada’s going to do what it’s going to do… but what we really want is to electrify all ground transportation and have completely renewable energy.”

Despite Nye’s disapproval of the pipeline, he admitted his praise for Canada’s carbon price, saying he’s “very hopeful Canada will lead the way with the fee on carbon.”

Trudeau also spoke on the importance of gender, and cultural diversity in science, which he said is “one of the fundamental advantages that Canada has contrasting with the rest of the world.”

This was made apparent when Trudeau and Nye were later joined by Ayda Elhage, a research student at the U of O who completed her bachelor of sciences in Lebanon and is currently researching green chemistry, and Queen’s University PhD student Caitlin Miron, who shared her developments in cancer research.

A live-stream of the discussion is available on Justin Trudeau’s Facebook page.