An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Gérard Asselin  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Second reading (House), as of Nov. 2, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act to require the Minister, before soliciting bids, to give preference to the concept that promotes the use of wood while taking into account the cost and greenhouse gas emissions.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • Dec. 15, 2010 Failed That Bill C-429, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood), be concurred in at report stage.
  • April 21, 2010 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

Use of Wood in Federal Buildings
Statements by Members

December 14th, 2010 / 2:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week, the Conservative government will have another opportunity to support the forestry industry. Bill C-429, which is sponsored by my colleague from Manicouagan and which would increase the use of wood in federal buildings, will soon be voted on at third reading in this House.

Supported by municipalities, the Quebec order of architects, the Coalition BOIS Québec and forestry associations in Quebec and Canada, Bill C-429 sends a strong message to the industry by helping to highlight its transition towards processing and develop new markets.

This is also an excellent opportunity for the Conservative government to improve its record in the fight against climate change. For example, France expects to achieve 14% of its greenhouse gas reduction commitments through its wood, construction and environment plan. This government should do something good for the environment by taking the lead in promoting the use of wood.

Use of Wood in Federal Buildings
Statements By Members

April 21st, 2010 / 2:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, members of the House of Commons will be voting on Bill C-429 on the use of wood in the construction and renovation of federal buildings.

A number of countries such as France, Norway and Sweden have implemented similar measures to promote the use of wood in public buildings. Quebec and British Columbia also have policies to that effect. Yesterday, the National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion in support of Bill C-429.

A number of Quebec and Canadian associations representing thousands of groups have also expressed their support for the bill, including the Forest Products Association of Canada, the Quebec Wood Export Bureau and the Québec Forest Industry Council.

We have the means to move forward with this type of measure. That is why I hope we can count on the support of all hon. members in this House.

Department of Public Works and Government Services Act
Private Members' Business

April 14th, 2010 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the government to speak to Bill C-429, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act.

Let me begin by saying that this government fully supports the forestry industry, as clearly demonstrated by the significant investments we have made in that industry in recent years.

However, I have some concerns about this bill, and I would like to take the time here today to share them with my hon. colleagues.

First of all, the bill is inconsistent with the Government of Canada's obligations under its domestic and international trade agreements.

Furthermore, the bill runs counter to the mandate of the Department of Public Works and Government Services, which is to act in a fair, open and transparent manner, while providing the best value for taxpayers' money.

Finally, we cannot ignore the fact that this government is providing more support to the forestry industry than any other government in the history of Canada.

I would now like to talk more about each of these points. First—and this is very important—if this bill is passed as is, the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, as amended, would require that the government take an approach to procurement that violates Canada's obligations under various domestic and international trade agreements.

The biasing of technical specifications in favour of, or against, particular goods or services, including those goods or services included in construction contracts, violates Canada's obligations under these trade agreements.

Federal government tendering documents may contain specific requirements pertaining to particular materials when they are required for technical or operational purposes. But if we express a preference for certain products before we even assess the technical requirements and draft these documents, we violate the agreements.

Requirements in invitations to tender that would benefit certain suppliers or industries would also violate Canada's obligations under these trade agreements.

It is interesting to note that the Agreement on Internal Trade or AIT, which the provinces and territories and the federal government signed in 1994, contains some of the most comprehensive trade rules on government procurement.

Article 501 of the Agreement in Internal Trade reads in part as follows:

...the purpose of this Chapter is to establish a framework that will ensure equal access to procurement for all Canadian suppliers in order to contribute to a reduction in purchasing costs and the development of a strong economy in a context of transparency and efficiency.

Other articles of the agreement state specifically that “the biasing of technical specifications in favour of, or against, particular goods or services, including those goods or services included in construction contracts, or in favour of, or against, the suppliers of such goods or services” is discriminatory.

Canada's international trade agreements, such as NAFTA and the World Trade Organization Agreement on Government Procurement, also prohibit discrimination, particularly unnecessary barriers to trade.

Canada takes its obligations under these trade agreements very seriously.

Second, even though we recognize that the forestry industry faces difficult challenges, the role of Public Works and Government Services Canada is not to give preference to a specific industry, specific construction materials or specific methods or services at the expense of others. We must support the industry in other ways.

The department must act in a fair, transparent and open manner and provide the best value for taxpayers' money.

But it is not and must not be required to promise preferential treatment to any industry. That would go completely against not only its guiding principles, but also the many rules and directives governing its procurement activities.

We have to recognize that giving preference to wood in government procurement would disadvantage the other industries that manufacture construction materials, including the concrete and steel industries.

It is important for the Government of Canada to protect jobs in every industry using innovative approaches.

We cannot choose to favour an industry at random, because this would lead to job losses in other industries.

Lastly, members should be made aware of the many initiatives this government has taken to help the forestry industry.

We have demonstrated continued support for the forestry industry.

Our initiatives include the $1 billion pulp and paper green transformation program; the $1 billion community adjustment fund; and the $400 million mountain pine beetle program.

During the first year of Canada's economic action plan, we provided $170 million over two years to Natural Resources Canada to support market diversification and innovation initiatives in the forestry sector.

This includes $80 million for the transformative technologies program administered by FPInnovations, a non-profit forestry research institute.

Natural Resources Canada will receive $40 million in 2010-11 to develop pilot-scale demonstration projects of new products that can be used in commercial applications.

Another $40 million was allocated to the Canada wood, value to wood, and North America wood first programs to help forestry companies market innovative products internationally.

An additional $10 million was allocated to support large-scale demonstrations of Canadian-style use of wood for construction in targeted off-shore markets, and non-traditional uses of wood in domestic markets.

In addition to the $170 million allocated to the forestry sector in the 2009 budget, as part of Canada's economic action plan, the government provided $7.8 billion to build housing, encourage home ownership and enhance energy efficiency.

The government also created the home renovation tax credit to stimulate the economy.

As members know, this temporary tax credit was an incredible incentive for owners to redecorate, repair and modernize their homes, and was a very effective way to increase demand for labour and construction materials, including wood.

This certainly had a significant positive impact on sales of softwood lumber and other forestry products.

Department of Public Works and Government Services Act
Private Members' Business

April 14th, 2010 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak this evening to Bill C-429 introduced by my Bloc Québécois colleague from Manicouagan. Before I begin, I would like to tell people what this bill is all about.

—before soliciting bids for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal immovables and federal real property, the Minister shall give preference to the concept that promotes the use of wood, while taking into account the cost and greenhouse gas emissions.

Before going any further, it is also important to comment on what the parliamentary secretary has said in the past few minutes. It is clear he was unable to convince anyone in the House and I am sure he was unable to convince anyone in the country either, even those who do not make their living from the forestry industry. The parliamentary secretary has his own conclusions and is trying to tell us that we cannot do this or that. The Conservatives have tried to introduce various little programs in the past few years. At the end of the day, he is not even talking about Bill C-429.

The parliamentary secretary came up with some odd conclusions to the effect that he could not establish rules within the tendering process. On the contrary, a call for tenders is there to define the parameters within which people and companies should make their bids. Imagine the federal government issuing a call for tenders for the construction of a new building without establishing any rules. What type of building would they end up with? Rules are there to set limits on precisely what we want. It is rather ridiculous to say that we cannot establish rules within a tendering process.

We must also look at another reality. The parliamentary secretary says we cannot show bias. Imagine the windows in our buildings are made of plexiglas instead of glass. The fact is that we expect windows to be made of glass. Certain rules have been established. When the parliamentary secretary says that we cannot show bias for one product or another I think he is not being very realistic.

I am speaking in favour of this bill because I live in a riding where forestry is the primary industry. We have to consider how we can help regions like mine, like many others in the country. There are a large number of sawmills throughout the country, in many ridings. So we are also talking about economic development.

Tonight we want to do something about the environment, and we also want to ensure greater economic development for the regions and get people working. This bill involves only one department, Public Works. This department represents a mere 1% of buildings belonging to the federal government. How can such a small percentage completely wipe out all other jobs in other sectors, as the parliamentary secretary would have us believe? Such a small percentage would never put all of the other industries out of business.

I am sure that my colleague from Manicouagan does not want to eliminate all of the other industries. He just wants to ensure that softwood is one of the materials available for construction and renovation of federal government buildings. He rightly said that certain rules must be followed. This contradicts our Conservative colleague, who said that rules cannot be established. Not only can they be, they must.

Of course we want to help the forestry industry, which includes lumber, but we do not want to be limited to just that. It is only one factor.

Take the Building Code, for example, which already imposes limitations. I am not an engineer, so I cannot say what is or is not required in order to be up to code.

This will dictate that not just wood is chosen as a building material. We must respect the laws and regulations of Canada.

The Conservatives said that they have done a number of things. We have to determine the real impact of their measures on our regions. The Conservative members who spoke about this bill did the same thing. They never took the time to explain why Bill C-429 would be so bad for Canadian society and other industries. They just said that they did this and that and that they want to do this and that.

Today, we must examine the bill. The Conservatives have done absolutely nothing for the forestry industry. In 2005, when the Liberals were in power, and well before the economic crisis hit, we had decided that the forestry industry should be given $1.5 billion in aid. We made that decision in order to bolster the industry.

The Conservatives defeated the Liberal government in 2005 and took the reins of power in January 2006. What did they do with the assistance that we wanted to provide to the forestry industry? They abolished it. At a given point, the crisis was so significant that they had no choice but to propose some measures. Naturally, these measures were not enough. Today, we wonder what is happening with job creation efforts and assistance for the industry. Had they kept the $1.5 billion and invested it in the forestry industry, I believe that this industry would not be grappling with the current crisis.

The Conservatives have forsaken the forestry industry, whereas we, the Liberals, wanted to help it. That is still our goal. I would like to share a few examples. There used to be 2x4 mills in Baker Brook, Saint-Léonard and Kedgwick, as well as in other parts of New Brunswick. Other sawmills have also disappeared, including those in Saint-Quentin, Saint-Arthur and Balmoral, to name but a few.

The loss of a sawmill has a devastating effect on a region. In the short and medium terms, communities are in danger of losing their pulp and paper mills because they get their raw materials from the sawmills. If the government does nothing and all of the sawmills disappear, communities will lose even more in terms of economic development.

We cannot ignore the reality of the situation. Why are the Conservatives so opposed to helping the forestry industry? As I said before, it is good for the environment. We are not asking the government to use wood to the exclusion of all else. That is the what the Conservatives would have everyone believe, but it is not true. The goal is for the federal government to consider using softwood lumber in its construction projects. If the people in charge and the engineers determine that, according to the National Building Code, they cannot use lumber for certain parts of the project, we can trust them because they have the necessary training to make that call. But why does the government not want to consider this option?

The Conservatives have always shown that they have no desire to help rural regions or the forestry industry.

I believe that members should strongly support this bill even though the Conservatives want nothing to do with it.

Department of Public Works and Government Services Act
Private Members' Business

April 14th, 2010 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-429, which New Democrats will be supporting. Part of the reason we will be supporting this private member's bill is that many of our ridings, Nanaimo—Cowichan being one of them, rely on the forestry sector. I want to put in context why it is so important to communities like mine.

In Canada, since 2005, the GDP of the forestry and logging industries has fallen by almost half. Over the last several years, since 2001, British Columbia has lost 65 sawmills, 4 pulp mills and 20,000 jobs in the forestry industry. With a spinoff effect of about one to three, which is often called the multiplier effect, this means a loss of approximately 60,000 jobs.

The B.C. Federation of Labour put out some information indicating that the forestry sector contributes close to 40% of B.C.'s exports and 25% of its GDP. We can see that with respect to British Columbia and Canada-wide, it is a significant contributor to the health of our overall economy. In my riding pulp and paper mills, sawmills and logging operations are all very important parts of the local economy.

In addition to what has been happening with the forestry sector, I have to highlight the issue around raw log exports in British Columbia. In January 2010 Bob Matters wrote an article for the United Steelworkers, titled, “We Don't Want Raw Log Exports Because We Know Better”. The author said that British Columbians have a choice today, to stop exports or risk losing the domestic wood-processing sector. The article said that companies and workers will recognize where there are opportunities. The article states:

But BC mills would smell opportunity, buying more logs, hiring more workers, even possibly investing in our industry - something that Coastal companies haven't done in over a decade, in spite of lavish promises from corporate CEOs.

The article goes on to say:

In fact, we desperately need investment in the BC forest sector. Recent Industry Canada data shows the dismal state of investment in the wood-manufacturing sector, even before the current economic meltdown. Investment fell 0.1 percent per year from 1999 to 2008 and fell every year after 2005 -- a result of log exports, the ruinous Canada-US Softwood Lumber Agreement...

The article further states:

From 2001 to 2009, says BC Stats...pulp and paper lost 27.3 percent of its workforce, forestry and logging employment fell by 43.7 percent.

I would expect that members of the House, when provided with an opportunity to bolster the forestry sector in every province in this country, would jump at it. Instead, we have heard excuses from the Conservatives about why we cannot use a procurement policy to ensure the health and viability of our forestry sector.

I want to turn to a particular aspect of forestry and talk about small and medium size enterprises. There is a government document entitled, “Your Guide to doing Business with the Government of Canada: A 5-Step approach for small and medium enterprises”, which talks about the importance of government procurement policies and why we should support Canadian companies doing business with the Canadian government.

The document states:

There are 2.3 million small and medium enterprises in Canada. They are significant contributors to Canada's economic performance.

I picked small and medium size enterprises not because I am against larger businesses doing procurement, but in many ridings it is small and medium size enterprises we are talking about. The definition of a small enterprise is less than 50 employees and a medium enterprise is 50 to 499 employees. That fits many of the businesses in most of this country. It indicates that it is important to work together to remove barriers to competition and make it easier for small and medium enterprises to do business.

Part of this guide contains guidelines for creating procurement strategies and giving enterprises fair and equal access to better procurement opportunities. It states:

The federal government is one of the biggest national buyers of goods and services, purchasing over $20 billion worth each year. In recent years Public Works and Government Services Canada, on behalf of government departments and agencies, contracted for over 5,300 different types of goods and services in all price ranges.

The guide also states:

Public Works and Government Services Canada buys over $12 billion a year of goods and services on behalf of a large number of federal departments and agencies.

All we are asking is that the government say, when we are going to do construction, that we look at Canadian wood. Given the fact that there is all of this information about the government already doing procurement with small and medium size businesses, we would encourage it to just add wood to the list.

I took a look at some other countries, and the United Kingdom recognizes the value of procurement strategies to the health and well-being of its economy and to the health and well-being of businesses in the U.K. They say this leverage is a way of ensuring businesses have favourable and competitive market conditions and a stable policy framework to make it easy to plan ahead. We would really like it if our forestry companies could plan ahead knowing they had access to government contracts for the use of wood in construction.

They are focusing on small and medium size enterprises, but again, given the definitions we use in Canada, that would benefit many of our ridings. They say small and medium size enterprises offer better value for money and better quality for service. They also say that not only do they often offer the best goods and services for the best price, delivering cost savings to the taxpayer, but potentially they also offer higher productivity and greater innovation.

These all seem to be very good reasons that we would want to make sure we had a procurement strategy in place to have the Government of Canada and public works use the products that come from our forestry sector.

I want to use just one small example, and this is a bit of an innovative example put in place by the previous B.C. NDP government, where it looked at community forest cooperatives.

In my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, the Cowichan Lake Community Forest Co-operative is one organization that could benefit from the procurement policies. The idea of this cooperative was that it is a locally owned and managed business cooperative, which creates and maintains jobs through its commitment to the principles of forest sustainability and community economic development.

The goal of this cooperative is to keep the jobs in our community, because we know that those jobs and their multiplier effects mean that not only do we have good, paying full-time jobs in forestry but we also have good, paying and reliable jobs in all of the other sectors that support them, whether it is equipment manufacturing or the businesses and services that the workers in these industries use personally, whether they are restaurants or other businesses in the community.

Part of the Cowichan Lake Community Forest Co-operative's history is that for a number of years it had been lobbying for this. It says that for a number of years community leaders in government, labour and business have strongly believed that the Cowichan Lake community could be more involved in the decision-making process dealing with the use and distribution of the area's forestry resources. It talks about the investment opportunities and of course that is what we are talking about here, dollars and cents. It says throughout the world the made-in-Canada label assures buyers that our value-added wood products are of the highest quality. British Columbia's skilled workmanship and advanced technology help to provide high performance structural materials and unique appearance grade wood components.

It says B.C. has tremendous potential for new investment in these products. It goes on to talk about some of the opportunities and the fact that in British Columbia we are fortunate that we have millions and millions of hectares of forestry land that we could be putting into good productive use by using sustainable practices, by having a government procurement policy that recognizes the value of the made-in-Canada wood, and we should be putting that to good use saving taxpayers' dollars and keeping our communities healthy.

Department of Public Works and Government Services Act
Private Members' Business

April 14th, 2010 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to help my colleague on Bill C-429. I am an architect by profession, and I have always worked in the wood sector.

People say that working with wood is new, but wood was used in the past, and people are starting to use it again. I remember a time in my very long career when wood was used in large spaces. Huge beams 125 or 150 feet in length were made. All we are doing is going back to that. It is nothing new, just something that was forgotten.

I would like to thank the member for Madawaska—Restigouche for pointing out that although the current government boasts about having done great things for the forestry industry, it has actually done nothing. He and my NDP colleague talked mainly about sawmills.

Now, working in wood means using more than just 2x8s. How could a 250-foot structure—a structure much larger than this space—be built from 2x8s or 2x6s? You would glue lengths of wood together and nail together large wooden trusses. Often, lengths of wood from B.C. can be glued together to make laminated beams. This is engineered wood. These beams can be used to create huge spaces.

But I would like to come back to what the member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière said. He said shamelessly that domestic government contracts would not let us do that. He compares construction specifications to specifications for office paper or something you have to ask everyone to bid on.

How do you construct a new building or renovate an existing one? You determine the requirements and decide on the materials you want to use in the construction. That is what is done. If another parliament building like this one were built, we would say this one is in stone, so we want the new building to be built of stone. That is what we would say. We would not let the builders use what they want to build this parliament.

There are vinyls that can be glued to gypsum. No one would guess. The hon. member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière believes that buildings are constructed without indicating in the design phase what the walls and floors will be made of. Come on. When someone asks for carpeting, it is not vinyl they want, it is carpet, and they will specify they want carpet. Why would anyone not specify they want wood? Here, for instance, we see that someone specified that they want wood. That is why the galleries are made of wood. Otherwise, they would be made of concrete or steel, or some other material.

We are not against specifications, but that is how a building is built. He has probably never in his life seen how a building is constructed, if his absurd comments are any indication. It makes no sense.

There are windows up above. According to him, one could not ask for windows. One would have to say they want any kind of glass, because something has to be put in the window frame, and that is all. Come on. If one does not say they want stone, they would get brick. If there was no brick, they would get something else. We can specify the materials we want when constructing buildings. So we can say we want a wooden structure. We can say we want wood siding and that will not harm any industry.

I apologize to the hon. member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, but that is how it works in construction. It is not like the automotive industry.

We are told this will be difficult. Come on. At present, non residential building construction in Canada is worth $4.5 billion.

Research groups have studied the issue and have found that 85% of these buildings could be made of wood. Right now, only 10% to 15% of them are. We really need to start promoting the use of wood again.

The Bloc introduced Bill C-429 because the government is not a typical client. It is responsible for paying attention to struggling economic sectors. It is also responsible for reducing greenhouse gases—everyone is talking about that—and for boosting a struggling sector: the forestry industry.

When the government decides to build a building, it is free to decide which materials to use. That is what it does now when it says that a particular building would be better built of steel. It is in writing and I can prove it. That is what the government does when it asks architects how they plan to build a building.

That is why past experience convinced the Bloc Québécois that legislation is the best way to provide clear direction to officials in charge of projects. In other words, whether officials are in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal or Ottawa, if they want to build or add to a building, they can set out the requirements in the initial specifications and call for the use of wood. They can say they want stone walls or sculptures. In fact, they have to specify what they want, or the architect will have absolutely no idea how to design the building. That does not violate any laws of the market. That is how buildings get built. There is no other way to do it.

I would like to point out that there have been some major advances in the lumber sector in the past few years. We have the Centre d'expertise sur la construction commerciale en bois, which supports the use of wood in commercial construction, in other words, non-residential buildings. This group is working with new standards. Even though wood is not new, a lot of progress is happening right now. The goal is to increase the use of structural wood products and its presence in federal buildings because the government builds and renovates a lot of buildings. We see that here on Parliament Hill.

The CSA has created a new standard. This organization sets Canada-wide standards, and it just created a new one, standard 08609, for wood. Wood is being addressed.

I would like to point out that one cubic metre of wood absorbs one tonne of CO2, carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere. That is very significant. Therefore, to fight climate change, we must sequester carbon over the medium term. We must also give ourselves a chance to actively manage our forests.

I could say much more, but what I think is most important to remember is that 90% of government buildings are three storeys or less, and could easily be built out of wood, with no restrictions. At four storeys, we put in sprinkler systems. That is what the code recommends. Of these buildings, 75% are less than 2,000 square metres, which also allows for the use of wood.

We can see that there are a lot of possibilities with wood. I would have liked to talk about wood compared to steel and concrete, and the amount of energy required to build these structures. Wood requires much less energy. It is really a solution for the future, and we have plenty of wood here.

Instead of always trying to export it, we should use it, and the federal government must set an example.

Department of Public Works and Government Services Act
Private Members' Business

April 14th, 2010 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to take part in this debate on Bill C-429, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood).

Before discussing the government's position on this bill, I would like to commend the members opposite for their interest in the forest industry and forest sector.

Canada is the world's largest exporter of forest products. Last year alone, the forest industry contributed $20 billion to Canada's trade balance and accounted for about 1.9% of Canada's gross domestic product.

For Canadians, forest products are integral to our everyday lives and the great swaths of trees that sweep across our land mass are part of our nation's identity. However, for the 274,000 people directly employed by the forest industry last year, forestry is their livelihood. It is especially important in the approximately 300 rural and remote communities where it accounts for at least one-half of the economic base.

As we all know, global economic conditions have had a serious impact on the industry and on the sector. The reduction in new housing in the United States of America, for example, is one of the major factors hurting Canadian lumber exports.

I want to assure the hon. members that the government takes this matter very seriously. In January 2009, the Minister of Finance tabled a budget that launched Canada's economic action plan. He laid out full and comprehensive plans for many of the economic challenges we are facing as a country that included some very important measures to help the forest sector weather the storm, as well as allocating millions of dollars over two years to carry out these measures.

Let me help members recall some of the details. Canada's economic action plan provided $170 million over two years to Natural Resources Canada for measures to secure a more sustainable industry. The funding will help companies develop new products, processes and seek new opportunities in the global market place.

This included $80 million for the transformative technologies program administered by FPInnovations. FPInnovations is a not-for-profit forest research institute that focuses on the development of emerging and breakthrough technologies related to forest biomass utilization, nanotechnology and next generation forest products.

An additional $40 million is being provided in 2010-11 to develop pilot-scale demonstration projects of new products that can be used in commercial applications.

Canada's economic action plan also provided Natural Resources Canada with $40 million over two years for the Canada wood, value to wood and North America wood first programs to help forestry companies market innovative projects internationally. An additional $10 million is intended to support large-scale demonstrations of Canadian-style use of wood for construction in targeted offshore markets and non-traditional use of wood in domestic markets.

Since the release of the economic action plan, the government has also announced the creation of a $1 billion program to support environmental improvements for the pulp and paper industry. This will help pulp and paper mills to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while helping them become leaders in the production of a renewable energy from biomass.

I am sure members will agree these are worthy measures in support of market diversification and innovation initiatives that will help the forestry industry and the forestry sector.

In addition, let us not forget the $7.8 billion worth of measures under the Canada economic action plan to build housing, encourage home ownership and enhance energy efficiency. These measures are intended to help a range of sectors of our economy, including the forestry sector.

Among the specific initiatives, for example, was the highly popular home renovation tax credit. As we all know, homeowners responded to this measure with great enthusiasm and the impact on sales of building supplies, including lumber and other forestry products, was substantial.

I have been describing some of what the government has done for the forestry industry in order to provide some context for this debate. Another area I would like to touch upon to provide some context to this debate is the extent to which the government already uses wood in federal buildings.

The federal government overall is an important user of wood and wood building products. Public Works and Government Services Canada, for example, spends an average of $160 million a year on office renovations of which about 15% is spent on wood products.

Under the economic action plan, Public Works and Government Services Canada has accelerated its plans for repairs and upgrades to its buildings and offices. That amount is about $323 million over two years.

All of this requires the purchase of wood-based products, wood and lumber for things like partitions, doors, panelling, mouldings and trims, as well as form work. Here are some examples.

Public Works commissioned the first LEED gold building north of the 60th parallel, the Greenstone Building in Yellowknife.

The series of innovative office fit-ups realized in the past decade at 25 Eddy and at 100 and 191 Promenade du Portage in Gatineau is making extensive use of exposed lumber for partitioning, wood fibre acoustic panels on ceilings, and hardwood framing and doors.

The recent rehabilitation of the Agora interior garden space at Les Terrasses de la Chaudière in Gatineau uses cedar wood for its terraces, and birch trunks as space dividers.

In addition to buildings, Public Works and Government Services Canada is also responsible for highways, bridges and dams. Under the economic action plan, funding for road and bridge projects has been augmented by $52.6 million over two years. This too requires wood and wood products for shoring and form work.

All of this is no doubt having a positive impact on the forestry sector.

I began by commending the member who put forward this bill. I have illustrated some of the many ways in which this government is supportive of the forestry industry.

Unfortunately, there is no getting around the fact that this bill would require the Minister of Public Works and Government Services to contravene Canada's obligations under the procurement provisions of our international and domestic trade agreements.

This bill would require the minister to give preference to the use of wood or wood producers when developing solicitations for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal immovables and federal property.

Under Canada's trade obligations, solicitation requirements cannot be biased in favour of or against particular goods or services, including those goods or services included in construction contracts, or in favour of or against a supplier of such goods or services.

This is not a matter to be taken lightly. Canada's trade obligations, both domestic and international, were entered into in a spirit of good faith and they therefore must be respected.

In conclusion, the forestry industry is well worth supporting and the government is providing support. We do have concerns about this bill with respect to Canada's domestic and international trade obligations, and these concerns are too sound and too logical to ignore.

Department of Public Works and Government Services Act
Private Members' Business

April 14th, 2010 / 7 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I have to say I like the parliamentary secretary, but his statement was absolute rubbish.

First off, we have to be very clear here. There is absolutely nothing in the bill that contravenes any international obligations pertaining to Canada. It is simply not true.

Second, and this is perhaps even more important, when we look at what has happened with the wood industry, the softwood lumber industry particularly, in this country over the last few years, it has been self-inflicted by the current government, particularly because of the softwood lumber sellout that has led to the death of 20,000 jobs across this country.

When we held hearings into the softwood lumber sellout at the international trade committee, it was very clear what the implications were. This was a sellout with implications that would lead to the death of thousands of jobs in this country and would kill dozens of mills. Yet, the Conservatives, with the support of Liberals and, I have to say with great regret, the Bloc, the three other parties in this House ganged up together and the result has been the death of much of the industry.

In my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster, we were at the epicentre of this killing of our softwood lumber industry. We lost three mills after the signing of the softwood lumber sellout. We lost Interfor, Canfor and Western Forest Products, one after the other. Two thousand direct jobs were lost. Six thousand jobs were lost indirectly. All because the current government put its faith in David Emerson who knew full well that what this would do is kill the industry. But he figured that nobody on the Conservative government's side would actually do any due diligence around his work; what the Conservatives would do is cut some ribbons, say that they had achieved a victory, give $1 billion to the United States and, somehow, everything would turn out all right.

Well, that is not how it has turned out. We have seen dozens of mills close, thousands of jobs lost, and the Canadian taxpayer and Canadian softwood communities continue to pick up the tab. We are debating, currently, Bill C-9, which would imposes a $60 million additional penalty on softwood communities across this country, brought in by the Conservatives. We now have in front of the arbitral panel a further hundreds of millions of dollars, potentially, in penalties, given Quebec and Ontario forestry practices, legitimate for the softwood lumber sellout, now considered the object of fines, and we have looming in the distance B.C. stumpage being challenged with potential penalties of up to half a billion dollars. All because the Conservatives did not actually read the agreement before signing it. All because these Conservatives were recklessly irresponsible with our wood industry.

We have a chance to start to rectify what was broken by these Conservatives, with the support of the Liberals and, I dare say, the Bloc; that is, by taking a first step to actually start to repair what was broken by adopting Bill C-429. It is a small step forward. It is not going to get back the 20,000 jobs that were lost directly and the 60,000 jobs that were lost indirectly. It is quite true that the reckless abandon with which the current government destroyed the softwood lumber industry is going to take time and a lot of work to repair. But it is true that giving preference to concepts that promote wood, while balancing off costs, while balancing off greenhouse gas submissions, as is included in this private member's bill, would allow for those first few steps. We produce quality products, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan said very clearly. British Columbia produces about half of that wood across the country. I need to quote again what the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan quoted, that British Columbia's skilled workmanship and advanced technology help to provide high-performance structural materials and unique appearance grade wood components.

There is no doubt of the quality. There is no doubt of the efficiency of our workers in British Columbia and right across the country. What is in doubt is the current government's capacity to understand the magnitude of what it did in 2006 when it imposed the softwood lumber sellout.

Liberals went along. The Bloc went along. That is true, but it is the Conservatives who provided the getaway car while they emptied out everything that was of value in the softwood lumber industry and drove away, completely irresponsibly, killing thousands of family-sustaining jobs across this country with that vote.

Parliamentarians, particularly of those three parties, have a responsibility to adopt this private member's bill to start to address what they have broken. Every single Conservative MP in this House is responsible for the devastation in the softwood lumber industry. Every single Liberal MP in this House is responsible and every single Bloc MP is responsible.

At least the Bloc is stepping forward with some ways to repair the mistake that was made in 2006.

Department of Public Works and Government Services Act
Private Members' Business

April 14th, 2010 / 7:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, in my last five minutes I will conclude the debate on Bill C-429, which I introduced in the House and which will be voted on at second reading next week. I hope that the majority of parliamentarians in this House—whether they are members of the Liberal party, the NDP or the Bloc Québécois, where there is unanimous support—will ensure that Bill C-429 passes second reading and goes to committee.

When we introduce a bill, we know that there is always room for changes and improvements. The parliamentary committee will hear from those who support the bill as well as those who do not because of concerns or simply because of their profession, such as contractors, architects or engineers.

The Bloc Québécois decided to introduce Bill C-429 after extensive consultation with the Bloc's colleagues. We know that a number of regions in Quebec, as well as some in Canada, depend almost exclusively on the forestry industry. That is the case for some villages. In my riding—in places such as Rivière-Pentecôte, Baie-Trinité, Rivière-Saint-Jean, Pointe-aux-Outardes with Scierie des Outardes, and Ragueneau—the vast majority of the workers in these villages or towns work at the sawmill or the Baie-Comeau paper mill.

I would like to remind members that, on the North Shore, the forestry industry was the main industry. There also used to be a fishing industry at one time. It is quite normal and logical that a member would be concerned with developing these natural resources. The region's history is intertwined with the forestry industry. As members of Parliament, we have met with workers from the forestry industry who worked at a sawmill for a number of years and then, unfortunately, lost their jobs.

We know all about it. The NDP member just talked about it. The Bloc Québécois, the Liberals and the Conservatives voted for the softwood lumber agreement. The problems began when Americans charged a surtax on our lumber exports to the United States. We had no choice but to settle and we did so at the request of the forestry industry. We did not do it of our own accord, but at the request of the forestry industry, which was on the brink. Bank managers were waiting for companies to settle their debts. The Americans could afford to wait, and they knew that the longer they waited the more the Quebec forestry industry would slump. Today, it is having trouble getting back on its feet.

The odd thing is that the automobile industry was having the same problem during the economic crisis and the government did not hesitate to inject $10 billion into Ontario alone; but it injected only $270 million into the forestry industry for all of Canada in 2009-10. For workers who have lost their jobs, we asked the government for loan guarantees. The government dragged its heels and said that because of the agreement, it could not grant loan guarantees to the forestry industry. We also asked the government to provide training through an adjustment program for older workers who had lost their jobs in order to retrain them for the job market. We also asked for improvements to employment insurance: the elimination of the two week waiting period, the infamous 60% to 65% calculation, and eligibility after 360 hours without transitional measures instead of 560 hours.

If the government had acted in good faith, it could have used these measures to directly or indirectly help all those who unfortunately have lost their employment in the forestry industry.

There is a still one week left for those who are unsure. I listened to the hon. member and the two parliamentary secretaries who spoke earlier. I do not know who wrote their speeches, but they have completely missed the mark.

There is one week left. I hope that in the vote next Wednesday, the majority of the House will support Bill C-429.

Department of Public Works and Government Services Act
Private Members' Business

March 10th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

moved that Bill C-429, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, last fall, before the government locked the 308 members of this House out for three months, when my turn came, I introduced in this House Bill C-429 concerning the use of wood in the renovation and construction of federal public buildings.

Bill C-429, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood), states:

Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:

1. Section 7 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (1):

(1.1) Despite subsection (1), before soliciting bids for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal immovables and federal real property, the Minister shall give preference to the concept that promotes the use of wood, while taking into account the cost and greenhouse gas emissions.

Bill C-429 is a well-thought-out bill in which the Bloc Québécois has backed up talk with action.

The Conservative government often says it will do a lot of things. For example, it put 308 hon. members on a parliamentary lock-out for three months. The House rose for the holidays on December 11, 2009 and between Christmas and New Year’s, the Prime Minister adjourned for another two and a half months by proroguing the House of Commons. He slapped a lock on the door and said he was going to take this time to engage in some wide-ranging thought.

We assumed he would undertake some broad consultations. He said he had consulted Quebeckers. When we asked where and when, he said it was in Vancouver. But Quebeckers are in Quebec. He probably met some in Vancouver during the Olympics, but that is not what we call broad consultations. It is a friendly gesture to say hello to someone who is visiting Vancouver and runs into the Prime Minister. But they do not necessarily talk about the crisis in the forest industry or the problems in our paper mills and sawmills.

While we in the Bloc Québécois were locked out of Parliament, we went all over Quebec because our party had a consultative process. First, our leader traveled all across the province. The hon. member for Hochelaga organized a pre-budget tour, accompanied by his assistant, the hon. member for Alfred-Pellan. There was also an employment insurance tour, which was combined on the North Shore, in Manicouagan, with the pre-budget tour. In addition, the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi spent time traveling all across Quebec to consult stakeholders about social housing. All these hon. members were hard at work talking with constituents.

The Prime Minister says he consulted Quebeckers in Vancouver, but that is not what the Bloc did. At least, we think he did. We saw him in the stands watching the game between Canada and the United States. We saw him watching the curling match between Canada and Finland. All that time, though, we were actually out on the hustings.

The Prime Minister said he had to answer reporters’ questions about why he shut down the House of Commons. He had to justify all his cogitating, saying there would be another Speech from the Throne and a budget. He would also have to see how to recalibrate his economic plan after the financial crisis.

To our great surprise when we flipped through the throne speech from the first page to the last—a speech that my colleagues were lucky enough to obtain—there was not a thing there that reflected the wishes of Quebeckers, especially people working in the forest industry or in our paper mills and sawmills.

With Bill C-429, the Bloc Québécois would allow sawmills to use timber for materials that are or were normally used, such as steel or cement.

When we say we can use our natural resources, God knows that the North Shore was developed largely thanks to the forest industry in the 1950s.

But there is nothing about that in the Speech from the Throne. Then there was the tabling of the budget. We looked through it—and it is quite a lengthy tome—and all it says is that the federal government expected to put in $170 million to help the forest industry, that is, $70 million last year and $100 million this year.

We could also look at the economic action plan. Do they talk about the forest industry in it? Yes they do. It is the only place. Let me read a few lines on forestry—there only are a couple in any case:

The global economic downturn and the collapse in the U.S. housing market have created challenges for the forestry sector. To date, a total of $70 million has been provided to Natural Resources Canada to support market diversification and innovation initiatives for the forestry sector, including research and demonstration projects on new forest products and initiatives to help forestry companies market innovative products internationally to protect and create jobs. This investment will be supplemented with a further $100 million next year.

It does not take a genius to see that $100 million plus $70 million is a total of $170 million in financial assistance for the forestry industry across Canada.

The Bloc Québécois is calling on this House, particularly the Conservatives, to help the forestry industry. This industry employs 88,000 people in Quebec alone.

We just heard that there was nothing in the throne speech, nothing in the budget, aside from $170 million, a drop in the bucket to help the struggling forestry industry.

The $170 million is in the economic action plan, where the government tries to justify it.

In light of the magnitude of the economic crisis, the Government of Quebec has decided to move forward. Last week, the Deputy Premier, Nathalie Normandeau, went to Baie-Comeau, where she was joined by Serge Simard, the minister responsible for the Côte-Nord region, and Julien Boudreau, the president of the Conférence régionale des élus de la Côte-Nord.

The Deputy Premier, Ms. Normandeau, said, “We must break down prejudices and get back to our roots. Wood is a part of our culture.” She said that the project was in line with the Government of Quebec's wood use strategy. The Quebec government has a wood use strategy.

In all, nine lobbyists will be hired at the provincial level. The Conférence régionale des élus de la Côte-Nord, for example, has received $80,000 in financial assistance to hire Mr. Bois. He will be responsible for the industry, primarily for the use of wood in non-residential construction.

The lobbyist will be responsible for encouraging the use of wood in the construction of various non-residential buildings, and for providing regional oversight to identify future infrastructure projects.

Wood is used in fewer than 15% of buildings, whereas it could be used much more extensively, in upwards of 80% of buildings. This goes to show how much room there is for using wood in non-residential construction.

On page 105 of Canada's economic action plan, reference is made to a $170 million investment in the forestry sector. In the same budget, the Conservative government provided grants totalling $10 billion to the automotive industry.

I encourage the members of the Conservative Party to read page 282 of Canada's economic action plan, which states:

As a result, the governments of Canada and Ontario worked together, in partnership with the Government of the United States, to support the auto sector. Combined support by Canadian governments, provided through loans and other instruments to General Motors and Chrysler, totalled about $14.6 billion... Currently, General Motors and Chrysler plants directly employ about 14,000 workers.

While the automotive industry is getting $10 billion, the forestry sector is getting $170 million.

Stakeholders have been asking the government to give the forestry industry, paper mills and sawmills loans and loan guarantees, but the Minister of State for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, who is from the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, and the member for Jonquière—Alma, the former mayor of Roberval, say that they cannot provide loan guarantees because of the agreement with the Americans. It is strange that although they are unable to do this for the forestry industry, which is concentrated in Quebec, they were able to give Ontario's auto industry $10 billion worth of loans and loan guarantees.

Such loans and loan guarantees would have enabled the forestry industry—mainly the sawmills—to upgrade their facilities and be ready to compete after the economic turnaround. Bill C-429, which was just introduced, would enable companies to upgrade their equipment, reduce operating costs, and become very competitive.

Stakeholders are asking the government for loan guarantees because many of these companies have trouble recruiting workers. When a company like AbitibiBowater is on life support and has placed itself under the protection of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, it is highly likely that people will decide to find work elsewhere.

It is also likely that specialized, skilled workers will leave the company before it even closes its doors. That is why the regions have to fight so hard to curb the exodus of young people. They leave the regions to study, and many of them never return. Those who want to work in the forestry industry cannot. In these tough times, paper mills and sawmills have all they can do to temporarily maintain existing jobs as long as they are open.

Many towns in my riding depend exclusively on the forestry industry. Sawmills in Rivière-Pentecôte, Rivière-Saint-Jean, Baie-Trinité, and Ragueneau—Kruger—have all closed their doors.

Companies cannot participate in the economy when the government ignores their needs. The Bloc Québécois wants the government to provide loan guarantees to the forestry industry. If the government could do it for the auto sector, it can do the same for the forestry sector.

I introduced a bill to promote the use of wood in non-residential construction.

My time is up, but I will have another five minutes for questions and comments, and I will be happy to answer any questions the members want to ask.

Department of Public Works and Government Services Act
Private Members' Business

March 10th, 2010 / 6 p.m.
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Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to answer the member's question in the affirmative. I introduced a bill before the holiday break, but the government decided to adjourn for three months. I am introducing it again at second reading. We will see the positive effects of the bill once it passes in the House of Commons and the Senate, and once it is implemented. I do not have the statistics for the countries that use wood in non-residential construction, nor do I have those for British Columbia.

I was very pleased that the Deputy Premier of Quebec, Ms. Normandeau, and the minister responsible for the Côte-Nord region, Serge Simard, came to Baie-Comeau. However, Mr. Simard has his work cut out for him as a Quebec minister. He must convince his two federal colleagues from Saguenay—Lac Saint-Jean—the Minister of Veterans Affairs and the Minister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec)—to vote with the Bloc Québécois on Bill C-429, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood). Mr. Simard's most important job will likely be to convince his federal colleagues.

Department of Public Works and Government Services Act
Private Members' Business

March 10th, 2010 / 6:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-429, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act. This bill is all about the promotion of wood.

I come from an area that is the country's main source of softwood lumber. In my riding we produce more softwood lumber than any other riding in the country, and so it is a pleasure to see the steps that the government has already taken to promote the use of wood across Canada and worldwide.

Let me begin by thanking the hon. member for Manicouagan for the sentiments behind his private member's bill. Coming from a forest-dependent area myself, I can appreciate his sentiments. While he may not recognize what the government is already doing, I am sure the bottom line is that he wants to see more wood in use in construction, but the government is already there.

We are already spending tens of millions and hundreds of millions of dollars across the country in helping our forestry industry and promoting the use of wood. Right across this country, Canada's forestry sector is undergoing a reconstruction, a transformation, in order that it can address the competitive and cyclical challenges that face us.

All of us in this House would agree that the federal government has an important role to play in assisting this important industry, and so today, for the benefit of members in the House, I would like to mention some of the initiatives that the government has already taken to promote the use of wood, not only in Canada but around the world.

Before doing so, let me just make one mention of the fact that there are some statutory restraints in the form of building codes and standards that would prevent the implementation of Bill C-429. As attractive and well-meaning as it may be, there are some challenges to it. The record shows that right from the beginning, when these forestry challenges came upon us, the government has been taking quick and decisive action to assist Canada's forestry industry.

Canada's economic action plan, for example, has taken some unprecedented steps to support forestry workers in communities while helping to secure a sustainable forestry sector for the future. As a matter of fact, I do not think that in the history of any Parliament, any government in the history of Canada has done so much to help the forestry industry as this Conservative government has done under the leadership of our Prime Minister.

For example, $1 billion under the economic action plan is provided under the community adjustment fund to mitigate the short-term effects of restructuring and the challenges we have, and this assists the communities in the forestry sector. Also, $170 million over two years is being provided to specifically help our forestry industry develop new products, new technology, new and more efficient ways to process the construction wood, so that we can stay ahead of our competitors in other countries.

Of that $170 million, $50 million is being devoted to expanding domestic and foreign markets, as I mentioned earlier. As a matter of fact, in 2009, I believe that our softwood exports to China increased by over 50%, and it is predicted that this year, that number will double again on our exports to China.

It is a huge assistance to our forestry industry and it is giving us a lot of help to stay out of the trap of putting all our eggs in one basket that we have been in with our lumber exports to the U.S. Now we have something to mitigate when the U.S. market is not favourable to us.

There is a proposal to permanently eliminate tariffs on a range of machinery and equipment. This budget will save the forestry industry $440 million over the next five years.

Profitability, efficiency and cost savings all amount to more jobs in the forest industry. Budget 2010 is built on the already unprecedented investments the Government of Canada is making and has made in the forest sector, with a $100 million allocated in the forest sector initiative for next generation renewable power from wood waste and the bioenergy plants that are cropping up all over the country. I have a number of these plants being built in my riding by the forest industry, which is helping to reduce energy costs and helping them to become more efficient in using the wood they harvest.

The program will help to accelerate renewal and transformation in the forest sector by commercializing and advancing the implementation of clean energy technologies in the forest sector so it can not only provide energy for itself but also sell it to other users. This helps the sector's bottom line, helping it to retain and create jobs and making the forest industry healthier.

We have provided $8.3 billion through the Canada skills and transition strategy to help workers directly affected by the economic downturn, including enhancements to employment insurance. We made extensions to EI and supported work sharing. Thousands of forest workers were able to keep their jobs and not get laid off.

There are always some consequences from economic downturns. Certainly we have had one of the worst downturns in many decades, and the forest industry has been hurt badly by prices being at the bottom of the barrel, and the U.S. market has not been responding over this period of time. However, we have done a lot to help the forest workers. We have helped them improve their skills so they can get jobs that will not be as affected by the challenges we face.

We put $8.3 billion through the Canada skills and transition strategy, again to help workers affected by the downturn, and we have made enhancements to EI and provided funding for skills and training in the forest sector.

We provided $1 billion over two years to assist provinces and territories delivering training support for up to 100,000 workers who qualify for EI benefits.

Furthermore, the government provided $500 million over two years for a new strategic training and transition fund, and has a targeted initiative of $60 million to help older workers transition.

We have designated a lot of money for the province of Quebec. We went into partnership with the Government of Quebec and agreed to lead a Canada-Quebec task team to co-ordinate our efforts and have identified a number of key areas where we have shared interests in the forest industry.

We provided a $200 million loan for silviculture in Quebec, an advance that would support silviculture operations in the province. Each government contributed $100 million to that. Also, we provided another $30 million to restore bridges and culverts on multi-resource and wildlife roads in Quebec. It goes on and on, resulting in the creation and maintenance of more than 8,200 jobs in the province of Quebec.

We have been working together with the Province of Quebec, which wants to work with the federal government. This is a good partnership because we can leverage our funding and get more bang for the buck.

In 2008 Export Development Canada provided financial services with a total value of $85.8 billion to over 8,300 businesses across the country, helping them with their accounts receivable and exports.

It goes on and on. The Business Development Bank, for example, is supporting the forest industry in many areas.

As I said earlier, the sentiments for the bill are there, which we all understand. The fact is that the Government of Canada has already been doing yeoman's work in trying to help the forest industry get up and running again, and it is really working. We are starting to see a turnaround. The assistance we have given to the forest industry has helped it during its transformation.

We are going to keep helping the forest industry because we recognize how important it is to our economy and to our country.

Department of Public Works and Government Services Act
Private Members' Business

March 10th, 2010 / 6:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House of Commons to speak to Bill C-429. We have already heard from the bill's sponsor, the member for Manicouagan, whom I thank for this proposal, as well as from the government.

I will begin by saying that I am surprised, if not stunned, that the government simply rejected the bill for a whole slew of technical reasons. The minister seems to believe that all these measures would give preferential treatment to one industry. According to him, they would violate Canada's supply obligations under its domestic and international trade agreements. But the minister's staff seem to have forgotten or failed to grasp that the ultimate aim of Bill C-429 is to help Canada's forestry industry while logically promoting new ways of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Once again, it is clear that the government refuses to consider the positive side of measures that come from this side of the House. It prefers to reject the spirit of this bill out of hand instead of working with us to better serve the interests of all Canadians. It claims to want to work with the opposition parties to make government run smoothly, but it soon shows its real face.

The irony in all this is that if this bill had been introduced by the party in power, I am certain that all these supposed problems and complications would not have been seen as barriers. In addition, if the government had introduced such a bill itself, I am sure that the minister would not have worried about the appearance of preferential treatment or the possibility of trade disputes. But because the idea did not come from the government, all it can do is shoot the whole thing down.

I would like to congratulate the hon. member from the Bloc Québécois who continues to defend the interests of the Canadian softwood lumber industry, while the government continues to stand idly by at a time when a major sector of our economy is having serious problems during this difficult economic period. By making such efforts to defend the Canadian softwood lumber industry, the Bloc is showing that it understands the important role this sector plays in Canada's history.

I find it interesting that the bill before us could very well promote a sense of unity for our country. Its target is the best interests not just of Quebec, but all of Canada.

The bill simply asks the government and, in particular, the Department of Public Works and Government Services, to look at its procurement practices in a new light. Of course, we are well aware that one cannot always use wood to build. Often building codes, engineering specifications and structural integrity will dictate what materials can and should be used. What this bill proposes is that when decisions are being taken in determining what materials to use for a project, wood should be the preferred material.

By giving preference to wood as a building material, it does not prevent or undermine the use of other building materials. The bill simply says it should be considered, with preference given to promotion of the use of wood, while at the same time taking into account the cost of materials and greenhouse gas emissions that will be created.

I would like to point out that Public Works and Government Services Canada manages 23% of all the premises administered by the federal government and that the minister's mandate covers less than 1% of crown buildings. This bill would not apply to the entire government procurement and contract process.

This bill only focuses on a small portion of crown buildings and asks that a new approach be taken in the procedure used for government contracts in one department. Such a measure would support our forestry industry directly and promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

If we consider that using one cubic metre of wood to replace other construction materials can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost one tonne, it is easy to understand the importance of using more wood. It seems like a win-win situation to use Canadian materials such as wood, which would allow us both to help an industry and reduce greenhouse gases. We have been told for years that we must reduce greenhouse gases and now we have a bill in hand precisely to do so. We must defend it with conviction.

Unlike the party opposite, my party and I are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and realize that every choice we make can be a step in the right direction. This bill may seem like a small step in the total amount of greenhouse emissions that we could actually reduce, but these little changes will add up to a cleaner and greener Canada.

The current procurement process established at public works was developed with the idea of it being open and transparent. It is designed to provide a fair and level playing field. This amendment to the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act does not impede this procurement process. Rather, it asks the department to rethink and be more cautious in its procurement practices while considering the economic and environmental benefits.

We all know that we have to take another look at the way we do things. For example, we are now often asked to pay for plastic bags when we shop. Consumers have begun bringing their own reusable bags with them, which reduces the use of plastic bags and thus the harmful effects of these non-biodegradable bags in landfill sites. This small action has had a positive effect on costs and on the environment for the businesses themselves and for consumers. This trend seems to be continuing. Consumers are adopting this practice, which has become a new reality. Either we bring our own bags or we have to pay for plastic bags.

If consumers had been asked if they were prepared to make this change five years ago, we would likely have heard a lot of angry complaints. However, this approach seems to be becoming the norm, more and more stores are adopting such a policy, and consumers are prepared to support this environmental initiative.

I have no doubt that, in five years, we will be so used to it that we will wonder why we ever used plastic bags.

It is much the same with Bill C-429. It is a new way of looking at our current procurement practices. The bill does not say to use only wood; it is saying that the use of wood and the environmental impact of procurement decisions should be considered.

The bill is a first step to a greater good, and I realize that it scares the party opposite. My party has already committed to setting mandatory clean energy federal procurement standards. This bill would fall under that commitment, and I believe it is time to start rethinking the way we work. It is a small step to a greater good and I believe that in the future we will change these guidelines.

If we cannot make such changes within the government, how can we expect Canadians to do so? We have to take a leadership role and show that we are prepared to make positive changes. We have to change the way we do things. We must improve our methods. As lawmakers, we must take the lead for the good of society and not create roadblocks to changes in our objectives to have a better country and a healthier environment.

I am sure it is clear now that I will vote in support of this bill at second reading. I think we must put it to a committee, which will study it in order to strengthen it. I would also like to know what the various stakeholders on both sides think of it so that it can be as practical as possible. We have to change the way we do things. We must not be afraid of change. We must accept it joyfully, because as a country, we have the opportunity to proceed progressively.

Whatever the government may think, I hope the parties on our side of the House will support the bill so it can go to committee as soon as possible.

Department of Public Works and Government Services Act
Private Members' Business

March 10th, 2010 / 6:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today on this bill, especially as I worked so hard to ensure that a bill like this would be introduced.

I want to congratulate and thank the hon. member for Manicouagan for agreeing to sponsor Bill C-429 on the use of wood in the renovation and construction of federal buildings.

There are a number of reasons why the Bloc Québécois decided to introduce the bill. First, it sends a clear message about the opportunities afforded by wood technology and the resources we have in Quebec and Canada, in addition to stimulating wood consumption in Quebec and Canada.

In addition, there are environmental benefits to using wood in regard to greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.

I believe very deeply that the government has a moral duty to implement this measure on both economic and environmental grounds.

Bill C-429 says that the government shall give preference to the concept that promotes the greatest use of wood, costs being the same or less, when renovating or constructing a building.

This means that the federal government would use more wood in its buildings, thereby boosting domestic demand. In addition, the cost to the government would be absolutely nothing. My colleague and other members have spoken about that.

It is incredible that, despite all the appeals by the forest industry over the years, we are still calling upon the Conservative government today to do something to help it out.

The Quebec and Canadian forestry industry is currently going through one of the most difficult periods in its history. John Allan, the B.C. Council of Forest Industries president, said in his testimony before the Standing Committee on Natural Resources that the industry is currently experiencing an unprecedented crisis.

Guy Chevrette, the president of the Quebec Forest Industry Council, said the same thing before the subcommittee on manufacturing, namely that the industry was in a very difficult state.

More than ever, major structural adjustments appear to be necessary to help the industry adapt to the current slowdown.

Bill C-429 is a partial response to this problem. The Quebec forest industry employs 88,000 people, a third of all the jobs in Canada. The forest industry is key to the economic life of entire regions in Quebec.

In Quebec, 230 towns and villages are primarily dependent on the forestry industry, and 160 of them are totally dependent on it. Nearly half of all forestry communities in Canada are in Quebec.

Since the Conservatives came to power, almost a third of Quebec forestry jobs have been lost. In Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, 36% of the jobs have disappeared. It has been devastating. Some regions have been hit even harder. For example, Hautes-Laurentides has lost 58% of its jobs. One of the main causes of the crisis is the decrease in demand for softwood lumber.

The U.S. economy has slowed in the past few years, sending the home construction industry into a downward spiral. This has resulted in a significant decrease in lumber sales and prices.

A sense of urgency was shared by all participants at the summit on the future of Quebec's forestry sector held in Quebec City in December 2007. The consensus at this summit was that more wood should be used in the construction industry.

This is certainly not the first time we have talked about increasing the use of wood in construction. Bill C-429 offers an opportunity to take real action. The future of the forestry industry is important to my region. Last month, some twenty members of the Pastoral council in Chicoutimi forwarded to elected members from my region, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, the Maria-Chapdelaine RCM's manifesto to ensure the future of forestry. It contained a number of proposals: that the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region should continue to rely on forests to secure its future; that forestry resources should be processed near where they are harvested; that each RCM should be a necessary partner in exploiting and processing forestry resources; that all RCMs should have the right to make positive contributions to solutions affecting them.

I want to mention one of our colleagues, the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, who refuses to listen to the demands of forestry workers from my region and from the whole province. That is unacceptable.

Bill C-429 is an initial response to the Maria-Chapdelaine RCM's manifesto. Using wood to build public buildings is a good environmental choice. Consumer demand for ecologically sound products and governments' desire to protect the environment are important factors. Wood products can be substituted for products with high embodied energy that are at the mercy of rising fuel costs. Using wood is also a good way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a fact confirmed by several studies of a variety of building techniques. The wood processing industry uses far less energy than other industries, such as steel and concrete. Furthermore, trees help reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is both a good way to reduce greenhouse gases and an immediate response to the environmental problems we are facing right now.

Several countries have put forward initiatives of that kind. In France, the Wood, Construction, Environment plan is designed to increase by 25% the market share of wood in the construction industry. This alone represents 14% of France's target under the Kyoto protocol. In New Zealand, the government introduced a program to neutralize the carbon footprint in public buildings. To this end, the government requires that wood and wood frames be considered as the main construction materials for government buildings of three stories or less in height. In Norway, increasing the use of wood is essential, and the government put in place a structure to promote and show the possibilities for the increased use of wood. Sweden and Austria also have similar initiatives. Personally, I have submitted a project to the Minister of National Defence.

At the military base in Bagotville, in my riding, hangar no. 2 could be rebuilt. This hangar could easily be rebuilt using wood. This way, the federal government would be setting an example and showing how easily it can be done. Across Canada, arenas are built. In Chicoutimi, in my riding, an arena was recently built using a lot of wood. The roof and walls are made of wood. That is unprecedented. At the Université du Québec in Chicoutimi, the medicine pavilion was built using wood.

I will conclude by saying that two provinces are currently on board in Canada, namely Quebec and British Columbia.

The latter province is even in the process of amending its building code to ensure that buildings of six stories—

Department of Public Works and Government Services Act
Routine Proceedings

June 18th, 2009 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-429, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce today a bill to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act to promote the use of wood in the renovation and construction of federal buildings.

The current crisis in the forestry sector has been debated for a long time in this House. The bill I am introducing today, seconded by the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, is intended to promote sustainable development. Promoting the use of wood in public infrastructure projects would not only show a commitment to the forestry sector and its workers, but it would also show a commitment to the environment.

I thank my colleagues for considering this bill. The member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and I are very hopeful that it will be passed in the near future.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)