House of Commons Hansard #25 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was international.

Topics

Climate Change Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from April 1 consideration of the motion that Bill C-474, An Act respecting the Seeds Regulations (analysis of potential harm), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Seeds Regulations Act
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-474 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #24

Seeds Regulations Act
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from April 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C-475, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (methamphetamine and ecstasy), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-475 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #25

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

It being 6:15 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from March 10 consideration of the motion 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.

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

6:15 p.m.

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

6:25 p.m.

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

6:35 p.m.

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

6:45 p.m.

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

6:55 p.m.

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.