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.