Mr. Speaker, given that I live in Mauricie in the riding of Trois-Rivières, I could hardly turn down the invitation to participate in the debate on Bill C-574. This is an important bill that we are debating because it promotes the use of wood in the construction and renovation of federal buildings and emphasizes the role that the Department of Public Works and Government Services can play in meeting this objective.
To begin, I would like to say that I support Bill C-574 at second reading because it gives us the opportunity to promote an economically viable renewable resource that can both help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stimulate the economy in my region and my riding. It is a perfect example—as if we needed further evidence—of how economic development and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive but go hand in hand.
That being said, Bill C-574 could have gone much further had it been part of a national strategy for the wood industry. I will come back to that a little later.
Wood is much more energy efficient than steel or concrete. The world's population is increasing as quickly as the demand for resources, so a renewable resource like wood is a responsible choice for consumers and society as a whole.
Furthermore, applied research shows that much less energy is expended to manufacture wood products than to produce concrete, plastic or other materials. A study conducted by a research institute in the United States compared the environmental effects of houses framed with wood, steel and concrete. As one might expect, steel or concrete frame houses produce 26% more greenhouse gases and release far more atmospheric pollutants.
Wood is energy efficient and economically efficient. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, wood structures cost much less than steel or masonry structures.
Environmentally speaking, concrete or steel structures can emit up to 81% more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In other words, concrete and steel are energy guzzlers, while much less energy is used to build largely comparable structures out of wood.
I would also like to point out the importance of the national building code in the development of multi-level wood frame buildings. When the right technical conditions are in place, the national building code authorizes the construction of wood frame buildings as tall as four storeys. It even authorizes some exceptions when justified by the standards. That is a first step in and of itself.
However, the government could also learn more from the national building code and should even take a look at international experience and expertise in this area. Norway, for example, is often cited for the work it does in combatting inequality, and it is also exemplary with respect to the use of wood in construction. In the city of Kirkenes there are plans to build a 17-storey wood frame building. That is far higher than the 4-storey buildings that are permitted under our national building code. I believe it would be worthwhile to at least look at that project.
Countries such as Germany and Sweden do not limit the height of wood frame buildings. Assessing the environmental impact of wood demonstrates that it is, by far, the most environmentally responsible choice, as well as the most economically viable and energy-efficient one.
In addition, the national building code offers options that the minister could use as the basis for increasing the use of wood in the construction of federal buildings. However, after looking closely at this bill, I think—and I said this at the beginning—it could have gone much much further, and the NDP goes further.
My colleague, the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, moved a motion calling for a national strategy for the wood industry. As we all know, the drastic drop in demand for construction wood and international competition are the main reasons for the decline of the forestry industry.
According to Forest Canada, the closure of 80 mills resulted in over 11,000 layoffs. It is hard to quantify the human tragedy behind those numbers. Despite the seriousness of the situation, I think that our forestry industry's potential remains largely untapped, just like the potential of Bill C-574.
I would like to point out that Canada has 10% of the world's forest cover and 30% of the world's boreal forest. Those are major natural assets that we can leverage to support a sustainable and competitive economy. In light of that, it is clear that there should be a comprehensive strategy for Canada's forestry sector so that it can achieve its full potential.
I would like to focus for a minute on my riding, Trois-Rivières, which is at the centre of this debate. Just last summer, Kruger launched the first cellulose filament demonstration plant.
I just want to add that the Conservative government is not investing enough in the recovery of the forestry industry, nor is it investing enough in conducting, funding and supporting the basic research required for projects as important as the one I just mentioned.
This new biomaterial, cellulose filaments, is revolutionary. It has huge potential for the Canadian forestry industry because it can be combined with a number of other materials to create high-value products. More importantly, cellulose filaments are becoming indispensable to the Canadian pulp and paper industry.
One can therefore understand my enthusiasm for our local jewel, because it will produce diversified high-value products that are highly sought after by Canadian and international industries. Thanks to this innovation, the pulp and paper industry in Trois-Rivières could recover and fuel the region's economy once again. What is more, the Forest Products Association of Canada could succeed in international markets.
The creativity of the people of Trois-Rivières knows no bounds. I could also talk about UQTR, a university known for its pulp and paper industry research centres, which is also contributing to research and the economic recovery of my region.
Patrice Mangin, a professor in the chemical engineering department, said:
We have 650,000 tonnes of wood waste in Mauricie alone, which could be used to make diesel. Imagine the jobs this could create—1,500 to 2,000 jobs in Mauricie alone.
With the motion moved by my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue, we could achieve three objectives that go further than Bill C-574. First of all, we could improve our competitiveness in order to compete with international industries; second, we could diversify our export market to be less dependent on the U.S. housing market; and third, we could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In closing, and for once I think I have managed my time almost perfectly, I would remind the House that wood is a renewable resource that is efficient in several respects. Industrial, academic and environmental stakeholders all agree on the merits of wood, and I hope the House can reach the same consensus.
I therefore support the bill at second reading, and touch wood, I hope the government will support it too.