moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I rise again with some pride to speak to my Bill C-354.
I would first like to thank the members of the natural resources standing committee for their co-operation in the review of this bill. I have seen how a lot of committees work in this place, I have sat in on quite a number of them, and of all of them, the natural resources committee seems to get the job done with good humour and respect. I thank the chair and the members for that atmosphere of collegiality.
I would also like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement who worked with me in good faith on this file. I trust that support will continue as the bill continues through Parliament to become law.
I will start with a little refresher on what the bill is all about. Its full title is an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, use of wood. As the title suggests, it deals with the use of wood in government infrastructure projects. At its heart, it is meant to promote the use of wood in those projects, much as the British Columbia Wood First Act and the Quebec Charte du bois.
The bill would amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, specifically adding a clause after clause 7.1, the clause that sets out some of the minister's powers and responsibilities.
After careful study in natural resources committee, the additional clause specified in Bill C-354 was amended to read as follows:
In developing requirements with respect to the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal real property or federal immovables, the Minister shall consider any reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and any other environmental benefits and may allow the use of wood or any other thing — including a material, product or sustainable resource — that achieves such benefits.
This amendment effectively deals with many of the concerns some had with the first version of the bill around exposure to foreign trade actions and to concerns that the bill picked winners and losers, favouring wood over other materials such as concrete and steel. I personally did not believe the first version of the bill had those concerns, but I am happy this amendment has effectively dealt with that.
I would like to turn now to some of the testimony we heard in committee about the bill. I will start with comments from the forest industry, and I will first go to comments from Derek Nighbor, who is with the Forest Products Association of Canada.
Before committee, Mr. Nighbor stated in part:
We support fully and expect that thorough life-cycle assessments will and should rule the day when it comes to the evaluation of materials in procurement decision-making....I think the profile that he's given...about ensuring that wood is thought about early in the process, to us is the spirit of the bill. That's why we would support it.
Michael Giroux of the Canadian Wood Council, in discussions around national building codes and public works purchasing practices, said:
At the end, the solution is to update those practices to make them product neutral and greenhouse gas savvy or, as Bill C-354 suggests, to force Public Works, through an act or policy, to consider wood use with that carbon metric. In this way, the federal government can catch up to B.C.'s Wood First Act or Quebec's Charte du bois...Often it is asked whether Bill C-354 picks sides. Really, this is a Public Works real properties act or policy and in the end, should wood not be treated or considered equally? It is a structural material much like concrete or steel and should be considered equally.
The spirit of this bill causes that to happen. Our experience with the private sector is that builders love a third choice. If nothing else, it forces everybody to sharpen their pencils and you get better value for your investments. That's a terrific acknowledgement right there.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the models for the bill is the B.C. Wood First Act. In committee, I asked Michael Loseth, who is the president of Forestry Innovation Investment Ltd., about how that legislation had changed the use of wood in British Columbia. He said, in part:
In my experience in British Columbia, there were a number of unintended impediments that we identified after the Wood First Act was put into place [and] I can give you an example....The Ministry of Education started to look at what building products were being used in B.C. schools. They found there was a lot of concrete and brick and steel and such, so they started to ask the question, why aren't we seeing more wood buildings?...Building codes allow for the vast majority of school types, and the size and shape and what have you, but it wasn't happening. It wasn't until the ministry was forced to go back and really start to peel it back that they identified their costing models and the project planning systems that they had with the individual school districts were all developed and based on building a concrete school.
I will stop quoting there and say, in parenthesis, that one of the schools I went to in Penticton when I was a kid, Princess Margaret junior high, was torn down and rebuilt recently. It is a very brutal concrete building, and I can see where that might have come from.
I will get back to what Mr. Loseth said. He stated:
When those school districts went through the process and provided all the required information back to the Ministry of Education, of course, more often than not they fell back to the concrete buildings, which was how the system had all been designed and set up. It wasn't until they started to change that and opened it up to be far more product-agnostic, and to look at wood to see where wood was being unnecessarily excluded from the process, that it changed.
Now we're starting to see a far better balance. Not every school in British Columbia is 100% built with wood, but there are more that are being built with wood, and those unintended impediments that existed in the system are being dealt with.
I now will go on to the Quebec experience with la Charte du bois. Mr. Gérald Beaulieu, from the Quebec Forest Industry Council, spoke about the benefits that had flowed from that policy. This is some of Mr. Beaulieu's testimony. He stated:
The Wood Charter states that, in every project financed by public funds, the project manager must consider the possibility of using wood. It does not say that wood must be used, but that it must be considered as a building material. A few days ago, Minister Blanchette confirmed that more than 54% of the 188 projects identified had incorporated wood in the final design....
The provisions in the bill foresee the implementation of life cycle analyses into procurement policies, and that is analyses that consider the environmental costs of different materials throughout the entire process. Therefore, for wood materials, we would consider, for instance, the carbon footprint through harvesting, transportation, construction, as well as the carbon storage in the built infrastructure. These life-cycle analyses are already done in many situations around the world.
Athena Sustainable Materials Institute is one of the agencies that worked on those analyses. Jennifer O'Connor, the president of that company, testified:
You'd want to be sure you had a robust, fair, and transparent system for doing the accounting, with stakeholder buy-in for credibility and acceptance....The point I'd like to make is that all materials have impact....They're all critical to construction. What is more interesting to us is how we encourage improvements across all those sectors, so that...overall have an improvement and a reduction in environmental impacts....The focus would be on what is the performance target. When we have performance-based objectives, we set the target and we allow ourselves to find our own way there.
Therefore, the target in the case of the bill would be the considerations for greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental benefits.
Adam Auer of the Cement Association of Canada stated:
...the Canadian cement industry unequivocally supports the notion that federal procurement of infrastructure, whether direct or indirect through investment transfers to other levels of government, can and should influence construction markets toward low-carbon and climate-resilient design. We also agree with, and in fact have consistently championed, the use of life-cycle tools as the best tools, although not yet perfected, for advancing sustainability in the built environment.
There are persistent concerns about fire safety when people talk about large wood buildings, but we heard evidence from the National Research Council and others that these concerns are unfounded. NRC has tested fire performance in mass timber buildings and has found that these structures can remain sound for hours and are as safe as or safer than traditional concrete and steel buildings in that regard. The walls char quickly in a fire, and then the fire self-extinguishes. The structure remains sound for three hours or more and there is no appreciable smoke in stairwells, and therefore there is more than adequate time not only for people to exit the building but also for fire crews to fight the fire from within.
I will conclude by saying that I continue to visit mills and plants that use wood from our forests. I recently visited the Structurlam plant in Okanagan Falls once again to hear their plans for expansion. As many have heard, if they have ever listened to me speak about this bill or other things, Structurlam is one of the leading companies in North America in the production and design of engineered wood buildings using glulam beams and cross-laminated timber. It is a real leader in this field in North America and it is one of the reasons I brought forward this bill to champion the leading Canadian companies in North America.
Another example would be Chantiers Chibougamau in Quebec, which does a lot of the same sort of production.
These companies would allow the forest industry to develop another market for their lumber products. Structurlam is considering an expansion. We would have more jobs. More good jobs, well-paying jobs, would be created in Canada.
As Mr. Beaulieu testified, “A cubic metre of wood in a plant's yard is worth about $69, but when it is converted into structural products installed in a building, such as cross-laminated timber, it is worth more than $2,200....”
Our forest sector is facing some challenges, and this is a positive way we can help that sector. A new market could offset losses from protectionist tariffs in the United States, and the value-added mills would ensure that we could create more jobs with a wood supply that is becoming more constrained under the stresses of climate change.
I think Bill C-354 is a win-win for Canada, giving us beautiful infrastructure that fights climate change while supporting the forest industry, one of the natural resource sectors that has been at the heart of Canadian prosperity for more than 150 years.