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

Sponsor

Richard Cannings  NDP

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

Status

Second reading (House), as of Nov. 27, 2017

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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 that, in the awarding of certain contracts, preference be given to projects that promote the use of wood.

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.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

November 27th, 2017 / 11 a.m.
See context

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

moved that Bill C-354, 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, I am proud to rise today to begin debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-354, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, with regard to the use of wood in government infrastructure.

I introduced this bill at a critical time for our forest industry and for our fight against climate change. This bill could play an important role in both of those issues. There is a revolution happening around the world in how we construct buildings, the revolution of mass timber construction of engineered wood. The revolution began in Europe and has spread to North America where Canada is the leader in that technology. However, we have to work hard to keep on top here, and this bill is about that revolution and about that work. It is a bill designed to support our forest industry, and the forest industry needs support.

For the last 30 years, we have suffered through the onslaught of several softwood lumber disputes with the United States. We need to develop other markets for our wood and there are several obvious ways to do this. We could use more wood at home. We could export more wood to Asia. We could export engineered wood to the United States since it is not covered under the unfair softwood lumber tariff. All of these strategies can be tackled through mass timber construction through engineered wood.

I would like to go back to the bill itself, what it says and what it aims to do. On the surface, it is a simple bill designed to support our forest industry but there is much more to it. First, it is a recycled bill like many private members' bills and motions in this place. Similar bills have been tabled in past parliaments by members of different parties. Like those bills, it asks the federal government to give preference to the use of wood when constructing buildings, with two important caveats. Those caveats form a dual lens to help the government decide what structural material or materials to use in a building. The first issue is the overall lifetime cost of those materials; second, the government should consider the impact that those materials would have on the greenhouse gas footprint of that building. Therefore, the bill seeks to balance those costs, the dollars and cents cost and the environmental cost. It is very similar to the Wood First Act enacted in British Columbia and to government procurement policies in Quebec that promote the use of wood.

I want to say here that there is nothing to stop the government from choosing to use a number of materials in the primary structure of a building. Right now, large buildings across Canada and around the world are largely built of concrete and steel. It is the way the industry has worked for decades. However, what this bill seeks to do is to get the government to consider wood by applying that dual test. Many buildings now use a combination of wood, concrete, and steel and that would continue. One of those hybrid buildings partly made with engineered wood is the Ottawa airport, a building that I imagine a number of the members here are very familiar with.

My bill differs very little from the previous bills. What has changed is our ability to use wood as the primary structural material in large buildings, and that is why this bill is so timely and so necessary to the well-being of our forest industry and indeed the construction industry across Canada. To take advantage of these new wood technologies, we will have to steer the mindset of designers, architects, and builders, and the government procurement agents who hire them, to consider the use of wood in large buildings.

I would like to move on here to talk in a bit more detail about engineered wood, how it is made, why it makes good sense to build with it, why it is safe, why it is economical, and how it plays into Canada's climate action goals. There are two main types of engineered wood used in large buildings. First, there are the glulam beams made from dimensional lumber glued together to form large, sometimes a metre by a metre in thickness, beautiful support beams that support the floors, ceilings, and roof in the building. These beams can be used instead of the large steel beams we now use. Second are the cross-laminated timber, CLT, panels that are made in a similar manner to glulam but are formed as panels about eight or nine inches thick. These can replace some of the concrete used in walls and floors. The beams and panels are made with extreme precision, much more precisely than concrete or steel. These products are made off-site in a manufacturing plant and then moved to the building site just as they are needed, where they are joined together to construct a building, floor by floor. It is an extremely efficient way of building.

In traditional construction, the site is prepared over a number of weeks or months, the time depending on the complexity of the site and often the weather. Delays can be caused by wet weather or cold weather, both of them very common here in Canada. Then the building goes up with a concrete foundation, steel girders, building concrete frames, pouring concrete, letting the concrete cure, and then moving on to the next floor. More delays can ensue because of weather. In tall wood buildings, the concrete foundation is prepared much as in other projects, but because the beams and panels are made off-site, they can be constructed as the site is prepared. They are light enough to transport long distances to the site.

This fall, the University of British Columbia opened Brock Commons, an 18-storey student residence on campus. Brock Commons is the tallest wood building in the world. Only its foundation and the elevator shafts use concrete or steel for support. Brock Commons was built with engineered wood made at the Structurlam plants in Penticton and Okanagan Falls, 400 kilometres away. It was built in nine weeks, two floors per week, about twice as fast as a typical high-rise. The cost savings in that speed are significant.

Tall wood buildings are not only efficient to build, but can play a significant role in reaching our climate action targets. We are at a moment in history where we must take bold steps in tackling the global issue of climate change. We must reduce our carbon dioxide emissions and increase our sequestration of carbon. The Green Building Council of Canada has calculated that buildings account for about 30% of our energy use in greenhouse gas emissions, significantly more than any other sector, and the UN Environment Programme identifies buildings as offering the greatest potential for achieving significant energy and GHG emission reductions at the least cost. How we construct the buildings and what they are made of can be a huge part of those reductions.

As architect Michael Green states in The Case for Tall Wood Buildings, “Wood is the most significant building material we use today that is grown by the sun. When harvested responsibly, wood is arguably one of the best tools architects and engineers have for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and storing carbon in our buildings.” FPInnovations has calculated that each cubic metre of wood in a building acts to sequester one tonne of carbon. A 20-storey wood building takes the equivalent of 900 cars off the roads in carbon dioxide savings every year.

We can do all this and help our forest sector at the same time. As I said earlier, that sector has had tough times over the past 30 years because of the unfair tariffs on softwood. Mills have closed across the country, tens of thousands of workers have lost their jobs, and many rural communities have been very hard hit.

We can help our forest sector in two ways: develop new markets and create value-added opportunities within Canada. Engineered wood does both of these at the same time. If we build more infrastructure using wood, that would automatically boost our domestic market, and engineered wood can be exported to the United States without softwood lumber tariffs, which would expand our U.S. market. China is actively exploring the concept of building with engineered wood. Just a tiny part of that market could be a significant win for Canada.

We are in the middle of a study in the natural resources committee on the value-added sector in Canadian forestry. Engineered wood and tall wood buildings have come up time after time as the biggest opportunity for us to make gains on that front. Bill Downing, the president of Structurlam in Penticton, mentioned that his company has just received a contract to rebuild the Microsoft campus in Silicon Valley with engineered wood. From that one contract, he put in a purchase order to local Canfor mills for $4 million of dimensional lumber. The amount of $4 million is a big payday for any Canadian company, even a big one like Canfor, and that money is going to rural communities in the B.C. Interior.

Any new technology, any change, comes with concerns about the unknown. One of the questions I get most often is about the fire safety of tall wood buildings. I talked to one fire chief who said he breaks out in a sweat whenever he hears the word “wood”. The fact is that mass wood buildings are as fire-safe as those built with steel and concrete. First, the heavy beams and panels that are used are completely different from the old stick-frame construction we are used to. Fire acts completely differently when it encounters a beam that is a metre thick than when it encounters a two-by-four. It is like holding a match to a large log. Tests have shown that the material typically chars on the outside and then the fire goes out. Even a building with exposed beams and panels offers more than the standard two-hour exit time in a fire.

The U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory published findings this year from the burning of a two-storey test building, concluding that the exposed cross-laminated timber essentially self-extinguished after fire consumed the building's furnishings.

The Brock Commons student residence included design features meant to provide added assurance for safety. The panels and beams were clad in layers of fire-resistant gypsumboard, for instance. The architects pointed out that this was unnecessary, but it may well be necessary to include these features until this technology becomes more common and Canadians feel more comfortable about tall wood buildings.

Others have asked me if we have enough wood in Canada to provide the material for this new sector. The forests of North America can grow the wood used in Brock Commons, a very large building, every six minutes.

I have also been asked about the reaction from other industry sectors. Interestingly, the Cement Association of Canada was on Parliament Hill a few weeks ago lobbying for their industry, and their big ask of the federal government was to consider a dual lens when choosing material for infrastructure: the lifetime cost of the materials and the greenhouse gas emissions. That is exactly what I am proposing in this bill.

The fact is that steel and concrete have enjoyed a century of a duopoly in large-building construction. This shift to tall wood construction would not suddenly result in a significant loss in market share for either industry. We would still be constructing many buildings with steel and concrete, but any small increase in market share could be significant for the forest industry. This bill simply asks the federal government to consider wood and to remember that there is a new way of building. The wood industry just needs that foot in the door.

I have been encouraged by government action on this front. Natural Resources Canada will be providing almost $40 million in funding over the next four years to support projects and activities that increase the use of wood as a greener substitute material in infrastructure projects. This money will be used in research and testing that is essential to growing that needed confidence in a new product and in incentivizing new construction to serve as examples of just what we can do with wood.

There are many examples out there already. Chantiers Chibougamau has built numerous bridges for the mining industry in northern Quebec using glulam beams. Their engineered wood was used to build the Buffalo Sabres' training facility. The architect first proposed steel for that project, but a second look showed that wood would be more economical. The Art Gallery of Ontario was transformed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry using Douglas fir glulam arches made in Penticton, British Columbia, by Structurlam. The 284,000 square foot Rocky Ridge Recreational Facility in Calgary boasts the largest wood-constructed roof in North America, again built by Structurlam. These are iconic buildings. What I hope to promote in this bill is the construction of much more conventional buildings, such as office buildings and warehouses, from engineered wood.

Government procurement could play a huge role in expanding the engineered wood industry in Canada. Bill Downing, at Structurlam, would tell us that their company would not have gotten off the ground without the wood-first policy in British Columbia, and now it is one of the leading manufacturers of engineered wood in North America, along with Chantiers Chibougamau.

Forest companies across Canada are looking to this new sector to help them survive or even flourish. All these companies would benefit from government procurement to make that leap into a new technology. J.D. Irving has gone to Europe to look at the burgeoning mass timber construction sector there. France intends to build 30% of its new residential buildings with wood over the next 30 years.

Wood buildings are safe, cost-competitive, and beautiful, and they fight climate change. I ask all members to consider wood, support Bill C-354, foster the engineered wood sector in Canada, and keep our forest industry strong.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

November 27th, 2017 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill C-354, which was introduced by my colleague from South Okanagan—West Kootenay. This bill amends the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act with respect to the use of wood.

We recognize that the purpose of this bill is to give preference to projects that promote the use of wood in awarding federal construction, maintenance, and repair contracts, taking into account the associated costs and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. However, I would like to draw my colleagues' attention to initiatives our government has already introduced to support the Canadian forestry sector.

First is the assistance package for the forest industry. In June 2017, the government announced its continued support for the softwood lumber industry in the form of an $867-million assistance package for the forest industry, workers, and communities impacted by recent tariffs imposed by the United States.

Second is the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. This framework, adopted in 2016, is a comprehensive plan to reduce emissions across all sectors of the economy, accelerate clean economic growth, and build resilience to the impact of climate change. The framework's actions, supported by announcements in budget 2017, will enable Canada to meet or even exceed its target to reduce emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Under the framework, our government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from federal government buildings and fleets by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030.

I should point out that these measures include federal-provincial-territorial collaboration to promote the use of wood in construction. One way to do that is by introducing new building codes. In the 2017 budget, Natural Resources Canada received $39.8 million over four years to support projects and activities that increase the use of wood in construction and create new markets for sustainable Canadian products.

Lastly, to assess the environmental impact of construction projects, Public Services and Procurement Canada is committed to using industry-recognized assessment tools to ensure the best possible environmental performance. These tools help the department make informed decisions when estimating the environmental impact of construction materials and their use in construction projects.

Any changes made to the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act must be in compliance with Canada's free trade agreements and must uphold the government's contracting principles, namely equality, openness, transparency, competition, and integrity. Our government strongly supports the Canadian forestry sector, which represents hundreds of thousands of good jobs for the middle class all across the country. This high-tech sector has serious value-added potential and is key to some of the biggest issues of our time: combatting climate change, fostering innovation, and creating economic opportunities for rural and indigenous communities. This is why were are allocating more than $150 million over four years to support clean technology in the natural-resources sector, including the forestry sector.

Through our softwood lumber action plan, we are investing $867 million to support workers and communities to diversity our markets, which I think my colleague mentioned when he referred to the Chinese market, a very large and interesting opportunity for Canadian lumber, and to facilitate access to a range of financial services for our producers on commercial terms.

Through programs such as the expanding market opportunities program, we are looking to increase exports to other foreign markets in order to increase competition in the long term and to make the forestry sector more sustainable. We strongly support Canada's forestry sector, as well as the long-term health and transformation of this sector.

To conclude, I believe that the aspirational objective of Bill C-354 could be a complement to the actions our government has already taken to support the long-term sustainability of Canada's softwood lumber industry. In my opinion, it merits an in-depth study by committee to evaluate all the potential ramifications and to avoid unforeseen consequences.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

November 27th, 2017 / 11:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to continue the debate on this private member's bill.

I first want to thank the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay for introducing this bill. In my view, discussions of private members' bills, which advance the ideas and individual interests of MPs and the concerns of their constituents, constitute the most important hours of debate in the House. I do not always agree with all the bills introduced in the House; sometimes I must oppose them, and other times I support them. However, It is always good to see what MPs are interested in when they introduce bills, and also the discussions and ideas that they bring to the House to be debated.

I would like to mention that I worked for a sustainable development department. I was in financial administration, and a special division of this department was responsible for Alberta's forests. I worked very closely with this special division.

After that I was a political advisor to the sustainable development minister, who was responsible for forestry. One of our key roles was to oversee the renegotiation of forestry management agreements with individual companies, something I am very interested in. I also worked with forestry companies in Alberta during those renegotiations.

This is not the first time Canada's Parliament debates a bill like Bill C-354, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood). One hon. member told me that this might be the fourth time; this has been discussed in previous Parliaments. Bills C-429 and C-574 also addressed the topic.

The bill states:

(1.1) In awarding contracts for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal real property or federal immovables, the Minister shall give preference to projects that promote the use of wood, taking into account the associated costs and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Again, I appreciate the intent of this bill, which seeks to strengthen Canada's forestry sector. We can all agree that any effort to strengthen any economic sector in Canada is commendable.

I will be sharing my thoughts on the member's bill. His intention is understandable. However, we must think of the repercussions this bill will have not only on the forestry industry, including sawmills, for example, but also on other industries, like cement manufacturing, public and private construction, and construction in general.

In February 2014, the former member for Jonquière—Alma introduced Bill C-574, which was also supported by some members of his party. The Conservative Party opposed the bill at the time.

As we know, the amendment being made to the act will result in changes to the way the government approaches procurement and how it renovates its buildings. This could be interesting. However, this bill, which will affect the maintenance and repair of federal real property, will cause problems in the public procurement process that will be difficult to solve. I read the debates that have occurred in other Parliaments many times, because I wanted to inject some new ideas. I did not want to merely repeat the same thing other members have already said, because I hope to contribute a more philosophical perspective to this debate. I did not want to just repeat the opportunities this will open for the forestry industry and the repercussions it will have on workers in that sector.

I know that a life-cycle cost analysis produced by the United States Department of Defense some years ago demonstrated that wooden structures cost 40% less per square foot than steel or masonry structures. The cost of construction was 37% less for wood than for other materials.

Operating costs are also less for wood. I always say that a free-trade-based market should be able to benefit from theses sorts of efficiencies and the lower operating costs. Architects and others who decide what type of building will be built and with what materials look at those costs and that type of report.

It is the marketplace that will decide. I think that implementing this sort of legislative measure would require a major regulatory review and update and would put financial pressure on entrepreneurs and some provinces to conduct policy reviews and make changes. What is more, any potential legal challenges from construction sectors other than the wood sector could prove to be long and costly for the government. I believe that the best people to make these types of decisions regarding buildings are construction professionals, architects. They are in the best position to make this sort of decision. We should not rely on a law that would favour one material over another. That would take away the architects' and construction companies' power to choose. They can choose to go with wood if they want to and if they can do so in a way that will cost the government less, or they can do renovations that will reduce the government's operating costs in the future.

I believe that the code of practice and professional standards for architects and builders would be the best place to promote the benefits of wood construction. This building is a very good example. It is built of stone but much of the interior is made of wood. This building has stood for a very long time. We know that building with wood has advantages, and it is also beautiful, as we can see around us. The House was a success for those who built it.

This legislation would also have a major impact on the regulatory regime, as I mentioned. It would probably result in unexpected changes to the regulations of other departments and would establish a precedent that could lead to challenges in other sectors. As I mentioned, the steel and concrete sectors are two examples that come to mind. The National Building Code, which is the basis for provincial building codes, would definitely be affected by this legislation.

When I read the bill, I asked myself what the member's objective was and what effect he hoped it would have on those who bid on projects for the construction of government buildings. If we give preference to wood for the construction and renovation of federal buildings, the bill will indirectly promote one sector over another. All these sectors are vital to Canada's economy. We do not take away from one sector or another. Every sector is vital to Canada's economy to ensure growth and good jobs.

This would favour the economies of certain regions over others, in direct contravention of the mission of Public Works and Government Services Canada, which is to apply an open, fair, and transparent procurement process in order to obtain the best possible value for the government. This for me is the problem with the bill. It could result in job losses in the concrete and steel industries, which would be an economic substitution. There may not necessarily be new growth, but other sectors could lose contracts and be unable to continue working in the construction sector, as concrete, stone, or steel is discarded in favour of wood. I think this is a problem. It does not necessarily lead to new economic growth or to new jobs, but simply replaces one sector's jobs with another's.

In closing, I would like to talk about Frédéric Bastiat, a 19th-century French economist, member of the French National Assembly, and well-known Liberal polemicist who wrote a book called Economic Sophisms. Chapter 7 of his book is known as the Candle Makers' Petition. He wrote this fictitious petition as a way to prove an economic point. The premise is that candle makers are petitioning the government to force everyone to board up all windows and live in the dark so that they will have to buy candles. By depriving people of sunlight, they hope to create economic growth. The petition says that it is not fair for people to have access to sunlight for free and that they should be forced to buy the candle makers' products. This is a bit of an extreme example of sophism.

In simpler terms, this is about the economic substitution effect and consumer choice. In short, new jobs and potential economic growth are not necessarily a source of economic activity. At the end of the day, who will make the decisions? Will it be the architects, the builders, or the MPs in this House? We should allow the architects and the builders to make the best choices they can rather than legislating to impose one choice or another.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

November 27th, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Rémi Massé Liberal Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague and commend her for her excellent speech. I am pleased to rise this morning to speak to Bill C-354, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood).

As my NDP colleague, the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay, said in the House of Commons, this bill asks the government to assess the material options for large buildings, balancing the overall dollar cost of the project and the impact of its greenhouse gas footprint.

During the October 19 debate, he stated:

This bill is not meant to exclude non-wood materials but simply to ask the government to look at these new wood technologies that can be used to create beautiful, safe, and environmentally sound buildings.

The forestry sector plays a key role in the economy of my riding of Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia and the Canadian economy in general. I know that I speak on behalf of the government when I say that we strongly support the Canadian forestry industry.

According to the most recent data from Statistics Canada, the forestry industry provides over 230,000 quality jobs for middle-class Canadians across the country. Last year, it contributed over $23 billion to Canada's nominal GDP.

The forestry industry is a high-value, high-tech industry that plays a key role in addressing some of the biggest challenges of our time, such as combatting climate change, driving innovation, and creating economic opportunities for indigenous and rural communities.

Those are not just empty words. We have taken practical measures to support the forestry industry. I would like to take a few moments to remind the House of those measures.

Our government allocated over $150 million over four years to support clean technologies in our natural resource sectors, including the forestry industry.

As part of our softwood lumber action plan, we are investing $867 million to help workers and communities diversify their markets to make it easier for them to access a range of financial services on commercial terms.

This is what we are talking about: loan guarantees through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada; access to the work-sharing program to help employers and employees supplement their incomes; funding to the provinces to provide financial support to workers who are looking for work during the transition; new funding for the indigenous forestry initiative to support indigenous participation in economic development activities; extending the investments in forestry industry transformation program and the forest innovation program.

Thanks to initiatives such as the program for export market development, we are actively seeking other foreign markets to export to, in order to strengthen the forestry industry's competitiveness and sustainability.

One of our government's top priorities is the fight against climate change, and the forestry sector will have an important role to play in that regard.

The pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, adopted in 2016, is a comprehensive plan to reduce emissions, promote clean economic growth, and build resilience to the impacts of climate change.

The framework's actions, supported by announcements in budget 2017, will help Canada to meet or even exceed its target to reduce emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The federal, provincial, and territorial governments will work together to promote greater use of wood in construction, for example, by updating building codes.

Budget 2017 also proposes to provide Natural Resources Canada with $39.8 million over four years to support projects and activities that promote greater use of wood as a greener alternative for infrastructure projects, as well as opening up new markets for more sustainable Canadian products.

In the framework, our government committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and its vehicle fleet to 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. As the government's common service provider, Public Services and Procurement Canada plays a leading role in achieving those objectives.

To further support those objectives, our government uses the latest tools to assess environmental impact. Public Services and Procurement Canada is committed to using industry-recognized assessment tools for high environmental performance to measure the impact of construction projects. These tools help the department make informed decisions when evaluating the use of various materials in any given construction project and their environmental impacts. These measures show that we are steadfast in our support of the Canadian forestry industry and its long-term health and transformation.

I feel that the bill we are debating today deserves to be studied in committee. All potential measures our government could take to support the forestry industry deserve a closer look. I encourage the committee to ensure that this bill complies with the free trade agreements we have signed and with the government's procurement principles.

As everyone knows, Canada is signatory to the Canadian Free Trade Agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Government Procurement. Each one of these agreements imposes certain obligations on Canada with regard to public procurement. It is therefore important to examine the repercussions this bill could have for these agreements.

Furthermore, the government must adhere to the principles of fairness, openness, transparency, competition, and integrity in procurement. These principles are intended to ensure Canadians' confidence in their procurement system and in the way we do business on their behalf.

That being said, these issues are not insurmountable. Some creativity may be required, but it is absolutely worth the effort. We parliamentarians have a duty to ensure this bill receives proper consideration. I hope my colleagues from all parties will come together to continue seeking ways for our government to support the forestry sector.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

November 27th, 2017 / 11:55 a.m.
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Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time that I have been able to speak to this legislation. As a former parliamentary secretary for natural resources for six years, I saw a couple of different versions of it. It came out in 2010 as Bill C-429, which was written a bit differently, and then in the last Parliament, in 2014, as Bill C-574. The bills might have had some different text, but the approach was the same as the Bill C-354 that is before us today.

The bill calls on the government to amend section 7 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act by highlighting the use of wood. It talks about the following:

In awarding contracts for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal real property or federal immovables, the Minister shall give preference to projects that promote the use of wood, taking into account the associated costs and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

I am not sure that the wood industry needs this type of protection and government involvement. As a parliamentary secretary in the past, I saw the strength of the wood industry across Canada. I had an opportunity to go to forest products innovations, FPInnovations, in Vancouver. It has three centres across the country that work on promoting wood. It is a multi-partnership project. The government and private industry worked together to set up a non-profit company so it could study wood and wood manufacturing, new technologies, and the creation of new products. It has certainly been a successful non-partisan project, with both working together.

It is interesting to note the size of the wood industry. I read that the U.S. non-residential market was worth $289 billion in 2010. That is a phenomenal number. In Canada, the industry has been valued at $29 billion. Those are big amounts of money being spent on wood construction in North America, and that is non-residential.

I should touch on the fact that early in our government, we were able to make a softwood lumber agreement that was acceptable across this country. That agreement was extended in 2015 and went to the end of 2015. It brought peace to that industry for a number of years. Canadian companies had the opportunity to go not only around the world with their products, but particularly into the United States. Canada has had access to the U.S. market for so long that it is unfortunate the Liberal government has failed to be able to bring a softwood lumber agreement forward. That has had an impact on the Canadian marketplace, and that will continue.

The Liberal government is talking about sending this legislation to committee, but we are certainly not dealing with some of the bigger issues, the bigger failures, that the government has faced in dealing with this subject.

A number of flaws are created by supporting this legislation. As soon as government picks one industry or one person or one entity over others, there are imbalances and challenges right away, in a number of places in the system.

I would like to point out that picking one product in order to highlight it for construction across Canada certainly, in our opinion, contravenes Canada's legal obligations under a number of provisions in international and domestic trade agreements. Those agreements typically prohibit any kind of discriminatory, unnecessary barriers to trade, and any legislation that then begins to highlight and amend that process will be challenged basically immediately.

With respect to contract tendering requirements, we built provisions into the tendering process so that one type of product could not be highlighted or favoured over others. It is obvious that if that were to happen, other industries, such as steel and concrete, are going to question what is going on when their products are set aside while the government tends to favour a competitive product.

It also would contravene domestic agreements, for example, the agreement on internal trade, if we start talking about government tendering being affected by the use of particular products. That agreement actually prohibits the introduction of any kind of a bias in the form of technological specifications in favour of particular goods or services, unless there is some need in terms of safety or those kinds of things, for that to be there.

We do not believe that Bill C-354 is going to be a good bill for the government to pass. I know it is a private member's bill, but it seems like the message we are getting from the other side, which is a very strange and different one for the government to be giving, is that the government is going to be sending this to committee to be studied. Typically, if that is the case, we see these bills going forward from there.

I do not have very much time to speak to this issue today, but one of the other things we are concerned about is that this could be begin to affect things like NAFTA. The government has failed on NAFTA negotiations as well. It is apparent that things are not going very well there, at all.

The Liberals have never had a commitment to trade. They have never been able to see a way through to getting these free trade agreements done. Certainly we do not want to see something else that is going to start impacting NAFTA, or whatever follows from that. We do not want to see things impacting our WTO agreements. We certainly do not need our free trade agreements to be violated.

The market is a powerful thing. It chooses, based on the quality of the products that are available there. We all believe that wood is very competitive. It is able to compete with concrete and steel. There are other places where the other products are critical. I have watched four high-rise apartments go up in the area where we live here in Ottawa in the last 10 years, and if they did not have concrete and steel in them, they certainly would not have been built to the height that they are.

It is good to see that the new lumber building codes are changing as well, so they can do the four-storey buildings now. They are also looking at six stories, and perhaps up to 10. Those are the kinds of innovations that we need to see, new products and new technology. We do not need the government to be interfering with the marketplace, especially on things as important as construction across this country.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActRoutine Proceedings

April 13th, 2017 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-354, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood).

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Kootenay—Columbia for seconding the bill.

The bill calls on the government to give preference to construction with wood when building infrastructure, balancing those decisions on the relative costs of various building materials and the savings in greenhouse gas emissions that those materials might produce.

Designers of modern buildings too often do not think of wood when creating new infrastructure, and there are many reasons to consider wood. It would provide a boost to the Canadian forest industry that is looking to increase domestic markets for their products. It would lower the carbon footprint of large buildings. Buildings made of mass wood products can be built more quickly than conventional buildings, and they are just as safe.

Canada is a world leader in the design and construction of wood buildings. I hope that the bill will promote the construction of many beautiful, clean, and safe buildings made from Canadian wood.

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