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


Report stage (House), as of March 20, 2023

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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 permit the Minister, in developing requirements for public works, to allow the use of wood or any other thing that achieves environmental benefits.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Feb. 15, 2023 Passed 2nd reading of Bill S-222, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood)

Natural ResourcesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 20th, 2023 / 3:20 p.m.
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John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, in relation to Bill S-222, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood).

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment.

March 10th, 2023 / 10:25 a.m.
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The Chair Liberal John Aldag

Thank you so much, everybody. That concludes the part of business related to Bill S-222.

We have two other items to deal with briefly before we conclude today.

The first is that we need approval of the travel budget related to the Inflation Reduction Act. That was distributed yesterday. Does anybody have any questions on it?

We included travel for seven members, plus a support team. The three locations that were costed out, as discussed on Tuesday, with field trips to be taken, are Houston, Denver and Sacramento.

Did anybody have any questions, or are we ready to vote on a proposal that we can then send off to the Liaison Committee?

Seeing no questions, shall we adopted the budget as presented?

(Motion agreed to)

The very last item I have is to welcome back to the table our analyst. One of our analysts is still back there. We've kept our legislative clerk.

Ross has been with the committee since before I started. He wanted a moment to address the committee.

With that, Ross, it's over to you.

March 10th, 2023 / 10:15 a.m.
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Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

I understand.

You say that, at present, you are already doing what is proposed in Bill S‑222. The minister can authorize the use of wood, and you're already calculating the gains in terms of GHG reductions in your buildings. This bill has no effect because you're already implementing what is in it, which is why I think it is important to add a component for optimizing the use of wood.

Whether the bill is passed or not, there will be no difference in what you are currently doing in the assessment of federal buildings and infrastructure. There is no gain.

Did I understand you correctly?

March 10th, 2023 / 10:10 a.m.
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Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Hamilton, if I understood what one of your colleagues testified earlier this week, you already consider the carbon footprint when you study your projects. My understanding from that discussion is that you are already doing it.

Currently, the minister can allow the use of wood without the measures in Bill S‑222. That's what I understood from one of your colleagues who appeared earlier this week.

Did I understand correctly? Is what I'm saying consistent with your practices?

March 10th, 2023 / 10:05 a.m.
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Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC


You heard Mr. Samray testify earlier that he had some concerns about the impact of Bill S‑222, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood).

I support this bill as written. I want to see more wood used, but I seriously doubt that the bill will have any effect on wood use when it comes into force. Will it have any real impact?

There is a fairly simple legal principle called presumption of effectiveness. People say that the legislator doesn't speak for the sake of speaking.

However, Bill S‑222 provides that the minister can “allow the use of wood” and “consider any potential reduction in greenhouse gas emissions”.

In my opinion, as it stands, the minister can already allow the use of wood and consider any potential reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. No bill is needed to do that.

So my amendment goes along those lines.

I move the following:

That Bill S‑222, in Clause 1, be amended by replacing line 12 on page 1 with the following: “shall maximize the use of wood. The Minister may also allow the use of any other thing — including".

I'm adding the idea of maximizing the use of wood. Using “maximize” rather than “can allow” would, at the very least, ensure that more wood is used as a building material.

If the purpose of Bill S‑222 is to give our buildings a smaller carbon footprint, it sounds like wishful thinking in its current form.

As I said earlier, there is a primary legal principle called presumption of effectiveness; the legislator doesn't speak for the sake of speaking. I get the impression that the current bill has the legislator speaking for the sake of speaking.

March 10th, 2023 / 10 a.m.
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The Chair Liberal John Aldag

I call the meeting back to order.

We're now back in session, and we're going to be moving into clause-by-clause. For this part of the meeting, we're going to go through a few reminders first for clause-by-clause consideration of Bill S-222.

One amendment has been submitted for this bill. Should members wish to submit further amendments during today's meeting, those amendments must be submitted in writing to the clerk of the committee. There's no need for a seconder to move an amendment. Once moved, you will need unanimous consent to withdraw it.

During debate on an amendment, members are permitted to move subamendments. These subamendments must also be submitted in writing. They do not require the approval of the mover of the amendment.

Once every clause has been voted on, the committee will vote on the title and on the bill as a whole.

Finally, the committee will have to order the chair to report the bill to the House. That report will contain only the text of any adopted amendments, as well as an indication of any deleted clauses.

We'll now move into the clause-by-clause portion.

(On clause 1)

We'll call the first clause. We have Mr. Simard's amendment.

Mr. Simard, if you'd like to speak to your amendment, we'll have the discussion on that.

It's over to you.

March 10th, 2023 / 9:10 a.m.
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Jean-François Samray President and Chief Executive Officer, Quebec Forest Industry Council

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Quebec Forest Industry Council (QFIC) would first like to commend the intent of Bill S‑222, which is to ensure that wood is more systematically considered as a material in federal government infrastructure, thus contributing to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Until now, strategies and measures to reduce the government's GHG emissions have primarily targeted building operating energy.

The means advocated to reduce these emissions focus mainly on improving energy efficiency and conserving energy sources for heating through the use of greener energy, such as hydroelectricity.

However, a growing number of studies show that emissions from the manufacture of building construction materials are a significant source of GHG emissions.

The QFIC shares these views and believes that material selection has a major impact on the carbon footprint of buildings, which is why we support the passage of Bill S‑222.

As a local resource from sustainably managed Canadian forests, wood could contribute substantially to decarbonizing construction. It helps fight climate change in three ways: forests store carbon; wood products store carbon; and wood products are a good substitute for GHG-intensive products.

The QFIC believes that action is needed in all three of those areas if we want more wood used in federal government infrastructure.

First, we must recognize the impact of materials on the carbon footprint of buildings. If we hope to accelerate the decarbonization of the Canadian economy and achieve net zero in the construction sector, one way to get there would be to replace carbon-intensive materials with low-carbon substitutes like wood and other bio-based materials.

Bill S‑222 is very much in line with that way of thinking, and while the QFIC supports the bill, we recommend that more meaningful action be put forward to accelerate the decarbonization of the Canadian economy and achieve net zero in the construction sector.

The QFIC recommends that legislators put in place a requirement to produce a construction material GHG emissions analysis for all construction, maintenance and repair of public works and federal government buildings.

Public policy adopted by government also plays a crucial role, in our view. These policies contribute to the use of wood in building construction and, in turn, to the development of expertise and innovation throughout the wood construction industry.

However, despite the potential for reducing GHG emissions and fostering long-term carbon storage in wood, the policies in place are mostly guidelines and they need to be strengthened, through regulations among other things.

That's why we believe that considering the use of low-carbon materials should go beyond voluntary or incentive measures. Perhaps we might take a cue from some countries that have already gone down this path by including emissions associated with construction materials in buildings' GHG limits.

Third, we believe that informed decision-making must include life cycle analysis.

In the construction industry, life cycle analysis has led to a better understanding of the sources of emissions associated with the building sector and it's also helped assess the relative importance of the emissions produced in manufacturing materials.

The introduction of carbon footprint calculation tools, such as Gestimat in Quebec, supports informed decision-making throughout the design and construction process. It also makes it easier to set reduction targets and measure the achievement of those targets.

We would welcome meaningful measures such as mandatory pre-project life cycle analysis and pilot initiatives that foster systematic consideration of emissions associated with construction materials.

Specifically, the QFIC urges Canadian legislators to introduce a requirement in their legislation for pre-project life cycle analysis, therefore in the pre-design stage.

Fostering and bringing about a change in practices will make it possible to accelerate decarbonization and reap the positive benefits of using wood materials. This will not only help decarbonize construction, it will also help Canada meet its ambitious net zero goals, while also creating jobs and vibrant indigenous and non-indigenous communities across the country.

Thank you for your attention. I am now ready to answer your questions.

March 10th, 2023 / 9:05 a.m.
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Carmen Santoro Senior Executive for Eastern Canada, International Association of Fire Fighters

Good morning and thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members, for this opportunity to share our views on Bill S-222 and the expanded use of wood in federal government buildings.

Before I begin, I want to acknowledge that we are on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe nation.

To briefly introduce our organization, the International Association of Fire Fighters, or the IAFF, represents more than 330,000 members in North America, including over 26,000 in Canada. Across this country, our members are on scene in minutes in any kind of an emergency, including structure fires, medical emergencies, water and ice rescues, hazardous materials incidents, and much more.

The IAFF supports a vibrant economy and a successful sustainable wood and wood products industry, including the expansion of the forestry sector and the opportunity for those workers. We ask this committee to consider that the increased use of combustible materials should come with increased considerations for fire safety, fire protection resources and firefighter safety. The last thing anyone wants is for a preventable tragedy to occur because of the unintended consequences of using combustible building materials for the wrong building in the wrong location, or in a place where the risk exceeds the capabilities of the local fire departments.

Expanded use of wood products in the construction of federal government buildings should not migrate into certain type 1 buildings as defined in the national building code, such as detention facilities, art facilities or industrial sites, or into such structures as parking garages, structures with major electrical installations or structures that are critical to government operations in the event of a major disaster.

Existing building code and safety-related considerations, such as sprinklers, smoke alarms, egress and floor performance, should be adhered to and enforced.

Building locations should be carefully assessed to ensure that they are not positioned to contribute to or be victim to wildfire, which is a threat that is becoming more and more prevalent in Canada. The design and safety of structures in so-called interface areas should be approached with the greatest amount of caution as the Government of Canada works slowly toward its commitment to train 1,000 firefighters in wildland response in the face of this growing threat.

Currently, the national building code doesn't link building uses to the available fire protection resources or training. We recommend a fire protection assessment in concert with local authorities any time a building with significant wood content is proposed. Local firefighters should be made aware of exactly what kinds of materials are present in a higher-risk structure and must be able to preplan the emergency response operations with training specific to the materials and the risks present. Training and awareness should include reference to any toxic chemicals that are present in building materials, such as wood treatments.

Adequate fire protection resources should be available in such a manner as to arrive on the scene quickly and with an adequate amount of personnel and the equipment necessary to safely and effectively protect lives, protect the structure and protect nearby exposed structures. All of these concerns from a fire protection and firefighter safety point of view are amplified when it comes to proposals for tall wood structures, meaning six- to 12-storey structures that are now permitted in the building code.

Bill S-222 and the rise of innovation in construction support our long-standing call for firefighter safety objectives in a national building code.

On behalf of our members across Canada and the IAFF, we appreciate this opportunity.

Before I close, while I have the floor, I want to say that I've been a firefighter for 37 years. For most of it, I was a supervisor or a captain. What a lot of people don't realize is that we are one of the few professions that do not have the right to refuse unsafe work. Every emergency scene is unsafe work, and we rely on all of you to include safety measures in building codes and fire codes to reduce the dangers that we face every day.

With that, I'll close. Thank you very much.

I am open to questions.

March 10th, 2023 / 9 a.m.
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Keven Lefebvre Fire Chief, Leduc County, Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs

Good morning. Thank you for inviting the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs here today.

My name is Keven Lefebvre. I'm the fire chief for Leduc County in Alberta. I'm an elected CAFC board member and co-chair of the CAFC’s building codes committee.

I am also a member of the advisory council of Canada’s harmonized building codes board and of the Alberta Safety Codes Council's Building Sub-Council. I'm a master electrician, and I start my 42nd year in the fire service later this month.

I'm joined today by CAFC’s executive director, Dr. Tina Saryeddine.

The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs represents the country’s 3,200 fire departments through their fire chiefs and through a national advisory council of provincial, territorial and national affiliate organizations like the Department of National Defence, one of the largest owners of federal buildings.

Fire departments vary from small, rural volunteer to large, unionized metro departments. Despite our diversity, we are united in our calling to protect the lives of Canadians.

Bill S-222, in the context of federal properties and public works, is commendable. However, my colleagues and I are fire chiefs, so, as is our proclivity, we prepare for what could happen on the worst day.

First, wood has a special meaning to many of us as Canadians, but we must use it selectively. Outcomes could be disastrous in combustible parking garages containing lithium-ion charging systems, such as electric vehicle or solar storage. Well-intentioned environmental efforts, like using wood shingles in wildland urban interfaces, can contribute to wildfire damage. Buildings in these areas need to follow FireSmart principles and include sprinklers and other detection and prevention methodologies.

Secondly, take the necessary measures to ensure that federal buildings are fully operational post-disaster. Canadians require our government to be operational during and after disasters. The buildings need to be part of the solution, not an additional problem. Specific areas of government are currently looking to enhance and toughen building construction in light of the increasing impact of weather-driven disasters. CAFC's 2022 census showed that of the two million emergency events responded to annually, nearly 10% of these are new environmental emergencies.

If encouraging the use of products through government procurement, ensure that the end use is fully understood. Please ensure this bill doesn’t contradict or duplicate already adopted codes and standards. Some buildings, by code, are required to be specifically non-combustible. Understand that additives, treatments and unintended consequences of construction products could actually prevent the carbon reductions you anticipate or even become toxic in a fire.

In this vein, we would like to thank all MPs for their unanimous vote on Wednesday regarding Bill C-224, an act to establish a framework for firefighter cancers.

Our next ask will be to please support an increase in the volunteer firefighters tax credit. Eighty per cent of the country's fire service is volunteer, and no matter what building material you choose, we need every incentive to help protect response capacity in this country.

Thirdly, in Vancouver the successful introduction of tall wood buildings was accompanied by many resources from public safety engineering, many variances to specific code requirements, and much training. Unless we are considering such resources and training wherever we introduce innovation, we fail in its responsible introduction. As you pass this bill, consider that a firefighter safety objective be placed in the regulations under this act and support the same in the national building code of Canada, as required recently in ministerial mandate letters.

Related to this are the tenability times for firefighters to work within structures in the event of fire and the need to include floor performance standards within the national building code. Firefighters can and have fallen through floors during a fire. Canadians need the same floor performance assurances as are provided for in the U.S. and elsewhere.

As you move forward, please ensure that first responders are made aware of and trained to handle construction fires with the materials and methodologies chosen. This is necessary for appropriate entry, evacuation and response measures.

In preparing for today, my colleagues at Ottawa Fire Services reminded us that replacing existing building components with wood, for example, can impact load, fire spread and other safety calculations negatively.

In closing, we have always believed the same building code should apply to everyone, everywhere. It should be enforced and enforceable. It should have a firefighter safety objective. Firefighter readiness, training and equipment must be considered in preparation for what might happen on a building's worst day. The work you are doing today can help to mitigate future problems.

Thank you.

March 10th, 2023 / 8:50 a.m.
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The Chair Liberal John Aldag

Good morning, everyone. I call this meeting to order.

Welcome to meeting 56 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources.

Pursuant to the order of reference made Wednesday, February 15, 2023, the committee is meeting on Bill S-222, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood).

Today’s meeting is taking place in a hybrid format pursuant to the House order of June 23, 2022.

Now that we're in session, screenshots are not allowed.

I'd like to make a few comments.

Charlie, do you have a point of order, or can I get through my opening comments? Is translation not working?

March 7th, 2023 / 5:20 p.m.
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The Chair Liberal John Aldag

I think there was a location in northern California, a site visit that was also deemed to be of interest, so we could see about doing that if we're narrowing it down to three locations.

What I'm hearing is this: We'll take Washington off the list now. We'll cost out Houston, Denver and Sacramento, and then we'll bring forward the final costed budget for comment and perhaps approval on Friday so that we can transmit it by the deadline to liaison.

Is that okay? All right. Good.

That's all I have for today. On Friday we'll continue with Bill S-222. We have one panel with one witness from each of the parties. I think everybody got their first choice except for the Bloc. Theirs wasn't available, so we have their second choice coming. There will be four panellists.

The second hour is reserved for clause-by-clause. In this case, I think there's one clause, so it'll be the “clause” review. Then we'll do the budget discussion and that will be the end of our time together this week.

Thanks, everybody. With that, the meeting is adjourned.

March 7th, 2023 / 4:50 p.m.
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Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Thank you for that clarification. I have only 30 seconds left.

My final comment is that it's obviously great to see the federal government moving in this direction. I want to give a big thank you to the folks who drove the bus on Bill S-222, Senator Diane Griffin and MP Cannings, because our wood sector in Canada is going through a renaissance. This is part of the renaissance that we want to see for both the economy and the environment.

Thank you, Chair.

March 7th, 2023 / 4:45 p.m.
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Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Thank you to both gentlemen for that answer.

The thing I do wish to put on record is that in the province of Ontario, up in York region and in the heart of the riding I represent, the folks who are building these mass timber projects are being trained at the Local 27 carpenters union training centre in the city of Vaughan. When you walk in there and go for a tour—the Prime Minister was with me less than two weeks ago at the training centre—you see mass timber there. You see trainees learning how to put it together and how to make sure that it's safe, that it's load-bearing and that it's everything we want it to be when it's utilized. Obviously, we all applaud those in the skilled trades who work hard every day to build our communities in this country. They are being trained to utilize mass timber as well.

This is my last question for this round. Will Bill S-222 overcome barriers on the federal government side in selecting wood as a building material? With the innovation that's going on with regard to mass timber and the environmental benefits, and Canada being blessed with the actual resource, much like the Scandinavian countries are, we'll also lead that. Can the officials comment on how Bill C-222 will help us move in that direction expeditiously?

If I could go to the NRCan official first, that would be great.

March 7th, 2023 / 4:45 p.m.
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Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for being here.

Obviously this bill is well known to everyone. I was able to take a look at when Bill S-222 actually appeared before the Senate committee and the testimony that was provided there to the hon. senators, and now we're going through this in the House.

There doesn't seem to be too much disagreement in terms of moving forward with using more mass timber in our country. We are blessed with the resource and we are blessed with the know-how to do it. Frankly, some of the Scandinavian countries as well as Austria have used mass timber for many years, and I know there's a lot of assistance in terms of looking at how they've been using it for the period of time they have.

My first question is this: With regard to the number of buildings or projects that are being constructed, is there an update from the officials on the uptake in using mass timber? I'd like someone to comment on that, please.

March 7th, 2023 / 4:30 p.m.
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Stéphan Déry Assistant Deputy Minister, Real Property Services, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Good afternoon.

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to be appearing before the Standing Committee on Natural Resources in my capacity as assistant deputy minister of real property services at Public Services and Procurement Canada, or PSPC, to discuss the role my organization could play with respect to Bill S-222, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood).

I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which our head office is located is the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people. The Algonquin peoples have lived on this land since time immemorial, and we are grateful to be present in this territory.

PSPC manages one of the largest and most diverse portfolios of real estate in the country and is the Government of Canada’s real estate expert. PSPC provides safe, healthy and productive working environments for over 260,000 federal employees across Canada, including accommodation for parliamentarians and a full range of real property services, including the provision of architectural and engineering services.

The spirit and intent of this proposed legislation aligns with the government’s goals of supporting Canadian industry to further develop sustainable materials solutions, including wood products, in the pursuit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment.

I would like to highlight the important work undertaken by PSPC in that regard.

The 2020 greening government strategy requires the government to reduce the environmental impact of structural construction materials by disclosing the amount of embodied carbon in the structural materials for major construction projects. There is also a requirement to reduce the embodied carbon of structural materials of major construction projects by 30% starting in 2025. Implementing tools to support these requirements within PSPC will be a key focus in the coming years.

Public Services and Procurement Canada considers the entire context of a project before starting new construction or rehabilitation projects by analyzing each project on a holistic basis. This approach ensures a balanced review of all of the various requirements, while respecting our commitments to indigenous collaboration, reducing costs, using sustainable materials and meeting our greening and net-zero carbon commitments.

The most recent mandate letter of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement requires that PSPC work with Infrastructure Canada and Natural Resources Canada to put a new buy clean strategy in place to support and prioritize the use of made-in-Canada low-carbon products in Canadian infrastructure projects.

Through its expertise in sustainability and as supplier of procurement, architecture and engineering services and real property assets, PSPC is especially well positioned to have a direct and significant impact on the greening of government operations. PSPC is actively participating in a number of initiatives that support the use of lower-carbon materials in construction projects.

Here are some examples. We are working with the National Research Council of Canada to produce a set of Canadian data on low-carbon building materials to enable informed decision-making through the life cycle assessment initiative and the incorporation of low-carbon requirements in construction and infrastructure projects in Canada. The Canadian National Master Construction Specification was updated in 2021 to include new details on encapsulated mass timber construction.

We are collaborating with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s centre for greening government to support the implementation of reduced embodied carbon in structural materials by developing mandatory requirements and carrying out pilot projects. Discussions are under way with the concrete, steel and wood industries in order to establish reduction targets.

At PSPC, we are always mindful of the materials we source for our infrastructure projects and continue to encourage green innovation.

In conclusion, Public Services and Procurement Canada will continue to lead the way in embedding environmental considerations into its requirements with respect to the construction, modernization, maintenance and repair of federal real property.

At PSPC, our practices allow for the use of wood and other green building materials in accordance with project requirements and in compliance with the health and safety requirements outlined in building codes.

Mr. Tourigny and I are now pleased to answer your questions.

Thank you.