Evidence of meeting #78 for Natural Resources in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was products.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Fred LeBlanc  13th District Vice-President, International Association of Fire Fighters
Greg Hewitt  Research Assistant, Canadian Office, International Association of Fire Fighters
Samuel Meyer  Vice-President, Operations, Emily Creek Woodworking Ltd.
Rick Jeffery  President and Chief Executive Officer, Coast Forest Products Association
Eric Karsh  Principal, Structural Engineering, Equilibrium Consulting Inc.

4:05 p.m.

13th District Vice-President, International Association of Fire Fighters

Fred LeBlanc

Just based on my experience up to today—and I don't want to disparage timber construction because I don't know enough about it—my comfort level is with, again, the cement structure because it keeps the fire compartmentalized. That's been my experience as a firefighter running in on the end of the hose line or as an incident commander standing on the outside making decisions focusing on evacuation. One of the first things we do when we arrive is tell everybody, except for those on the floor of the unit that is involved and in the area right above the unit that is involved, to stay inside their unit and not evacuate because they're safer there. We say that because we know the involved unit usually is the only involved unit unless there has been some access outside that has raised the fire to a different level. That is where we are.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Thank you.

How much time do I have?

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal James Maloney

You're over time.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Okay. Thanks, Mr. Chair.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal James Maloney

Ms. Sansoucy, you have the floor.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My thanks to all the witnesses for their presentations.

I was a municipal councillor for six years before I was elected Member of Parliament. In particular, I worked with the municipalities in my region on the risk management for fire safety. I therefore fully understood all the points made by the representative from the International Association of Fire Fighters, and I thank him for bringing those issues to our attention.

However, my questions are for Mr. Meyer, who has given a fine description of the evolution of his industry. I am particularly interested in that, because in the riding I represent, the city centre of Saint-Hyacinthe has a six-storey office tower with a wood-framed structure. This is the Synergia Complex, built by the Groupe Robin, an entrepreneur from our region. The complex was built in collaboration with Nordic Structures, a company located in Chibougamau. That office tower attracted a lot of interest, so it had no problem quickly finding tenants who now occupy all its offices. In our region, we feel that there is interest in this industry.

You talked about how your industry has evolved. We now know that high-rise buildings have been built with wood around the world. We also know that the Synergia Complex built in Saint-Hyacinthe has been studied by research groups. It is actually LEED certified.

So far, what have we learned from the existing buildings and how can this information help shape your industry in the future?

Mr. Meyer, can you answer those questions?

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal James Maloney

It seems we're having some problems with the interpreter. How much of the question did you hear?

4:05 p.m.

Vice-President, Operations, Emily Creek Woodworking Ltd.

Samuel Meyer

It had to do with fire regulations. I didn't think the question applied to me. Sorry.

As an industry, I'd say we do the actual wood interiors of the spaces themselves.

I'm just trying to relate to how this question is phrased. We just do the interiors of the wood structures. We do the cabinets, the millwork, and the actual wood interiors as a whole.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

You actually told us that there were many obstacles to the development of your industry, such as waste when materials were acquired, labour shortage and the cost of labour.

What are the barriers to stimulating the growth of your sector here in Canada? If you had to name only one obstacle to your growth, what would it be?

4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Operations, Emily Creek Woodworking Ltd.

Samuel Meyer

As the main one, it's a source of materials, and for us it's always the lowest number that wins. On a job, we could be pricing upwards of 10, 15, or 20 different contractors. Each contractor could have five different companies like us, so we could be bidding against 80, 90, or 100 different millwork companies per se, and it's really the lowest number that wins, regardless of what happens.

What we're seeing happen more and more is that the lower-number millwork shop doesn't always do the best job. What they hope for is that they get halfway through the job and can't complete the contract, and then they bring in another shop in to finish up the contract. Really, the contractor is ahead by paying for only half the job because the original contractor failed.

This is about better regulation on that item, for one. The second and actually bigger item would be payment terms: getting paid on time. Our biggest struggle right now is getting paid by these contractors.

We have an outlay of hundreds of thousands of dollars in materials, wages, and everything else, and we're just hoping that at the end of it we get paid. For us to get paid in 90, 120, 150, or 180 days is wishful thinking. We're forced to carry it. Our industry isn't set up so that we get deposits or money ahead of time. We're expected to front all the materials and all the labour and then hope that in six months' time we get paid for it.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

In your presentation, you said that you had to deal with poor quality specifications. One of the government's roles is to promote innovation.

How can the federal government help you promote your industry and possible innovations so that you can have all the tools you need?

December 4th, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Operations, Emily Creek Woodworking Ltd.

Samuel Meyer

On the labour side, one would be just having the labour pool.

Just in our area alone, there isn't the pool to draw from. Whoever is at that level to go to the next level of innovation and has the computer skills or knowledge is being forced to go to university. A friend of mine—this was 15 years ago—was on track, was great in school. He could have gone to university. He wanted to be a trades guy. I remember as clear as day that our guidance counsellor told him, “No, no. You can't do that. That's not what people like you do. You should be going to university.”

I find that our high schools and education system are pushing people, and it's not just in our trade. It's everything across the board, in multiple trades. I've heard it many times. They're pushing all of these young students who have a want and desire to get into this industry and other trade industries like it and forcing them by saying, “Oh no, that's not what you should do. You should do university.”

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

You stress that those areas fall under municipal responsibility overseen by the provincial level. The representative from the International Association of Fire Fighters said the same thing.

You also mention that education falls under provincial jurisdiction.

What do you think the federal government could do to show leadership in a sector where all three levels of government are involved?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal James Maloney

You're going to have to answer that question very quickly.

4:15 p.m.

Vice-President, Operations, Emily Creek Woodworking Ltd.

Samuel Meyer

That's very true, yes. Education is a provincial thing, so how the federal government...I don't know. Can you change how the schools come together and give that path? I find in our industry specifically they're more geared toward furniture making—making chairs or tables, or making decorations. But that's not where this industry as a whole is going. Those parts are not handmade anymore. They're made by computerized machines that turn out hundreds in an hour. We're teaching these students skills that aren't even relevant anymore.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal James Maloney

Thank you. I'm going to have to stop you there.

Mr. Bagnell.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Thank you.

I have about three questions, and then if there's time left, I'll let Mr. May.... They'll be quick questions and hopefully quick answers.

Mr. Meyer, I agree with you 100%. I've been saying for decades that we don't celebrate the trades enough in North America, the way they do in Europe.

You mentioned you had a problem with the minimum wage. Your company sounds as though it's really high-tech, with good-paying jobs. You need to be pretty skilled to be a millwright. I'm surprised you would have a large number of employees getting minimum wage.

4:15 p.m.

Vice-President, Operations, Emily Creek Woodworking Ltd.

Samuel Meyer

As a whole, this industry is a low-paying industry because there is no certification. There are no requirements to go through as a base. The long and short of it is that the money for labour isn't there. We can't charge for an increased labour.... As I said in my previous example, we're against 50, 60, or 70 other shops and there's somebody out there always paying less than we are.

We always check back in, and we're one of the medium- to higher-paying companies. You have to be.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Thank you.

For the firefighters, I certainly support your having input into the building codes. It only makes sense to make sure they're safe for you. We were lobbied recently—I'm pretty sure it was the committee—with pictures of these nice 12-storey wood buildings. These are obviously modern, as opposed to the old ones.

What argument would they make that these are now safer than wood buildings in the past?

4:15 p.m.

13th District Vice-President, International Association of Fire Fighters

Fred LeBlanc

Is that directed to me?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Yes.

4:15 p.m.

13th District Vice-President, International Association of Fire Fighters

Fred LeBlanc

I really don't know. I'm assuming it's the advent and inclusion of sprinkler systems and other fire suppression systems, but those are mechanical devices. Unless they're very well maintained on scheduled maintenance, mechanical devices have been known, and we rely on them, to fail. That's why we don't rely on them.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Is your membership aware of the new, innovative mass timber systems?

4:15 p.m.

13th District Vice-President, International Association of Fire Fighters

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Do you have any idea how long it would take a 12-storey wood building to burn, compared with a 12-storey building made of steel or concrete?