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.

4:15 p.m.

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

Fred LeBlanc

A lot less.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Are you definitive?

4:15 p.m.

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

Fred LeBlanc

You wanted short answers, sorry.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

I want to leave time for Mr. May.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

How much time do I have left?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal James Maloney

You have four minutes.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

First of all, thank you for being here.

This is very novel for me. As chair of a committee I don't usually get to ask questions, so bear with me.

I'm very pleased to see the IAFF here to speak on this issue. Long before getting into politics I worked with the YMCA. Right beside the YMCA on Hespeler Road in Cambridge is a seniors' facility—six storeys, timber construction. I remember it going up and thinking, “Holy smokes. That, to me, just does not look safe.”

Do you have any knowledge of whether, in the code, any consideration is given to the purpose of the building when they give approval to use this wood construction? I'm thinking of it in terms of mobility, and you mentioned this in your remarks. When you're talking about a seniors' facility, virtually everyone in that facility could potentially have mobility issues in a fire. Do you know if the code takes that into account?

4:15 p.m.

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

Fred LeBlanc

The codes usually do if it qualifies as a vulnerable occupancy. I don't want to stray into, or even attempt to stray into what falls under vulnerable occupancies and what doesn't, but when you're talking about seniors with mobility issues a lot of those factors are taken into consideration. It doesn't matter if it's mid-rise, high-rise, or even low-rise; there are things that have to be added to the code for those types of things, whether it's self-closing devices on doors or other types of things that get added in.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

I want to add my voice to what has already been said today, and agree that yes, firefighters should be at the table when it comes to the building code. In fact, in 2012, private member's motion 388, from Minister Goodale, had overwhelming majority support from members of all parties to do this very thing and have input from firefighters.

I'm wondering where that stalled. We'll have to take a look at that.

What recommendation would you like to see in this report around that core concept?

4:20 p.m.

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

Fred LeBlanc

Obviously a recommendation to the codes commission to include firefighter safety as one of the core objectives would be very much appreciated. That sends a very strong signal.

Also, there should be some way to set up something like a panel to bring stakeholders together, because again, I want to be clear, the IAFF is not against the forestry industry. We're not against using innovative building techniques. We just want to make sure that the result at the end of the day also takes firefighter safety into consideration.

Typically, public safety is covered off as one of the core objectives, but I don't think it's fair to include firefighters in that because you're providing so many minutes for time of egress for the public, but that's usually when we're rolling up to do our jobs, to go in to get the public who haven't gotten out, or to save the remainder of the structure if that's possible.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

We know we're talking about the national code, and we know the provinces have their own codes. In some cases they adopt the national code and in some cases they don't. Are there any provinces right now that have actually included firefighters in their decision process in their code?

4:20 p.m.

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

Fred LeBlanc

I know there has been some consultation in Ontario, but I'll have to refer to Greg on some of the other provinces.

4:20 p.m.

Research Assistant, Canadian Office, International Association of Fire Fighters

Greg Hewitt

Not to my knowledge, no.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

Very quickly, I think it was mentioned in the remarks, or I may have heard it elsewhere, about homes burning hotter now than they ever have before. Why is that?

4:20 p.m.

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

Fred LeBlanc

It's the products that are in them. Everything—from the chairs we're sitting on, to carpets, to curtains—is made of new, synthetic, chemically developed materials. When they come together, those toxins burn hotter and faster, and that creates a whole other issue for us.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

Thank you very much for the work you're doing, and thank you for being here today.

4:20 p.m.

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

Fred LeBlanc

Thank you.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal James Maloney

Thank you, Mr. May.

Ms. Stubbs, you have five minutes.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

Thanks, again, for the flexibility of all the witnesses for being here with us today.

Sam, I have a couple of general questions for you. As you know, the Canadian government has not yet secured a new softwood lumber agreement, so forestry producers in Canada have been hit with higher tariffs. Many of them are saying it's been offset by unusually high prices for lumber recently, but of course that won't necessarily last forever.

I don't know if this is the case, but I just wonder if it's affected your company's bottom line, or if you've had to increase the prices of your products to make up for the higher cost of wood, or if there is any impact on you.

4:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Operations, Emily Creek Woodworking Ltd.

Samuel Meyer

Our suppliers are usually keen to say there's an earthquake in Chile and use it as an excuse to raise materials. They come up with the most random things to raise materials.

What they don't do well right now is forecast long term. In terms of this recent deal, we won't know because most of our suppliers carry a safety stock of so much material. Basically it's set at that price for so long, and then once it's gone, it's gone. Then you're into a new price rate. They won't even forecast so that we can see whether we're expecting 15%, 20%, or 25% increases in the next two months. They say that the increases are tomorrow. They're going up 20%. That's what we're seeing across everything.

We just got a notice the other day from one of our big chemical suppliers that there's a 25% increase on all chemicals as of now, not in three months, six months, or eight months from now. As I said before, we can't recuperate that. We have jobs that are in the spring and summer next year. They're bid. They're priced, so we're stuck eating that off the bottom line.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

What are your other major cost inputs? What are power rates like for your company?

4:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Operations, Emily Creek Woodworking Ltd.

Samuel Meyer

I don't have the exact figures, but I know that, because we're an industrial power, they hit us higher. It's a three-phase power, basically. It is higher power than the average. I don't know the figure specifically, but we're in one of the higher brackets. Because all of our machines have bigger motors, we are on the higher consumption end.

December 4th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Your input, as a small business, is extremely important. I find that big government programs often are targeted, maybe not intentionally, to benefit big multinational and bigger companies in terms of incentives or even subsidy programs or regulations that might apply to them. That's a serious concern, because, of course, small businesses create the vast majority of the jobs of private sector employers in Canada.

I wonder if you have any other specific recommendations that we could provide through our reports for measures that could help you as a small and medium-sized business in this industry.

4:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Operations, Emily Creek Woodworking Ltd.

Samuel Meyer

As I said, hydro is our only source. We've looked into coming up with diesel backup generators, different kinds of generators, but the costs are astronomical. It takes hundreds of thousands to bring in alternate power sources. We can't. There's no money to come up with those.

I remember just six months ago, Hydro One—this is our power company—had this program rolled out to replace light bulbs, but for some there was a loophole. We were outside of that loophole, so we couldn't even take advantage. It was LED replacement bulbs. We could replace all our fixtures with LED lights, but there was some fine print so that we couldn't even capitalize on that, because it wasn't.... I don't know exactly, but we weren't in some classification where we could even take advantage of it.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

That's interesting.

If you think of any other of those kinds of things later, we would welcome your written submission afterward, which could also be included as an addendum to the report. Sometimes it's hard to think of all these things off the top of your head. I think that would be important input in terms of what we can advise as policy-makers that would benefit small and medium-sized developers. You often hear of programs like that, which are targeted to big multinationals or even wealthier individuals who can already afford to make adjustments, and then somehow, through either bureaucracy or unintended consequences, they exclude operators like you. I welcome you to provide any further feedback.

I want to thank both of you for being here to provide your testimony.

I come from northern Alberta. You'll recall last year that, starting on May 1, 2016, the Fort McMurray wildfires were announced, and they were fully extinguished in August 2017. At its height, it was burning just about 6,000 square kilometres, and it burned thousands of residences and 22 commercial buildings. The Insurance Bureau of Canada says it's the costliest disaster in Canadian history.

As a northern Albertan, I can't say enough how much we thank you and your members for the self-sacrifice and for the risk-taking work you do. For the people who have gone through that fire, and that community, as you know, maybe it's not in the headlines or on the front page of the news anymore, but it's still just the beginning of a long journey and process of recovery for them.

I think I'm interested, and I think all of the members—