Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I will do my opening statement in French. Feel free to ask me questions in English.
My name is Jean‑François Samray, and I am here as president and chief executive officer of the Quebec Forest Industry Council, or QFIC.
I am pleased to respond to your invitation to contribute to your thinking on the topic of a just and equitable transition in the energy sector in Canada. The QFIC is the main voice of the forest industry in Quebec. It represents the interests of softwood and hardwood sawmills, veneer mills, pulp and paper mills, cardboard and panel mills, and engineered wood manufacturers. Increasingly, it represents companies moving into bioenergy production.
Through its expertise and that of its partners, the QFIC guides and supports its members on issues that include forestry, supply, energy transition, product quality recognition, human resources and worker training, health and safety, and legal and economic intelligence.
With respect to our contribution to the Canadian and Quebec economies, it is important to remind committee members that forests and the forest industry play an important role in the Canadian economy. The sector provides direct employment to more than 200,000 Canadians in 600 communities, including more than 12,000 first nations workers, and generates more than $80 billion in revenue annually. Specifically in Quebec, the forest industry generates 130,000 direct and indirect jobs and over $25 billion in sales.
In addition to making significant contributions to the economies of hundreds of regions from coast to coast, the forestry sector is a major contributor to the Canadian economy with contributions to gross domestic product, or GDP, of more than $20 billion, or 8% of Canada's manufacturing sector. With exports worth over $45 billion in 2021, the sector has a strong positive trade balance of over $30 billion. Of this, approximately $10 billion comes from Quebec.
Beyond the economic aspect, I want to emphasize that the forest is a powerful tool in the fight against climate change. Acting as a gigantic CO2 capture reservoir, the forest allows us to fight global warming. There is a need to maximize the sustainable use and management of our forest to enhance its carbon capture and sequestration role not only by intensifying forest management, but also by promoting the use of wood in the substitution of carbon-intensive products in the construction sector to store this carbon in the long term.
This position is entirely consistent with the solutions proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. In particular, the IPCC urges states to act on four fronts simultaneously.
The first is the substitution of fossil fuels with renewable energy.
The second is the sustainable management of forests and the maintenance of biodiversity.
The third is afforestation, i.e., the return to production of harvested or formerly cleared forest areas converted to other uses.
The fourth is the increased use of wood as a building material.
In all of these sectors, the forest industry can play a structuring role and offer good jobs to Canadians who are looking for them or who wish to pursue their career in a sector economically linked to the energy transition. In Quebec, the forestry industry offers quality, well-paid jobs. In 2021, workers in the industry earned an average annual compensation of $68,000, more than 50% of the average Quebec salary.
Given all this, what can the Government of Canada do?
First, it can use its power to set an example by promoting and requiring products with lower carbon intensity in its own calls for tender. One example is the increased use of wood in the construction of government buildings. Every tonne of cement or steel that is replaced by a wood material significantly reduces the carbon footprint.
Secondly, it can put in place financial incentives to encourage the use of low carbon materials, such as wood, to accelerate the decarbonization of the construction sector and achieve carbon neutrality of buildings.
Third, with financial support from Natural Resources Canada, the Quebec government and the Canadian Wood Council, we have developed, under the leadership of Cecobois, the Gestimat software. This is a tool used to measure the carbon footprint of a wood building and compare the result to that obtained using the traditional method.
Like the governments of Quebec and Ontario, the Government of Canada would benefit from adopting this tool to quantify the greenhouse gas emissions found in the management of its building stock.
As Canada recovers from a global pandemic, we believe the forestry sector is the best way to maintain and create jobs and attract more investment. The sector also has the potential to position itself as a leader in the shared transition to a low-carbon economy.
Mr. Chair, I will stop here. I think you understand that it will be a pleasure to answer your questions and to show that the forest industry is a partner with the government in Canada's energy and economic transition.