Thank you, Chair, and through you, thank you to the clerk and all members of the committee for the opportunity to join here today.
My name is Jeff Bromley. I'm the chair of the United Steelworkers Wood Council. I'm speaking to you today on the unceded and traditional territory of the Ktunaxa-speaking people in southeastern British Columbia—Cranbrook, B.C.
United Steelworkers is the largest private-sector union in North America. The USW represents 225,000 member workers and retirees in nearly every economic sector across Canada. Of those members, 15,000 work in Canada's forest industry, including logging and harvesting, manufacturing, value-added—which includes mass timber, finger-joint lumber and laminated veneer lumber, among others—chip production and hauling.
The United Steelworkers Wood Council is made up of local unions across Canada. Six of them are in British Columbia. There is one local in each of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and there are two locals in Ontario. Approximately 1,500 of our members in the forestry industry reside in Quebec.
As for me, I've spent 29 years working in the forestry industry, including 18 directly in the operation I came from, which is about 45 minutes east of here, and the last 11 years servicing our members with the United Steelworkers.
Let me start with a basic point that I think we can all agree on. Ensuring that Canadian forestry workers are supported as much as possible by Canadian procurement policy and Canadian public dollars is a good thing. For that reason alone, I encourage you strongly to pass this bill quickly, but I will elaborate further.
Our forestry industry provides good, family-supporting and community-supporting jobs, which are often in rural communities and areas where local economies rely entirely on forestry.
Wood is the only resilient, carbon-storing and renewable building material. By expanding wood use and substituting traditional building materials with wood products, including mass timber, we can significantly cut the carbon footprint of infrastructure products.
Mr. Chair, we're falling behind. The Americans are already taking action. Since the U.S. procurement market is 10 times the size of the Canadian procurement market, maintaining access to the U.S. is important.
The Biden administration has made it clear that its infrastructure plans tie together infrastructure spending, fighting climate change and the creation of good union jobs. In Canada, we need to do the same. The more we are set up to meet the goals of a buy clean strategy, the better chance we have of getting and maintaining an exemption to buy America policies. The fact is, along with steel, aluminum and cement, wood products produced in Canada represent an opportunity for a reduced carbon footprint.
Canada's forest products are a net carbon sink. Our softwood products have been produced for housing both here and abroad for decades. Across this country, you cannot go into a rink or arena that was built over the last 70 years without seeing the distinctive blue-laminated beams supporting the roof, proving that the value-added or cross-laminated timber products that are the flavour of the day in terms of mass timber have been around for decades.
Things are changing in how larger buildings are constructed. New building codes are allowing for up to 12 storeys. They have better fire-resistant qualities and an aesthetically appealing look, and they effectively store carbon. These all point to positive uses in Canada's forest industry. Why wouldn't we root this industry in Canada's procurement policies? It just makes sense.
While I have the floor, I'd like to make two more quick points.
First, because the mass timber and new mass timber markets are growing, with new demand and products, I would urge parliamentarians and the government to take steps to make sure the industry is developed alongside our existing manufacturing sector. It already has the infrastructure and the established good, family-supporting, unionized jobs. Integration will be the best way forward, but our employers will need a little more nudging.
Second, while working on our own procurement policies in seeking an exemption to buy America, we can't stop fighting for a long-term deal that addresses the softwood lumber dispute once and for all. Such an obvious point may go without saying, but after all the damage this dispute has caused, I think it has to be said whenever possible.
With that, I thank you for your time and I look forward to your questions.