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House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was columbia.

Topics

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Assistant Deputy Chair

I would like to begin this evening's debate by making a short statement on how the proceedings will unfold.

Tonight's debate is being held under Standing Order 53.1. It provides for a take note debate to be held following a motion proposed by a minister following consultation with the House leaders of the other parties. The motion providing for tonight's debate was adopted by the House on Thursday, December 9.

Each member speaking will be allotted 10 minutes for debate, followed by 10 minutes for questions and comments. The debate will end after four hours or when no member rises to speak. Pursuant to the special order adopted earlier today, the Chair will receive no dilatory motions, no quorum calls, and no requests for unanimous consent.

Pursuant to the rules used in committee of the whole, members are permitted to speak more than once, provided that there is sufficient time. At the conclusion of tonight's debate, we will rise and the House will adjourn until tomorrow.

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Chair, I rise on a point of order. You indicated that members were permitted to speak more than once, and I would just like clarification.

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Assistant Deputy Chair

Provided there is sufficient time, members are allowed to speak more than once.

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Avalon Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

R. John Efford LiberalMinister of Natural Resources

Madam Chair, I welcome the opportunity to share with the House the Government of Canada's response to challenges faced by the citizens of British Columbia and indeed many western Canadians in dealing with the mountain pine beetle infestation. It is an infestation of the mature pine forests, that can only be described as massive, approaching an estimated 10 million hectares, and expected to increase.

The effects are direct and expensive. Many British Columbians draw their income from the forest or from activities related to the forest. When I speak of these activities, I am speaking of private woodlots, commercial forestry firms, mills and other operations across the country that contribute some $40 billion to Canada's export earnings.

I wish we could bring this infestation under complete control. Due to the scale of infestation and the abundance of the mature lodgepole pine, which is the insect's food source complete, control is not feasible. I wish we could change the weather because the only measure we know that would bring this blight under control would be prolonged winter cold with temperatures of minus 40° for a number of days, or a dramatic drop in temperature during a fall or spring cold snap.

The Canadian Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada, or as we call it the CFS, is responding to this epidemic in a way that is designed to complement provincial activities to combat the outbreak. For more than 100 years, the CFS has worked diligently to sustain Canada's forest resources for the benefit of all Canadians, from coast to coast to coast, today, tomorrow and long into the future. I want to add that much if not all of the province's strategy is based on CFS science data.

May I remind the House of our government's activities dealing with the mountain pine beetle. The Government of Canada has invested $40 million in the mountain pine beetle initiative, or the MPBI announced in 2002. This is a six year program that is working in concert with the provinces MPB activities and is consistent with the federal mandate. It was developed as a response to provincial requests for federal programming.

The focus is not only on the issue of the day, dealing with the effects of this outbreak and reducing the current manifestation and its impacts on our environmental, economic and social well-being, but also, important, on reducing the risk of the future beetle epidemics, aiming to safeguard the problems for the economic benefit and enjoyment of our next generations.

All the initiative's programs are now fully operational and being delivered in close cooperation with many partners and stakeholders. I include in this list other federal and provincial agencies, national forest sector institutes, first nations, academic institutions, industry and private landowners and managers. The war we are waging on this infestation includes working to assist beetle control and forest rehabilitation on federal forest lands in B.C., the national parks in the Rocky Mountains, first nation reserve lands and non-corporate private lands.

Government of Canada researchers and program officers have been located in the beetle epidemic regions at Prince George and Kamloops to lead the research effort and to facilitate delivery of the MPBI's programs.

Dovetailing with the province's 10 year wood salvage plan, the Government of Canada's investment is funding research to: first, estimate the commercial life span of beetle-killed timber; second, determine how best to utilize the large volume of dead timber; third, understand the impacts of the timber flow changes on forest dependent communities; and fourth, understand and mitigate, if not eliminate the ecological impacts of managing the beetle killed timber stands.

The B.C. ministry of forests recognizes that this MPBI research will provide critical information to the province in support of its 10 year plan. This principle of cooperation and collaboration was established at the outset of discussions with B.C. officials.

The initiative's research agenda was developed after a series of regional consultations with companies, provincial officials and first nations. It is strategic scientifically sound and a practical complement to operational needs.

I would like to emphasize that in addition to providing the necessary information to allow the mills to use the timber killed by the beetle, the MPBI research will provide communities with valuable information on the economic impacts after the beetle epidemic. Researchers are working to assist the province in a case study on economic diversity options for the forest dependent communities.

I am proud of my officials at Natural Resources Canada who continue to work closely with their provincial colleagues in B.C. and in Alberta in the development of a decision support system to guide effective beetle management across western Canada and the rest of the country. Alberta is at risk because like B.C., the province boasts of an abundance of mature jack pine stands. We have to reduce the likelihood of the mountain pine beetle expanding into these other timber stands of the boreal forest and spreading across the country.

We wanted to respond to this crisis effectively and directly, and I believe we have.We will continue to do so within the roles of the two governments as clearly articulated in the Constitution and respecting the government's forestry mandate.

Members of the House are no doubt aware that provincial crown forests land management is a provincial mandate. I bring to members' attention that the Government of British Columbia's forest legislation requires major forest licence holders to carry out reforestation at their own expense. The reforestation component of the mountain pine beetle initiative allows the Government of Canada to initiate efforts on lands that are outside the responsibility of the province.

There are no quick fixes to this problem and there never have been. The Government of Canada has records from the time of the first world war that note the existence of the mountain pine beetle in western forests. Indeed, over the years there have been numerous outbreaks of this beetle documented. This one, however, is the worst. Therefore we are all doing our best to reduce the environmental, economic and social impacts in a cooperative and collaborate way.

May I remind the House that officials from the provincial and federal governments work together and continue to work together long and hard to develop and implement the mountain pine beetle initiative that I have just described to the House. The Government of Canada's response has been significant and we will continue to support B.C. and Alberta working within the federal mandate.

The only thing that we could pray and wish for is that nature itself would bring in the temperatures efficient enough to take care of this massive, major infestation in our forests. Other than that, it will be a long, troublesome battle that the communities, the municipal, provincial and federal governments will have to do everything possible to lessen the impact on the people and the industry at large.

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Chair, I am very happy to hear that the minister's department, Natural Resources Canada, has brought this to his attention. It looks like they have done some good research. I am happy the minister now knows about the mountain pine beetle problem we have. By his own admission, he has declared it to be a massive and very serious problem.

The minister obviously has been briefed by people in his department, and I am happy about that. The members from B.C. and those who have a background in British Columbia know about this. However the message that we have been trying to get across to the government is that this beetle infestation in the forests of British Columbia is every bit a natural disaster as the floods in Manitoba and the Saguenay, and the ice storms in Ontario and Quebec, where the federal government came to the aid of those disasters with hundreds of millions of dollars to help restore and mitigate the damage caused by those happenings.

What we cannot understand is that the federal government, contrary to what the minister has said, has basically turned a blind eye to the beetle infestation, this natural disaster that is devastating our forests in British Columbia.

Unfortunately, the help, which the minister has said the federal government has given, simply does not measure up to its responsibility and obligation and the precedents that it has set over the years in coming to the aid of other areas of Canada that suffered natural disasters.

Why has the government not recognized this pine beetle infestation in the province of B.C., which is and has been going on for about 13 years since the newest outbreak, at the same level of concern that it has in the instances of the floods in Manitoba, the ice storms, et cetera, where it was quick to come to the aid in those situations?

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

R. John Efford Liberal Avalon, NL

Madam Chair, yes, I was briefed by my department almost a year ago. It was a year ago yesterday that I was sworn in as Minister of Natural Resources. One of the first things my department made me aware of was the mountain pine beetle problem in British Columbia. I also have been to British Columbia on a number of occasions and have met with the forestry association and the minister responsible.

I am fully aware of the problem of the pine beetle in British Columbia, as I am of the spruce budworm problem in Newfoundland and Labrador. I also am fully aware of other infestations in British Columbia and in other parts of Canada.

This problem, as massive as it is, is not only impacting negatively on the province of British Columbia but there are other problems with similar infestations in other areas of Canada.

I would also like to note that not on one occasion since I became Minister of Natural Resources has one member opposite asked me for a meeting to sit down and discuss the pine beetle infestation in British Columbia and its impact on the people in their ridings, in the communities or the municipalities, with the exception of one individual who told me that we needed to discuss this further at some time.

It is a big problem and we are fully aware of it, but it is a problem that only nature can solve. It is an infestation by an insect that feeds off the pine and if a a cold, frosty winter came in it would resolve the issue.

The federal government has already invested $40 million into research and development and to work with the province of British Columbia to design a program that will minimize the problem as much as we possibly can. We are doing some things. Can we resolve this problem by throwing money at it? No, we cannot. Can we lessen the impact on people in communities by spending money? Yes, we can and we will continue to do that.

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Chair, as the opposition member has said, I too am delighted that the minister has put the beginning of the facts on the table on what the government has done, but we have a lot more facts for later in the evening.

It is good we are having this debate so we can let the opposition know the details of what the government has done. The Canadian Forest Service has done some excellent work and we have explained a lot of that work. Members will now be aware of the research we have done and the programs that we have carried out in the local area. Although this is a nature problem, we have pointed out things that can be done to mitigate it.

The Canadian Forest Service quietly does excellent work which sometimes does not get out to the public. I wonder if the minister could outline some of the work that the Canadian Forest Service does so that people will know that a lot of good work is going on relating to science and our forests and in the areas of federal jurisdiction relating to forestry.

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

R. John Efford Liberal Avalon, NL

Madam Chair, my colleague is absolutely right about the amount of work that the Canadian Forest Service has been implementing along with the Government of British Columbia and the industry as a whole. This work is not just done in isolation of the industry, the communities or the Government of British Columbia. It is done in cooperation with everyone.

One of the major things being done by the Forest Service is research. A total of $9.25 million has been committed to collaborative research projects within Canadian universities, the national forestry research institutes and other research agencies. That is quite a large amount of money. The idea is to find out if there is any type of control that can be used to stop the spread of the pine beetle. We also need to look at lessening the impact on communities and how the cut can be managed and controlled.

The Canadian Forest Service is working in many different areas and working in cooperation with communities, the industry and the Government of British Columbia. Cooperation is the key word.

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Chair, I am a little concerned when hear talk around letting nature take its course. We have a problem that has been around for more than a decade. One of the things we know is that the longer term strategy will have a significant socio-economic impact on many of our communities.

I recognize that some money has come into communities but we are talking about something that needs a very long term plan, not a five year plan and not a ten year plan. The actual impact of this on many of these communities will not be felt for a couple of decades. By the time the massive cuts happen, it is the next kind of round where there is no timber available to support community mills and in turn community jobs.

We need a much broader and much more comprehensive industrial strategy as we have seen in other industrial areas, such as aerospace, to deal with the devastation in our forestry communities. I would ask the minister to respond to that?

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

R. John Efford Liberal Avalon, NL

Madam Chair, I take exception to the hon. member's comment that we will let nature take its course. I did not say that. I said that the only permanent result was that if we could be so fortunate in answer to our prayers to have a cold snap that would eliminate that problem. However we have no control over nature.

Are we sitting back and letting nature take its course? Absolutely not. We are doing things within our control, which is why industry, municipal, provincial and federal agencies of government and the Canadian Forest Service are collectively putting in place whatever measures we can.

I agree with her comment about the future impact on these communities. because the hon. member is absolutely right. This will have a devastating impact, even more than it is having today. Today we are not feeling the major impact on the loss of incomes and the loss of jobs that this will bring in the future.

Planning is what is happening now. Collaborative discussions and planning to lessen the impact on people's lives in the future is what we are doing.

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Chair, I am really appreciative that this debate is taking place tonight. As you pointed out earlier, this debate was requested by the government House leader under the standing orders. I want to proudly point out that I requested this debate through our House leader, not the Liberal government. Had I not requested this debate tonight, I doubt whether this issue would be brought to the floor of the House of Commons.

This is a massive disaster in the province of British Columbia, and it is moving into Alberta because of the lack of processes and attacks that could have been done many years ago when this infestation was first discovered in the province. The Minister of Natural Resources spoke a few minutes ago about the work that the Canadian Forest Service has done, and indeed it has. The Canadian Forest Service, as far as I am concerned, wrote the book on the mountain pine beetle and the government has every right to be proud of the work that it has done. It identified the damage that was going to be caused when the pine beetle was discovered in Tweedsmuir Park way back in the early nineties.

The problem we have is that the provincial government of the day and the federal government under Mr. Chrétien did nothing to stop this small, in the beginning, spread and infestation of the mountain pine beetle back in the early nineties. For political reasons, the provincial NDP government was being told by its supporters and environmentalists that it could not go into the Tweedsmuir Park area and arrest this infestation. The provincial NDP government of the day listened to its political supporters and the environmental groups. That is one side of it. On the other side, the federal government perhaps could have been a lot more proactive in making people aware of the problem and in its offers to arrest the problem in the initial stages.

So here we have a massive infestation of the mountain pine beetle of 10 million hectares in British Columbia at the current stage. That is about 300 million cubic metres of dead mature pine. It is going to grow to about a billion cubic metres of dead mature pine by the year 2013 or 2014. It does not look like we are going to get a cold snap of -40°C or better long enough to arrest the flight of these bugs.

We, along with the province, must look at how to mitigate the damage that has been caused. There are a number of ways. We must get the value out of the wood that we can. We must get the wood out of the remote areas of the forest. We must look down the road because we must do some aggressive logging to get as much value out of the damaged wood as we can in a short period of time. There will be a shortage of softwood and pine down the road. We must make adaptations to mitigate that, and get communities and business involved in value added and creative marketing.

This all takes money. This is what is making me angry with the Liberal government. The minister stood and said the government has been doing all this work, that it has been studying it and having talks, and that it has given $40 million. Out of billions of dollars in damage, the government has given $40 million, out of an initial $122 million asked for by the province. That is one-third of what was asked for, way back in the initial request. Some $20 million went to research, which was a great thing. The Pacific Forestry Centre has done a pretty good job and has this little destructive critter figured out by now.

The other $20 million went into some community projects which were run through the initial application through Community Futures, then it went through Western Diversification, then it went to the federal government's political office, and finally ended up in the minister's office. The people who got the contracts, if we look hard enough, or maybe not so hard, perhaps had ties to the federal Liberals.

A few years ago former minister Allan Rock was in central B.C. with the current Prime Minister. They talked about how disastrous and how serious this was, and how it was going to be a priority. They got on the Challenger and were flying back over the Rockies when altitude amnesia set in because we never heard anything about it. The minister talked about this being important. We have heard that story before.

Two years ago the minister of forestry from British Columbia came to Ottawa and asked the federal government to participate in a five year plan. Based on the assessments at that time, it looked like we could manage the mitigation with a five year plan. That request was for about $600 million total over five years. That request was never responded to. The government did not participate and did not say that it was going to participate at some time.

Recently, the provincial minister of forestry was in Ottawa again, now with new estimates of potential guaranteed damage. The province of B.C. brought a 10 year plan because there is far more damage than what was initially thought. He brought it to the federal government and it talks about $700 million over 10 years, as the federal government's share of the 10 year plan.

About a month and a half ago, there was very little in the news about this issue. The government did not mention that the minister of forestry from B.C. showed up. There has been no response. I have asked a couple of questions in the last two weeks and there has been no response. When is the federal government going to realize just how serious this is? Talking about it is one thing; actions speak louder than words.

I know the hon. transplanted member for Etobicoke North across the way knows the pine beetle issue. He must be disappointed with the lack of action by the federal government. The new Minister of Industry from B.C. undoubtedly knows this pine beetle issue better than anybody, save for maybe the scientists at the Pacific Forestry Centre. He certainly knows the economic impact on the communities. I am disappointed that he is not here tonight. He is probably busy, but I had hoped this would be a high priority on his mind, being the Minister of Industry, seeing as how this is affecting the forestry industry of B.C.

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Chair, I rise on a point of order. The member knows he is not allowed to mention the absence or presence of members in the House.

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Chair, I apologize for saying that the Minister of Industry is not here tonight. I know I am not supposed to and I apologize for that.

We want the federal government to tell the province of B.C. that it recognizes how serious this is and that this is as bad or worse than the floods in Manitoba, the ice storm in Ontario and Quebec, and the floods in the Saguenay area. Those disasters cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The federal government was there in an instant.

We do not need any more selective disaster participation. If it is a disaster in Ontario, Quebec or Manitoba, and we have a situation that is of equal seriousness in British Columbia, let us start treating all the areas of this country fairly. That is all we ask from the government. We have seen precious little of that.

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Chair, I really do not disagree with most of what was said by the hon. member. I appreciate him raising this issue because we all think it is important.

I want to talk about the biology and when this problem began because the other two parties, the NDP and the Conservatives, have mentioned that it was discovered in the nineties. The mountain pine beetle has been around probably before any of us came--

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

The Assistant Deputy Chair

Order, please. The hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George.

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Chair, I said that the current outbreak of mountain pine beetles was discovered in the early nineties in Tweedsmuir Park.

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Chair, I accept that correction. However, the mountain pine beetle has been around since time immemorial. It is part of forest ecology. It has always coexisted with the trees in certain numbers.

As the minister mentioned, the research began at the time of the first world war. I will not go through the governments that have been around since then, but the best scientific experts in all governments have looked at ways of dealing with this on a natural basis.

There were some comments earlier that seemed to suggest that we cannot just leave it to nature. The mountain pine beetle, which is about the size of a grain of rice for those people who are watching, is very difficult to manage. I want to ask the member a question. Are there other ways that we could be dealing with the pine beetle at this time that are related to the biological aspect of the creature itself?

ForestryGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Chair, currently, there are only two ways to kill this little bug. One is with a prolonged cold snap like the member said and that is what we have been able to rely on in the past. However, with the changing climates, I have not seen a minus 40° spell in the 45 years that I have been in Prince George. I believe the last one was 15 years ago, so that is not perhaps going to happen. We always hope it will.

The other natural way is a massive forest fire. That is my point. Sooner or later one of those will happen. If it is the latter, a forest fire, it means that all the affected pine that we were not able to get at will burn and it will be a complete waste. Sure we are going to have reforestation because the fire explodes the pine cones and we have nature's way of reforesting the woods and the bugs get burnt. That is the costly way of doing it.

We could take some mitigating steps to try and salvage what we can, and have a short, medium and long term approach to it, but it takes money. That is what I have been trying to get the Liberal government to recognize. Right now the only way to kill the bugs is with a cold snap or a fire. Maybe science will come up with some sort of chemical process some day that will stop them from multiplying. However, we must address the damage that is there now. That is what the federal government must recognize. The province cannot do it on its own.

The federal government, as a partner in this country, must recognize the importance of the forest industry in British Columbia, recognize the massive problem that we have there, and recognize that this is indeed a natural disaster, not just something that has just happened. This is a big thing and we need the federal government to remember the billions of dollars that we have sent in tax revenues into the federal coffers. We never asked for a bunch of it back, but once in a while we would like to be recognized when we have a problem.

ForestryGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Chair, it is a pleasure for me to participate in the debate tonight.

I would like to pose a question for my hon. colleague from Cariboo—Prince George. My colleague and I are the two MPs representing the city of Prince George. For those people who do not even seem to know where Prince George is, it is a city that we like to believe is the central-northern capital of British Columbia. It is geographically almost dead centre in the province of British Columbia. People who are down on the lower mainland of British Columbia tend to think that Prince George is in the far north, but that is not really the case.

My colleague and I have raised this issue repeatedly over the last number of years, asking the government to respond. During the opening round of debate tonight I was listening to the Minister of Natural Resources. On a number of occasions during his remarks and in the question and answer period following his speech, he referred to the need for proper planning. That was the way he termed it. He talked about the need for planning.

I can say that my colleague from Cariboo—Prince George and I have repeatedly raised this issue and tried to impress upon the government the need to devote adequate resources to this crisis, only to have it ignored over the last number of years. When we finally do get a take note debate on this epidemic, to have the Minister of Natural Resources stand in his place and suggest we need to talk some more about planning, it is so discouraging.

I want to give my colleague from Cariboo—Prince George a further opportunity to expand upon his remarks tonight and to share some of the hurt and anguish that we see on a daily basis in our ridings in central-northern British Columbia.

ForestryGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Chair, I appreciate the question from my colleague from Prince George—Peace River. In response, let me say that the planning is done. The planning has been done for a number of years. The federal government has known that. All we have asked the government is that it come and join in the plan with some federal money. It has not done that. It has not even acknowledged it.

It is nice to see the Minister of Natural Resources here tonight because I want that minister to hear first-hand from the members of Parliament who are from the infested area so that the minister can share it with the Minister of Industry, who is from B.C., a senior federal minister from British Columbia. He has a vast background in the forest industry in B.C., a vast and successful background in the forest bureaucracy in the province of B.C. Of all the people in the Liberal government, once he got here should have been talking to the Minister of Natural Resources about how bad this is and he should have been saying that we have to do something.

He should have been talking to the Prime Minister, who has at least a couple of times in British Columbia said how serious it was and how it was going to be a priority. When Allan Rock, the former minister of industry, was out there, he said it was serious.

The day the Minister of Industry arrived here, we should have started seeing some action. The planning is all done. Let us put it bluntly and cut to the chase: what the province needs is money. We need $800 million from the federal government over the next 10 years to carry out this plan.

The planning is done. We have ongoing science and that is good to maybe figure out a way other than nature's way of controlling the little critter, but we need money. That is what it is about. That is what this debate is about. We have not had any.

The government has not recognized the problem in a responsible manner. It is all about money. We need it. The planning is done. The game plan is there. We need the government's help.

ForestryGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Chair, I am pleased to rise tonight and participate in this discussion about the mountain pine beetle. As previous members have commented, this is an issue that certainly falls within provincial jurisdiction, but I would argue that there is a very strong role for the federal government here.

We need an industrial strategy that not only looks at the science of it, because certainly we have alluded to the fact that the pine beetle is a natural occurrence, but it also needs to deal with the socio-economics of it.

There is no doubt that we are in the middle of an epidemic of these tiny beetles. There is also no doubt, as I have talked about, that it is part of the natural ecosystem of British Columbia and Alberta and that the beetle and the lodgepole pine survived together for many thousands of years before harvesting of timber began.

I want to emphasize that it is partly because of the commercial value of this standing forest that this epidemic of mountain pine beetles is much more of a problem. If we were not talking about people's livelihoods, we probably would not be having this kind of debate.

The beetle is part of our boreal forest. It goes through a part of a cycle and in fact contributes to the overall health of a forest in an ecosystem that we look at in a holistic way. But these trees in British Columbia are commercial trees and, according to some areas, 25% of the timber harvested is actually the lodgepole pine. Estimates vary, but at the high end, over $6 billion of lumber could be lost.

Our concern in the NDP is with the communities and workers affected by this epidemic. Like trees, communities cannot just up and move. When an epidemic like this hits a community, it needs a lot of help to weather the epidemic. This is why we are calling for an industrial strategy.

Many agree that there are two factors affecting this epidemic. The lack of cold snaps early in the winter means more beetles survive to the next summer, and of course, as has been alluded to, the forest fire control measures help to create the ideal ecosystem for the beetles to thrive. Since we have had fire suppression, it has created a different kind of ecosystem.

It is truly unfortunate that the main mitigation measure has been sanitation. What this translates to is clear-cutting of huge swaths of land. It is unfortunate that we are using this as the main mitigation measure because it is a short term solution with long term consequences.

In some areas of British Columbia, these sanitation measures mean timber companies are harvesting well above sustainable levels. This puts the nearby communities in a terrible situation. All the potential work of harvesting is happening in a very short period of time, which means that there will be no jobs for workers and communities once this harvesting is finished.

To harvest these affected areas, some of which are in remote areas, timber companies have to build logging roads. These roads are some of the worst consequences of logging. They create a break in the habitat, allowing predator species to travel while disrupting migration flows of other species.

We cannot log in isolation. These roads allow invasive species to travel into the heart of a wilderness and increase soil erosion and runoff into water courses. The timber companies know this and have taken steps to reduce the impact of logging roads on areas, but they cannot eliminate the damage. We are building these roads and ecosystems with trees that are already stressed by the pine beetle and further stress the system by clear-cutting all of the trees whether they are infected or not.

Another problem with this approach is that it does not respect other policies that have been put in place to protect certain areas. For instance, wilderness areas that have been protected from any exploitation are now threatened under this clear-cutting sanitation approach to the beetles.

The B.C. Parks website states:

Forestry experts and entomologists agree that you can't “stop” a beetle expansion such as we now see across British Columbia. Only nature can do this through two consecutive very cold winters. However, management activities are planned and implemented to try to slow the rate of expansion until cold winters can stem the rapid expansion of beetle populations.

This speaks to the need for that comprehensive strategy that I alluded to earlier. The David Suzuki Foundation has published a scientific paper looking at alternatives to sanitation measures to deal with the mountain pine beetle. Its paper, “Salvaging Solutions”, looks at the options that are available to mitigate this epidemic without destroying local economies through over-harvesting or creating the conditions for an epidemic in the future. Again, we have seen so many times that what we do is a quick-fix simple solution. We do not think about the long term consequences.

I would like to quote from this report because there are alternatives out there. I need to emphasize that some of these measures are already being used by B.C. parks to mitigate the beetle within their borders and these measures are working. The measures are as follows:

Establish a comprehensive management strategy for the mountain pine beetle to adequately conserve and manage the ecosystem. This strategy should focus on proactively managing the host lodgepole pine trees rather than the beetles. The strategy should entail policies and practices for:

i. prevention of an outbreak and reduction of long-term lodgepole pine susceptibility and risk;

This is the science that we have been talking about. It continues:

ii. suppression during population buildup of mountain pine beetles to strive to contain and suppress initial outbreaks, especially when small;

This is saying to get it early. It continues:

iii. salvage activities for ecosystem recovery after the outbreak to resersity attore ecosystem div all spatial and temporal scales.

We need to “distinguish clearly between sanitation and salvage harvesting in forest policy”, says the Suzuki report.

Again, this is from the Suzuki report:

Subject salvage operations to full planning requirements and environmental regulations.

This is really critical. They need to be done in a well planned way.

It continues:

Design a planning process to ensure that environmental values are protected during sanitation harvests....

Use existing harvest capacity first for insect suppression....

Mimic natural disturbance processes when harvesting by retaining remnant patches of forest and coarse woody debris and employing a diversity of silvicultural systems....

Vary amount and pattern of retention with forest type and natural disturbance pattern....

Ensure that reduced stumpage rates do not subsidize salvage in stands that would be more valuable if retained for environmental values or for future harvest....

Allocate harvest according to local variation in disturbance regime....

Keep harvest rates low to maintain future options until long-term consequences of harvest rates are better understood.

Commit to long-term planning, research, and proactive mountain pine beetle management.

This problem keeps coming up. The current outbreak is 13 years, but it has happened through cycles. The mountain pine beetle outbreaks will happen again in the future once we get this one under control. Therefore, we need the research and planning during periods of low abundance to help avoid this kind of panic approach that has such devastating impacts on our community.

B.C. Parks' current policy provides for a few different methods of beetle control. We talk about how what we need to do is go in and clear-cut, but there are other methods. Part of it is allowing the natural process to prevail, the “do nothing” approach, which I do not think anybody would support. There is a method of pheromone baits and traps. The beetles are attracted to other trees where beetles have successfully burrowed. There is individual tree fall and burn on site, which requires that comprehensive management plan that I was talking about, and then there is the prescribed burn.

Finally, we need to talk about the precautionary principle. Even after decades of large scale clear-cutting, we do not know all the effects on the forest ecosystems. We have seen many forestry companies go to much smaller scale clear-cuts. We have no idea what effect this kind of large scale massive clear-cutting will have on the environment.

Forests have a lifespan and life cycle much longer than the life of Parliament, of a government or even of a forestry company. We do not have adequate research to understand how clear-cutting affects our systems, but we know a few things. Forestry companies usually replant a clear-cut with a single variety of tree. That leads to an even-aged stand of trees, which makes them even more susceptible to pest infestations or diseases.

We know that a clear-cut destroys habitation for all other species that call a forest home. It removes the biomass that is an integral part of an ecosystem. Clear-cuts increase erosion, silting watercourses and destroying salmon habitat.

We cannot use only one mitigation measure to deal with infestation, especially when that measure creates other environmental problems.

In conclusion, what we have here is a complex problem and what we do not need is simplistic thinking. We need a commitment at the federal government level to demonstrate leadership which will come up with a comprehensive plan that looks not only at the environmental impacts but at the impacts on our societies and communities. I would urge all members to take that into consideration during this debate this evening.

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Avalon Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

R. John Efford LiberalMinister of Natural Resources

Madam Chair, it is interesting to sit in this hon. House and listen to the comments from speakers on both sides today, December 13, 2004. On December 12, 2003, I was sworn in as Minister of Natural Resources. It is difficult to understand why hon. members would stand in the House now, 12 months later, and make all these comments about a comprehensive plan that needs to be put together.

One would have thought that after all of these months that have gone by we would have been able to sit down at the table or that I would have at least received a phone call.

Let me ask the hon. member this question, with a premise to the question. First, we are putting together a comprehensive plan; second, we are concerned about communities; third, we are concerned about the environment; and fourth, we are concerned about a complete clear-cut and what all the impacts are. At what time during this year did the hon. member call my office and request a meeting to sit down and discuss this issue?

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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Chair, I am a brand new member, so I would have welcomed a conversation with the minister a year ago. It would have been wonderful to have seen him in my community of Nanaimo—Cowichan.

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Liberal

R. John Efford Liberal Avalon, NL

The election was in June.

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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Absolutely. I am glad the minister can count. I would like him to count the number of jobs that are being impacted by this epidemic. Yes, I welcome the minister's invitation to visit him. I will be doing that early in the new year.

This is a critical issue. It is fine to point fingers, but we want some solutions. We want to see something that talks about how we are going to protect jobs in communities in British Columbia and Alberta. As has been pointed out, it seems that once a person crosses the Rockies we are off the radar.

I would welcome a more community oriented approach. We need to talk to our mayors and our municipalities that are directly impacted by this problem. We should involve them, unlike the softwood lumber solutions where in my community they have had to actually let the money go because of ridiculous regulations that do not allow them to meet the deadline.