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.


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10 p.m.

Yukon Yukon


Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I want to quickly comment on a previous speaker's suggestions regarding Kyoto. It was a great compliment to our government. He talked about wind and solar energy in China. As everyone knows, in the throne speech we increased our wind incentive four times, from 1,000 to 4,000 megawatts. We are pioneering in that area.

I spoke at the national Canadian Solar Industries Association this year as a guest speaker. It is very happy that we are providing it support. We actually announced at those meetings that we would make the rules even easier. We are also working with China. We are selling it clean coal technology and helping out in that area. I appreciate the member's support for the initiatives we are taking.

The member for Yellowhead spoke about neglect. I am not going to go over all the times that I mentioned the comprehensive government program, the mountain pine beetle initiative, and all the programs under it that we are dealing with. His party is coming onside this evening recognizing the problem and asking for action. That is good. We have been working with the B.C. government on this major program since 2002.

The member commented that we did not start working on it as early as we did on SARS. The federal government has been working on this since 1914. I think that is early enough.

He suggested that we were not treating it like a forest fire and that we should treat the mountain pine beetle like a forest fire. I do not think that is a very good idea. We are not going to treat the mountain pine beetle like a forest fire because we are not going to let them run all over the place.

In forest fire management, as everyone knows, there are some great benefits. Major parts of a province and territory are set aside to allow the natural process of forest fires to carry on so that there is regeneration and fertilization. When they are close to cities or people, that is the time to control it. There are huge tracts of land where we let them go. If he wants us to do that with the mountain pine beetle, we are not going to. We are going to continue our comprehensive set of programs with research work on federal land to deal with the mountain pine beetle, wherever it is.

Over and above the comprehensive slate of programs, in which specific activities, not just a generalization, would he like us to invest further funds?

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10:05 p.m.


Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, those were interesting comments. With regard to the fires, we do not let a fire go until it gets so large that we cannot deal with it. That is the way the government has dealt with the pine beetle problem in British Columbia. We should deal with it in its infancy stage.

When it comes to what part of the plan the government is not dealing with, there is no plan for Parks Canada. There is no plan for the pine beetle getting into Banff and Jasper National Park which is right in my riding. If the member wants to know how the government plan is not working, it is not dealing with it in its infancy stage in the national parks.

The government cannot point to the British Columbia or Alberta governments. It can only point to itself in a mirror because it is the federal government's jurisdiction. The federal government must deal with the problem with regard to the parks. There is a natural buffer between the forest that is being challenged by the beetle and the national parks. It can be dealt with very simply in that stage.

If the government is really serious about finally stepping up to the plate and finally doing something about it, then that is what the government has to do. It has to get serious about dealing with it, not only in British Columbia where the problem has devastated so much of the forest already. It must try to contain it as we would a forest fire. Then we must stop it from going into the national parks. To date, the government has no plan for the national parks.

I would encourage the government to not only deal with the 10 year plan that is before it, step up to the plate, and fund it appropriately, but also deal with its own jurisdiction which is within the national parks. This infestation must not devastate another province like it has the one that the government has just neglected.

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10:05 p.m.


Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, tonight has been a very good exercise. The mountain pine beetle infestations began in my riding of Cariboo—Prince George and that is where the major concentration is found. I was pleased when I learned that my request for a take note debate on the mountain pine beetle issue, and the devastation that has resulted, was going to be held in the Parliament of Canada on Monday, December 13.

My colleagues from Prince George—Peace River, Yellowhead, Kootenay—Columbia and Kamloops, like myself, have a problem with the mountain pine beetle infestation. They represent the people who live in our ridings and indeed the people of both provinces, Alberta and B.C., where the problem exists. Together, we have been able to raise the issue to a level that I do not think it has been since the beetle infestation began. We hope that the Liberals will no longer say that they do not know about it and will act on it, and come to the aid of the province of B.C. in its request for help.

I want to thank my colleague from Yellowhead who just spoke and pointed out the danger that exists on the western side of both Jasper and Banff National Park. He mentioned the inactivity of the federal government in addressing national park land. If something is not done, the beetles will simply eat and infest every single pine tree in both parks, and there will be no stopping them.

I also want to thank all my colleagues for their contribution and the member for Yukon. Although we do not agree on whether his government thinks there is a plan or not, we know there is a plan and his government knows about it. The area of the country that he is from is similar to ours and I know that he sympathizes with the problem although he is maybe not allowed to say anything except current Liberal policy. Fortunately, we were able to speak about what the real issue is all about.

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10:10 p.m.


Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my hon. colleague for bringing this take note debate to the House. He has represented his constituents in a very important way. If it were not for his concern on this important issue, we would not have brought the attention that we have this evening to this important issue.

I hope that not only were Canadians watching the debate, but that our Liberal colleagues were watching or listening. It is important to realize that this is devastating many constituencies and constituents in the British Columbia area, but that it also brings fear to ridings like my own in Alberta.

I applaud my colleague for bringing this debate to the House. It is a very important issue that we should take very seriously because it has far reaching repercussions.

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10:10 p.m.

Yukon Yukon


Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, this has been a good debate. It has been great that we have been able to get this forward for the reason that we have been able to outline a comprehensive set of programs since 2002 in working with the British Columbia government to deal with the mountain pine beetle.

This take note debate is a good mechanism for Parliament. It allows us to bring forward some initiatives, some esoteric areas that we do not have time during the day to get into all the details. It was quite clear from the debate tonight that most members, if not all who were in the House, were not aware of the various programs that the federal government has undertaken. They were not aware of the research that we are doing that will give good background for the British Columbia government, the four pillars of that research program, dealing with the communities, dealing with the industrial strategy of the lumber and how long it will last and what to do with it, and the programs on federal land.

I would like to reassure the member from Her Majesty's loyal opposition who spoke last about parks. I agree with the point he was making and I want him to know that we are taking action in the parks. We are doing the operational actions in the parks now. We are cutting the trees on federal land, as we are doing in all the federal properties, the relatively large forest tracts we have in B.C., on the national defence lands and on first nation reserves.

Earlier tonight I talked about what we are doing for the small private land owners. I want to carry on and talk about how it provides assistance for beetle control and rehabilitation on first nations reserve forest lands in the federal parks along the western side of the Rocky Mountains and for major federal forest holdings in central and southeastern British Columbia.

A second major focus of the initiative is to deliver the research required to ensure an effective response to this beetle epidemic. These research needs were identified through a series of regional forums with hundreds of B.C. land owners and managers. That will help many of the people. Members spoke tonight about wanting this consultation and I am indicating that we have done that with the people in B.C.

All the mountain pine beetle initiative programs are fully operational. A wide range of B.C. land owners and researchers have become involved, many of them in the riding represented by the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George as well as those of his colleagues in and around the city of Prince George in B.C.'s interior.

The Canadian Forest Service has located staff in Prince George and Kamloops to assist private land owners to develop proposals to identify forest beetle infestations, to take management steps to control the beetle and to subsequently reforest these lands. The Canadian Forest Service has also stationed a research group with three scientists and technical support at the University of Northern B.C. in Prince George to work with the university and provincial government researchers.

Together they will work to provide a cohesive and targeted flow of information in meeting the challenges of this beetle epidemic. In addition, the UNBC and provincial government researchers in Prince George have been awarded almost $1 million in mountain pine beetle initiative funds. These are responsible and laudable actions on behalf of the land owner.

The Government of Canada's six year $40 million mountain pine beetle initiative is assisting land owners located in communities within over nine million hectares of British Columbia. Communities such as Vanderhoof, McBride, Quesnel, 100 Mile House, Cranbrook and Armstrong are home to private land projects under this federal initiative. As well, there are new projects and agreements being reviewed by officials in the Canadian Forest Service.

This is also not a new focus for the Government of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, or the Canadian Forest Service. For over 100 years the Canadian Forest Service has proudly represented the people of Canada in researching the needs of Canada's forests, working with our provincial and territorial colleagues to ensure that all Canadians have a healthy and sustainable forest resource for today, tomorrow and long into the future.

Natural Resources Canada and the Canadian Forest Service have a long tradition of working with individual Canadians to ensure that they have knowledge, tools, and where necessary, the additional assistance to meet the challenges they face in managing this valuable resource for environmental, economic and social needs of their families and communities. The mountain pine beetle initiative is simply the current example of this government's response to this need.

I commend the member opposite for bringing up this topic tonight so we could debate it in the House, and as he has said, bring people's attention to it so we can get these points out.

There is no doubt that the mountain pine beetle is the most serious pest of mature pine forests in western Canada. The current infestation in British Columbia is by far the largest of this type on record. This massive infestation is approaching 10 million hectares of mature lodgepole pine, the insects' food source. Complete control of the mountain pine beetle is not feasible but that is not to say the Government of Canada has been sitting idly by, leaving the province of British Columbia to fend for itself.

The government's mountain pine beetle initiative is an example of strong federal-provincial cooperation. Forest land management is a provincial mandate. British Columbia forest legislation requires that major forest licence holders be required to carry out reforestation at their own expense. However, the federal government stepped up to the plate and is working with the province in areas of this massive infestation that fit within the federal role and responsibility.

The Government of Canada's mountain pine beetle initiative is focused on federal lands, first nation reserve lands, federal parks and on private forest lands owned by the little guy.

The mountain pine beetle initiative allows the federal government to do what it can to help British Columbians on lands that are outside the responsibility of the province.

Officials at Natural Resources Canada continue to work in close collaboration with their provincial colleagues in B.C. and Alberta to ensure that every effort is made to respond in the best way possible to this massive natural epidemic. Officials must continue to do so in a manner consistent with the federal mandate.

The Government of Canada's mountain pine beetle initiative plays an important role in supporting the provincial forest management efforts by the province of British Columbia. It adds to the scarce resources to face this epidemic that is so devastating to local communities and local businesses, for instance the people in the riding of the member opposite, who is doing such a good job in bringing forward an initiative.

I want to make sure that people realize that we have taken initiatives in a number of areas that are under federal jurisdiction. We have a large block of forest in B.C. which, unlike in most provinces, is still under federal control. We are taking our initiatives there, on reserve lands, on national park lands and in working in cooperation to come up with a continued coordination plan with the B.C. government. We joined them in 2002 on this most recent outbreak. Of course the pine beetle has been there for thousands of years living in the forest.

We are doing research on the effect on the communities and how we can best harvest the dead wood, how long it will last and what it can be used for. There is also the ecological impact. This pest has co-existed for thousands of years with the forest. If we deal with this pest in an unnatural way, or if we do something dramatic, we have to make sure we are not setting off a chain of ecological reactions that will harm us more in the long run than the problem itself.

I thank the member opposite and all the members who have spoken to this issue tonight. The government will assure the people of Canada that, as with all our programs on this pest, this is a major concern to Parliament. The government will continue to analyze the results that have come from this debate and see if there is more that we could do to mitigate the effects of this devastating outbreak in British Columbia and Alberta.

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10:20 p.m.

The Speaker

There being no further members rising, pursuant to Standing Order 53.1, the committee will rise and I will leave the Chair.

It being 10:23 p.m., this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 10:23 p.m.)