Mr. Speaker, on October 17, 2006, I questioned the Minister of Industry in this House, asking him if he would be prepared to announce an emergency plan for the forestry industry to make up for all the difficulties faced by that industry. These difficulties arose from problems with the dispute with the Americans and in spite of the softwood lumber agreement which the Bloc Québécois supported. This was not a perfect agreement, far from it, but it was better than continuing the dispute, which was pointless. The companies could not afford to continue any longer. They also needed an aid package, and the Bloc Québécois had put forward a concrete proposal containing approximately ten different measures.
One of the proposed measures was an income support program for older workers. Many had been laid off and, sadly, more have been laid off since. We also proposed an economic diversification program for forestry-dependent communities; a special tax status for the 128,000 private woodlot owners in Quebec; the acceleration of equipment amortization; a program to diversify lumber markets, and financial compensation for maintaining the road and forest network. In spite of all these proposals, the federal government did not really take any action to remedy the situation.
On January 22, 2007, one week before Parliament resumed sitting, stakeholders representing the whole forestry industry came to Ottawa and made representations somewhat similar to those of the Bloc Québécois. They told the federal government that it does not seem to realize that the forestry industry is going through a major crisis, that there are problems with allowances in certain provinces, that there is still the issue with the United States, particularly the significant drop in prices, and that the whole pulp and paper sector is in trouble, which has a domino effect on the whole forestry industry. Therefore, the industry expects some action.
On the same day that forestry industry stakeholders were in Ottawa, the president of the FTQ, the Fédération des travailleurs du Québec, Mr. Massé, and the Bloc Québécois leader, held a joint press conference and asked for the implementation of effective programs.
The president of the FTQ said:
This is not the first time that we are asking for a revitalization program for secondary and tertiary processing, a government-funded program for the redevelopment of energy-consuming technologies in the context of sustainable development, loan programs and tax credits to support businesses that depend on the forest.
There is none of that in the federal government's initiative. There is absolutely nothing for the renewal of technology or infrastructure. It looks as if the government has not noticed that there is a crisis in the forestry industry. Thousands of jobs have been lost. The workers affected were often very well qualified for these jobs, but they cannot easily find work elsewhere. They were left to fend for themselves.
Today, I am rising in this House to ask the government if it is going to make a decision. Will it at least tell us that the upcoming budget will include measures for the forestry industry, which really needs help?
The Standing Committee on Industry, Sciences and Technology has worked to produce a report on manufacturing sectors. It should soon be released. It will be a unanimous and strong report. We cannot provide details today, because it is still confidential, but I hope that the parliamentary secretary and the government will heed the messages that relate to the forestry industry in the report. However, the government has already been in possession of the assistance plan proposed by the Bloc Québécois for months now.
Can the government spokesperson tell me whether or not measures will be taken for the forestry industry, which really needs help?