Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois chose to introduce this motion about the forestry crisis because the situation is still just as urgent for thousands of forestry workers in Quebec and for my region.
It is not reasonable for us to be here today again, calling on the Conservative government to help the forestry industry, in spite of everything that has been said by the forestry industry for several years and particularly in the last few months.
For several months, I have observed the failure of two ministers in the Conservative government to take any action in my region, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. But even worse is the fact that they have never come right out and clearly told the public that they had no intention of helping them.
Recently, the Minister of State for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec tried to buy time by creating the second committee in less than six months to examine the issue.
The situation we are experiencing in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean is the same as in the ridings of many members of this House. In our respective regions, when the sawmill shuts down, the entire local economy is affected.
In my riding alone, 4,000 direct jobs have been lost. And the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean says that is to be expected, because there is a market crisis.
For several months, the Minister of State for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec has been announcing far and wide that the forestry crisis is a market crisis, and that Export Development Canada has provided $16 billion in all sorts of financial services to the forestry industry. But what has to be pointed out is that this is not government spending. These services have been paid for by the companies themselves. Yet the oil companies and mining companies have received over $27 billion under the same program.
What the industry is calling for is simple. It is calling for loans and loan guarantees and for tax measures for private woodlot owners. That is what the industry has been seeking for months. And yet when we look at the Conservative government’s Economic Action Plan, it is spelled out in black and white that the lumber industry has received only $70 million in 2009, and will receive only a meagre $100 million in 2010.
That is nowhere near the $10 billion granted to the auto industry in Ontario, which is experiencing a market crisis just as the forestry industry is.
In actual fact, what the Conservative government’s behaviour demonstrates is that it made an ideological choice a long time ago to support the auto and oil industries at the expense of the forestry industry.
The forestry crisis is just as bad, and even worse, than the automotive crisis. It affects 825,000 workers, while in the auto industry 500,000 workers are affected. The government, therefore, has to make some effort to be consistent and show some common sense in order to find solutions.
That is why the Bloc Québécois has chosen to devote an opposition day to the forestry crisis and the solutions that have to be considered. Unfortunately, the government has completely given up and is no longer supporting a sector that is in great need of support.
Last spring, Robert Dionne, President of the Association des propriétaires de machineries forestières du Québec which represents 250 forestry entrepreneurs, said that the situation was so serious that “our members are worried. They are moving heaven and earth to stay alive.” Over 50 entrepreneurs in Quebec shut down in 2008, and the situation is not much better in 2009.
At that same time, the owner of Entreprises Alain Michaud Inc. in Saint-Ludger-de-Milot in the riding of Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean said that “we have to return to the time when there were tax credits for equipment purchases.”
No new measure has been announced since the spring to address the chronic crisis afflicting the forestry industry.
As members of Parliament, it is our duty to come up with solutions to help thousands of families.
Our fellow citizens have asked us to represent them in Ottawa to defend their interests.
In our motion we are proposing some practical ideas to resolve the forestry crisis.
The motion calls on the government to put a real plan in place as quickly as possible to help the forestry industry, through loans, loan guarantees, refundable tax credits for research and development, the establishment of a policy promoting the use of wood in the renovation and construction of federal public buildings and the implementation of measures to support the use of forest waste to produce energy and ethanol.
I am going to speak more specifically about establishing a policy to promote the use of wood in the construction and renovation of federal government buildings. It would be an example for work on private, non-residential buildings.
In June, the Bloc introduced a bill in this regard. A policy of this sort is intended to increase the demand for wood in the domestic markets of Quebec and Canada and could make us less dependent on exports of this resource to the United States.
In my riding, for example, the Department of National Defence will be building a hangar: hangar number 2. I have suggested to the Minister of National Defence that this construction project be an example for the federal government and be built using wood.
We know what happens when the Americans decide to cut back on housing construction. I would count on the MP for Jonquière—Alma to defend such a project. Instead of saying nothing, he would be helping to increase domestic demand, and other projects could follow. These are solutions that could be proposed, which would provide breathing room to the forestry industry.
It is easy to talk about problems, but solutions have to be put forward. One both useful and symbolic solution would be to have the government promote the use of wood in construction projects, such as hangar number 2 in Bagotville, as I just mentioned.
However, the Minister of State for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean is saying nothing. Even my colleague from Jonquière—Alma is saying nothing. This policy would provide breathing room. Does he agree with his colleagues who said that there was some concern about promoting such projects where wood is used in building construction?
I would like to know what they find of such concern in this measure. The lack of comment by two Conservative members from the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean area leave me perplexed about their positions in this matter.
Why reject a policy to use wood, a policy that costs the federal government nothing? Why?
It must be noted that the federal government owns 13,782 buildings. In 2008 alone, it built and renovated 198 buildings.
Accordingly, the federal government spends a significant amount on the construction and maintenance of its buildings. In 2007-08, the figure was $827 million. That is not peanuts. This is money that could be invested in specific projects that cost the government nothing.
At the moment, a number of governments have realized that using wood in their buildings is not only a practical way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also a way for them to provide direct assistance to the forestry industry.
I will close on this point. I would like the government to understand that implementing Bill C-429 is a solution. It is a practical solution. It costs nothing to use wood in the construction of buildings.