Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to the motion tabled by the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. I believe the hon. member would agree that he does not hold a monopoly on concern for the forest industry in the province of Quebec.
All members of the House are aware that, since taking office, this government has listened to Canada's forest industry, has recognized the special challenges this industry faces in all parts of the country and has launched a number of specific initiatives to assist Canada's forest industry.
These initiatives have not been knee-jerk reactions to complex problems. They have been designed to assist the industry in dealing with present day challenges but they have also been designed with the advice of the forest industry, which is to have that industry transition to a stronger, more competitive and sustainable industry in the future.
Of course, the hon. member does not seem to share the concern of the industry in all parts of the country. His concern is only with the industry in the province of Quebec, as if that industry had no connection with the rest of the country. He may not appreciate that measures geared to assist Canada's forest industry as a whole also involve and support the industry in the province of Quebec. It may not occur to him that there is a wider context to the challenges with which he claims to be concerned. It may not occur to him that the solutions proposed to face these challenges must be international as well as regional in scope.
The motion the hon. member has put forward calls for a real plan as though the measures already adopted by this government and the measures proposed in Canada's economic action plan are not real, as though the measures already adopted and being proposed do not have substance, even though the industry, including the forest industry in Quebec, was consulted in devising the plan.
The motion seems to be a form of self-delusion, if not denial. For the specific proposals put forward in the motion as constituting a real plan, they already exist or are being proposed in Canada's economic action plan.
My government is delivering support for an industry that is fundamentally important to our country, an industry that does not exist in one province only and that is facing real challenges. Among these challenges are a world-wide economic downturn, a global increase in competition and a sharp decline in the prices of commodities and products.
The long term outlook for Canada's natural resources remains strong but the current economic situation presents an unprecedented mix of challenges for Canada's forest industry.
In order to fully understand recent developments as they have affected the forest industry and to develop a further strategic appropriate response, the government did not hold a conference in Ottawa. My colleagues and I fanned out across the country and undertook extensive unprecedented consultations. We listened to industry leaders, provincial colleagues, territorial colleagues, communities and other stakeholders. We also listened to the people whose local mill had closed down, in some cases the only mill and the only employment in town.
We listened to the forest industry in all provinces of the country, not just the industry in one province. What did we hear? We heard that even though Canadians recognized that the current economic crisis originated outside our borders, they expected stable leadership that would protect and advance our economy today and in the future. They do not want economic uncertainty compounded by petty political rivalry. They want strong balanced leadership that offers a clear vision for the future and how to capitalize on Canada's advantages to realize that future.
Canadians are also aware that we continue to fare much better than other countries, thanks, in a large part, to the decisions the present government made. Nevertheless, they realize Canada is not an island and that success in meeting today's economic challenges requires leadership in aligning our national interests with the interests of others. This is a global crisis, not a provincial crisis.
We also heard that this crisis affords opportunities, opportunities to put measures in place today that will pay off down the road. In other words, we do not want short term, short-sighted ideological thinking aimed only at achieving immediate relief. Canadians recognize and Canadians in the forest industry recognize that the only worthwhile strategy consists of smart investments, not bailouts, investments that will strengthen Canada's advantage in the long term. This has been the strategy of our government since the day it first took office.
In accordance with that strategy, forest sector stakeholders called on our government for further support in areas such as worker and community adjustment, innovation, market development, access to credit and taxation. Canada's economic action plan includes a variety of such measures.
For example, $1 billion have been committed to a community adjustment fund to create jobs and maintain employment in communities that have been strongly affected by the downturn in the economy, such as forestry communities. This is in addition to the $1 billion already provided through the community development trust, which was established in 2008.
Time and again in our pre-budget consultations with Canadians across the country, we were asked for help to support workers and communities. The community adjustment fund will help immediately by mitigating the short term impacts of restructuring in these communities, such as forestry communities located in Quebec.
The fund will also support activities in areas of science and technology, community transition plans that foster economic development and other measures to promote economic diversification in various communities, such as in resource-based and manufacturing dependent communities. A total of $428 million in investments are being provided to the Province of Quebec, through the community development trust and the community adjustment fund.
I recognize the importance of these measures. I grew up in Cape Breton in the 1980s and the early 1990s. In those years in the community of Sydney, specifically, in Whitney Pier, we saw the closing of the steel mills, the closing of the coal mines and the complete shutdown of the cod fishery. Like the hon. member, I know what can happen to a community when key industries are no longer there and I know the benefits that adjustment funds can bring in these situations.
Our economic action plan provides $170 million over two years to support market diversification and innovation and improve competitiveness in the forest sector. The motion before us refers to this investment as only $170 million in funding. That shows me a lack of concern for the Quebec economy.
This investment includes $80 million for the transformative technologies program administered by FPInnovations headquartered in Quebec and $40 million to develop pilot scale demonstration projects of new products for use in commercial application. Those are precisely the kinds of program cited in the hon. member's motion.
An additional $50 million is earmarked for expanding domestic and international markets for Canadian forest products and to support large scale demonstrations of Canadian use of wood in construction. This includes funding to support efforts to encourage greater use of woods in non-residential construction across North America.
In Quebec, we are pleased to support the cecobois initiative as part of our strategy to grow demand for wood products.
There is a green element to these initiatives that is very important. After all, we cannot get more sustainable than wood. Wood is renewable, it stores carbon, and life-cycle analysis tells us it has a very low carbon footprint. We need to find ways to market wood and wood products to serve a growing need globally for sustainable products.
Sustainable development is our greatest competitive advantage. That is why it must be embraced as an opportunity, not as a cost.
Economically, sustainable development can mean the difference between short- and long-term competitiveness. Socially, it can be a determinant for quality of life and the livelihood of individuals and communities.
Forest industry leaders across Canada also told us that access to credit was a key priority for them. Through a combination of existing measures and new initiatives in the budget, an extraordinary financing framework will allow our government to provide up to $200 billion to improve access to financing for Canadian households and businesses. More specifically, for newer businesses, our economic action plan provides measures that can include at least $5 billion in new financing, to be delivered under our new initative, the business credit availability program.
Budget 2009 also provided Export Development Canada, EDC, with more financial flexibility to support business during the current economic downturn. EDC has working relationships with more than 90% of the Canadian forest industry and has new flexibility to firms in the forest sector and across the economy to address financing gaps in the credit markets.
There will be up to $50 billion in additional insured mortgage pools through the insured mortgage purchase program, bringing the overall size of this initiative to as much as $125 billion.
We are determined that these measures will assist in stimulating house construction and spawn new and innovative businesses with a beneficial effect on the forest industry.
Canada's economic action plan provides one of the largest infrastructure-building programs in our country's history. This too will have a beneficial effect on the forest industry. Infrastructure funding will include $4 billion in new funding for local and regional projects, $2 billion for urgently needed repairs at our universities and colleges, and $1 billion for a green infrastructure fund to support projects such as sustainable energy. This is in addition to the $33 billion for longer term projects our government has already committed under the building Canada plan.
As members know, there will be a new home renovation tax credit, providing eligibility for up to $1,300 in tax relief for Canadians undertaking home renovations. Each time Canadians invest in home renovations, they are helping to create jobs in construction and in building supplies in their own communities. In fact, the budget provides as much as $7.8 billion to build quality housing, stimulate construction, and enhance energy efficiency through the eco-energy home retrofit program.
Given the importance of wood in construction and renovation, this will stimulate additional domestic demand for Canadian wood and Canadian wood products, perhaps more than a billion board feet of lumber and hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of wood panels.
Our budget also builds on earlier measures to give Canada a tax advantage in the global competition for investment in manufacturing. Budget 2009 included an extension of the accelerated capital cost allowance to a flat-line two-year depreciation through the year 2011.
Our economic action plan permanently eliminates tariffs on a range of machinery and equipment, thus lowering costs for Canadian producers in a number of sectors. These include forestry and energy, and this measure is expected to save Canadian industry more than $440 million over the next five years.
To assist workers and their families, there is an $8.3 billion Canada skills and transition strategy to help Canadians by means of a three-pronged approach: to strengthen benefits for workers, to enhance the availability of training, and to keep employment insurance rates low for 2009 and 2010.
Finally, Canada's economic action plan provides a $1 billion investment to establish a clean energy fund to nurture the development and demonstration of clean energy technologies.
These budget measures are not a series of isolated programs designed to prod our economy from different angles. They constitute a whole and integrated approach to economic stimulus in which these programs reinforce and build on each other. They constitute a real plan. The objective is to spur innovation now in ways that will reap even greater benefits later on. Evidence of success can be seen in the variety of initiatives that are appearing in the forest sector today.
For example, FPInnovations, our national forest research institute, has been working with a national network of university experts on the development of paper-based biosensors that can detect, report and destroy toxins and pathogens such as SARS and listeria. This network is pan-Canadian and includes researchers at five different universities in Quebec: McGill University, Concordia, École Polytechnique de Montréal, Université de Montréal and Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières.
In addition, FPInnovations is collaborating with industry to develop next-generation building systems. These systems include design for the construction of six- to eight-storey buildings using a combination of wood, concrete and steel building materials.
Our government's focus is to build on our strengths: our deep and diverse resource endowment, the systems that support its development, and the people and ideas that together are responsible for Canada's resource advantage.
The measures I have mentioned are precisely the kinds of measures cited in the motion before us. Unlike the motion, however, they are not focused exclusively on one province. They are focused on Canada's national forest industry in all provinces, including the province of Quebec. Moreover, they reflect what the industry has told us they want. They reflect what members of the forest industry in the province of Quebec have told us they want.
In conclusion, I would suggest the hon. member not be so fast in characterizing the measures proposed by the industry in his own province as constituting no real plan.