Mr. Speaker, it is good to be here to speak to this issue. However, I am saddened today as well. We are all saddened when people lose their jobs and when communities are under the gun. However, I am particularly saddened when I see people trying to take advantage of that, and that is what the opposition has done today. Some of us have worked on this file for a long time.
I am going to talk a little later about some of the work we have done. We have even worked with the Bloc in the past to try to solve some of these issues. Now it seems those members think they will get some sort of political gain out of people's misery, and that does not sit well with me.
Even when we are successful, and we often are, the Bloc members will not support us. If they did, we would see support for the integrated approach we have taken to the forestry industry over the last couple of years. If they really wanted to help their constituents, they would vote with us on the economic action plan. I will explain some of the factors at which they should take a second look. They should be moving together with us on this.
Canada's forestry sector is obviously undergoing an important number of changes and even a restructuring due to the challenges it is facing. I think if one talks to the industry representatives, they will say that very clearly. They will say that they are asking the government to join with them to work together to overcome those challenges so the forestry industry can lead the way in the future. That is the anticipation in the industry. When we see our way through the times that they face right now, Canada will be the leader in forestry around the world. There are a number of reasons for that, and I hope to get to some of those later.
First, I want to talk about some of the work we have done. I have been on the natural resources committee both in the last Parliament and in this Parliament. Last spring, we decided we wanted to undertake a major study of the forestry sector. For three months, the natural resources committee focused on the forestry sector issues. We spent a lot of time on it. We did our work. I was glad to see that, in the end, we were able to come up with a unanimous report. As all of us in the House know, this does not happen very often. However, all the parties were able to agree on the recommendations. We were able to agree that there was a way forward that would work. We made recommendations to the government and the government put a number of those recommendations into our economic action plan.
This is one reason why the Bloc should be supporting us instead of opposing the best interests of their constituents by working against the economic action plan.
I want to go through the committee recommendations and then go through what the government has chosen to do.
Recommendation 1 was to call a forestry summit to bring people together. Right after the report was tabled in the House of Commons last spring, we had a national round table. We brought folks in from across the country. We sat down and asked them what they thought about our report. We had consulted many of them when we were preparing it. They gave us their input and talked a bit more about the future. Once again, they felt there was a strong future for the industry. Since I began working on this file, I have appreciated the fact that there is this understanding that our country is going to play a major role in forestry around the world for many decades to come. The government acted on recommendation 1 very quickly.
Recommendation 2 was that we establish a national forest industry innovation fund and that this fund be provided with sufficient resources to ensure the industry could be central in the development of the new bio-economy.
Several of the recommendations called for funding for research and innovation. We met this recommendation by putting together FPInnovations. We will talk a bit more about that great development later, as well as the money that has been committed to it and the tremendous work it has done in Quebec and across the country to bring new innovation to the forestry sector.
Recommendation 5 was that the Government of Canada, in partnership with provinces and territories, should actively pursue policies that would encourage value-added manufacturing. We did that by addressing issues regarding access to credit and by extending the capital cost allowance. We will talk about that a bit later as well.
Recommendation 9 was that the Government of Canada extend that capital cost allowance. The committee recommended five years, but the government chose to do it for two years. It has been extended through 2010-11 and we will evaluate it further at that time.
Recommendation 15 was that the Government of Canada continue to work with first nations and other aboriginal communities to enable them to become active partners in the development of Canada's forests. We are certainly willing to do that. We are working with them. This spring a number of government members on the Natural Resource file were able to tour communities. One thing we heard regularly was that the process of consultation was important, one that needed to be productive and beneficial to all.
Recommendation 21 was that we work with the provinces and territories to provide full support for certification of Canadian forestry products. Anyone who is involved in the forestry industry knows that has been an important component, both for the industry and the government, so we continue to work on that.
That was only one of the things we did about year ago, which was very important. We brought forward those recommendations. The government went through them during summer and the fall and when it came to our economic action plan, a number of those were included.
This spring, as I mentioned, we also toured the country. The minister felt it was important that we not only listen to what was going on in Ottawa in regard to the forestry sector, but that we get out across the country. Before the House came back this spring, we did that. We fanned out and covered the country from one end to the other to hear what communities, individuals and companies involved in the forestry section had to say, what their concerns were, what the pressures were. I think that was beneficial for all of us.
I found it interesting that we were in the ridings of a couple of opposition members. We were there ahead of them and heard the concerns and problems of their constituents. They told us that the opposition members would be holding some hearings in the next couple of weeks.
Those consultations directly fed back to our economic action plan. The minister mentioned that this morning. We were able to bring the information and the concerns back to Ottawa, to the minister, and many of those things were brought forward and implemented in our action plan.
That action plan is an integrated approach. It is a package for the whole country. That is the thing we need to remember today. It is done for Canadians.
I want to talk about a couple of the general things in that action plan.
First, everyone has heard about the $4 billion new commitment for infrastructure. That has been greeted across the country with a lot of interest. That is on top of the $33 billion that was committed previously to the infrastructure funding. There is a new $2 billion university fund that goes toward supporting universities and colleges, updating and renovating some of the facilities, bringing them up-to-date. There is a $1 billion clean green fund that will be put in place to encourage sustainable energy. All of these things will have good impacts and opportunities for wood and for wood manufacturers.
Through our economic action plan, we have brought in support for a whole number of areas. I want to break them down, one component at a time and talk about them so people get an understanding of how broadly based this plan, this integrated approach, is.
Once I have done that, perhaps the Bloc will have a better understanding. I understand some of the Bloc members may have been too busy to read the economic action plan. Once they hear about all the areas it reaches into, they will probably consider voting against their motion today, joining with us to support what we are doing for our country and for the province of Quebec as well.
We have committed support for communities across the country. We have heard a little about that today. This did not only start in the last month. Bloc members decided in the last few weeks that they had to bring forestry up every day. We were aware of this a while ago and we did some things a couple of years ago to address it.
Last year we put $1 billion into the community development trust. That money was given to the provinces. They had the choice of how they would spend it. For example, I am told the British Columbia spent $129 million of that money directly on forestry.
The Bloc members should ask their provincial government to tell them how much of the development trust fund was spent on forestry. Then they can perhaps help it to direct more money into the forestry sector if that needs to be a priority in their province.
Obviously this year we have come forward again with the community adjustment fund, another $1 billion to try to mitigate the effects of the economic downturn. Again, Quebec does very well with these funds.
I should just point out that Quebec was entitled to about $216 million in the community development fund. It is projected it will get about another $211 million or $212 million out of the community adjustment fund. The first one was a development trust; this year it is a community adjustment fund. There will be a total of about $428 million that can then be put toward forestry, if that is what it determines to be the most important area that needs it.
I should also refer to some of the past initiatives. With respect to the pine beetle initiative, this government committed $200 million in order to help communities adjust to some of the new realities of having to deal with an environment where the pine beetle has devastated so much of the area and the economy. We had a chance to see some of the impact of that when we were on our tour in northern British Columbia.
It is important that this money be delivered for communities, that it be delivered for infrastructure and that it be delivered for programming. That is why we put in place the development trust, the adjustment fund. That is why we committed money in the past to these communities in order to help them through these tough times.
We have also made some commitments to the companies that are involved in the forestry sector. As I mentioned earlier, we have accelerated the capital cost allowance. We have extended that for another two years. That has been very important for companies. It has given them the ability to buy new manufacturing processing machinery and equipment and then to depreciate that. This has worked very well for them on the tax side.
Obviously the work share changes, the extensions that have been made, are being well received across this country. I remember in my own area in the early 1980s, we had a very tough time. A form of work share was put in place in the local factory. It meant that people could stay in our small rural community and continue to work. It made a huge difference for our community. I know that is going to make a difference across the country as well.
We have also moved to provide access to credit. When we travelled across the country we heard that it was very important that there be improved access to credit. Our changes in the economic action plan will provide up to $200 billion of credit to address gaps in credit markets. This is for individuals and businesses. There is increased funding for the Business Development Bank of Canada. There is increased funding for the Economic Development Agency of Canada in the Quebec region.
This morning the EDC was at the finance committee. It said that last year, of the $80 billion it had committed, $14 billion went specifically to forestry.
There are a lot of different avenues that companies now have in order to access credit and financing.
I should also point out that we have actively reduced tariffs, which means about $440 million in savings to industry over the next five years.
Technology, of course, plays a huge part in the forest industry and forest products. We believe that technology is actually going to lead the way in the renaissance of the forest industry in Canada. There are a number of initiatives the government is involved in, in terms of bringing new technology to the market.
The Canadian Wood Fibre Centre has been put in place to find newer and higher value products and uses for woods and fibres. It is focused on developing new products, on stimulating innovation.
There is a value to wood program, which encourages value-added manufacturing. It promotes the transfer of technology from labs and research centres directly to the workplace.
Budget 2009, our economic action plan, commits $120 million over two years to support innovation in forestry.
I would be remiss if I did not mention FPInnovations and the tremendous work it is doing. We had the opportunity to tour its lab in Vancouver. Money has been committed to it and it is moving ahead on transformative technologies. We saw some very fascinating projects. It is working on developing technology that will allow buildings to be much larger and several storeys higher than in the past. There is a huge machine that can actually shake down the structures. It will be able to tell where the stress points are on the structures. It has been working with other countries to develop that in terms of protection in earthquake regions. It is working on projects where it mixes wood fibre with other new chemical compounds, making completely different organic substances, in order that there will be products in the future that were never even thought of in the past.
It was exciting to be on that tour and to see the $80 million that has been put into a transformative technologies program and another $40 million that has been put into pilot scale demo projects. The FPInnovations lab in Vancouver has a huge CT scanner to scan large logs. It can get down to the finest micro-scale development of the uses of wood. It is fascinating to see that taking place. The lab is focusing on emerging technology, forest biomass utilization, nanotechnology, a pile of things that many of us do not even understand but that hold a valuable and exciting future for forest products and their use.
We have been supporting workers in a myriad of ways. This is very important to this government because, as I said, no one wants anyone to lose his or her job. We have put about $8.3 billion toward the skills training and transition strategy which involves a number of things. I mentioned the work share program. It is something that impacts workers and their families directly. It impacts their ability to remain in their communities which many people want to do.
We have also funded the EI changes through that program. Those changes have been welcomed across Canada. We listened to what Canadians wanted in terms of changes to the EI program and we put them in place. There are more people applying for EI. We have committed more resources to try to make sure that those folks have quick service and that they can get the money that is coming to them.
Again we come back to the community adjustment fund, the community development trust, which have a direct impact on communities that have gotten money from them. They have directly impacted the workers as well. That is about $428 million for the province of Quebec.
Another initiative that has been really popular is the home renovation tax credit. That provides up to $1,300 in tax relief for people who undertake home renovations. Obviously that is something that is going to encourage the use of wood, the use of forest products. We think that is a great initiative. It creates jobs. It will stimulate local economies. In my rural area there are a lot of people who are looking forward to doing those projects. That tax credit is going to allow them to move ahead with that. It creates a demand for wood. I am told that it is going to provide for up to one billion board feet this year in Canada alone to meet the requirements of that project. That seems to be an awfully large amount of wood.
There is $50 million in credit that is available for mortgages that was not available prior to our economic action plan. We have also been working on developing markets. Members can begin to see that there is a complete strategy here, obviously. Markets are very important. We put $50 million into expanding markets around the world to emphasize our wood product use and to move ahead with that.
The softwood lumber agreement has been a point of discussion today. I think one thing we can all agree on is that it did stabilize the Canadian lumber industry. We received over $4 billion back in penalties that had been taken. That has created some stability in this country in terms of understanding what we can do in our relationship with the United States.
The economic action plan includes $50 million to diversify markets for Canadian wood products. We are looking to expand the North American market as well.
We have been in the Chinese market. We went into the Wen Chuan earthquake region. We went in with wood and have been in there doing projects. We have explained to the Chinese that wood is much safer than some of the products they had been using prior to the earthquake. We have built some buildings, and I understand that clinics, schools and homes have been put in place.
Mr. Speaker, there is a lot more that I would like to say, but I see that you are indicating that my time is almost up here. I am going to try to wrap up.
The motion today calls for a number of things. The motion calls on us to provide loans and loan guarantees. We have extended credit in a huge way. Again I will point out that $14 billion of the EDC's $80 million went into forestry last year. It calls for tax credits for research and development. I have talked about the incredible investment that we made in research and development. It talks about encouraging the use of lumber. We have done that through the home renovation tax credit. It talks about measures to support energy and ethanol production. We are doing that through the $1 billion green fund.
I think it is time to quit trying to create division and despair. We have a plan. We are pushing ahead. We welcome the other parties to join with us on that.