House of Commons Hansard #6 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.


The BudgetGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

It being 5:42 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

March 10th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.


Gérard Asselin Bloc Manicouagan, QC

moved that Bill C-429, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, last fall, before the government locked the 308 members of this House out for three months, when my turn came, I introduced in this House Bill C-429 concerning the use of wood in the renovation and construction of federal public buildings.

Bill C-429, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood), states:

Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:

1. Section 7 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (1):

(1.1) Despite subsection (1), before soliciting bids for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal immovables and federal real property, the Minister shall give preference to the concept that promotes the use of wood, while taking into account the cost and greenhouse gas emissions.

Bill C-429 is a well-thought-out bill in which the Bloc Québécois has backed up talk with action.

The Conservative government often says it will do a lot of things. For example, it put 308 hon. members on a parliamentary lock-out for three months. The House rose for the holidays on December 11, 2009 and between Christmas and New Year’s, the Prime Minister adjourned for another two and a half months by proroguing the House of Commons. He slapped a lock on the door and said he was going to take this time to engage in some wide-ranging thought.

We assumed he would undertake some broad consultations. He said he had consulted Quebeckers. When we asked where and when, he said it was in Vancouver. But Quebeckers are in Quebec. He probably met some in Vancouver during the Olympics, but that is not what we call broad consultations. It is a friendly gesture to say hello to someone who is visiting Vancouver and runs into the Prime Minister. But they do not necessarily talk about the crisis in the forest industry or the problems in our paper mills and sawmills.

While we in the Bloc Québécois were locked out of Parliament, we went all over Quebec because our party had a consultative process. First, our leader traveled all across the province. The hon. member for Hochelaga organized a pre-budget tour, accompanied by his assistant, the hon. member for Alfred-Pellan. There was also an employment insurance tour, which was combined on the North Shore, in Manicouagan, with the pre-budget tour. In addition, the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi spent time traveling all across Quebec to consult stakeholders about social housing. All these hon. members were hard at work talking with constituents.

The Prime Minister says he consulted Quebeckers in Vancouver, but that is not what the Bloc did. At least, we think he did. We saw him in the stands watching the game between Canada and the United States. We saw him watching the curling match between Canada and Finland. All that time, though, we were actually out on the hustings.

The Prime Minister said he had to answer reporters’ questions about why he shut down the House of Commons. He had to justify all his cogitating, saying there would be another Speech from the Throne and a budget. He would also have to see how to recalibrate his economic plan after the financial crisis.

To our great surprise when we flipped through the throne speech from the first page to the last—a speech that my colleagues were lucky enough to obtain—there was not a thing there that reflected the wishes of Quebeckers, especially people working in the forest industry or in our paper mills and sawmills.

With Bill C-429, the Bloc Québécois would allow sawmills to use timber for materials that are or were normally used, such as steel or cement.

When we say we can use our natural resources, God knows that the North Shore was developed largely thanks to the forest industry in the 1950s.

But there is nothing about that in the Speech from the Throne. Then there was the tabling of the budget. We looked through it—and it is quite a lengthy tome—and all it says is that the federal government expected to put in $170 million to help the forest industry, that is, $70 million last year and $100 million this year.

We could also look at the economic action plan. Do they talk about the forest industry in it? Yes they do. It is the only place. Let me read a few lines on forestry—there only are a couple in any case:

The global economic downturn and the collapse in the U.S. housing market have created challenges for the forestry sector. To date, a total of $70 million has been provided to Natural Resources Canada to support market diversification and innovation initiatives for the forestry sector, including research and demonstration projects on new forest products and initiatives to help forestry companies market innovative products internationally to protect and create jobs. This investment will be supplemented with a further $100 million next year.

It does not take a genius to see that $100 million plus $70 million is a total of $170 million in financial assistance for the forestry industry across Canada.

The Bloc Québécois is calling on this House, particularly the Conservatives, to help the forestry industry. This industry employs 88,000 people in Quebec alone.

We just heard that there was nothing in the throne speech, nothing in the budget, aside from $170 million, a drop in the bucket to help the struggling forestry industry.

The $170 million is in the economic action plan, where the government tries to justify it.

In light of the magnitude of the economic crisis, the Government of Quebec has decided to move forward. Last week, the Deputy Premier, Nathalie Normandeau, went to Baie-Comeau, where she was joined by Serge Simard, the minister responsible for the Côte-Nord region, and Julien Boudreau, the president of the Conférence régionale des élus de la Côte-Nord.

The Deputy Premier, Ms. Normandeau, said, “We must break down prejudices and get back to our roots. Wood is a part of our culture.” She said that the project was in line with the Government of Quebec's wood use strategy. The Quebec government has a wood use strategy.

In all, nine lobbyists will be hired at the provincial level. The Conférence régionale des élus de la Côte-Nord, for example, has received $80,000 in financial assistance to hire Mr. Bois. He will be responsible for the industry, primarily for the use of wood in non-residential construction.

The lobbyist will be responsible for encouraging the use of wood in the construction of various non-residential buildings, and for providing regional oversight to identify future infrastructure projects.

Wood is used in fewer than 15% of buildings, whereas it could be used much more extensively, in upwards of 80% of buildings. This goes to show how much room there is for using wood in non-residential construction.

On page 105 of Canada's economic action plan, reference is made to a $170 million investment in the forestry sector. In the same budget, the Conservative government provided grants totalling $10 billion to the automotive industry.

I encourage the members of the Conservative Party to read page 282 of Canada's economic action plan, which states:

As a result, the governments of Canada and Ontario worked together, in partnership with the Government of the United States, to support the auto sector. Combined support by Canadian governments, provided through loans and other instruments to General Motors and Chrysler, totalled about $14.6 billion... Currently, General Motors and Chrysler plants directly employ about 14,000 workers.

While the automotive industry is getting $10 billion, the forestry sector is getting $170 million.

Stakeholders have been asking the government to give the forestry industry, paper mills and sawmills loans and loan guarantees, but the Minister of State for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, who is from the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, and the member for Jonquière—Alma, the former mayor of Roberval, say that they cannot provide loan guarantees because of the agreement with the Americans. It is strange that although they are unable to do this for the forestry industry, which is concentrated in Quebec, they were able to give Ontario's auto industry $10 billion worth of loans and loan guarantees.

Such loans and loan guarantees would have enabled the forestry industry—mainly the sawmills—to upgrade their facilities and be ready to compete after the economic turnaround. Bill C-429, which was just introduced, would enable companies to upgrade their equipment, reduce operating costs, and become very competitive.

Stakeholders are asking the government for loan guarantees because many of these companies have trouble recruiting workers. When a company like AbitibiBowater is on life support and has placed itself under the protection of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, it is highly likely that people will decide to find work elsewhere.

It is also likely that specialized, skilled workers will leave the company before it even closes its doors. That is why the regions have to fight so hard to curb the exodus of young people. They leave the regions to study, and many of them never return. Those who want to work in the forestry industry cannot. In these tough times, paper mills and sawmills have all they can do to temporarily maintain existing jobs as long as they are open.

Many towns in my riding depend exclusively on the forestry industry. Sawmills in Rivière-Pentecôte, Rivière-Saint-Jean, Baie-Trinité, and Ragueneau—Kruger—have all closed their doors.

Companies cannot participate in the economy when the government ignores their needs. The Bloc Québécois wants the government to provide loan guarantees to the forestry industry. If the government could do it for the auto sector, it can do the same for the forestry sector.

I introduced a bill to promote the use of wood in non-residential construction.

My time is up, but I will have another five minutes for questions and comments, and I will be happy to answer any questions the members want to ask.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise to talk to this particular topic because I certainly do feel the pain of my hon. colleague, particularly when it comes to AbitibiBowater, which recently closed a mill in my riding affecting over 1,000 people.

To help diversify the economy in my riding we are trying to attract business in the wood pellet industry, which involves burning wood pellets to provide heat and energy to a particular house or commercial building.

I would like the hon. member to talk about that in the case of not just constructing a building but also in renovations and particularly in a situation where wood pellets could be used in order to heat and provide energy for some of these government buildings.

I would certainly like to see an initiative in my province born from more wood products when it comes to biomass energy. These are the things on which we could rely more than just subsidies. It could be a direct program to help our industries and forestry as well as providing energy efficiency.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Gérard Asselin Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, in light of the problems facing the forestry industry, the federal government needs to invest more in research and development. We should be asking our engineers and our architects to make using wood a priority when they are preparing their plans and estimates, especially when the cost of wood is the same as that of other construction materials.

As my colleague mentioned, if we want to use wood as another source of energy, we know it produces much less greenhouse gas than steel and concrete production. We can kill two birds with one stone by using more wood in the construction and renovation of non-residential buildings, that is, commercial, industrial and government buildings. This would keep sawmills busy across Canada. We are not reinventing the wheel here. This is being done in several other countries, particularly in Sweden and France, which have construction policies for buildings with six or more dwellings, and in British Columbia.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, as the member knows, legislation has been introduced in other jurisdictions, specifically British Columbia. I believe a bill was passed in British Columbia last fall and Quebec also has legislation. I would like to ask the member, what results has the industry experienced in Quebec and in B.C. where the legislation has been passed? Could the member point to any specific projects that have been let under this legislation and any positive results that have come from the initiative so far?

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Gérard Asselin Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to answer the member's question in the affirmative. I introduced a bill before the holiday break, but the government decided to adjourn for three months. I am introducing it again at second reading. We will see the positive effects of the bill once it passes in the House of Commons and the Senate, and once it is implemented. I do not have the statistics for the countries that use wood in non-residential construction, nor do I have those for British Columbia.

I was very pleased that the Deputy Premier of Quebec, Ms. Normandeau, and the minister responsible for the Côte-Nord region, Serge Simard, came to Baie-Comeau. However, Mr. Simard has his work cut out for him as a Quebec minister. He must convince his two federal colleagues from Saguenay—Lac Saint-Jean—the Minister of Veterans Affairs and the Minister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec)—to vote with the Bloc Québécois on Bill C-429, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood). Mr. Simard's most important job will likely be to convince his federal colleagues.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on his excellent bill. The advantage of this extraordinary bill is that it will not cost the government anything. It simply proposes that wood be used in the construction of buildings, instead of steel and concrete. Therefore, there is no reason for the government to oppose such a strong and important bill.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Gérard Asselin Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I am convinced we will be able to conclude on this.

It is a good question. It allows me to say that I hope this bill will have the support of the Liberal Party, the Conservative government and the NDP. As the member for Brome—Missisquoi was saying, the bill will not cost the government anything, not one penny. All it requires is the political will to help workers.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-429, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act. This bill is all about the promotion of wood.

I come from an area that is the country's main source of softwood lumber. In my riding we produce more softwood lumber than any other riding in the country, and so it is a pleasure to see the steps that the government has already taken to promote the use of wood across Canada and worldwide.

Let me begin by thanking the hon. member for Manicouagan for the sentiments behind his private member's bill. Coming from a forest-dependent area myself, I can appreciate his sentiments. While he may not recognize what the government is already doing, I am sure the bottom line is that he wants to see more wood in use in construction, but the government is already there.

We are already spending tens of millions and hundreds of millions of dollars across the country in helping our forestry industry and promoting the use of wood. Right across this country, Canada's forestry sector is undergoing a reconstruction, a transformation, in order that it can address the competitive and cyclical challenges that face us.

All of us in this House would agree that the federal government has an important role to play in assisting this important industry, and so today, for the benefit of members in the House, I would like to mention some of the initiatives that the government has already taken to promote the use of wood, not only in Canada but around the world.

Before doing so, let me just make one mention of the fact that there are some statutory restraints in the form of building codes and standards that would prevent the implementation of Bill C-429. As attractive and well-meaning as it may be, there are some challenges to it. The record shows that right from the beginning, when these forestry challenges came upon us, the government has been taking quick and decisive action to assist Canada's forestry industry.

Canada's economic action plan, for example, has taken some unprecedented steps to support forestry workers in communities while helping to secure a sustainable forestry sector for the future. As a matter of fact, I do not think that in the history of any Parliament, any government in the history of Canada has done so much to help the forestry industry as this Conservative government has done under the leadership of our Prime Minister.

For example, $1 billion under the economic action plan is provided under the community adjustment fund to mitigate the short-term effects of restructuring and the challenges we have, and this assists the communities in the forestry sector. Also, $170 million over two years is being provided to specifically help our forestry industry develop new products, new technology, new and more efficient ways to process the construction wood, so that we can stay ahead of our competitors in other countries.

Of that $170 million, $50 million is being devoted to expanding domestic and foreign markets, as I mentioned earlier. As a matter of fact, in 2009, I believe that our softwood exports to China increased by over 50%, and it is predicted that this year, that number will double again on our exports to China.

It is a huge assistance to our forestry industry and it is giving us a lot of help to stay out of the trap of putting all our eggs in one basket that we have been in with our lumber exports to the U.S. Now we have something to mitigate when the U.S. market is not favourable to us.

There is a proposal to permanently eliminate tariffs on a range of machinery and equipment. This budget will save the forestry industry $440 million over the next five years.

Profitability, efficiency and cost savings all amount to more jobs in the forest industry. Budget 2010 is built on the already unprecedented investments the Government of Canada is making and has made in the forest sector, with a $100 million allocated in the forest sector initiative for next generation renewable power from wood waste and the bioenergy plants that are cropping up all over the country. I have a number of these plants being built in my riding by the forest industry, which is helping to reduce energy costs and helping them to become more efficient in using the wood they harvest.

The program will help to accelerate renewal and transformation in the forest sector by commercializing and advancing the implementation of clean energy technologies in the forest sector so it can not only provide energy for itself but also sell it to other users. This helps the sector's bottom line, helping it to retain and create jobs and making the forest industry healthier.

We have provided $8.3 billion through the Canada skills and transition strategy to help workers directly affected by the economic downturn, including enhancements to employment insurance. We made extensions to EI and supported work sharing. Thousands of forest workers were able to keep their jobs and not get laid off.

There are always some consequences from economic downturns. Certainly we have had one of the worst downturns in many decades, and the forest industry has been hurt badly by prices being at the bottom of the barrel, and the U.S. market has not been responding over this period of time. However, we have done a lot to help the forest workers. We have helped them improve their skills so they can get jobs that will not be as affected by the challenges we face.

We put $8.3 billion through the Canada skills and transition strategy, again to help workers affected by the downturn, and we have made enhancements to EI and provided funding for skills and training in the forest sector.

We provided $1 billion over two years to assist provinces and territories delivering training support for up to 100,000 workers who qualify for EI benefits.

Furthermore, the government provided $500 million over two years for a new strategic training and transition fund, and has a targeted initiative of $60 million to help older workers transition.

We have designated a lot of money for the province of Quebec. We went into partnership with the Government of Quebec and agreed to lead a Canada-Quebec task team to co-ordinate our efforts and have identified a number of key areas where we have shared interests in the forest industry.

We provided a $200 million loan for silviculture in Quebec, an advance that would support silviculture operations in the province. Each government contributed $100 million to that. Also, we provided another $30 million to restore bridges and culverts on multi-resource and wildlife roads in Quebec. It goes on and on, resulting in the creation and maintenance of more than 8,200 jobs in the province of Quebec.

We have been working together with the Province of Quebec, which wants to work with the federal government. This is a good partnership because we can leverage our funding and get more bang for the buck.

In 2008 Export Development Canada provided financial services with a total value of $85.8 billion to over 8,300 businesses across the country, helping them with their accounts receivable and exports.

It goes on and on. The Business Development Bank, for example, is supporting the forest industry in many areas.

As I said earlier, the sentiments for the bill are there, which we all understand. The fact is that the Government of Canada has already been doing yeoman's work in trying to help the forest industry get up and running again, and it is really working. We are starting to see a turnaround. The assistance we have given to the forest industry has helped it during its transformation.

We are going to keep helping the forest industry because we recognize how important it is to our economy and to our country.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House of Commons to speak to Bill C-429. We have already heard from the bill's sponsor, the member for Manicouagan, whom I thank for this proposal, as well as from the government.

I will begin by saying that I am surprised, if not stunned, that the government simply rejected the bill for a whole slew of technical reasons. The minister seems to believe that all these measures would give preferential treatment to one industry. According to him, they would violate Canada's supply obligations under its domestic and international trade agreements. But the minister's staff seem to have forgotten or failed to grasp that the ultimate aim of Bill C-429 is to help Canada's forestry industry while logically promoting new ways of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Once again, it is clear that the government refuses to consider the positive side of measures that come from this side of the House. It prefers to reject the spirit of this bill out of hand instead of working with us to better serve the interests of all Canadians. It claims to want to work with the opposition parties to make government run smoothly, but it soon shows its real face.

The irony in all this is that if this bill had been introduced by the party in power, I am certain that all these supposed problems and complications would not have been seen as barriers. In addition, if the government had introduced such a bill itself, I am sure that the minister would not have worried about the appearance of preferential treatment or the possibility of trade disputes. But because the idea did not come from the government, all it can do is shoot the whole thing down.

I would like to congratulate the hon. member from the Bloc Québécois who continues to defend the interests of the Canadian softwood lumber industry, while the government continues to stand idly by at a time when a major sector of our economy is having serious problems during this difficult economic period. By making such efforts to defend the Canadian softwood lumber industry, the Bloc is showing that it understands the important role this sector plays in Canada's history.

I find it interesting that the bill before us could very well promote a sense of unity for our country. Its target is the best interests not just of Quebec, but all of Canada.

The bill simply asks the government and, in particular, the Department of Public Works and Government Services, to look at its procurement practices in a new light. Of course, we are well aware that one cannot always use wood to build. Often building codes, engineering specifications and structural integrity will dictate what materials can and should be used. What this bill proposes is that when decisions are being taken in determining what materials to use for a project, wood should be the preferred material.

By giving preference to wood as a building material, it does not prevent or undermine the use of other building materials. The bill simply says it should be considered, with preference given to promotion of the use of wood, while at the same time taking into account the cost of materials and greenhouse gas emissions that will be created.

I would like to point out that Public Works and Government Services Canada manages 23% of all the premises administered by the federal government and that the minister's mandate covers less than 1% of crown buildings. This bill would not apply to the entire government procurement and contract process.

This bill only focuses on a small portion of crown buildings and asks that a new approach be taken in the procedure used for government contracts in one department. Such a measure would support our forestry industry directly and promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

If we consider that using one cubic metre of wood to replace other construction materials can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost one tonne, it is easy to understand the importance of using more wood. It seems like a win-win situation to use Canadian materials such as wood, which would allow us both to help an industry and reduce greenhouse gases. We have been told for years that we must reduce greenhouse gases and now we have a bill in hand precisely to do so. We must defend it with conviction.

Unlike the party opposite, my party and I are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and realize that every choice we make can be a step in the right direction. This bill may seem like a small step in the total amount of greenhouse emissions that we could actually reduce, but these little changes will add up to a cleaner and greener Canada.

The current procurement process established at public works was developed with the idea of it being open and transparent. It is designed to provide a fair and level playing field. This amendment to the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act does not impede this procurement process. Rather, it asks the department to rethink and be more cautious in its procurement practices while considering the economic and environmental benefits.

We all know that we have to take another look at the way we do things. For example, we are now often asked to pay for plastic bags when we shop. Consumers have begun bringing their own reusable bags with them, which reduces the use of plastic bags and thus the harmful effects of these non-biodegradable bags in landfill sites. This small action has had a positive effect on costs and on the environment for the businesses themselves and for consumers. This trend seems to be continuing. Consumers are adopting this practice, which has become a new reality. Either we bring our own bags or we have to pay for plastic bags.

If consumers had been asked if they were prepared to make this change five years ago, we would likely have heard a lot of angry complaints. However, this approach seems to be becoming the norm, more and more stores are adopting such a policy, and consumers are prepared to support this environmental initiative.

I have no doubt that, in five years, we will be so used to it that we will wonder why we ever used plastic bags.

It is much the same with Bill C-429. It is a new way of looking at our current procurement practices. The bill does not say to use only wood; it is saying that the use of wood and the environmental impact of procurement decisions should be considered.

The bill is a first step to a greater good, and I realize that it scares the party opposite. My party has already committed to setting mandatory clean energy federal procurement standards. This bill would fall under that commitment, and I believe it is time to start rethinking the way we work. It is a small step to a greater good and I believe that in the future we will change these guidelines.

If we cannot make such changes within the government, how can we expect Canadians to do so? We have to take a leadership role and show that we are prepared to make positive changes. We have to change the way we do things. We must improve our methods. As lawmakers, we must take the lead for the good of society and not create roadblocks to changes in our objectives to have a better country and a healthier environment.

I am sure it is clear now that I will vote in support of this bill at second reading. I think we must put it to a committee, which will study it in order to strengthen it. I would also like to know what the various stakeholders on both sides think of it so that it can be as practical as possible. We have to change the way we do things. We must not be afraid of change. We must accept it joyfully, because as a country, we have the opportunity to proceed progressively.

Whatever the government may think, I hope the parties on our side of the House will support the bill so it can go to committee as soon as possible.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to support this bill. I would like to thank the hon. member for bringing it forward. It is a modest piece of legislation but it can end up in committee and be strengthened. I think that would be a good thing.

The important thing to note is that it is a very supportable piece of legislation and not just by the parties or speakers we have heard. I believe the government should seriously look at supporting this piece of legislation and getting it through quite quickly.

Wood and wood products are found in abundance right across this country, and it only makes sense that the Government of Canada through public works would make use of this renewable resource. It would assist the forestry sector.

In the 2010 budget, $25 million a year for four years, $100 million altogether is the only mention of forestry. I will also say there was no mention in the budget of northwestern Ontario or northern Ontario, or FedNor for that matter. The government is not much interested in the forestry industry.

What the government needs to keep in mind is that the forestry industry in Canada contributes as much to Canada's GDP as does the auto industry, for example. The government had lots of help for the auto industry in many ways. Of course, I do not begrudge the auto industry the help it received, but forestry is an industry that is coast to coast. Many small communities right across this country depend on forestry, and when I say communities I mean that families depend on forestry. It behooves us to do all we can to ensure that we keep these communities strong and ready to compete in the 21st century.

By the way, there is a large pulp and paper mill in my riding. I have a couple of them in my riding but there is one in particular that is quite large. That $25 million mentioned in the budget would not even pay its annual electricity bill, just to put into perspective that $25 million a year from the government.

The bill is a very meaningful one. It is modest. Public works provides office space for over 100 government departments in 1,800 locations right across this country. There are some real opportunities to make wood work for all Canadians, not just Canadians in the forestry sector, but all Canadians.

The Conservative government like the Liberal government before it neglected the forestry industry in the past decade. This bill could be of more assistance and have a greater impact on the industry and a greater impact on forestry dependent communities than all those other policies in the last decade. This is a very important piece of legislation and I am very committed to it.

There may be some who would say that we are going to be using wood above all else. That is not the intention of this bill, as I understand from reading it. The intention of this bill is to make people aware that wood is an alternative that we should be using. I will go into some of the reasons a little bit later.

I would like to assure other industries, the cement industry for example, that wood would be used as an alternative but only if the engineers and the architects and everybody else agreed that it could and should be used. I do not think other industries including the construction association and others should have a real concern at all about the impact this bill could have on their business. In fact, it may promote even more construction. I thank the hon. member for this bill.

We did have a lot of problems with U.S. subsidies. Last June the government made an announcement about $1 billion. There was one mill in my riding that was supposed to receive $32 million to help put a condenser in that would help save electricity and heat. Nothing has happened. I checked and no one seems to know where the money is, or if the money is coming. I do not know what is going on.

I am not sure we can depend on the government. It makes these promises and then nothing really happens.

Members will have to ensure the bill gets all our attention and that we get it through as quickly as we possibly can.

Members have heard me speak before about the government trying to get the United States to end its subsidies or to match its subsidies as they come up. As one ends, there seems to be another one that returns. It is always a problem.

Let me briefly talk about why we should be building with wood in every opportunity. Using wood can limit climate change due to the reduced energy required to create wood building products and through carbon storage in the wood itself. Every tonne of wood material used in construction saves about 5.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere. That alone should be reason for all parties and members of the House to support the bill.

As we know, wood is strong, lightweight, flexible. Wood building systems have proven to be seismically safe. They withstand a lot of energy from the earth, and that is a good thing. Wood is organic. We all know it is sustainable. It is natural and renewable. Wood requires less energy to manufacture than most other building products. Wood is cost effective.

One of the most important things is that wood is sourced locally. People can get whatever wood product they need for building pretty well locally wherever they are building. That saves on energy, transportation costs, greenhouse gases.

Those of us who are in forest dependent communities and ridings know that wood is visually appealing. It is warm, inviting.

One important thing to note is that wood buildings and wood products in buildings are easy to renovate. When the time comes 20, 30, 50 years down the road, most wood actually gets better with age. If one does need to renovate. wood is a very adaptable material. It is easy to renovate, expand upon and adapt. For those reasons, all members should be looking very seriously at supporting the bill.

One of the problems Canada has had in the last decade or so, and particularly with the Conservative government, is a lack of a forestry strategy. It does not seem to be interested. This bill, when it is adopted, could be used within a forestry strategy. The problem is the government does not have a forestry strategy.

There does not seem to be any vision or assistance for the forestry sector except the occasional handout on budget day, meant to pacify people who are in forestry dependent communities. They are not fooled.

If the government actually had a strategy, if in fact it felt forestry was an important sector to protect and enhance and one that could grow, it would have fought to end U.S. subsidies or at least match them. It would have extended the proper and responsible kinds of EI benefits that older workers in particular need, whose shops close when they are not too far from retirement. There is no reason why employment insurance benefits cannot be used to bridge that gap to retirement for a lot of people.

The government has a responsibility to protect pension funds. It is interesting, last year the government talked about protecting workers' pensions. I do not believe there was anything about pensions in the budget, not even remotely.

There is a problem with the government not having a forestry strategy. However, I invite it now to make the bill if not a cornerstone to at least incorporate it into a forestry strategy. I am sure the government has thought about it, but we just have not heard it yet.

I urge everyone to support the bill as we do in the NDP.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today on this bill, especially as I worked so hard to ensure that a bill like this would be introduced.

I want to congratulate and thank the hon. member for Manicouagan for agreeing to sponsor Bill C-429 on the use of wood in the renovation and construction of federal buildings.

There are a number of reasons why the Bloc Québécois decided to introduce the bill. First, it sends a clear message about the opportunities afforded by wood technology and the resources we have in Quebec and Canada, in addition to stimulating wood consumption in Quebec and Canada.

In addition, there are environmental benefits to using wood in regard to greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.

I believe very deeply that the government has a moral duty to implement this measure on both economic and environmental grounds.

Bill C-429 says that the government shall give preference to the concept that promotes the greatest use of wood, costs being the same or less, when renovating or constructing a building.

This means that the federal government would use more wood in its buildings, thereby boosting domestic demand. In addition, the cost to the government would be absolutely nothing. My colleague and other members have spoken about that.

It is incredible that, despite all the appeals by the forest industry over the years, we are still calling upon the Conservative government today to do something to help it out.

The Quebec and Canadian forestry industry is currently going through one of the most difficult periods in its history. John Allan, the B.C. Council of Forest Industries president, said in his testimony before the Standing Committee on Natural Resources that the industry is currently experiencing an unprecedented crisis.

Guy Chevrette, the president of the Quebec Forest Industry Council, said the same thing before the subcommittee on manufacturing, namely that the industry was in a very difficult state.

More than ever, major structural adjustments appear to be necessary to help the industry adapt to the current slowdown.

Bill C-429 is a partial response to this problem. The Quebec forest industry employs 88,000 people, a third of all the jobs in Canada. The forest industry is key to the economic life of entire regions in Quebec.

In Quebec, 230 towns and villages are primarily dependent on the forestry industry, and 160 of them are totally dependent on it. Nearly half of all forestry communities in Canada are in Quebec.

Since the Conservatives came to power, almost a third of Quebec forestry jobs have been lost. In Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, 36% of the jobs have disappeared. It has been devastating. Some regions have been hit even harder. For example, Hautes-Laurentides has lost 58% of its jobs. One of the main causes of the crisis is the decrease in demand for softwood lumber.

The U.S. economy has slowed in the past few years, sending the home construction industry into a downward spiral. This has resulted in a significant decrease in lumber sales and prices.

A sense of urgency was shared by all participants at the summit on the future of Quebec's forestry sector held in Quebec City in December 2007. The consensus at this summit was that more wood should be used in the construction industry.

This is certainly not the first time we have talked about increasing the use of wood in construction. Bill C-429 offers an opportunity to take real action. The future of the forestry industry is important to my region. Last month, some twenty members of the Pastoral council in Chicoutimi forwarded to elected members from my region, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, the Maria-Chapdelaine RCM's manifesto to ensure the future of forestry. It contained a number of proposals: that the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region should continue to rely on forests to secure its future; that forestry resources should be processed near where they are harvested; that each RCM should be a necessary partner in exploiting and processing forestry resources; that all RCMs should have the right to make positive contributions to solutions affecting them.

I want to mention one of our colleagues, the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, who refuses to listen to the demands of forestry workers from my region and from the whole province. That is unacceptable.

Bill C-429 is an initial response to the Maria-Chapdelaine RCM's manifesto. Using wood to build public buildings is a good environmental choice. Consumer demand for ecologically sound products and governments' desire to protect the environment are important factors. Wood products can be substituted for products with high embodied energy that are at the mercy of rising fuel costs. Using wood is also a good way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a fact confirmed by several studies of a variety of building techniques. The wood processing industry uses far less energy than other industries, such as steel and concrete. Furthermore, trees help reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is both a good way to reduce greenhouse gases and an immediate response to the environmental problems we are facing right now.

Several countries have put forward initiatives of that kind. In France, the Wood, Construction, Environment plan is designed to increase by 25% the market share of wood in the construction industry. This alone represents 14% of France's target under the Kyoto protocol. In New Zealand, the government introduced a program to neutralize the carbon footprint in public buildings. To this end, the government requires that wood and wood frames be considered as the main construction materials for government buildings of three stories or less in height. In Norway, increasing the use of wood is essential, and the government put in place a structure to promote and show the possibilities for the increased use of wood. Sweden and Austria also have similar initiatives. Personally, I have submitted a project to the Minister of National Defence.

At the military base in Bagotville, in my riding, hangar no. 2 could be rebuilt. This hangar could easily be rebuilt using wood. This way, the federal government would be setting an example and showing how easily it can be done. Across Canada, arenas are built. In Chicoutimi, in my riding, an arena was recently built using a lot of wood. The roof and walls are made of wood. That is unprecedented. At the Université du Québec in Chicoutimi, the medicine pavilion was built using wood.

I will conclude by saying that two provinces are currently on board in Canada, namely Quebec and British Columbia.

The latter province is even in the process of amending its building code to ensure that buildings of six stories—

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:45 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am proud today to raise an issue that I raised in the House of Commons with regard to the Investment Canada Act, a real important issue for Canadians across this country. Some specific communities are suffering egregiously because of the government's handling of the Investment Canada Act and the way it is selling out Canada without any accountability.

We all know there are issues with regard to the economy, which has been a challenge. I come from a community that has been devastated by the fiscal irresponsibility of the corporate sector in the United States and in Canada that has put workers on the front line.

When I specifically asked questions relating to the Investment Canada Act, the government changed the act through its budgetary process as opposed to a regular one, which is unacceptable. Also, through the Investment Canada Act the government has not been successful in ensuring that, when there are takeovers of Canadian companies, accountability exists to protect workers.

I recently had the chance to visit Sudbury with the members for Sudbury and Nickel Belt to see firsthand the consequences of a bad policy of foreign takeovers and what it has done to ordinary working Canadian families. I had a chance to go to the picket lines and speak with the workers who have been on strike for seven months with a company that was sold off from Canada's iconic mining divisions to a Brazilian company that basically operates from the other side of the hemisphere. It does not have the same type of relationship in the community and is trying to drive down workers' wages that were hard fought and make a significant difference to the community and families.

It is about the erosion of middle class Canada. It is about the erosion of the dreams that people have of working hard, being responsible and benefiting. It is an attack on a system that actually makes a lot of sense.

I am talking about the workers at Vale Inco who have been fighting to retain their nickel bonus. The nickel bonus is a benefit to them but also socially responsible to the corporate identity of the company. If the price of nickel is low, then the nickel bonus will be low for the workers. If it is higher, then they benefit in better times.

I want to point out the obvious truth of this. The mineral deposits that those Canadians extract belong to Canada and Canadians. It is something we have in trust for future generations and it needs to be recognized. We should have control of this.

Because of the lax rules of takeovers and the government's indifference, in fact the minister has shown a callous attitude toward the workers there, we now have a situation where people in Brazil are making the decisions about how we run our country. Ironically, they are making record profits. Billions of dollars are going to this company in Brazil at the expense of throwing workers out the door. It is unacceptable. It is unacceptable that the government remains silent on that.

The government will say that it is a dispute between the workers and the company so it cannot say anything about it. That is bunk because it was the Conservative government that decided, at the height of the auto crisis, to attack workers and their wages, saying that was the problem and the solution was to drive down their benefits and profits.

The government needs to come to the table, support those workers and ensure the men and women get back on the job. It should be strong in telling Vale Inco that because it is about the middle class in Sudbury, the surrounding area of Nickel Belt and other areas like Timmins and U.S. Steel in Hamilton that are paying the consequences for this irresponsible government policy and the lack of enforcement for which the government is responsible.

6:45 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont Alberta


Mike Lake ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in my place to respond to the concerns expressed by the hon. member for Windsor West regarding investment in Canada and its impact on the Canadian economy.

In the original question, the hon. member claims that we are selling our companies to foreign speculators. Let me remind him that based on recent StatsCan data, many Canadian investors buy foreign-owned companies. In fact, over the past several years, Canadian companies invested more abroad than foreign companies have invested in Canada. In 2008 foreign-direct investments in Canada reached $505 billion, while Canadian investments abroad reached $637 billion.

Erecting barriers and restricting entry into the Canadian economy is not an approach that will ready Canada for the challenges ahead. In order to ensure that Canadian firms prosper domestically and continue to have access to investment opportunities abroad, it is important to adopt policies that encourage trade and investment. Investment, innovation and adaptation fostered by openness and competition are the primary drivers of productivity growth of our nation. Our ability to make the best use of our resources will determine our capacity toward improving Canada's standard of living.

We live in an era of economic globalization, characterized by new, enabling information and communication technologies, a substantial decrease in transportation costs, and an increasing number of countries open to trade and investment. Canadians need to adapt to a global market and take advantage of each opportunity, including deriving benefits from foreign investment.

There is no doubt that foreign investment is important for Canada's economy, as foreign companies introduce new technologies, ideas and skills, as well as new capital investment into our economy. A high level of investment from abroad is a signal that investors view Canada as a good place in which to do business. It also indicates that our business culture is open to new ideas, skills and leading-edge practices, and it is a vote of confidence in the business environment and the quality of the country's businesses.

Canada's economic success will be determined by how well we deal with the forces that are driving globalization. The hon. member for Windsor West is proposing more protectionism and suggesting that we close our economy to foreign investment and turn our back to potential opportunities for growth. This is not a viable option in a globalized world. Following such an approach will harm our ability to compete worldwide and hurt Canada's economic growth.

It is almost universally known that openness to international trade allows both citizens and firms to enjoy the benefits of competition and choice. We cannot turn back the clock. We must look forward. The government is proposing more openness to trade and investment. This will create more opportunities for our companies to access worldwide markets and provide Canadians with more and innovative new products and lower prices.

In the 2010 budget, the government committed to removing the existing restrictions on foreign ownership of Canadian satellites. This will allow firms to access foreign capital and know-how, and to invest in new and advanced technologies.

In closing, foreign investment contributes positively to our economy and is critical to Canada's long-term growth and prosperity. Ultimately, these investments lead to higher living standards for Canadians through better paying jobs, more innovation, more international trade, increased domestic competition, and lower prices to consumers.

6:50 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, that is higher living standards for a select few. Let us talk about those select few from this particular company, Vale, where executive pay in the last two years has gone up 121%. Those executives have enjoyed the fruits and the benefits of a $4 billion profit and a company that had around a $13.2 billion annual profit in 2008. So yes, they have doubled their profit line. They went up 121% for those individuals and meanwhile the minister would not even stop for the men and women on the picket lines who are actually facing this with strike pay. They are trying to actually make things go by right now. All they want is the pre-existing relationship that historically has been very fruitful for both sides and is very balanced. The government has blown it and it needs to fix it. It needs to have a voice for those workers.

I stand here in solidarity with Local 6500 USW President John Fera and Local 598 CAW Richard Paquin from Xstrata. They have actually negotiated a settlement to say to the government to take its responsibilities seriously and help the workers this time.

6:50 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Madam Speaker, I will remind the hon. member that, despite the fact that the global economic situation has caused difficulty and hardship for many people who have lost jobs, Canada is the best country in the world in which to live because of actions taken by this government in addressing this issue.

The OECD, the World Economic Forum, the IMF, and other organizations and experts have said that Canada will come out of this global slowdown sooner and stronger than other countries. We are already seeing evidence of that in the most recent job numbers. We heard from Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who said:

We need to learn from those countries that evidently did it right. And leading that list is our neighbor to the north. Right now, Canada is a very important role model.

I will close by quoting Patricia Croft, who works for RBC Global Asset Management and summed up what many of the experts have said when she said, “In terms of the global comparisons, Canada is the envy of just about every other country in the world”.

6:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:56 p.m.)