Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to take part in this debate to bear witness to our government's initiatives in support of the forestry sector in Quebec.
I would like to mention the work of my two colleagues, the Minister of State for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and the Minister of Natural Resources and their predecessors, the current Minister of Veterans Affairs and the Minister of State for Agriculture for all their strategic initiatives to ensure the future of the Canadian forestry sector.
You will have understood that our government not only listens, but acts and produces results, as well. Given the scope of the work, we members on this side of the House are rolling up our sleeves to work with the provincial and municipal governments and the economic players in the forestry sector to meet the challenges of the future.
We believe strongly that we need everyone's support to make Canada united and prosperous.
One thing is clear. The Bloc has only one aim and that is to sow confusion, block ideas, block solutions, block initiatives, block projects that are good for Quebec and have us believe that separation is the ultimate solution.
With this motion by the Bloc today, we have further proof that it has only one thing in mind—separation. It is an obsession with the Bloc members. The facts show that the Bloc solves nothing. After nearly 18 years here in this House, they have provided no solution to any problem whatsoever.
This reminds us that the Bloc members have no interest in improving the welfare of Quebeckers. Their own interests are all that matters to them.
The Canadian federation, with all due respect to the Bloc, is working for all of the country's regions. Quebec has played a pivotal role in the development of Canada as we know it today.
Unlike the Bloc, we deliver the goods to Quebeckers and all Canadians. We did of course resolve the fiscal imbalance, recognize the Quebec nation and give Quebec a seat in UNESCO. We also reduced their fiscal burden and worked tirelessly to protect their jobs and to make Canada and Quebec the best place to raise a family.
Today, I am pleased to have the opportunity to explain to members how hard the Government of Canada is working to ensure a sustainable and competitive future for the forestry industry in the country.
As we all know, Canada's forestry sector is facing restructuring in order to meet cyclical and competition challenges.
I am sure that all of the hon. members will agree that the federal government has an important role to play in supporting this vital sector, which is so important to millions of Canadians.
There can be no doubt that our government is concerned about the difficulties facing the forestry sector and the workers and communities that depend on it, and that it is taking steps to help renew this sector in Quebec and all across Canada.
Today, I would like to begin with a few of the initiatives already taken by the government. It is clear that, from the outset, the government has taken prompt and decisive action to assist Canada’s forestry industry.
In 2009, as part of Canada’s economic action plan, the government took unprecedented steps to support workers and communities in the forestry sector, and to ensure the sector’s sustainability for the future.
Allow me to discuss a few of these measures.
A $1-billion community adjustment fund was created to mitigate the short-term impacts of economic restructuring. The fund targets forestry sector communities.
A two-year $170 million allocation will help the forestry sector develop new products and processes and take advantage of new market outlets.
Of that amount, $50 million will help expand domestic and foreign markets for Canadian forest products and support large-scale demonstrations of the use of Canadian lumber in construction.
The government will invest $120 million in the advancement of innovation, which will help transform the forest products sector by developing cutting-edge technologies.
A proposal to permanently eliminate customs tariffs applicable to a whole range of machinery and equipment should allow the forestry sector to save $440 million over the next five years.
An allocation of $8.3 billion under the Canada skills and transition strategy is assisting workers directly affected by the economic slowdown. It will increase employment insurance benefits and funding for skills development and workforce training in the forestry sector.
Another $1 billion transfer over two years will help the provinces and territories provide support for skills development to a maximum of 100,000 workers who qualify for employment insurance.
An amount of $500 million over two years has also been provided to set up a new strategic training and transition fund and to assist all workers with training or adjustment needs, whether they qualify for employment insurance or not.
As part of the targeted initiative for older workers, $60 million over three years is helping older workers obtain the specialized support they need while in transition to a new job.
This program has broadened its scope, and now targets all communities with fewer than 250,000 residents, which includes many of the country’s forestry communities.
Our government has allocated $7.8 billion to build quality housing, stimulate construction, and enhance home energy efficiency.
Given the importance of wood in construction and renovation activities, this investment will increase domestic demand for Canadian wood products.
Moreover, our government has created the pulp and paper green transformation program. Under this program, Canadian businesses that produce black liquor can draw on a $1 billion fund for capital investments to improve the energy efficiency of their facilities, their capacity to produce renewable bioenergy, and their overall environmental performance.
Once again, these initiatives and their financing are available to the forestry sector in all provinces and territories.
Early this month, my colleague, the Minister of Finance, announced other measures to ensure the strength and sustainability of the forestry sector as it moves toward future opportunities in the wood product and bioeconomy markets.
As a direct response to the demands of the forestry sector, the 2010 budget calls for an additional $100 million over four years to help the sector implement state-of-the-art products and technologies while contributing to the creation of a world-class industry equipped to compete in the clean energy economy of tomorrow.
The next generation renewable power initiative in the forestry sector will support the development, commercialization and implementation of advanced clean energy technologies and highly valuable new bioproducts.
Diversification is key to the future prosperity of the forestry sector in Canada, and the development of biomarkets offers numerous possibilities for building the Canadian forestry sector.
We understand the importance of the Canadian forestry industry for local communities and our national economy. That is why we are making short-term investments in communities and workers while helping to lay the foundations for a renewed, more competitive and sustainable forestry sector.
I could add that this renewable energy initiative was very well received by the forestry industry, which knows a competitive advantage when it sees one.
The industry is well aware of the benefits it will reap when Canadian clean energy technologies are commercialized and implemented.
The initiatives and funding measures were made available to the forestry industry in every province and territory. However, last April, the government decided to take it farther. In partnership with the government of Quebec, it agreed to head up a special Canada-Quebec team to coordinate efforts to support the forestry industry in that province.
The special team identified a number of important areas of common interest where rapid action was called for. In each of those areas, concerted efforts were made by several federal and Quebec government departments. For example, the governments of Canada and Quebec invested in sylviculture to advance sustainable forest management objectives and to create and maintain jobs in the forestry sector.
In May 2009, a $200 million investment to support sylviculture activities in Quebec was announced. Each government invested $100 million in those activities. In July 2009, the two governments together provided an additional investment of $35 million to restore bridges and improve multi-use road maintenance in Quebec.
Those investments led to the creation and maintenance of over 8,300 jobs. The two levels of government worked together to implement measures that, in the short term, will benefit many workers and communities that depend on the forestry industry in Quebec.
The forestry industry also receives significant assistance from other sources. Export Development Canada provided $16 billion to support the forestry industry in Canada in 2009. Of that amount, $11.9 billion went to help 223 forestry companies in Quebec.
As well, this year, the Business Development Bank of Canada has provided support to 1,110 mall and medium-sized businesses in the Canadian forestry sector to date. Most of those loans, 47%, went to the province of Quebec. That is far more than any other territory or province has received from Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada for the forestry industry over the last two years.
The governments of Canada and Quebec are using their existing partnerships to promote innovation in the forestry sector in areas such as bioenergy and nanotechnologies, as well as in the next generation of building systems.
To that end, they have organized better coordination of the existing programs, they are facilitating technology transfers to manufacturers of value-added wood products, and they are collaborating with FPInnovations laboratories throughout Canada, including two in Quebec, and with universities, researchers and other interested parties.
I would add that funding provided to FPInnovations by the federal government has made possible the construction of the first wood-frame building over four storeys in Canada, the head office of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux action fund, a six-storey building in Quebec City.
As well, between now and 2011 about half of the $170 million invested in support for innovation and market development initiatives will have been spent in Quebec. We also expect that companies in Quebec will have access to $280 million under the Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program, which will help them become more sustainable in both environmental and commercial terms, through investment in energy efficiency and the production of renewable energy.
In conclusion, our government has obviously taken rapid and decisive measures to help the forestry sector in Canada to meet a number of challenges, to adapt and to hold up.
It is clear that our abundance of natural resources is no longer the only key to economic prosperity. The forestry sector and all of the other resource sectors must call on Canada's other assets to transform our resources into value-added products and keep quality jobs in Canada.
We know that economic success in the current context requires an ideal combination of resources, people, knowledge, know-how and systems.
Our government is determined to implement what is needed to ensure that these basic economic fundamentals are in place in order to strengthen the competitiveness of Canada's natural resources sector, to support sustainable industry and to provide a clean and healthy environment.
Today, although Canada's economy remains dynamic, the forestry sector and the communities that depend upon it are feeling pressures from the global economy. Resisting these pressures will require innovation as well as industrial and entrepreneurial creativity.
We must acquire new skills and new expertise, create new products, find new value in unexploited forest resources and establish new markets. In order to meet these challenges and take advantage of the opportunities they represent, the government of Canada must continue to work closely with provincial and territorial governments, communities and industry.
Unlike the Bloc, we on this side of the House keep the promises we have made to Quebeckers and to all other Canadians.