Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska for this motion.
I know that, like our government, he fully appreciates how important forestry is to Canada.
The forest industry employs more than 200,000 Canadians and contributes more than $23 billion a year to our GDP. In fact, it provides more jobs per dollar than any other natural resource sector. We export more than $34 billion worth of forest products to 180 countries around the world.
Today forest producers are strengthening composite car parts, making vehicles lighter, reducing emissions, and replacing plastics made from non-renewable fossil fuels. A forestry worker is as likely to be wearing a white lab coat as a red plaid shirt. He or she might be a genomics researcher investigating ways to make trees more resistant to disease or an economist working to optimize supply chains. To paraphrase that classic Oldsmobile commercial, this is not our father's forest industry. In fact, the Canadian forestry industry has transformed itself into one of the most innovative parts of our economy.
It was not that long ago that forestry seemed to be on the ropes. To many it seemed like an outdated or even dying industry, then something remarkable happened. Instead of wringing its hands, the industry rolled up its sleeves and began a transformation, whose best chapters are still being written. Forestry leaders reached out to their critics, listened to the concerns, and made changes to their operations. The industry invested in research, developed new products, and established new offshore markets, creating not just a new image but a new vision of what forestry was and could be.
Today, the forestry industry is poised to help our country tackle some of its greatest challenges by combatting climate change, driving innovation, creating job opportunities in indigenous and rural communities, and boosting trade.
Let me touch on each of these.
The first is climate change. It would be hard to overstate the importance of the forest sector in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that there can be no global solution to climate change without the forest sector. It is that important. Why? It is because forestry is unique in that it actually takes carbon out of the air.
Most of us will remember enough of our high school science to know that trees suck up vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and store it for decades. However, forestry's contribution goes far beyond that. It is developing clean technologies, producing green energy, reducing its need for energy and water, and lowering both emissions and waste. While Canada's overall greenhouse gas emissions fell by 3% between 2004 and 2014, the forest sector reduced its emissions by an impressive 49%, and it is just getting started. Lignin, a material found in trees, could become the crude oil of the future, with biofuels substituting for fossil fuels in the production of plastics, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals.
Then there is wood as a building material. Pound for pound, engineered wood can be as strong as steel, making it safe and practical not only in buildings but also in infrastructure, such as bridges. With funding from our government, project Origine was opened in September. The tall wood construction project in Quebec City's Pointe-aux-Lièvres eco-district is the tallest wood-constructed condominium in North America.
In 2016, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the tallest wood building in the world, a new student residency at the University of British Columbia. This magnificent building is not only an engineering and architectural showpiece, it is an environmental game-changer, storing close to 1,600 metric tons of carbon dioxide and saving more than 1,000 metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions. That is like taking 500 cars off the road for a year.
Even in more modern structures, wood is far better for the environment. Building with lumber can result in 86% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than using traditional building materials such as concrete and steel.
To encourage greater use of wood in construction projects in Canada, the Government of Canada created the green construction through wood program. We are currently receiving expressions of interest for the next great Canadian projects.
Forestry also helps to fight climate change through its sustainable management practices. In fact, third parties have certified these practices among the best in the world.
Canada now boasts 37% of the world's certified forests, far more than any other jurisdiction in the world, and that matters. It matters because our customers can be confident that wood products brought from Canada were harvested through sustainable practices. Any tree harvested on crown land must be replaced, and permanent removal of forests for agricultural or municipal development, for example, is declining. The result is that actual deforestation is less than 0.02% a year.
We assess our sustainable forest management system by looking at a range of scientific indicators, from regeneration to forest disturbances, from carbon emissions to volumes harvested.
Canada has also developed a carbon budget model that simulates forest carbon conditions. It forms the basis of our carbon monitoring and accounting system used in international reporting. It is being applied in more than 25 countries.
Whether it is by providing greener building materials, finding new uses for wood products, or sustainably managing its resources, the forest industry is playing a central role in combatting climate change.
Second, it is helping to drive innovation. For decades, the forest industry has been developing and investing in new products and ways of operating. Look at the rise of clean tech and bioenergy, a renewable energy source derived from things like wood, wood waste, and straw.
Our government understands that the economy of tomorrow will be a bioeconomy. In September, Canada's forest ministers unanimously endorsed a forest bioeconomy framework aimed at making Canada a global leader. That framework outlines a bold new vision for the future of the forest sector and the role for biomass in the transition to a low carbon sustainable economy.
Just last week, in my hometown of Winnipeg, I had the pleasure of hosting Generation Energy, the largest energy forum in our country's history. I can tell the House that biomass and bioenergy figured prominently in those discussions.
In July 2016, I travelled to Port-Cartier, Quebec to announce $44.5 million for the first commercial-scale facility to convert forest residues into a form of renewable fuel oil. This project is a shining example of governments working together to support the industry and advance Canada's bioeconomy.
An increasing number of remote and indigenous communities are now using bioenergy to end their dependence on high-emission diesel generators for their electricity. We are supporting this effort with an investment of $55 million to deploy proven bioenergy technologies and support the biomass supply chain in rural and remote areas. The government is working with industry and provinces to develop the forest products of the future through investments in R and D and innovation, and by helping first-in-kind clean innovations reach commercialization.
Third, forestry is a dynamic engine of growth, creating economic opportunity across the country, including in indigenous and remote communities. While its reach is global, the forest industry's impact remains the local lifeblood of rural Canada and a major source of income for about one in seven municipalities across the country.
As I mentioned at the outset, the forest industry has reinvented itself by demonstrating what can be achieved through collaboration and engagement. Nowhere have those efforts been greater than with indigenous communities, 70% of which are in forested regions. It is no surprise then that forestry is one of the leading employers of indigenous people, providing some 9,700 well paying jobs across the country.
These jobs bring hope of lasting prosperity and sustainable change.
Today, governments, indigenous communities, forest companies and environmentalists are all working together to preserve the sustainable forest industry we need while protecting the environment we cherish.
Fourth, and related, forestry creates jobs at home by driving trade abroad. There has been a remarkable rise in the export of wood products to markets such as China, up more than 1,200% over the past 10 years.
In June, I had the honour of leading a trade mission to China to showcase the ingenuity, innovation, and opportunities Canada had to offer. I was joined by a delegation of more than 50 representatives from Canada's forest, energy, and clean technology sectors, focused on strengthening ties with our Chinese counterparts. The mission generated new business. All told, Canadian companies signed commercial agreements of close to $100 million.
One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the Sino-Canadian low carbon eco-district in Tianjin. This is a $2.5-billion project, involving more than 1,300 houses in its first phase. Once completed, the community will cover almost two square kilometres, all built with Canadian lumber, Canadian ingenuity, and Canadian expertise.
With the support of China's ministry of housing and urban-rural development, the buildings will be approved as test cases, opening the door to revised building codes and more wood construction. This project is a direct result of the MOU signed between our two countries in 2012. While in China, Minister Chen Zhenggao and I renewed that MOU, maintaining the momentum it had created and enhancing supporting for green building in China.
For China, the eco-district means cleaner air, healthier communities and lower energy costs. For Canadian companies, such as Nu-Air, SOPREMA, and Kryton, it means new markets for their innovative products and services. With the success of this project comes the chance to replicate it throughout China, creating even more opportunities for collaboration and furthering China's climate change goals.
The Tianjin eco-district is a remarkable testament to what can be achieved when international partners come together to tackle big challenges.
While in Tianjin, I also had the pleasure of announcing the opening of a Chinese-Canadian wood technology centre, further cementing the bonds between our countries and opening the door for exciting new partnerships.
These are the concrete, practical ways that the government can support the forest industry, an industry that is on the leading edge of technology and setting the pace on environmental performance.
The U.S. market remains vitally important for Canadian producers of softwood lumber, but continuing to expand into other markets and other types of products is helping to diversify our trade and boost our prosperity.
Our government believes in this industry. We have a clear vision of it playing a central role in some of the most important issues of our times, such as combatting climate change, driving innovation, and creating economic opportunities for rural and indigenous communities. That is why we are standing by this industry and why we are continuing to work toward a new agreement on softwood lumber.
Our government disagrees strongly with the decision of the United States Department of Commerce to impose unfair and punitive duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports. We are vigorously defending Canada's softwood lumber industry against these unjustified duties and we will litigate, if necessary, where we expect to prevail as we have in the past.
We remain confident that a negotiated settlement is not only possible but in the best interests of both countries, not just any deal but a good deal for Canada.
It is one of the more interesting quirks of our Constitution that it assigns natural resources to the provinces but trade and commerce to the federal government. This means we have to work together and draw on one another's strengths.
In February, we did just that, creating the federal-provincial task force on softwood lumber. Through the task force, we shared information with our provincial colleagues about how best to help affected workers and communities, and we arrived at a comprehensive action plan.
All told, our government announced $867 million to provide loans for industry through the Business Development Bank and Export Development Canada; access to the work-sharing program to help employers and employees protect jobs; funding to provinces to help workers find new jobs; new resources for the indigenous forestry initiative to support indigenous participation in economic development; extensions of the investments in forest industry transformation and forest innovation programs to develop the next generation of wood products; and access to the expanding market opportunities program to reach new markets and expand the use of wood construction.
This is a comprehensive plan designed to meet real needs in real time and it is a clear and compelling demonstration of our commitment to this vital industry.
The motion before the House today reflects the importance of forestry to our communities, our economy, and our way of life.
Our government is aware of how much the forestry sector contributes. That is why we work day after day to support its future and help it reach its full potential.
I urge all members to join us in our efforts.