House of Commons Hansard #239 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.


Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

moved that Bill C-354, 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, I am proud to rise today to begin debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-354, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, with regard to the use of wood in government infrastructure.

I introduced this bill at a critical time for our forest industry and for our fight against climate change. This bill could play an important role in both of those issues. There is a revolution happening around the world in how we construct buildings, the revolution of mass timber construction of engineered wood. The revolution began in Europe and has spread to North America where Canada is the leader in that technology. However, we have to work hard to keep on top here, and this bill is about that revolution and about that work. It is a bill designed to support our forest industry, and the forest industry needs support.

For the last 30 years, we have suffered through the onslaught of several softwood lumber disputes with the United States. We need to develop other markets for our wood and there are several obvious ways to do this. We could use more wood at home. We could export more wood to Asia. We could export engineered wood to the United States since it is not covered under the unfair softwood lumber tariff. All of these strategies can be tackled through mass timber construction through engineered wood.

I would like to go back to the bill itself, what it says and what it aims to do. On the surface, it is a simple bill designed to support our forest industry but there is much more to it. First, it is a recycled bill like many private members' bills and motions in this place. Similar bills have been tabled in past parliaments by members of different parties. Like those bills, it asks the federal government to give preference to the use of wood when constructing buildings, with two important caveats. Those caveats form a dual lens to help the government decide what structural material or materials to use in a building. The first issue is the overall lifetime cost of those materials; second, the government should consider the impact that those materials would have on the greenhouse gas footprint of that building. Therefore, the bill seeks to balance those costs, the dollars and cents cost and the environmental cost. It is very similar to the Wood First Act enacted in British Columbia and to government procurement policies in Quebec that promote the use of wood.

I want to say here that there is nothing to stop the government from choosing to use a number of materials in the primary structure of a building. Right now, large buildings across Canada and around the world are largely built of concrete and steel. It is the way the industry has worked for decades. However, what this bill seeks to do is to get the government to consider wood by applying that dual test. Many buildings now use a combination of wood, concrete, and steel and that would continue. One of those hybrid buildings partly made with engineered wood is the Ottawa airport, a building that I imagine a number of the members here are very familiar with.

My bill differs very little from the previous bills. What has changed is our ability to use wood as the primary structural material in large buildings, and that is why this bill is so timely and so necessary to the well-being of our forest industry and indeed the construction industry across Canada. To take advantage of these new wood technologies, we will have to steer the mindset of designers, architects, and builders, and the government procurement agents who hire them, to consider the use of wood in large buildings.

I would like to move on here to talk in a bit more detail about engineered wood, how it is made, why it makes good sense to build with it, why it is safe, why it is economical, and how it plays into Canada's climate action goals. There are two main types of engineered wood used in large buildings. First, there are the glulam beams made from dimensional lumber glued together to form large, sometimes a metre by a metre in thickness, beautiful support beams that support the floors, ceilings, and roof in the building. These beams can be used instead of the large steel beams we now use. Second are the cross-laminated timber, CLT, panels that are made in a similar manner to glulam but are formed as panels about eight or nine inches thick. These can replace some of the concrete used in walls and floors. The beams and panels are made with extreme precision, much more precisely than concrete or steel. These products are made off-site in a manufacturing plant and then moved to the building site just as they are needed, where they are joined together to construct a building, floor by floor. It is an extremely efficient way of building.

In traditional construction, the site is prepared over a number of weeks or months, the time depending on the complexity of the site and often the weather. Delays can be caused by wet weather or cold weather, both of them very common here in Canada. Then the building goes up with a concrete foundation, steel girders, building concrete frames, pouring concrete, letting the concrete cure, and then moving on to the next floor. More delays can ensue because of weather. In tall wood buildings, the concrete foundation is prepared much as in other projects, but because the beams and panels are made off-site, they can be constructed as the site is prepared. They are light enough to transport long distances to the site.

This fall, the University of British Columbia opened Brock Commons, an 18-storey student residence on campus. Brock Commons is the tallest wood building in the world. Only its foundation and the elevator shafts use concrete or steel for support. Brock Commons was built with engineered wood made at the Structurlam plants in Penticton and Okanagan Falls, 400 kilometres away. It was built in nine weeks, two floors per week, about twice as fast as a typical high-rise. The cost savings in that speed are significant.

Tall wood buildings are not only efficient to build, but can play a significant role in reaching our climate action targets. We are at a moment in history where we must take bold steps in tackling the global issue of climate change. We must reduce our carbon dioxide emissions and increase our sequestration of carbon. The Green Building Council of Canada has calculated that buildings account for about 30% of our energy use in greenhouse gas emissions, significantly more than any other sector, and the UN Environment Programme identifies buildings as offering the greatest potential for achieving significant energy and GHG emission reductions at the least cost. How we construct the buildings and what they are made of can be a huge part of those reductions.

As architect Michael Green states in The Case for Tall Wood Buildings, “Wood is the most significant building material we use today that is grown by the sun. When harvested responsibly, wood is arguably one of the best tools architects and engineers have for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and storing carbon in our buildings.” FPInnovations has calculated that each cubic metre of wood in a building acts to sequester one tonne of carbon. A 20-storey wood building takes the equivalent of 900 cars off the roads in carbon dioxide savings every year.

We can do all this and help our forest sector at the same time. As I said earlier, that sector has had tough times over the past 30 years because of the unfair tariffs on softwood. Mills have closed across the country, tens of thousands of workers have lost their jobs, and many rural communities have been very hard hit.

We can help our forest sector in two ways: develop new markets and create value-added opportunities within Canada. Engineered wood does both of these at the same time. If we build more infrastructure using wood, that would automatically boost our domestic market, and engineered wood can be exported to the United States without softwood lumber tariffs, which would expand our U.S. market. China is actively exploring the concept of building with engineered wood. Just a tiny part of that market could be a significant win for Canada.

We are in the middle of a study in the natural resources committee on the value-added sector in Canadian forestry. Engineered wood and tall wood buildings have come up time after time as the biggest opportunity for us to make gains on that front. Bill Downing, the president of Structurlam in Penticton, mentioned that his company has just received a contract to rebuild the Microsoft campus in Silicon Valley with engineered wood. From that one contract, he put in a purchase order to local Canfor mills for $4 million of dimensional lumber. The amount of $4 million is a big payday for any Canadian company, even a big one like Canfor, and that money is going to rural communities in the B.C. Interior.

Any new technology, any change, comes with concerns about the unknown. One of the questions I get most often is about the fire safety of tall wood buildings. I talked to one fire chief who said he breaks out in a sweat whenever he hears the word “wood”. The fact is that mass wood buildings are as fire-safe as those built with steel and concrete. First, the heavy beams and panels that are used are completely different from the old stick-frame construction we are used to. Fire acts completely differently when it encounters a beam that is a metre thick than when it encounters a two-by-four. It is like holding a match to a large log. Tests have shown that the material typically chars on the outside and then the fire goes out. Even a building with exposed beams and panels offers more than the standard two-hour exit time in a fire.

The U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory published findings this year from the burning of a two-storey test building, concluding that the exposed cross-laminated timber essentially self-extinguished after fire consumed the building's furnishings.

The Brock Commons student residence included design features meant to provide added assurance for safety. The panels and beams were clad in layers of fire-resistant gypsumboard, for instance. The architects pointed out that this was unnecessary, but it may well be necessary to include these features until this technology becomes more common and Canadians feel more comfortable about tall wood buildings.

Others have asked me if we have enough wood in Canada to provide the material for this new sector. The forests of North America can grow the wood used in Brock Commons, a very large building, every six minutes.

I have also been asked about the reaction from other industry sectors. Interestingly, the Cement Association of Canada was on Parliament Hill a few weeks ago lobbying for their industry, and their big ask of the federal government was to consider a dual lens when choosing material for infrastructure: the lifetime cost of the materials and the greenhouse gas emissions. That is exactly what I am proposing in this bill.

The fact is that steel and concrete have enjoyed a century of a duopoly in large-building construction. This shift to tall wood construction would not suddenly result in a significant loss in market share for either industry. We would still be constructing many buildings with steel and concrete, but any small increase in market share could be significant for the forest industry. This bill simply asks the federal government to consider wood and to remember that there is a new way of building. The wood industry just needs that foot in the door.

I have been encouraged by government action on this front. Natural Resources Canada will be providing almost $40 million in funding over the next four years to support projects and activities that increase the use of wood as a greener substitute material in infrastructure projects. This money will be used in research and testing that is essential to growing that needed confidence in a new product and in incentivizing new construction to serve as examples of just what we can do with wood.

There are many examples out there already. Chantiers Chibougamau has built numerous bridges for the mining industry in northern Quebec using glulam beams. Their engineered wood was used to build the Buffalo Sabres' training facility. The architect first proposed steel for that project, but a second look showed that wood would be more economical. The Art Gallery of Ontario was transformed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry using Douglas fir glulam arches made in Penticton, British Columbia, by Structurlam. The 284,000 square foot Rocky Ridge Recreational Facility in Calgary boasts the largest wood-constructed roof in North America, again built by Structurlam. These are iconic buildings. What I hope to promote in this bill is the construction of much more conventional buildings, such as office buildings and warehouses, from engineered wood.

Government procurement could play a huge role in expanding the engineered wood industry in Canada. Bill Downing, at Structurlam, would tell us that their company would not have gotten off the ground without the wood-first policy in British Columbia, and now it is one of the leading manufacturers of engineered wood in North America, along with Chantiers Chibougamau.

Forest companies across Canada are looking to this new sector to help them survive or even flourish. All these companies would benefit from government procurement to make that leap into a new technology. J.D. Irving has gone to Europe to look at the burgeoning mass timber construction sector there. France intends to build 30% of its new residential buildings with wood over the next 30 years.

Wood buildings are safe, cost-competitive, and beautiful, and they fight climate change. I ask all members to consider wood, support Bill C-354, foster the engineered wood sector in Canada, and keep our forest industry strong.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, any time we can take a science-based approach to improving the environment, building with better materials, and growing our economy, it is something we should certainly look into.

I have been made aware that a lot of the timber being used in CLT in British Columbia actually comes from dead wood from infestations. Can the member speak a little about how that can play a role in allowing us to make sure that these trees simply do not rot in the forest and release CO2 into the environment but are actually used so that the carbon remains stored and allows the forest to regenerate and store new carbon in a new forest?

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is correct. If we look at the CLT panels being constructed in the Structurlam plant in Penticton, for instance, we will see a lot of blue-stained lodgepole pine being used, because it is perfectly sound in terms of the engineering, especially when put into these large, thick panels and cross-laminated. It is a great way of using that timber. Some people do not like using blue-stained timber for regular work. Some people think it looks cool. It has a different look. However, this provides a huge way of using large amounts of that dead wood, which would otherwise be hard to sell in many markets, in cross-laminated timbers and in big buildings.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay, for an extremely thorough speech on this topic. I am appreciative of the fact that not only did he mention that this may be advantageous in tackling climate change but also where else the federal government has jurisdiction, including through the national building code and certainly in procurement.

The government would be well advised to look at the report we did at the government operations committee a few years ago. It talks about actions that could be taken by the federal government in its buildings to reduce greenhouse gases.

Could my colleague elaborate more on safety? He raised the fact that there is not yet public confidence. I have had a number of discussions in my nine years here with both police chiefs and firefighters themselves. I wonder if he could elaborate on some of the measures being taken to address the potential concerns about the safety of fire officers and whether they should also be included when we are designing the use of wood for building.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have talked to both representatives of firefighters and fire chiefs. As I mentioned, those concerns are out there. This is a new technology. One of their main asks is that they be at the table when we develop a new national building code. They want to be there to make sure that firefighters are safe. When they go into a building, they want to know that the structure will be safe to enter and that they will have exit time. That is one of their main asks.

Certainly, when the Brock Commons building was built, it was built outside the code. All of these buildings are built with special sign-offs from engineers and fire chiefs to make sure that they are safe. One thing about these large wood buildings is that they are built floor by floor. As they build each floor, they install the firefighting equipment needed, such as the hydrants and sprinklers, floor by floor as they go up so that these buildings are safe. Firefighters will tell us that the most dangerous time for a wood building with respect to fire is when it is being constructed, because there are a lot of torches around and things like that. That is where the danger is. These wood buildings, because of their design, can be finished off floor by floor as they go up, which is very different from a concrete and steel structure. The fire chiefs in Vancouver have told us that the Brock Commons building is a very fire-safe building, and they were very happy to sign off on that.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

November 27th, 2017 / 11:20 a.m.


Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill C-354, which was introduced by my colleague from South Okanagan—West Kootenay. This bill amends the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act with respect to the use of wood.

We recognize that the purpose of this bill is to give preference to projects that promote the use of wood in awarding federal construction, maintenance, and repair contracts, taking into account the associated costs and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. However, I would like to draw my colleagues' attention to initiatives our government has already introduced to support the Canadian forestry sector.

First is the assistance package for the forest industry. In June 2017, the government announced its continued support for the softwood lumber industry in the form of an $867-million assistance package for the forest industry, workers, and communities impacted by recent tariffs imposed by the United States.

Second is the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. This framework, adopted in 2016, is a comprehensive plan to reduce emissions across all sectors of the economy, accelerate clean economic growth, and build resilience to the impact of climate change. The framework's actions, supported by announcements in budget 2017, will enable Canada to meet or even exceed its target to reduce emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Under the framework, our government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from federal government buildings and fleets by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030.

I should point out that these measures include federal-provincial-territorial collaboration to promote the use of wood in construction. One way to do that is by introducing new building codes. In the 2017 budget, Natural Resources Canada received $39.8 million over four years to support projects and activities that increase the use of wood in construction and create new markets for sustainable Canadian products.

Lastly, to assess the environmental impact of construction projects, Public Services and Procurement Canada is committed to using industry-recognized assessment tools to ensure the best possible environmental performance. These tools help the department make informed decisions when estimating the environmental impact of construction materials and their use in construction projects.

Any changes made to the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act must be in compliance with Canada's free trade agreements and must uphold the government's contracting principles, namely equality, openness, transparency, competition, and integrity. Our government strongly supports the Canadian forestry sector, which represents hundreds of thousands of good jobs for the middle class all across the country. This high-tech sector has serious value-added potential and is key to some of the biggest issues of our time: combatting climate change, fostering innovation, and creating economic opportunities for rural and indigenous communities. This is why were are allocating more than $150 million over four years to support clean technology in the natural-resources sector, including the forestry sector.

Through our softwood lumber action plan, we are investing $867 million to support workers and communities to diversity our markets, which I think my colleague mentioned when he referred to the Chinese market, a very large and interesting opportunity for Canadian lumber, and to facilitate access to a range of financial services for our producers on commercial terms.

Through programs such as the expanding market opportunities program, we are looking to increase exports to other foreign markets in order to increase competition in the long term and to make the forestry sector more sustainable. We strongly support Canada's forestry sector, as well as the long-term health and transformation of this sector.

To conclude, I believe that the aspirational objective of Bill C-354 could be a complement to the actions our government has already taken to support the long-term sustainability of Canada's softwood lumber industry. In my opinion, it merits an in-depth study by committee to evaluate all the potential ramifications and to avoid unforeseen consequences.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to continue the debate on this private member's bill.

I first want to thank the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay for introducing this bill. In my view, discussions of private members' bills, which advance the ideas and individual interests of MPs and the concerns of their constituents, constitute the most important hours of debate in the House. I do not always agree with all the bills introduced in the House; sometimes I must oppose them, and other times I support them. However, It is always good to see what MPs are interested in when they introduce bills, and also the discussions and ideas that they bring to the House to be debated.

I would like to mention that I worked for a sustainable development department. I was in financial administration, and a special division of this department was responsible for Alberta's forests. I worked very closely with this special division.

After that I was a political advisor to the sustainable development minister, who was responsible for forestry. One of our key roles was to oversee the renegotiation of forestry management agreements with individual companies, something I am very interested in. I also worked with forestry companies in Alberta during those renegotiations.

This is not the first time Canada's Parliament debates a bill like Bill C-354, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood). One hon. member told me that this might be the fourth time; this has been discussed in previous Parliaments. Bills C-429 and C-574 also addressed the topic.

The bill states:

(1.1) In awarding contracts for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal real property or federal immovables, the Minister shall give preference to projects that promote the use of wood, taking into account the associated costs and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Again, I appreciate the intent of this bill, which seeks to strengthen Canada's forestry sector. We can all agree that any effort to strengthen any economic sector in Canada is commendable.

I will be sharing my thoughts on the member's bill. His intention is understandable. However, we must think of the repercussions this bill will have not only on the forestry industry, including sawmills, for example, but also on other industries, like cement manufacturing, public and private construction, and construction in general.

In February 2014, the former member for Jonquière—Alma introduced Bill C-574, which was also supported by some members of his party. The Conservative Party opposed the bill at the time.

As we know, the amendment being made to the act will result in changes to the way the government approaches procurement and how it renovates its buildings. This could be interesting. However, this bill, which will affect the maintenance and repair of federal real property, will cause problems in the public procurement process that will be difficult to solve. I read the debates that have occurred in other Parliaments many times, because I wanted to inject some new ideas. I did not want to merely repeat the same thing other members have already said, because I hope to contribute a more philosophical perspective to this debate. I did not want to just repeat the opportunities this will open for the forestry industry and the repercussions it will have on workers in that sector.

I know that a life-cycle cost analysis produced by the United States Department of Defense some years ago demonstrated that wooden structures cost 40% less per square foot than steel or masonry structures. The cost of construction was 37% less for wood than for other materials.

Operating costs are also less for wood. I always say that a free-trade-based market should be able to benefit from theses sorts of efficiencies and the lower operating costs. Architects and others who decide what type of building will be built and with what materials look at those costs and that type of report.

It is the marketplace that will decide. I think that implementing this sort of legislative measure would require a major regulatory review and update and would put financial pressure on entrepreneurs and some provinces to conduct policy reviews and make changes. What is more, any potential legal challenges from construction sectors other than the wood sector could prove to be long and costly for the government. I believe that the best people to make these types of decisions regarding buildings are construction professionals, architects. They are in the best position to make this sort of decision. We should not rely on a law that would favour one material over another. That would take away the architects' and construction companies' power to choose. They can choose to go with wood if they want to and if they can do so in a way that will cost the government less, or they can do renovations that will reduce the government's operating costs in the future.

I believe that the code of practice and professional standards for architects and builders would be the best place to promote the benefits of wood construction. This building is a very good example. It is built of stone but much of the interior is made of wood. This building has stood for a very long time. We know that building with wood has advantages, and it is also beautiful, as we can see around us. The House was a success for those who built it.

This legislation would also have a major impact on the regulatory regime, as I mentioned. It would probably result in unexpected changes to the regulations of other departments and would establish a precedent that could lead to challenges in other sectors. As I mentioned, the steel and concrete sectors are two examples that come to mind. The National Building Code, which is the basis for provincial building codes, would definitely be affected by this legislation.

When I read the bill, I asked myself what the member's objective was and what effect he hoped it would have on those who bid on projects for the construction of government buildings. If we give preference to wood for the construction and renovation of federal buildings, the bill will indirectly promote one sector over another. All these sectors are vital to Canada's economy. We do not take away from one sector or another. Every sector is vital to Canada's economy to ensure growth and good jobs.

This would favour the economies of certain regions over others, in direct contravention of the mission of Public Works and Government Services Canada, which is to apply an open, fair, and transparent procurement process in order to obtain the best possible value for the government. This for me is the problem with the bill. It could result in job losses in the concrete and steel industries, which would be an economic substitution. There may not necessarily be new growth, but other sectors could lose contracts and be unable to continue working in the construction sector, as concrete, stone, or steel is discarded in favour of wood. I think this is a problem. It does not necessarily lead to new economic growth or to new jobs, but simply replaces one sector's jobs with another's.

In closing, I would like to talk about Frédéric Bastiat, a 19th-century French economist, member of the French National Assembly, and well-known Liberal polemicist who wrote a book called Economic Sophisms. Chapter 7 of his book is known as the Candle Makers' Petition. He wrote this fictitious petition as a way to prove an economic point. The premise is that candle makers are petitioning the government to force everyone to board up all windows and live in the dark so that they will have to buy candles. By depriving people of sunlight, they hope to create economic growth. The petition says that it is not fair for people to have access to sunlight for free and that they should be forced to buy the candle makers' products. This is a bit of an extreme example of sophism.

In simpler terms, this is about the economic substitution effect and consumer choice. In short, new jobs and potential economic growth are not necessarily a source of economic activity. At the end of the day, who will make the decisions? Will it be the architects, the builders, or the MPs in this House? We should allow the architects and the builders to make the best choices they can rather than legislating to impose one choice or another.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from South Okanagan—West Kootenay, who introduced this important bill. If it is adopted, it will help the forestry industry and will have a positive impact on the environment.

This bill will encourage sustainable development by promoting the use of wood in public infrastructure projects. Not only is it a commitment to the forestry sector and all its workers, but also a concrete step to protecting the environment. The bill calls on the government to give preference to construction with wood when building infrastructure, balancing those decisions on the relative costs of various building materials and the savings in greenhouse gas emissions that those materials might produce.

Designers of modern buildings too often do not think of wood when creating new infrastructure, and there are many reasons to consider wood. First of all, it would provide a boost to the Canadian forest industry that is looking to increase domestic markets for their products. It would also lower the carbon footprint of large buildings. Buildings made of mass wood products can be built more quickly than conventional buildings, and they are just as safe. Canada is a world leader in the design and construction of wood buildings. I hope that the bill will promote the construction of many beautiful, clean, and safe buildings made from Canadian wood.

The forestry industry is an economic driver in my region, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, because this sector represents more than 11,000 jobs. The use of wood in federal buildings would help our businesses develop new secondary- and tertiary-processing products and find new markets for local products. The forestry industry in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean has developed so much and so well, that it has formed an industrial cluster and works together with tree farmers, sawmills, pulp and paper plants, as well as secondary- and tertiary-processing companies.

I want to talk about a plant that I visited last summer, Resolute-LP in Larouche, in my riding of Jonquière. During the high season, this plant employs more than 107 workers specialized in tertiary processing who build joists. This plant focuses on home building, but if the government passes my colleague's bill, it could help develop new markets and new plants in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. The forest resource is nearby, and we already have sawmills. This bill would help create jobs and keep families in the region.

The exodus of young people and families is a problem we deal with every day in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. Developing secondary and tertiary products could not only help create and maintain jobs, but also help keep our families in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region.

I would like to point out three other important things about my region. Saguenay produces 20% of Quebec's lumber. It consists of 81% softwood and 19% hardwood. Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean is the largest timber reserve in Quebec. The forestry industry is composed of 500 active companies, including nine major primary-processing companies. We know that constructing buildings out of wood has several advantages. Using dry materials helps reduce the amount of waste produced in manufacturing and in getting projects built. With careful coordination of various trades, building sites are more accessible and cleaner than masonry construction sites.

Water is not used on that kind of construction site. There is nothing to dilute, nothing to clean up. It is a win for the environment in so many ways. Wood is an excellent insulator. It insulates six times better than brick, 12 times better than concrete, and 350 times better than steel.

In addition to the material's intrinsic qualities, wooden building systems insulate especially well. Solid wood panels in particular work well for exterior insulation. Wood houses with the same R-value as other types of construction are more energy efficient and take longer to cool down and heat up, which keeps the occupants comfortable in summer and winter alike. Even once harvested, wood continues to store that atmospheric menace, carbon dioxide. Building with wood is one way to actively fight global warming. It is a renewable material. Producing and using wood uses less energy than other materials. When it comes to production, structural wood consumes six to nine times less energy than bricks and 20 times less than concrete. Wood construction site waste is recyclable. It can be converted to serve other purposes or used as biomass to produce energy.

Wood construction is synonymous with comfort and well-being, because wood is an excellent thermal insulator, which makes for walls that are warm in winter and cool in summer and that can breathe and regulate ambient humidity. Because of its low thermal inertia, houses made of wood warm up quickly, even after standing empty for long periods of time. Wood is such a good insulator that a building made of wood costs about 30% less to heat than an equivalent structure made from concrete, which is 15 times less insulating. Wood is ideal for architectural experimentation. It is easier to customize a habitat with wood than with other materials, by creating volumes and spaces that match each client's vision.

Wood has long had an unfair reputation as a highly combustible material. However, it is now recognized that wood is in fact stable under fire conditions. It is not deformed by heat, so it retains its mechanical characteristics. It does not burn, but chars slowly, giving firefighters more time to respond than any other type of building. It also releases little toxic gas when burning. Fire risks typically involve electrical wiring, heating equipment, kitchens, and curtains and furniture. Wood construction is fully consistent with current fire codes.

In closing, a forest is like a big garden, and we have everything to gain from bills that will help us cultivate our forests and develop new architectures, which is what the bill introduced by my colleague from South Okanagan—West Kootenay does by promoting the use of wood in the construction of government infrastructure. I would also like to give a shout-out to the Association forestière Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean, which has done so much to make people aware of forestry and works to find innovative ways to use wood and build with wood. This association is also educating people about how our forests help our environment and how everyone benefits when wood is used in construction.

The government has been emphasizing the importance of supporting the forestry industry. I therefore urge it to put words into action by passing the bill introduced by my colleague from South Okanagan—West Kootenay.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Rémi Massé Liberal Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague and commend her for her excellent speech. I am pleased to rise this morning to speak to Bill C-354, an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood).

As my NDP colleague, the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay, said in the House of Commons, this bill asks the government to assess the material options for large buildings, balancing the overall dollar cost of the project and the impact of its greenhouse gas footprint.

During the October 19 debate, he stated:

This bill is not meant to exclude non-wood materials but simply to ask the government to look at these new wood technologies that can be used to create beautiful, safe, and environmentally sound buildings.

The forestry sector plays a key role in the economy of my riding of Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia and the Canadian economy in general. I know that I speak on behalf of the government when I say that we strongly support the Canadian forestry industry.

According to the most recent data from Statistics Canada, the forestry industry provides over 230,000 quality jobs for middle-class Canadians across the country. Last year, it contributed over $23 billion to Canada's nominal GDP.

The forestry industry is a high-value, high-tech industry that plays a key role in addressing some of the biggest challenges of our time, such as combatting climate change, driving innovation, and creating economic opportunities for indigenous and rural communities.

Those are not just empty words. We have taken practical measures to support the forestry industry. I would like to take a few moments to remind the House of those measures.

Our government allocated over $150 million over four years to support clean technologies in our natural resource sectors, including the forestry industry.

As part of our softwood lumber action plan, we are investing $867 million to help workers and communities diversify their markets to make it easier for them to access a range of financial services on commercial terms.

This is what we are talking about: loan guarantees through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada; access to the work-sharing program to help employers and employees supplement their incomes; funding to the provinces to provide financial support to workers who are looking for work during the transition; new funding for the indigenous forestry initiative to support indigenous participation in economic development activities; extending the investments in forestry industry transformation program and the forest innovation program.

Thanks to initiatives such as the program for export market development, we are actively seeking other foreign markets to export to, in order to strengthen the forestry industry's competitiveness and sustainability.

One of our government's top priorities is the fight against climate change, and the forestry sector will have an important role to play in that regard.

The pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, adopted in 2016, is a comprehensive plan to reduce emissions, promote clean economic growth, and build resilience to the impacts of climate change.

The framework's actions, supported by announcements in budget 2017, will help Canada to meet or even exceed its target to reduce emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The federal, provincial, and territorial governments will work together to promote greater use of wood in construction, for example, by updating building codes.

Budget 2017 also proposes to provide Natural Resources Canada with $39.8 million over four years to support projects and activities that promote greater use of wood as a greener alternative for infrastructure projects, as well as opening up new markets for more sustainable Canadian products.

In the framework, our government committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and its vehicle fleet to 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. As the government's common service provider, Public Services and Procurement Canada plays a leading role in achieving those objectives.

To further support those objectives, our government uses the latest tools to assess environmental impact. Public Services and Procurement Canada is committed to using industry-recognized assessment tools for high environmental performance to measure the impact of construction projects. These tools help the department make informed decisions when evaluating the use of various materials in any given construction project and their environmental impacts. These measures show that we are steadfast in our support of the Canadian forestry industry and its long-term health and transformation.

I feel that the bill we are debating today deserves to be studied in committee. All potential measures our government could take to support the forestry industry deserve a closer look. I encourage the committee to ensure that this bill complies with the free trade agreements we have signed and with the government's procurement principles.

As everyone knows, Canada is signatory to the Canadian Free Trade Agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Government Procurement. Each one of these agreements imposes certain obligations on Canada with regard to public procurement. It is therefore important to examine the repercussions this bill could have for these agreements.

Furthermore, the government must adhere to the principles of fairness, openness, transparency, competition, and integrity in procurement. These principles are intended to ensure Canadians' confidence in their procurement system and in the way we do business on their behalf.

That being said, these issues are not insurmountable. Some creativity may be required, but it is absolutely worth the effort. We parliamentarians have a duty to ensure this bill receives proper consideration. I hope my colleagues from all parties will come together to continue seeking ways for our government to support the forestry sector.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before I recognize the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands, I will let him know that I will need to interrupt him toward the end of his 10 minutes, there not being sufficient time for him to get through the whole of his speech. Of course, there will be remaining time when the House next gets back to debate on the question.

The hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time that I have been able to speak to this legislation. As a former parliamentary secretary for natural resources for six years, I saw a couple of different versions of it. It came out in 2010 as Bill C-429, which was written a bit differently, and then in the last Parliament, in 2014, as Bill C-574. The bills might have had some different text, but the approach was the same as the Bill C-354 that is before us today.

The bill calls on the government to amend section 7 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act by highlighting the use of wood. It talks about the following:

In awarding contracts for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal real property or federal immovables, the Minister shall give preference to projects that promote the use of wood, taking into account the associated costs and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

I am not sure that the wood industry needs this type of protection and government involvement. As a parliamentary secretary in the past, I saw the strength of the wood industry across Canada. I had an opportunity to go to forest products innovations, FPInnovations, in Vancouver. It has three centres across the country that work on promoting wood. It is a multi-partnership project. The government and private industry worked together to set up a non-profit company so it could study wood and wood manufacturing, new technologies, and the creation of new products. It has certainly been a successful non-partisan project, with both working together.

It is interesting to note the size of the wood industry. I read that the U.S. non-residential market was worth $289 billion in 2010. That is a phenomenal number. In Canada, the industry has been valued at $29 billion. Those are big amounts of money being spent on wood construction in North America, and that is non-residential.

I should touch on the fact that early in our government, we were able to make a softwood lumber agreement that was acceptable across this country. That agreement was extended in 2015 and went to the end of 2015. It brought peace to that industry for a number of years. Canadian companies had the opportunity to go not only around the world with their products, but particularly into the United States. Canada has had access to the U.S. market for so long that it is unfortunate the Liberal government has failed to be able to bring a softwood lumber agreement forward. That has had an impact on the Canadian marketplace, and that will continue.

The Liberal government is talking about sending this legislation to committee, but we are certainly not dealing with some of the bigger issues, the bigger failures, that the government has faced in dealing with this subject.

A number of flaws are created by supporting this legislation. As soon as government picks one industry or one person or one entity over others, there are imbalances and challenges right away, in a number of places in the system.

I would like to point out that picking one product in order to highlight it for construction across Canada certainly, in our opinion, contravenes Canada's legal obligations under a number of provisions in international and domestic trade agreements. Those agreements typically prohibit any kind of discriminatory, unnecessary barriers to trade, and any legislation that then begins to highlight and amend that process will be challenged basically immediately.

With respect to contract tendering requirements, we built provisions into the tendering process so that one type of product could not be highlighted or favoured over others. It is obvious that if that were to happen, other industries, such as steel and concrete, are going to question what is going on when their products are set aside while the government tends to favour a competitive product.

It also would contravene domestic agreements, for example, the agreement on internal trade, if we start talking about government tendering being affected by the use of particular products. That agreement actually prohibits the introduction of any kind of a bias in the form of technological specifications in favour of particular goods or services, unless there is some need in terms of safety or those kinds of things, for that to be there.

We do not believe that Bill C-354 is going to be a good bill for the government to pass. I know it is a private member's bill, but it seems like the message we are getting from the other side, which is a very strange and different one for the government to be giving, is that the government is going to be sending this to committee to be studied. Typically, if that is the case, we see these bills going forward from there.

I do not have very much time to speak to this issue today, but one of the other things we are concerned about is that this could be begin to affect things like NAFTA. The government has failed on NAFTA negotiations as well. It is apparent that things are not going very well there, at all.

The Liberals have never had a commitment to trade. They have never been able to see a way through to getting these free trade agreements done. Certainly we do not want to see something else that is going to start impacting NAFTA, or whatever follows from that. We do not want to see things impacting our WTO agreements. We certainly do not need our free trade agreements to be violated.

The market is a powerful thing. It chooses, based on the quality of the products that are available there. We all believe that wood is very competitive. It is able to compete with concrete and steel. There are other places where the other products are critical. I have watched four high-rise apartments go up in the area where we live here in Ottawa in the last 10 years, and if they did not have concrete and steel in them, they certainly would not have been built to the height that they are.

It is good to see that the new lumber building codes are changing as well, so they can do the four-storey buildings now. They are also looking at six stories, and perhaps up to 10. Those are the kinds of innovations that we need to see, new products and new technology. We do not need the government to be interfering with the marketplace, especially on things as important as construction across this country.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business



The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands will have three minutes remaining for his remarks when the House next resumes business on the motion.

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.

The House resumed from November 20 consideration of the motion.

National Security Act, 2017Government Orders



The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we go to resuming debate and the hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby, I will let him know that there are only five minutes remaining in the time provided for debate on the motion.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby.

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Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that I have only five minutes left to contribute, because the government essentially brought in closure. Instead of submitting a problematic bill to the House of Commons for debate and improvement, the government decided to resort to a form of closure that would prevent us from exploring every aspect of this bill.

The NDP is against referring Bill C-59 to committee in part because it does not achieve what the Liberals promised to Canadians. During the last campaign, the Liberals said that they were wrong to vote in favour of the former Harper government's Bill C-51, which encroached on Canadians' civil rights, including the right to privacy. The Liberals said they would right that wrong when they were in power.

What they did was introduce Bill C-59, which also raises some serious concerns around privacy protection and does nothing to fix the Bill C-51's mistakes. The Liberals introduced a bill that does not fix any of the Harper government's flaws or mistakes on this issue. They are continuing along the same path, and as such, Bill C-59 will not address the gaps in Bill C-51. That is why we, the NDP, oppose this bill.

However, what the Liberals have done is put in place a procedural trick, and it is a procedural trick that is a type of closure. What this does is twofold.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, when we look at rules for the House of Commons around omnibus legislation, Standing Order 69.1 would give you the power to divide this legislation, because it is omnibus legislation with negative impacts on Canadians. However, because of this procedural trick from the Liberal government, you, Mr. Speaker, are not permitted, under the very strict framework of Standing Order 69.1, to divide this legislation. Therefore, we are forced to vote on a motion of the government that does not allow each and every one of us as parliamentarians to actually vote on the rare but still occurring positive aspects of the bill, and vote against the negative aspects of the bill. It is the heart and soul of parliamentary democracy to know why we are voting and to vote in the interests of our constituents, to stand up in this House and vote. The Standing Order 69.1 provisions were put into place so that we do not have this bulldozing of parliamentary democracy by the government, because the Speaker has the power to divide the bill. That is, except in the case of this particular procedural motion that the government has put into place, which stops your ability, Mr. Speaker, to divide this, so that, as parliamentarians, we can vote in the interests of our citizens, the constituents.

The current government has done even worse than the former Harper government. When we look at the number of times proportional to the number of non-appropriation bills passed, the new Liberal government is 25% worse than the old Harper government in its invoking of closure. I am not even including this procedural trick. What we have is a Liberal government that made many promises back in 2015, and one of the Liberals' promises was to respect parliamentary democracy. What the government is doing today is symbolic of what it has done over the last two years. It is 25% worse than the Harper government on closure, and now it is putting this procedural trick into place so that Canadians cannot have members of Parliament voting on each aspect of this omnibus legislation. It is for that reason that we say no to the motion and no to the bill.

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12:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 12:08 p.m., pursuant to the order made on Thursday, November 23, 2017, the question on the motion is deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until to the expiry of Government Orders later this day.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-63, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's RulingBudget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

12:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

There are six motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-63. Motions Nos. 1 to 6 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.

I will now put Motions Nos. 1 to 6 to the House.

The hon. member for Ottawa West—Nepean is not present to move her motion at report stage. Accordingly, Motion No. 1 will not be put to the House.

The hon. member for Montcalm is not present to move his motion at report stage, nor is the member who gave notice of the same motion. Accordingly, Motions Nos. 2, 3, and 4 will not be put to the House.

Speaker's RulingBudget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

12:10 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC


That Bill C-63 be amended by deleting Clause 176.

Speaker's RulingBudget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

12:10 p.m.


Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB


That Bill C-63 be amended by deleting the Schedule.

Speaker's RulingBudget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

12:10 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, I am pleased to rise to speak to our amendment, but also to the entirety of Bill C-63, the Liberal government's budget implementation bill.

We proposed one amendment, but we could have proposed dozens given the great many things that are omitted, incomplete, or wrong-headed in Bill C-63.

The oddest thing about this bill is that it authorizes the Minister of Finance to inject $480 million in the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

The budget announced $256 million, and Bill C-63 increases that amount to $480 million. During committee hearings of the Standing Committee on Finance, we asked departmental representatives questions about the goals of this Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

During the last election campaign, the Liberals said that we had an infrastructure deficit and that we had to invest in water and wastewater systems, bridges, and roads. People voted for infrastructure investment here, in Quebec, Ontario, or British Columbia. We never really discussed building infrastructure in Asia. I agree that Asian countries need infrastructure; that is quite all right.

However, when we asked whether these investments would be used to privatize infrastructure, we were told that we would be investing in public-private partnerships, or PPPs. At least now we have a general idea.

Will this investment yield a return or dividends fairly quickly? No, it is a long-term investment. The goal is to create a market that is receptive to Canadian private investment in Asia. That is why we are going to invest there. It will pave the way for our companies to invest in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and China.

Did the Liberal Party tell voters about this in the 2015 election? No.

We do not believe this to be the most judicious use of $480 million, especially given that this was never mentioned before and that the goal is not even to get a return on the invested public funds.

We will be minor participants in a major Asian infrastructure bank. Our money will be sent over there and we have no idea when we will get it back. That investment will be made over there without any return on investment. We will get our investment back if we ever decide to sell our shares, and assuming that other countries want to purchase them. That is a strange investment. We do not quite understand what the objective is here.

Worst of all is the fact that the $480 million of Canadian and Quebec taxpayers' money that will be put into an infrastructure bank, one that will be controlled by China, I might add, will be reported as foreign aid. It will count as foreign aid so that we can raise our level of international aid, which is currently an abysmal 0.27%, closer to the objective of 0.7% set by the United Nations. It is appalling.

The government plans to engage in some sort of dubious investment scheme that will not yield any returns and count it as international aid in the budget.

It is misleading. The government thinks that Canadians do not see what it is really up to. That is why we tabled this amendment. We want to take away the finance minister's ability to write a cheque for $480 million on which we will not see any return on investment and which will be used to privatize infrastructure. The government would have Canadians believe that the money is going to foreign aid, but that is not what I would call foreign aid.

The government is helping foreign companies and countries do some of their work, without generating any returns for Canada. The government is doing this to look good abroad in the hopes that Canadians companies will be afforded business opportunities down the road. That is the shell game the Liberals are playing with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

We do not think that this is a good investment. Canada also has an infrastructure bank that the NDP calls the infrastructure privatization bank, which was planned, designed, and practically led by BlackRock, one of the largest investment companies in the world. That company held countless meetings with the Minister of Finance to concoct this infrastructure privatization bank.

It is funny because, during the election campaign, the Liberals told us that it would run a small deficit and build a lot of infrastructure. After two years under the Liberals, we now have a large deficit and no infrastructure. The Liberals keep saying that it is coming, but we have not seen anything yet. The board of directors of the infrastructure privatization bank will be set up this year, and its members will be appointed. The board will then ask for money from private corporations and investment funds to build infrastructure in our communities.

During the campaign, they said that interest rates were low and that it was a good time to borrow money to invest in our communities, in creating wealth, and in infrastructure. That logic is sound, but what they never told us was that three-quarters of the investment would come from the private sector, and that that money would be used to pay for projects. What kind of return did the government promise the private companies involved in the infrastructure investment bank? Was it 7%, 8%, or 9%?

The state is supposed to invest in our communities to make sure we have infrastructure that meets people's needs. Private investors invest to make a profit. Sometimes those two objectives are aligned, but not always. Because of the new infrastructure privatization bank, Canadians and Quebeckers, the people who use the highways and bridges, who go to the skating rinks and swimming pools, are the ones who will have to pay for all that. That is the only way it will be worthwhile for private investors. The infrastructure has to make money. Will infrastructure projects be selected based on what people need or on how potentially profitable they are?

This is where our vision is diametrically opposed to that of the Liberals. On this file, they are really adopting a neo-liberal approach, meaning that the government is there to help private companies make a profit, not to work for the common good or the public interest. If the Liberals really wanted to be consistent and logical, they would have borrowed money in the international markets in order to raise the funds to invest in our infrastructure, their famous social infrastructure. However, that is not what they are doing. They are going to create a kind of super PPP, or public-private partnership, whose primary purpose will be to guarantee a return on private investment. We think that this is a shame and that people will be appalled.

The Liberals are always saying they are working for the middle class and those working hard to join it, but these are the very people who will be paying for the new infrastructure to be created by the Liberal government. On top of taking money out of Canadians' pockets, Bill C-63 contains no measures to fight tax evasion, aggressive tax avoidance, or tax havens. According to Statistics Canada, tax havens cost us at least $8 billion a year. We are losing $8 billion a year in uncollected taxes because of our agreements with the Cayman Islands, Barbados, and the Cook Islands, like the one the Liberals signed last year. The amount we lose every year is enough to pay for two Champlain Bridges or to build 21 Videotron Centres in Quebec City. I should note that there is another problem in Quebec City, namely the fact that we have a $400-million arena but no hockey team to play in it.

Bill C-63 does not meet the needs of Quebeckers and Canadians. There is the Asian infrastructure bank that the government is putting money into that is obscure and misleading. There is the infrastructure privatization bank here, which is going to force Canadians to pay more for public services and access to certain services, whether at the provincial or municipal level. There is a lack of real action and political will to recover the money that is owed to us.

Tax evasion is theft, and the Liberals are letting it happen. It is shameful.

Speaker's RulingBudget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

12:20 p.m.


Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his speech. I serve on the finance committee with him, and we have debated this matter in committee. I proposed two amendments to the bill to try to remove the Asian infrastructure bank, which the Liberals seem to be very interested in.

I wonder if the member would agree that this bank could be described as crony capitalism. That kind of capitalism means that certain people have access to the government and they tell it which projects they would like it to fund in Asia. That is what cronyism means, when Liberal friends get first choice.

I would like to hear what other members think of that.

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12:20 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. It is always a pleasure to work with him in committee.

A disproportionately high number of former Liberal Party ministers, organizers, and fundraisers were awarded contracts for cannabis permits. I understand the hon. member's concern.

Is cronyism between Asian governments, certain companies there and certain companies here in Canada, what is behind the use of taxpayers' money and public money to pave the way for future political patronage to benefit government friends?

That is an excellent question. Judging by what has been going on these past few months, that is highly likely unfortunately.

Speaker's RulingBudget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario


Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the concerns. Any time investments are made, there are concerns about the rate of return. The infrastructure bank investment into Asia talks about a return to Canadian taxpayers. However, the real opportunity, as it has been understood by folks on this side of the House, is that a lot of Canadian companies have expertise in the delivery of large infrastructure programs, especially in the construction management field, as well as with architects and engineering firms.

One of the things that is presented as an opportunity already within the riding I represent is that people with foreign credentials, people who were perhaps born overseas, or have studied overseas, have come back to Canada, and whose credentials are not recognized, can find employment with engineering, construction, and architectural firms. As these firms gear up for the infrastructure investments on the table in that part of world, people with foreign credentials are now seen as an advantage to have inside their firms because of the work they can do overseas.

If local Canadians, who have been hard to employ in their professions, would get work out of this, would the NDP have an eye to support it? There is an extraordinary opportunity now present to immigrants and refugees who arrive here with credentials that quite often are not recognized. They would now have an opportunity to participate in a very high level way and do so in a way that actually would return an investment to Canadian taxpayers.

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12:20 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to correct my colleague. In committee, we were told in no uncertain terms that there is no hope for a return on investment in the short term. It is not a question of making money with the public investments that would be made in this bank.

I agree with the hon. member. I also want architects, engineers, and our Canadian experts to be able to make investments and work on projects in India, China, or Bangladesh. Obviously that is what we want. Why do we need to put in half a billion dollars to make that happen? Why is that necessary? It is extremely expensive and yet, our expertise and our companies are already available to take part in the projects.

Do we have to put a token on the table? Is there an entry fee for taking part in the project?

I would have liked that half billion dollars to be invested in creating infrastructure here at home. Our architects, our engineers, and our workers would benefit from building the infrastructure that we need here and now.