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.