Madam Speaker, I want to start off by commending my friend and colleague from South Okanagan—West Kootenay for bringing forward this legislation. It demonstrates not only to his constituents but to the people of British Columbia, and to people across this great country who are involved in the wood industry, that we can bring forward practical solutions to support the work they do to promote what is truly a sustainable industry.
I have had my own personal involvement in this industry, although in only one section of it. In a previous life, I had the honour of working as a tree planter in British Columbia's forests for eight years. I have planted trees everywhere, from Kamloops to Merritt to Prince George to northern Vancouver Island. I have had an incredible glimpse of the wonderful province I call home.
We have had bad forestry practices in the past, but those practices have largely changed. I have seen, from my own point of view planting trees, that forestry companies really are taking in what consumers want. They want certification, because they know that a lot of the people who buy wood products are looking for wood that is harvested in a sustainable manner.
Across this great country, thousands of Canadians either directly or indirectly make a living working in this important industry.
Let us look at what Bill C-354 purports to do.
The bill would amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act to require that in the awarding of certain contracts, preference be given to projects that promote the use of wood. We can see that in the bill. It would add, after subsection 7(1), proposed subsection 7(1.1).
It has been noted in a few speeches, but it should be noted again, that great advances have been made in tall wood construction. We now know that with today's technology, it is possible to construct large, safe wood buildings quickly and economically.
Building with wood produces lower greenhouse gas emissions and sequesters more carbon than other products. This can really help Canada achieve its greenhouse gas targets under the Paris agreement. That is something all members and many citizens of this country want us to do with sound policies.
In my own neck of the woods, in coastal British Columbia, the forestry sector has had very tough times over the last several decades. Given the difficulties the forestry sector has faced over the past 20 years, innovation and new developments, such as those that allow this kind of construction, offer a path forward for the future health of this sector. As the largest procurer in Canada, the federal government can give this sector a major boost by using this cutting edge technology at home.
Most of the sawmills in my riding of Cowichan--Malahat--Langford are operated by Western Forest Products, which has facilities up and down Vancouver Island. It has a total number of employees of just over 2,000, based on 2012 figures. It might even be higher by now. The company has sold over $1 billion in products both at home and abroad.
There is a sawmill in my riding in Cowichan Bay. There are two facilities in Chemainus. In the last election, and even since then, I have had the pleasure of getting to know many of the men and women, proud unionized members of the United Steelworkers, who operate those facilities. They have good-paying jobs. They have the ability to live in our communities, raise families, and contribute to the local economy, all because of the focal point of those important sawmills in my riding, and I am sure within the ridings of many hon. members in the chamber.
People are a critical part of the wood processing industry. That includes everyone from employees to the people who live in the communities where they operate. Many people, directly or indirectly, depend on the sustainability of the business. They continually build the business, protect the tenure they have, and work co-operatively with external agencies and groups on progressive approaches to policy and operations.
I believe that the industry has come a long way and is very much committed to the communities in which it works, through employment, through sponsorships, and various operational public forums such as our public advisory groups. We know that the employees are the heart of any business operation. They are dedicated to safety, to professionalism, to their co-workers, stakeholders, and customers. They have a unique skill set which they use to achieve excellence.
I want to say a few things about wood itself as a building material. First of all, it is beautiful. Each piece of wood is a unique creation of nature. It is a fascinating process that allows such a small seedling, which I had the honour of planting throughout British Columbia, to grow into a massive and mighty giant, and from which we can derive such an amazing material. It is durable. It offers more strength in proportion to its weight than any other material. It is renewable. All the trees are harvested sustainably in sustainably managed timberlands, and they are renewed through reforestation. That is part of the law in the province of British Columbia, that every company that harvests timber is responsible for replanting it.
It is also an environmentally friendly product. It is a low-impact green alternative to energy intensive building materials, such as concrete, aluminum, steel, and vinyl, which all must be manufactured from non-renewable resources using petroleum and other carbon intensive resources in the production. I do not want to say that we should stop using those other products, but if we are serious as a nation in finding a sustainable building material that will help us achieve our goals in greenhouse gas reduction, wood is the first place to be looking.
It is biodegradable and recyclable. Wood products decompose and naturally return to the environment, unlike most manufactured or composite building materials, which can end up spending hundreds of years in landfills. It is reusable, whether as beams or compost products. It is also a natural insulator. It insulates against heat and cold which saves energy. In fact, wood is 400 times more effective as insulation than steel, and 1,800 times more effective than aluminum.
One of the big things we have seen in the debate tonight is the importance for carbon storage. Forests absorb carbon dioxide emissions that are part of the greenhouse gases connected to climate change, and store carbon in the fibre of the wood that they grow. The structures that are built from wood products continue to store this carbon while healthy young forests continue to absorb it.
Consumers, retailers, investors, and communities are taking an increased interest in how their buying decisions affect the environment for future generations. That is something that, as the father of young children, I am very much concerned with. Considering factors beyond the traditional attributes of price, service, and quality, when all of wood's positive attributes are factored in, it is obvious that wood is a good choice.
I see that my time is starting to run low, so I will begin my conclusion. I will note that in the federal government's budget 2017, it provided Natural Resources Canada with $39.8 million over four years, which will begin in fiscal year 2018-19, to support projects and activities that increase the use of wood as a greener substitute material in infrastructure projects. I believe that bringing this forward is our way of calling on the government to act on a good idea that it already supports in a very reasonable way. It will allow us to show our important support for the forestry communities across Canada, and those who work in the industry, while reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.
In closing, I want to again thank my friend and colleague for bringing forward this important bill. From what I have seen so far, I think there is general support from all of the major parties, especially from members who are lucky to have forestry communities within their ridings. I very much look forward to seeing the bill proceed to committee. That is where the hon. members of the committee can do the important work, hear from witnesses, and get the factual basis for why it is a good idea for the federal government to move forward on.