Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in the debate this evening. It is on an interesting bill that essentially seeks to give preference to the wood industry in federal government construction projects. I commend my NDP colleague on his common sense, well intentioned bill, but unfortunately, we believe it would promote one industry over another. On the Conservative side, we believe in the free market and prefer not to give one resource a leg up over another.
About seven or eight years ago, there was a big debate in Quebec City around the construction of a new arena, which we know today as the Centre Vidéotron. Among the events held at the centre are the Remparts de Québec hockey games. Apparently, Patrick Roy is going to be the new coach, but we are still waiting for an NHL team. However, that is not what I want to talk about.
There was a big debate in Quebec City about whether the arena would be built out of wood or conventional materials. As I was saying earlier, people have good intentions when they say that since Canada produces lumber, which has the greatest impact on our economy, this would propel the industry into the world market. With greater recognition, we would do better. Products can be made out of both softwood and hardwood, and there would be increases in exports and the quality of wood. People wondered if this new Quebec City arena could be an opportunity to show that we can build large buildings out of wood.
However, people soon realized that the cost, as well as the risk and the timeframe, would grow tenfold. The idea was abandoned. I vividly remember Mr. Dutil—he still heads up the Canam Manac empire, a jewel of Canada's economy located in Beauce, home to an MP whom I know quite well and am quite fond of. Beauce's spirit of entrepreneurship is also what drives the free market. Mr. Dutil publicly stated that he did not believe for a minute that any of the 125 members of the National Assembly knew how to build buildings. “Let us do our job; you do yours and we will do ours.” That is why we decided, the members of my party and I, to not interfere in the free market.
That does not mean we oppose forestry. Far from it. About 10 years ago, Quebec City built the Chauveau soccer stadium on Ormière Boulevard, in my riding. It is a very innovative stadium. I go there all the time to attend community activities put on by local organizations. It is in fact a wooden structure. It is amazing and it inspires us. It is a good thing. They did it that way because they needed to. The market was left to decide what building material would work best in the circumstances, and wood won. That does not mean wood was given preferential treatment. It simply means that a decision was made in this case to build the stadium out of wood. Anywhere else, it might have been steel, concrete, aluminum, or any other kind of building material, like brick or glass. Let us leave the market to choose, because any kind of interference on our part would only lead to lawsuits, financial disputes, and public outcry. The reality is that the concrete, aluminum, steel, brick, and glass industries could challenge the decision, and we would be no better off.
We believe in the industry's potential for expansion. That is why, when we were in government, we created the expanding market opportunities program in 2013, at the urging of the Hon. Denis Lebel, who represented Lac-Saint-Jean for 10 years and cared deeply about the development of the forest industry. The goal of the program was not only to expand markets, but to increase investment in companies, in lumber mills, in order to develop new environmentally friendly processes and open up new areas of innovation. The program was also intended to give us a competitive edge over the United States, our partner and major competitor.
Case in point, about two months ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the riding of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. I would remind the House that sadly, the people of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord have gone without representation in the House of Commons for almost six months now.
It is time for the Prime Minister to call the byelection. In fact, I would like to remind the House that our party has an excellent candidate in the riding, Richard Martel. He has been there for the people in that riding since December, and we certainly hope that Canadians in Chicoutimi—Le Fjord will be able to cast their ballots soon.
As I was saying, I made my way to a small village in that riding that most people had probably never heard of at the time but that later drew the world's attention when Samuel Girard won a gold medal. I am talking about the village of Ferland-et-Boilleau, which has a population of 600. I mention this village because it is home to a forestry co-operative that works with wood, harvests timber, and sells it throughout North America. This co-operative broke new ground by distilling new essential oils from wood. They offered me some, but I purchased them. As pleasant as it is to receive gifts, it is important that MPs support the local economy. I vaporized some at home and it smelled really nice. I felt as though I was in the forest.
In short, we support the lumber industry, but we also support the free market. Innovative products and unknown sectors have yet to be discovered. That is what innovation is all about. If this bill is passed, we believe that it will be challenged in the courts and antagonize people in other areas of the construction industry who will ask why one sector is being favoured over another, and rightly so. People from the concrete, aluminum, steel, glass, and brick sectors will not be happy.
I am sorry to disappoint my colleagues, but that is part of the democratic process. We will not be supporting this bill. We do not think it is a bad idea, but the problems that this bill will create prevent us from supporting it.
Ultimately, we should let the market take its course and let people make their choices. I have confidence in the Canadian wood industry, which is strong and is being led by competent business people who know how to market their products without any direct help from the government, without preferential treatment or a free ride, not to put too fine a point on it. We must let the free market take its course. I am sure that the Canadian wood industry will figure out a way to come out on top, as it has for centuries, without begging anyone for help.