Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate this evening on Bill C-354, an act whose spirit and intent are both commendable and easy to support. Indeed, the hon. member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay has proposed legislation that reflects our government's own efforts to support and grow Canada's forest sector, efforts that not only acknowledge the forest industry's long-standing importance to the Canadian economy and local communities but also recognize its equally bright future.
While Canada's forest sector has endured more than its fair share of challenges in recent times, from historic fires and devastating infestations to unwarranted duties and tariffs from our neighbours to the south, Canada's forest sector continues to reinvent and transform itself for this clean-growth century. In fact, Canada's forest industry stands out today as one of the most innovative parts of our Canadian economy.
The timing could not be better. The world is at a pivotal moment, a time when climate change is one of the greatest challenges our generation will face and a time when investing in clean technology is the new imperative for a low-carbon economy. Canada's forest industry is central to this.
The Minister of Natural Resources has even gone so far as to say that there is no global solution to climate change without the forest sector, and there is a very good reason for that. As we all learned in high school science classes, forests are our planet's lungs. They absorb vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and store it for decades, which makes the forest industry unique among our resource sectors and creates huge opportunities for wood and wood products and for the mostly rural and indigenous communities that produce them. That is why the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change includes commitments from senior levels of government to promote the greater use of wood in construction projects, including $39.8 million in federal funding over four years to support these efforts. That is why we have also joined with our provincial and territorial partners to endorse a forest bioeconomy framework, a comprehensive approach we have moved quickly to implement as we seek to make Canada a global leader in the use of sustainable biomass to transform our economy.
The challenges of a changing climate also represent an unprecedented opportunity for the forest sector, and our government is doing its part. Here are some quick examples.
Last fall, our government launched the clean growth program, with $155 million for clean-growth technology development and demonstration projects. Importantly, one of the program's five priority areas is advanced materials and bioproducts. The clean growth program will help to accelerate their adoption.
Then there is the green construction through wood program that funds demonstration projects to increase the use of engineered wood in non-traditional construction projects, such as tall buildings, low-rise commercial buildings, and bridges. The program also supports the necessary research that will allow tall buildings as part of the next cycle of the National Building Code of Canada, through collaboration with the National Research Council. This is critical, because previous building code changes have already had an impact on the adoption of wood in construction. In fact, there are currently close to 500 mid-rise wood buildings across Canada that are either completed, under construction, or at the planning stage because of code changes nationally and provincially. This number is also expected to increase significantly in the coming years as familiarity with the building code changes and grows.
These efforts are the result of broad partnerships including forest sector research organizations, academia, industry associations such as the Canadian Wood Council, federal and provincial governments collectively, and municipalities.
We have worked together on research, building codes, material development, education, and outreach to create awareness and knowledge on wood construction. Our government is supporting this move to wood through innovative projects across the country and around the world. At the University of British Columbia, for example, federal funding helped build a new 18-storey student residence that now stands as the tallest hybrid wood building in the world. The magnificent Brock Commons tall wood structure is not only an engineering and architectural showpiece; it is an environmental game changer, storing close to 1,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide and saving more than 1,000 tonnes in greenhouse gas emissions. That is the equivalent of removing 511 cars from the road each and every year.
On the other side of the country, we supported the construction of the 13-storey cross-laminated timber condominium building in Quebec City. The Origine project includes a 12-storey mass timber structure on a concrete podium.
As well, we have been taking Canadian ingenuity to the world. There is no better example of that than the new Sino-Canadian low-carbon ecodistrict project in Tianjin, China. It is a $2.5 billion project showcase of Canadian know-how and Canadian lumber to create a sustainable community covering almost two square kilometres.
The first phase of this ecodistrict features 100 wood-framed townhouses incorporating Canadian energy efficiency technologies, which is not just creating new markets but new demand for Canadian wood products. Once completed, the eco-district will serve as a demonstration of how green building materials and technologies can help China realize its goal of ensuring that 50% of new buildings meet green housing standards by 2020. The Minister of Natural Resources was in China last June to renew a memorandum of understanding to maintain the momentum this project has generated and enhance Canada's support for green building in China.
As these examples illustrate, the forest sector can continue to play a central role in many of the most important issues of our time, leading environmental performance, driving clean growth and innovation, and advancing indigenous partnerships, turning climate action into a competitive advantage.
These were the motivations and goals behind Bill C-354. We should all support the bill from the member opposite, at least in principle. However, we just cannot put it into practice without some crucial amendments.
As others have pointed out in the House and at the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, the bill, with the way it was previously worded, was problematic. It raised questions around fairness in procurement. It also had the potential of running contrary to Canada's trade obligations, both at home and abroad. While these concerns are important, they are not impossible to overcome. In fact, I believe that the amendment proposed by the member for Markham—Thornhill and passed by the Committee on Natural Resources resolves this concern quite nicely.
Let me remind the House of the wording of the amendment. It reads:
(1.1) In developing requirements with respect to the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal real property or federal immovables, the Minister shall consider any reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and any other environmental benefits and may allow the use of wood or any other thing—including a material, product or sustainable resource—that achieves such benefits.
This amendment would support the Canadian forest sector. It would support other sectors and suppliers. It would ensure fairness, openness, and transparency in the federal procurement process. The bill, as amended, would create good jobs, a stronger economy, and shared prosperity for generations to come. I encourage all members to support this bill as it has been amended.
The hon. member brought forward Bill C-354 with passion and vigour on the subject, and I thank him for it. He spoke vigorously about it in committee and convinced us all that this was a worthwhile venture and something we should all be proud of as members of Parliament. It is something all Canadians can be proud of.