House of Commons Hansard #136 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was use.


Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2022 / 11 a.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

moved that Bill S-222, 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 happy and proud to rise in the House this morning to begin debate on a bill from the other place, Bill S-222. This is a small but mighty bill that would create beautiful, safe federal buildings, support our forestry sector during difficult times, spur innovation in the cement and steel industries and help us reach our climate targets.

What would this bill do? It simply states that when building federal infrastructure, the Minister of Public Works “shall consider any potential 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.”

I mentioned the bill came from the Senate, but, in fact, this bill started its life in the House of Commons, first as a Bloc bill more than a decade ago. I took up the bill in the 42nd Parliament where, as Bill C-354, it passed in the House of Commons, but died in the Senate when that Parliament ended.

I would like to take a moment to thank my friend, Senator Diane Griffin. Senator Griffin guided the bill through the Senate in 2018 and 2019 and when the bill stalled there, through no fault of her own, she reintroduced the bill in the 43rd Parliament. As many here remember, that Parliament ended prematurely due to an election, so Senator Griffin introduced it once again last year in this Parliament. It is through her persistence that we are seeing it again.

Senator Griffin retired last spring, so she passed the torch to Senator Jim Quinn, who saw it through its passage in the Senate earlier this fall.

The initial form of the bill over a decade ago was a direct ask of the minister to consider wood in the construction of federal infrastructure. It was modelled on the Charte du bois in Quebec and the wood-first bill in British Columbia. It was designed then to ensure that the federal government actually considered wood when building large infrastructure. Until recently, the construction industry had been totally geared to cement and steel when doing that.

My version of the bill was amended in committee to remove the overt preference for wood and replace that with preference for materials that had environmental benefits, in particular regarding the greenhouse gas footprints of the building materials. This amendment allayed a couple of concerns around the trade implications of potentially favouring one sector over another and also recognized the emerging work on making concrete and steel more environmentally friendly. I will speak more on that later.

I was initially inspired to take up this bill in 2016 because of a company in my riding, in my home town of Penticton. That company is Structurlam, and it has been at the leading edge of mass timber engineered wood construction in North America.

While Structurlam leads that sector, it still faces some of the hurdles that confront all innovative companies. It needs help to scale-up its production, and the easiest way for a government to help a company in that situation is to provide business through government procurement. That is one of the core benefits of this bill. It would help Canadian companies scale-up to maintain our dominant position in the engineered wood sector in North America.

Forest products, with their sequestered carbon, are obvious candidates for decisions under this policy. If we can use more wood in government infrastructure and grow the mass timber market in Canada, it will obviously benefit the forest sector overall.

These are benefits to a forest industry beset by challenges on all sides. Beetle infestations, catastrophic wildfires and a long history of harvests have all reduced access to fibre. To top it off, the softwood lumber dispute has brought illegal tariffs from our biggest trading partner, the United States.

Reduced fibre access means we have to get more jobs and more money for every log we cut, and that is what mass timber provides.

To make glulam beams or cross-laminated timber panels, mass timber plants use lumber sourced from local mills. That gives those mills a new domestic market for their products and it reduces their reliance on the United States. On top of that, we can sell those mass timber products to the United States tariff-free, so it is a win-win.

Just to reiterate, the bill and a rejuvenated domestic market for lumber would not mean increased forest harvest, as that is limited by other factors, but it will mean getting more value added out of the trees we do cut. There are benefits to using mass timber, benefits for the construction industry and benefits for the users of that infrastructure.

First, I will mention the construction process itself. Engineered wood is produced indoors in plant facilities. The building can be literally constructed indoors with no weather delays or complications, while the site is being prepared for construction. Then the building components can be put together quickly and delivered to the site exactly when needed.

Brock Commons, an 18-storey residence complex at the University of British Columbia, the tallest wood building in the world, was built in 57 days, two storeys per week. It is now home to over 400 UBC students. Because the component parts are built indoors, they can be constructed to very fine tolerances, within millimetres, and that means a lot when one is constructing the buildings of the future that will have to be built to passive energy specifications.

The buildings constructed in this way are beautiful. The exposed wood components are like furniture. Structurlam has an entire finishing plant devoted to smoothing and treating every exposed beam and wall panel as if it were a piece of massive furniture.

It is not surprising many of the early examples of mass timber construction were civic buildings meant to look good as well as be functional, buildings such as the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the Olympic speed skating oval in Richmond, B.C. and the Rocky Ridge recreation centre in Calgary. The Rocky Ridge facility has over 2,000 glulam beams forming its huge roof, and no two are the same.

I would like to also mention that Canada leads the way in engineered wood construction in North America. Structurlam has projects all across the continent and has recently opened up a branch plant in Arkansas. Nordic Structures in Chibougamau, Quebec was another pioneer of this technology.

Another major mass timber plant has recently opened in my riding just outside Castlegar. It was opened up by Kalesnikoff Lumber. I would like to give a shout-out to Ken Kalesnikoff and his son Chris and daughter Krystle for making this major investment that will pay off for the future of the West Kootenay and the forest sector in British Columbia.

One issue that often comes up when talking about tall wood buildings is fire safety. I hear from firefighters who just simply do not like the concept of wood buildings of any size. We heard testimony of that nature in both House of Commons and Senate committees. However, I need to reiterate that large infrastructure projects under this legislation would be constructed with mass timber. Firefighters I talked to are concerned about buildings constructed with traditional wood frame construction such as two-by-fours and two-by-sixes.

Mass timber is another thing entirely. When we have glulam beams a metre thick or cross laminated timber panels nine inches thick, those materials react to open flame in a completely different way. They simply slowly char instead of bursting into flame. Think of trying to light a log on fire with a match.

The National Research Council has conducted fire safety trials with mass timber and has found it is just as safe, or safer, than traditional concrete or steel construction.

More detailed studies are under way, including those at the University of British Columbia with Felix Wiesner. Dr. Wiesner has found, perhaps not surprisingly, that thicker components, say panels made with five layers of lumber versus those made with three layers, burn more slowly and that the type of adhesive that binds those layers also has an impact.

Suffice it to say, large buildings made with mass timber provide both occupants and firefighters ample time to exit the building in case of a fire and, as I said earlier, are just as safe or safer than traditionally designed buildings.

I would be remiss if I did not mention some of the other materials that might compete successfully in the government's analysis of environmental benefit. We have been hearing a lot about green steel production, and there are new cement products that sequester carbon dioxide to reduce some of that material's carbon footprint.

When I first put forward this bill, I heard concerns from the cement industry that the direct mention of wood might be unfair to the cement sector, which has made impressive advances in sustainability over the past few years. Those concerns were largely met by the amendments that were made in the committee in the 42nd Parliament and carried through to this version of the bill. I just talked to the cement industry last week, and it is supportive. It pointed out it is working with the federal government to provide data for life-cycle analysis of greenhouse gas footprints of building materials.

These analyses will be critical to the use of the legislation before us, as it will provide decision-makers with all the details they need. We will need similar full life-cycle data for steel and wood products, of course.

In recent conversations I have had with members of all parties around Bill S-222, I am heartened by the support I am hearing. Members of all parties know that this is the right way forward; that this bill will set us in the right direction when it comes to meeting our climate targets; that this bill will support the forest industry, a sector that has been beset with challenges from all sides in recent years; and that this bill will not discriminate against other building material sectors, such as cement and steel, that are working hard to innovate new solutions to make their products truly sustainable.

I hope that every member here will support Bill S-222 at second reading. I look forward to discussing it at committee to ensure that it will truly have the beneficial impacts that it promises. With this legislation in place, we can literally build a better Canada.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, I liked what my colleague had to say.

To begin, I want to say that I worked in the forestry sector and forestry industry for a decade. It is 2022 and, even back in the early 2000s, I was telling insurers in Laurentides—Labelle about the positives of carbon capture, its use and benefits in terms of fire reduction. Given that is is now 2022, it was high time this bill was introduced.

I see this as just the tip of the iceberg. My colleague who spoke before me mentioned that, in Quebec, this is already happening. The province is already in the process of adapting training programs to provide access to this basic information.

My question is this: Does my colleague agree that we can fight for the forestry industry to have its fair share once this bill is passed?

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague is correct. We need to move forward.

She mentioned education. A lot of what the bill will promote will need the education of architects, engineers and construction workers across Canada to change their mindset about the construction of large buildings.

There is a wonderful program in Okanagan College, in my home town of Penticton, that is on sustainable building methods. We need that kind of program across the country so that not just governments but people building large facilities will think about wood when they make those decisions.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, I really do appreciate the member's insights as to the materials we are using when it comes to building. I know that constituents in the riding of Waterloo are really concerned about the way we are building, what we are building with and with the environment.

I would like to hear from the member on the benefits for the forestry sector. What are the added benefits of using wood when constructing or maintaining rural properties? I also appreciate the fact that he has consulted with firefighters and those who would recognize some of the challenges that come with that. I appreciate his efforts on this.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, I mentioned some of the benefits. The main benefit for the forest sector would be increasing the domestic demand for wood products. Mass timber does exactly that. Mills all across the country are making two-by-fours and two-by-sixes. Mass timber plants use those pieces of lumber to make their own products. That would really boost the domestic demand for wood. We will get that value added. We will have plants creating jobs and value all across the country. That will benefit the forest industry and, at the same time, create beautiful buildings.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Madam Speaker, I note that this bill is an improvement on some of the earlier iterations that have come around and that it is not quite as prescriptive as others we have seen in the past.

I wonder if the member could comment on PSPC, as this bill creates a new piece for PSPC to consider. PSPC has been a broken department. It is broken under the government. I will say, though, that successive governments have allowed PSPC to become the disaster it is today.

Can he comment on any concerns about giving PSPC one more thing to bungle in its process of procuring buildings?

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, I have met with PSPC. There might have been concerns if this had been presented to it and it was completely unprepared. It is not. It has been preparing for this for the last few years. It has processes in place, like life-cycle analyses that are under way now with cement and steel, and will be under way later with wood products.

I am confident that this bill will not add to any other problems PSPC might or might not have. We are headed in the right direction.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Mount Royal Québec


Anthony Housefather LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my friend from South Okanagan—West Kootenay for his sponsorship of the bill, for his advocacy and for his hard work on this. I really appreciate it. I think he has done a yeoman's job on this file, including through his meetings with firefighters and others. I thank him. I think this is a very good bill, and I am pleased to speak about how we can make our government operations greener through smart investments in public infrastructure.

The efforts of this government to be more sustainable in how it operates, what it buys and what it builds are more important than ever right now. After a summer of unprecedented heat waves, wildfires, floods and storm surges around the world and right here at home, it is well past time to seriously accelerate our action against greenhouse gas emissions.

This past March, the government introduced its 2030 emissions reduction plan. This plan is our path to meeting our target under the Paris Agreement to get to net-zero emissions by 2050. The plan maps out how we will reduce our emissions from 40% to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030, with clear milestones. It is consistent with the United Nations 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

In Canada, we must lead the way. Indeed, as the Prime Minister has said, “climate change is an existential threat. Building a cleaner, greener future will require a sustained and collaborative effort from all of us.” He has mandated his ministers to seek opportunities within their portfolio to “support our whole-of-government effort to reduce emissions, create clean jobs and address the climate-related challenges communities are already facing.”

As we work toward solutions to ease and mitigate the environmental damage, we are positioning ourselves to bring about real reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

Bill S‑222 will encourage the government to use wood, a sustainable, renewable material, in the construction and renovation of federal buildings and infrastructure projects.

One department is particularly well positioned to help the government achieve its greening government strategy objectives. That department is Public Services and Procurement Canada, or PSPC. As the government's primary procurement body and manager of its real property, the department can prioritize purchasing and using materials that reduce our carbon footprint.

Today I would like to talk to you about how PSPC can play a unique and important role in reducing our GHG emissions and how wood products are essential to achieving that.

I would like to start with a brief explanation of what PSPC does. First, the department is the government's central purchasing agency, responsible for about 24 billion dollars' worth of procurement activity annually on behalf of most government departments and agencies. Second, PSPC is also the property manager for a vast portfolio of buildings it owns or rents across the country. In addition to office buildings, that portfolio includes heritage properties, such as the parliamentary precinct, and numerous bridges, wharves and dams across the country.

These two sectors offer a significant opportunity to achieve greener outcomes, and advance the goals of sustainable development and a carbon neutral portfolio for Canada.

By prioritizing green procurement, PSPC can help protect the environment in several different ways. Beyond reducing greenhouse gas emissions from government operations, green procurement will also have the same effect on our supply chains. Moreover, it cuts down on the use of hazardous and toxic substances, pollution and plastic waste. It also supports the Canadian economy by creating new markets for innovative products and services. In this context, green procurement includes assessing the life cycles of goods that are purchased, and adopting clean technologies and green products and services.

The government’s policy on green procurement also stipulates the criteria for sustainable goods and services to guide procurement operations. These criteria require potential suppliers to demonstrate that their products can reduce emissions, are sustainable or have other environmental benefits.

Given that it purchases nearly $24 billion on behalf of the majority of departments and agencies, PSPC has substantial leverage to create markets for sustainable goods. This can act like a virtuous circle and inspire other manufacturers and businesses to up their game and offer greener alternatives to the greater consumer market, which will benefit all of us.

The greening government strategy also commits the government to maintaining a plan to reach net zero for its real property portfolio by 2050. That plan also has to show that its buildings and infrastructure are resilient to climate change and cost-effective. For example, PSPC is transforming the iconic Centre Block from one of the highest-emitting PSPC assets to a near net-zero carbon facility. It is also using low-carbon construction materials where possible in the new Parliament Welcome Centre. In addition, during the rehabilitation of West Block—

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. member for Jonquière on a point of order.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, there is a problem with the interpretation.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

We will check on that.

The problem has been fixed.

The hon. parliamentary secretary may continue his speech.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

In addition, during the rehabilitation of West Block and the Senate of Canada building, more than 90% of construction waste was diverted from landfills, and a number of environmentally innovative measures were incorporated to save energy and reduce water use. We are also committing that starting in 2030, 75% of new lease and lease renewal floor space will be in net-zero climate-resilient buildings.

To ensure we move forward with reducing the carbon footprint of governmental operations, all departments are subject to various legal instruments. Indeed, the greening government strategy flows from the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

With Bill S-222, we have an opportunity to encourage the use of wood by PSPC and, by extension, the whole of government to meet our climate change objectives. Indeed, wood represents a green approach to building and renovation. It is a renewable resource that is widely available across most of this country. The forest sector is a key source of economic prosperity for people and communities across the country, including many rural, remote and indigenous communities.

The benefits of wood in construction have been evident for hundreds of years. Many of the wood buildings that were constructed at the beginning of the 20th century are still standing and being used today. Moreover, newer wood waste products, such as mass timber, are less carbon-intensive than other materials and could be used more extensively in Canadian construction to remove the carbon emissions equivalent of taking 125,000 internal combustion engine cars off the road every year.

Promoting the use of wood in the construction of federal buildings would be meaningless if this country's forests were poorly managed. As it happens, Canada's forest laws are among the strictest in the world. They protect our forests and ensure that sustainable forest management practices are applied across the country.

This should reassure consumers and all Canadians that Canadian wood and forest products have been harvested under a robust system of sustainable forest management.

To conclude, I would like to go back to the United Nations 2030 agenda for sustainable development and draw attention to goal 9 of that agenda, which states that signatory countries are to “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.” This agenda commits Canada to “upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable” by 2030 and to increase “resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes”.

Time is of the essence. CO27 has just called on the world to take urgent action. Canada will need to accelerate its climate action, and Bill S-222 can enhance the role that greener government operations are already playing to meet our obligations to this country and around the world.

I want to thank the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay for his work on this file.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, it is my honour to rise today to speak to Bill S-222. I want to recognize the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay for introducing this bill.

Back in 1951, when my grandfather was 21 years old, he came across the ocean from the Netherlands with $200 in his pockets, which was a lot of money back then. He bought a chainsaw and proceeded to make a fortune cutting down trees in northern British Columbia. That was a lifelong passion of his. He was very much an admirer of Canadian forests and Canadian trees.

Having bought a chainsaw, that was his means to earn a living here in Canada, and it was a good living. He noted that by 1956, he bought a brand new Chevrolet pickup for $1,600, and that in one particular month he made $2,200. He made more money in one month than it cost to buy a brand new pickup. In today's dollars, that is probably $40,000 or $50,000 in one month, which is incredible.

The forestry industry across Canada is one of the reasons Canada exists. There were many interests coming across the ocean early on, starting in about year 1,000. There was the fishing industry that came across the ocean, with people fishing off the Grand Banks, but also the lumber industry. When folks came from Europe to Canada for the first time, they noted the large trees, and for shipbuilding they used the trees here. One of the reasons that people came to Canada was to develop our forest industry and use the giant trees we have here to build things. That is definitely part of our heritage and part of the reason that Canada exists, and it is good to recognize that.

If members are ever in Calgary, they should check out the ATCO Commercial Centre. It is a big new building in the middle of Calgary. I had the opportunity to speak at an anti-human trafficking event that was hosted there just a couple of weeks ago, and I was impressed and blown away by the grandeur of the building and all of the beam work inside of it. I bet the ceiling is nearly 100 feet tall. It is as tall as the ceiling in here or maybe taller, and whereas here we see the beams are made out of steels, there they are made out of wood. It is an impressive structure and is really neat to see, and it is something we can enjoy as a Canadian society.

I will get back to my grandfather coming across the ocean to become a logger in northern British Columbia. While this bill is very much supportive of the forestry industry and the lumber industry, the challenge we have today is that many people are fighting against the harvesting of our forests. Most of those in the forestry industry whom I deal with in my area have a 100-year plan on how they are going to harvest the trees. They harvest some trees in one area, move to another area and harvest some trees and then move to another area. Within 100 years, they anticipate harvesting about 70% of all trees on the landscape, but by the time they are done that, they can go back to where they started and start harvesting the trees all over again. In the area where I live, the average tree is probably 40 or 50 years old before the wind blows it over, it dies or a forest fire comes along and takes care of it, so a 100-year plan on harvesting the forest is a good idea.

There is a huge amount of value that lives in the forest, but there is an increasing number of voices in this country of people who want to shut down the forestry industry and want to shut down logging. For full disclosure, I have many family members who work in the forestry industry. My brother works in the forestry industry building roads and working on a processor. My brother-in-law is a heavy-duty mechanic who works on forestry equipment, so it is a big part of my family's life. Increasingly, they are frustrated with the inability of the government to get organized around managing and developing the industry.

This is a good bill, in that it recognizes the potential and the benefits of the forestry industry. Particularly, I would note that in British Columbia there is more and more difficulty in getting access to the wood fibre. In Alberta, it is not a great deal better. The rest of the country I am not as familiar with, so I cannot say. However, it is an increasing challenge all the time to get access to the wood fibre. While Bill S-222 would indicate we should be using wood to build buildings, if we are unable to harvest the trees in the forest in order to make the lumber, this bill would not necessarily go places.

We have to ensure that this is a country that can build things again, that can develop its natural resources and that lives up to the heritage it was given by the first peoples who developed our forestry industry. Wood has been used to build dwellings and buildings forever. There are wood structures around the world that are over 1,000 years old. It is a good building product, but we need to ensure that we can develop this resource across the country.

I would note that there are voices across this country that are working very hard to minimize and to stop the development of our forestry industry. Particularly, British Columbia is where I note this to be a challenge, and I hope we can see governments coming around to promoting this. I would note that the New Democrats have been a government in power in British Columbia for a long time, and were historically very much champions of development of the forestry industry. However, today it seems to be a challenge to develop the forestry industry.

We are seeing a reduction in allowable cuts. We are seeing a reduction in the land that is available for managing it. It is ironic, to some degree, that most of British Columbia is covered by forests. It is one of the areas where forestry is probably the most valuable resource they have. The northern half of Alberta is covered with forests, and forestry is a big deal up there as well, but I note that it is definitely something we have to be concerned about.

Interestingly, we have had a few discussions with folks around fire concerns and wood buildings. It is an interesting discussion to have regarding fire ratings. Let us think about it a little and get back to that ATCO building in Calgary. The same building could be built with steel girders.

Typically, steel girders are an I-beam configuration. What is really fascinating about a steel girder in an I-beam configuration versus a wooden glulam beam, which is made from multiple laminated pieces of wood, is that the wood actually has a much better fire rating.

This is interesting, because we think that fire would consume the wood. The wood is consumed in a fire, but it actually maintains its structural integrity for a very long time, even if it is burning. However, a steel beam, because of the two layers, will actually twist and buckle if one side of it is heated. We had a bridge in Edmonton that buckled just because of the heat of the sunshine, so it is interesting to think about some of these things.

I am looking forward to supporting this bill. I hope this country can get back to developing our natural resources and harvesting the trees.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak about Bill S­222.

If we want to trace the origins of the discussions that led to an act that would benefit forest products, we need to go back to the proposals of the Bloc Québécois. As early as March 2010, Bill C‑429, which dealt with something very similar and was sponsored by the member for Manicouagan at the time, was being studied. The same thing happened a few years later, in 2014. The member for my former riding, Jonquière-Alma, which is now called Jonquière, had also tabled a similar bill. What we realized then was that the House's interest in supporting the forestry sector was not very high.

I would remind the House that, at the time, in 2010, the NDP voted in favour of the bill. However, in 2014, they changed their stance a bit. Half of their caucus was against the bill because it might be detrimental to the steel beam industry. I say that because I feel that there has never been the appropriate balance of power to bring the interests of the forestry industry to the House. It is no coincidence that the province where the forestry industry is largest is Quebec. Unfortunately, here, the Conservatives, among others, have never voted in favour of such measures.

Bill S‑222 certainly has potential, but there is no denying that it will need to be amended if it is referred to committee. The major difference in Bill S‑222 is that it is devoid of any means of enforcement. The bill feels like wishful thinking: It simply hopes that more wood will be used. However, if we are to achieve this, there must be some means of enforcement. This is the case with the Quebec law.

In Quebec, the wood charter assumes that, for all buildings under six storeys, a wood solution must be considered. It is mandatory. Perhaps it is something that can be corrected in the bill. We may be able to do that work in committee, but it would be essential. The Bloc Québécois will support this bill, but I believe that it should go a little further and make consideration of wood for federal government infrastructure mandatory.

I will take this opportunity to address another aspect. As I said at the beginning of my speech, I find that the forestry sector tends to be overlooked when it comes to federal government support. I would like to demonstrate that. As I have repeated around 3,000 times in the House, Canada has an economy that is based on two major industries: the oil and gas sector and the automobile sector. Support for the forestry sector has consistently been anemic.

I will share some figures from a study that I commissioned along with every other member of the Bloc Québécois. The Bloc Québécois is a caucus that is focused on the issue of softwood lumber. I will share the figures from the nine key federal programs that help the forestry sector.

From 2017 to 2020, we can say that roughly $317 million was redirected to the forestry sector. Keep in mind that 75% of the money that was distributed throughout Canada was in the form of guaranteed loans and 25% of that money was in the form of real subsidies. Earlier, the comparison was made with the oil and gas sector, but I think that is a bit of a stretch.

Quebec represents 22.5% of the federation, but the volume of Quebec's forestry sector represents a bit more than 30% of the sector Canada-wide. Canada pays Quebec $71 million a year. If we apply that same calculation, that means that 75% of that amount is in the form of loans. Quebec is therefore paid $53.5 million a year in the form of loans and $17 billion is paid in the form of subsidies. My region of Quebec, Saguenay‑Lac‑Saint‑Jean, provides more to the federal government than the entirety of the subsidies that are offered to Quebec's forestry sector. The $71 million paid by the federal government to the forestry industry does not even represent 0.3% of the sector's $20 billion in annual sales.

I checked and found that the federal government provides the least amount of support to these sectors. I see the disparity when I examine the fossil fuel sector. I say that because, on my initiative, the Standing Committee on Natural Resources is doing a comparative study of all the different natural resources sectors.

If I look at the fossil fuel sector, the cost of the Trans Mountain pipeline alone is $21 billion. Then, there are the $18 billion a year over 2020-22. Canada Economic Development, or CED, will be providing $5.4 billion, which will be redirected only to the oil and gas sector. That does not include $2.5 billion in the last budget for carbon capture strategies. As I am not meanspirited, I am not going to talk about everything to do with the cleanup of orphan wells and lines of credit that we have seen since 2019. I just want to say that it is appalling.

There really is a double standard. I do not see why this legislation would not pass. It would not cost the federal government very much to consider promoting the use of lumber in its contracts. It is simply a regulatory measure that does not necessarily involve funding.

We know that the federal government is allergic to supporting the forestry industry. If a small sawmill asks for help from CED, it will not get it. Instead, the sawmill will be immediately referred to Global Affairs Canada. No small sawmill in Quebec or Canada can get support from the economic arm of the federal government alone for fear of violating American softwood lumber laws. That is a big problem. It means that companies that do not even do business with the United States are not entitled to support from CED.

I want to quickly come back to what the Bloc Québécois has been doing to support the forestry industry. In September 2020, we presented a green recovery plan to get out of the COVID‑19 pandemic. One of the main focuses of this recovery plan is the development of natural resources, including the forestry sector.

In October 2020, on my initiative, the Standing Committee on Natural Resources was studying the renewal of the forestry sector. There were some very interesting proposals, one being that the federal government start using the concept of carbon footprint in its tenders.

Perhaps this could be worked into Bill S‑222. It goes much further than just using wood in construction. If we go with the idea of a carbon footprint, then all derivatives from the bioeconomy—that is, products derived from the forest biomass—would qualify. Think of packaging products, for one. We can replace single-use plastics right now. It would provide a much broader scope for supporting the forestry sector, and we could reduce our carbon footprint.

Unfortunately, even though these recommendations were made in a committee study, the government never acted on them. In fact, last week we had people from the forestry sector come before us. They came to tell us that the time for committee studies has passed, and we must now take action. We are still waiting for that action.

In April 2021, the Bloc Québécois hosted a forum on forests and climate change. Participants included experts from academia and the forestry sector, producers and people involved in research and development. At the end of the forum, participants reached a unanimous conclusion. From an economic perspective, our best weapon in the battle against climate change is the forestry sector. Forests are carbon sinks. The more carbon we sequester by building with wood, the better our GHG performance.

I recently toured Chantiers Chibougamau with my party leader. I would actually encourage all members to go see what is happening at Chantiers Chibougamau. They are superstars. They use pulpwood, the little bits from treetops, to make glued-laminated I-joists of astounding size.

I see my time is up. I will be happy to vote in favour of this bill, but it needs improvement. I hope that, going forward, the government will pay closer attention when it comes to the forestry sector.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, like a lot of my colleagues in this place, I spend a lot of time in airports. Yesterday afternoon I had a chance to spend a few minutes in my home airport, the Smithers Regional Airport. I was sitting in the departure lounge watching the sun set behind Hudson Bay Mountain and looking around the room, marvelling at what a beautiful space the community has created there. I know there are not many airports one could describe as beautiful, but it is certainly one of them.

It has personal significance for me because, during my time in local government as the mayor of Smithers, we undertook a major renovation of the Smithers Regional Airport. It was a building dating back to the 1950s and was in much need of renovation and renewal. Part of that was a brand new departure lounge. In undertaking this major project, with help from the provincial and federal governments, we had a number of objectives. We obviously wanted to make it a functional, modern space, but we also wanted to use it as an opportunity to tackle our community's greenhouse gas emissions and take responsibility for our role in this huge challenge we face.

We did that in a number of ways. We installed a geoexchange system for heating and cooling the building, which takes energy out of the ground and does so mostly without the use of fossil fuels. The other area where we really tried to drive sustainability was the use of wood.

I know there has been a lot of discussion about some of the more technical aspects, but what I was struck by yesterday, sitting in this room looking at the beautiful glulam beams and expanses of cross-laminated timber, is just the beauty of wood as a building product. In addition to all its other benefits, it is truly a spectacular product to be building with. This is important not only because the forest industry is a big part of our economy and always has been in British Columbia, but also, in the context of this bill, because wood is a lower-carbon building material than many other options.

I am pleased to rise and speak to Bill S-222. I believe this bill originally was intended to promote the use of wood in the construction of public infrastructure in Canada. I want to take a moment to recognize Senator Griffin, the bill's sponsor in the other place, but mostly my colleague, the brilliant MP for South Okanagan—West Kootenay, who has been a tireless champion for the role wood can play in addressing climate change.

This bill calls for amending the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act by adding the following wording to the clause laying out the minister’s powers and responsibilities:

In developing requirements with respect to the construction, maintenance and repair of public works, federal real property and federal immovables, the Minister shall consider any potential 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.

I understand that was amended to recognize some of the improvements in the steel industry and in the manufacturing of concrete, etc.

I hope colleagues will forgive me if my comments about this bill speak directly to the benefits of wood as a building product. This is a topic that has personal significance for me. My father worked for over 30 years in the forest industry. He was a buckerman, which, for folks who are less familiar with forestry, is the person who works in the bush and cuts the logs to length before they are loaded onto the trucks headed for the mill.

I remember how frustrated my dad was by some of the waste that occurred in the forest industry at the time. There were trees and logs that were too big to be used by the sawmills and were left in the bush and eventually burned. I remember his chainsaw mill, a little portable mill that attached to his chainsaw. He would take it out on the weekends and mill these logs into slabs, bring them home and build beautiful things from them. He was also the person who instilled in me a love for forests and a recognition of the need to do forestry responsibly and sustainably, an area I believe we continue to make progress in today. Of course, he built many beautiful things out of wood.

As I speak to this bill today, I am thinking of my dad and those values he instilled in me.

Bill S-222 speaks to public procurement as an opportunity for addressing greenhouse gas emissions through the choice of building materials, and this is indeed a huge opportunity. Much of the debate around tackling climate change has focused on emissions from the operation of buildings and transportation and such. However, the embodied carbon in building materials represents a significant challenge and opportunity when it comes to tackling the climate crisis. Given the billions of dollars spent on public procurement every year, and my colleague across the way mentioned the figure of, I believe, $27 billion per year, this represents a significant opportunity for Canada.

When we dig into the role of embodied carbon in Canada's overall emissions, it is a surprisingly complex picture. At a high level, the advantage of wood rests on the fact that trees grow back and that the carbon stored in wood is stored for as long as the buildings it is used in are still standing. One source I found cited softwood timber as having an embodied carbon footprint of 110 kilograms per cubic metre, compared to 635 kilograms per cubic metre for reinforced concrete.

Admittedly, when we look for figures on the carbon footprint of building materials, we will find a huge range. Therein lies some of the complexity in evaluating different building materials and their climate impacts. However, the benefits of wood as a renewable resource are quite obvious.

Much of the life cycle climate carbon implications hinge on our management of forests. It is a popular idea to think of Canada's forests as climate-fighting machines that suck carbon out of the atmosphere, but the actual numbers, I think, would surprise people. A couple of years ago it came out that Canada's forests, since 2001, have actually been sources of carbon emissions and have emitted more carbon than they have sucked out of the air. This points to the need to consider the big picture when it comes to the climate implications of forest products.

Jim Pojar, a renowned ecologist based in Smithers, has expressed some caution regarding the notion that forestry is carbon neutral. He writes:

It should be emphasized that the underlying carbon budget calculations are complex and depend on assumptions about a future with much uncertainty around carbon dynamics in a rapidly changing environment.

The approach he advocates is one he calls “smart harvest and...substitution”, which couples forest management improvements with the substitution of wood in the place of more carbon-intensive building materials. Despite the complexity in evaluating the carbon emissions from different building materials, there does seem to be broad agreement that using wood products in buildings is an important tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

I mentioned the beauty of wood, which admittedly is a subjective benefit. Less subjective is the economic impact of manufacturing wood products in regions like the one I live in. So many people I speak with are alarmed by the volume of raw logs we continue to export. They understand intuitively that the more we can add value to our raw resources, the more we can manufacture things, the more people in our communities are going to have jobs and the more benefits we can accrue.

In our region, there are thousands of people employed in forestry: loggers, truck drivers, mill workers, tree planters, foresters and so many more. As we grapple with mid-term timber supply constraints and managing a landscape for multiple values, it becomes ever more important to maximize the number of jobs and the economic benefits from every cubic metre of timber harvested. If we can use public procurement to increase demand for manufactured Canadian wood products, we can spur investment in new manufacturing facilities, new technology and new applications for wood.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George, which is home to UNBC's master of engineering in integrated wood design program. It is one example of how, in British Columbia, we are seeking to do more with wood, to innovate and to create models that can be applied around the world.

I am thankful for the time today to talk about this important topic and I hope this bill passes into law very soon.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Mark Gerretsen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Senate)

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-222. I too, as other speakers have, support this legislation.

One thing I have not heard much of today that I would like to talk about in the short period of time I have is why it makes sense to transition to using more wood products. If we look at the residential buildings built in Ontario recently, we are seeing many more being built taller out of wood. Obviously Ontario has its own building code, but it is informed to a large degree by the national building code. Until recently, within the last decade or so, wood buildings could only be four storeys as the maximum, but now we are seeing that increase quite a bit. Six, seven, eight storeys in different parts of Ontario are permitted to be built out of wood.

We are seeing this shift back towards more wood-based construction not just because of the environmental impacts associated with that and how environmentally unfriendly concrete can be, even though concrete has come a long way in the last couple of decades in terms of its carbon footprint. One of the other things we are seeing is the manner in which we can protect people from fires. Quite frankly, decades ago, when wood was being used a lot, there were not a lot of mitigating measures in place to prevent fires from spreading in structures that had an incredible amount of wood. That is probably why most building codes moved away from using wood towards concrete, particularly in large residential and commercial applications.

However, now there are more fire-suppression tools being used, better ways of suppressing a fire by using certain types of drywall, installing different measures to ensure there is proper egress from buildings in the event of a fire, as well as ensuring that if a fire does occur, there is an opportunity to allow people a certain amount of time to escape before being impacted by—

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Unfortunately, I have to interrupt the member.

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.

Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022Government Orders



Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am happy to start this week by speaking to Bill C-27. It is quite an extensive bill at over 140 pages in length. It would amend several acts and the most consequential are three of them in particular, as it is an act to enact the consumer privacy protection act, the personal information and data protection tribunal act and the artificial intelligence and data act and to make consequential and related amendments to other acts.

I should start by saying that this is really three pieces of legislation that have been bundled up into one. As New Democrats, we have called for different voting for the third and final part of this act.

The first two parts of the act, concerning the consumer privacy protection act and the personal information and data protection tribunal act, do have enough common themes running through them to be put together into one piece of legislation. I still think, for these issues, that they would have been better as two separate pieces of legislation because one of them is brand new and the first one, the consumer privacy protection act, is the former Bill C-11, which was highly controversial in the previous Parliament.

When we had an unnecessary election called by the Prime Minister, that bill died, along with all of the work from Parliament, which was not concluded, despite extensive lobbying and consultation going, particularly, through the ethics committee at that time. This has now been bundled with some other legislation to go through the industry committee, which is fine.

The personal information and data protection tribunal act is a new component of this legislation. I have some concerns about that element of it, but it does have a common theme, which is worthwhile, and at least it has the potential to be put together and bundled. Although, again, it is extensive, it is a bundling that we can accept.

We have called for a Speaker's ruling with regard to the artificial intelligence and data act, as this is brand new legislation as well, but it does not have the same connections as the previous two pieces, which are bundled together, in the way that one could could argue for them. We want a separate vote on the second part of this because the legislation would be studied at committee together.

There will be a high degree of interest in this legislation, since Bill C-11 had that in the past. The new bill changes position from Bill C-11 significantly, and I expect that this in itself will garner a lot of chatter, as well as review and interest, from a number of organizations, many of whom we have already heard from as of now.

The other part, with the tribunal, would be another important aspect, because it is a divergence from our traditional way of enforcement and creates another bureaucratic arm. Again, I would like to see more on this, and I am open to considering the idea, but it is certainly different from our traditional private right of law for dispute settlements about data breaches and other types of corporate malfeasance, that actually have to deal with the types of laws that are necessary to bring compliance among people.

This goes to the heart of, really, where a political party resides in their expectations of companies and their use of data, information and algorithms. For New Democrats, we fall very much in line with something I have tabled before, several years ago, which is a digital bill of rights, so that one's personal rights online are consistent with that of our physical rights, where one is expected to be properly treated in a physical world and in the digital format world. That includes one's right to privacy, right to the expectation of proper behaviour conducted toward oneself and right to not be abused. It also includes significant penalties to those who do those abuses, especially when we are looking at the corporate world.

Where this legislation really becomes highly complicated is the emergence of artificial intelligence, which has taken place over the last decade and will be significantly ramped up in the years to come. That is why the European Union and others have advanced on this, as well as the United States.

Our concern is that this bill tries to split both worlds. We all know that the industries of Google and other web giants have conducted significant lobbying efforts over the last number of years. In fact, they have tripled their efforts since this administration has come into place and have had a direct line of correspondence about their lobbying, which is fine to some degree, but the expectation among people that it would be balanced does not seem to be being met.

I want to bring into the discussion the impact on people before I get into the technical aspects of the bill, as well as the data breaches that remind us of the need for protection among our citizens and other companies as well. One of the things that is often forgotten is other SMEs, and others can be compromised quite significantly from this, so protecting people individually is just as important for our economy, especially when we have the emergence of new industries. If they are behaviours that are hampered, manipulated or streamed, they can become significant issues.

I want to remind people that some of the data breaches we have had with Yahoo, Marriott, the Desjardins group and Facebook, among others, have demonstrated significant differences in the regulatory system between Canada and the United States and how they treat their victims. A good example is a settlement in the U.S. from 2009 with the Equifax data breach, where Equifax agreed to pay $700 million to settle lawsuits over the breach in agreement with the U.S. authorities, and that included $425 million in monetary relief to consumers. We have not had the same type of treatment here in Canada.

This is similar to the work I have done in the past with the auto industry and the fact that our Competition Bureau and our reimbursement systems are not up to date. We have been treated basically as a colony by many of the industries when it comes to consumer and retail accountability.

We can look at the example of Toyota and the data software issue, where the car pedal was blamed for the cars going out of control. It turned out this was not the case. It was actually a data issue. In the U.S., this resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of investment into safety procedures. We received zero for that. Also, consumers received better treatment, where their vehicles were towed back to different dealerships to be fixed. In Canada, consumers did not receive any of that.

The same could be said with Volkswagen, another situation that took place with emissions. Not only did we not receive compensation similar to that of the United States, we actually imported a lot of the used Volkswagen vehicles from Europe. However, that was of our own accord and time frame when those vehicles were being sunsetted in those countries because of emissions.

In the case of Facebook, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission was able to impose a $5-billion fine for the company's violation, while the Privacy Commissioner's office was forced to take the company to federal court here in Canada. One of the things I would like to point out is that our Privacy Commissioner has stood up for the needs of Canadians, and one of the concerns with this bill would be the erosion of the Privacy Commissioner's capabilities in dealing with these bills and legislation.

The Privacy Commissioner has made some significant points on how to amend the bill and actually balance it, but they have not all been taken into account. One of the strong points we will be looking to is to see whether there are necessary amendments from our Privacy Commissioner on this.

One of the big distinctions between Canada and the United States, which is to our benefit and to Canada's credit, is the office of the Privacy Commissioner. Where we do not have some of the teeth necessary for dealing with these companies, we do have the independent Privacy Commissioner, who is able to investigate and follow through at least with bringing things to a formal process in the legal system. It is very labourious and difficult, but at the same time, it is independent, which is one of the strengths of the system we have.

If the government proceeds, we will see the bill go to committee, which we are agreeing to do. However, we do want to see separate voting. Before I get into more of the bill, I will explain that we want to see separate voting because we really distinguish that this is inappropriate. The artificial intelligence act is the first time we have even dealt with this topic in the House of Commons, and it should be done differently.

We will be looking for amendments for this, and big corporate data privacy breaches are becoming quite an issue. Some of these privacy breaches get highly complicated to deal with. There have been cases with cybersecurity and even extortion. The University of Calgary is one that was well noted, and there have been others.

We need some of these things brought together. The bill does include some important fixes that we have been calling for, such as stronger enforcement of privacy rights, tough new fines, transparency in corporate decisions made by algorithms.

I have pointed out a lot of the concerns that we have about the bill going forward because of its serious nature. However, we are glad this is happening, albeit with the caveat that we feel the bill should be separate legislation. The minister does deserve credit for bringing the bill forward for debate in the House of Commons.

Bill C-11 should have been passed in the last Parliament, but here we are again dealing with it. The new tribunal is the concern that we have. It could actually weaken existing content rules, and we will study and look at the new tribunal.

The tribunal itself is going to be interesting because it would be an appointment process. There is always a concern when we have a government appointment process. There is a concern that there could be complications setting up the tribunal, such as who gets to go there, what their background is, what their profession is and whether there will be enough support.

One of the things that gives me trouble is that the CRTC, for example, takes so long to make a decision. It is so labourious to go through and it has not always acted, most recently, in the best interest of Canadians when it comes to consumer protection and individual rights. It gives me concern that having another tribunal to act as a referee instead of the court system could delay things.

Some testimony has been provided already, some analysis, that suggests the tribunal might end up with lawsuits anyway, so we could potentially be back to square one after that. The time duration, funding, the ability to investigate and all these different things are very good issues to look at to find out whether we will have the proper supports for a new measure being brought in.

Another government resource for this is key. At the end of the day, if it is a tribunal system that is not supportive of protecting Canadians' privacy and rights, then we will weaken the entire legislation. That is a big concern because that would be outside Parliament. The way that some of the amendments are written, it could be coming through more regulatory means and less parliamentary oversight.

Who is going to be on the tribunal? How will it be consistent? How will it be regulated? I would point to the minister providing the CRTC with a mandate letter, which is supposed to emphasize the public policy direction it should be going. In my assessment, the CRTC, over the last number of years, has not taken the consumer protection steps that New Democrats would like to see.

When it comes to modernizing this law, we do know that this will be important to address because there are issues regarding the data ownership, which is really at the heart of some of the challenges we face. There is algorithmic abuse and also areas related to compensation, enforcement, data ownership and control, and a number of things that are necessary to ensure the protection of people.

We can look at an area where I have done a fair amount of work related to my riding, which is automobile production. There has been the production of the car and the value there, but there will also be the data collection. The use of that data collection can actually influence not only one's individual behaviour, but also that of society. That is a significant economic resource for some of these companies.

It is one of the reasons I have tabled an update to my bill on the right to repair. The right to repair is a person's ability to have their vehicle fixed at an auto shop of their choice in the aftermarket. The OEMs, the original manufacturers, have at times resisted this. There have been examples. Tesla, for example, is not even part of what is called the voluntary agreement, but we still do not have an update with regard to the use of data and how one actually goes about the process of fixing the vehicle.

It also creates issues related to ownership of the vehicle, as well as insurance and liability. These could become highly complicated issues related to the use of data and the rules around it. If these types of things are not clear with regard to the process of rights for people, expectations by those who are using the data, and protection for people, then it could create a real, significant issue, not only for individuals but for our economy.

Therefore, dealing with this issue in the bill is paramount. A lot of this has come about by looking at what the GDPR, the general data protection regulation, did in European law. Europe was one of the first jurisdictions to bring forth this type of an issue, and it has provided an adequate level of protection, which is one of the things Europe stands by with regard to protection of privacy. There have been some on the side over here in North America who have pushed back against the GDPR, and even though this landmark legislation has created a path forward, there still is a need for transparency and to understand what the monetary penalties for abuse are going to be, which are also very important in terms of what we expect in the legislation.

Erosion of content rights is one of the things we are worried about in this bill. Under Bill C-27 individuals would have significantly diminished control over the collection, use and disclosure of their personal data, even less than in Bill C-11. The new consent provisions ask the public to install an exemplary amount of trust to businesses to keep them accountable, as the bill's exceptions to content allow organizations to conduct many types of activities without any knowledge of the individuals. The flexibility under Bill C-27 allows organizations to state the scope not only of legitimate interests but also of what is reasonable, necessary and socially beneficial, thus modelling their practices in a way that maximizes the value derived from the personal information.

What we have there is that the actors are setting some of the rules. That is one of the clearer things that we need through the discussion that would take place at committee, but also from the testimony that we will hear, because if we are letting those who use and manage the data make the decision about what consent is and how it is used, then it is going to create a system that could really lead to abuse.

There is also the issue or danger of de-identification. Witnesses, artificial intelligence and people being able to scrub much of their data when they want and how they want is one of the things we are concerned about. There is not enough acknowledgement of the risk that is available in this. That includes for young people. We believe this bill is a bit lopsided towards the business sector at the moment, and we want to propose amendments that would lead to better protection of individual rights and ensure informed consent as to what people want to do with their data and how they want it to be exercised as a benefit to them and their family, versus people being accidentally or wilfully brought into exposure they have not consented to.

As I wrap up, I just want to say that we have a number of different issues with this bill. Again, we believe there should be a separate vote for the second part of this bill, being the third piece of it. It is very ambitious legislation. It is as large as the budget bill. That should say enough with regard to the type of content we have. I thank the members who have debated this bill already. It is going to be interesting to get all perspectives. I look forward to the work that comes at committee. It will be one that requires extensive consultation with Canadians.

Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022Government Orders

12:20 p.m.


Dan Mazier Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, the member touched a little on children's personal rights and protection. I wonder if he could comment on seniors and what kind of an impact it would have on them if they were exposed to this legislation. How could the legislation in fact harm seniors, especially if it was made more bureaucratic?

Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022Government Orders

12:20 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I did not touch on the issue of seniors, and I really appreciate the member's raising it.

We do not even have consistency right now in the decision-making process about privacy. People currently agree to a number of different things by clicking boxes, and there is no standardization. For seniors, we have seen, for example with the ArriveCAN app, the confusion as they have complex technology thrust at them during times of stress and times of highly important decisions.

As we move toward this, the member raises a good point in the sense that seniors and other people will need some type of support, education and coaching that go along with this, and shown in plain language. We are dealing with a highly technical bill here that we have had to scrub through the system several times, and the complications it has are unbelievable.

We know we have a very good, educated population, but this is a big change, and I hope that there will be a program of education as part of this. It is a good point that seniors have been left out of this debate, and I am glad the member raised that.

Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022Government Orders

12:20 p.m.


Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the speech from the member for Windsor West, especially around the issue of artificial intelligence. This is a brand new area. How does the member feel about the importance of this, and does he feel we are ready to legislate in this area? I know it is an area of concern for my constituents, and I would like to hear the member's thoughts on that.

Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022Government Orders

12:20 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I applaud the minister for bringing the issue forward to Parliament. Again, I want to exercise some caution that the first two pieces of the legislation are much easier to deal with, because at least there was some discussion on those with Bill C-11. It is a bit different in this one, and the tribunal is an issue, but I am open to looking at it. I just have concerns about that. However, the artificial intelligence part of it is critical. I am glad it is in front of us, but it is going to require much more extensive debate and care, and that is why it should be entirely separate.

We in the NDP have proposed a fairly reasonable compromise, and the Speaker will rule on it. The proposed compromise is that there would be a separate vote for that particular part of the bill. The reason is that perhaps the first two parts could lead to a decision that might be different from the decision on the last part, just to ensure that we get enough testimony and time in committee for it.

I am looking forward to all perspectives in the House on this. It is time for us to look at that. It is a reasonable position, and I am glad it is in front of us. I do not like the way it is in front of us, but we will deal with that.

Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022Government Orders

12:20 p.m.


Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech.

This is a very important moment in time. The subject before us is sensitive and extremely complex. As has been mentioned several times, we are wading into areas that have not been regulated until now. It is very important to take the time to get it right. Certain conditions are obviously needed. For example, all legislation must be adapted to legislation that already exists in the provinces and in Quebec. As we know, orders in council issued during the previous Parliament guaranteed that there would be no encroachment on provincial jurisdictions if equivalent legislation exists in those provinces.

I wonder if my colleague could confirm whether his party is committed to not encroaching on provincial jurisdictions. Unfortunately, his party usually has a hard time respecting what happens in the provinces and wants to centralize everything at the federal level. I want him to understand that things might be more efficient if we can avoid duplicate structures. That is the first part of my question, which is fundamental. Furthermore, his political party has a tendency to pass legislation very quickly using gag orders, which are supported by the party. It concerns me that such an important piece of legislation is being voted on after limited debate.

Will the member commit to respecting the time allotted for debate on this bill and to respecting Quebec's jurisdictions?

Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022Government Orders

12:25 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I have extensive notes here, more than I could even go through, with regard to this bill being the number of pages that it is.

My party has an exemplary record of respecting Quebec and using, including in this bill, some of the practices in Quebec that are solid for all of us. Therefore, I disagree with the member on that.

Also, I have also seen the member's party close debate many times during the years I have been here. I have been here just over 20 years, and the Bloc has limited debate on different bills at different times for different circumstances and so forth. I want to have a robust discussion about this, and we are committed to it. I have expressed that to the minister and to other parties, including anyone who wants to talk about this bill to try to make sure it gets its due course. Those are the things that are quite strong.

I will conclude by saying again that we have shown that some of the best practices from Quebec are part of our strategy. That is flattery, and it is not at odds with Quebec.