Madam Speaker, I would first like to offer my deepest condolences to a very important member of my team, Jean-François Vachon, who recently lost his grandmother. I extend my condolences to his family, and particularly his mother.
I also want to say that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Laurentides—Labelle, with whom I also share Highway 110 and the boreal forest, which is significant given the circumstances.
I have spent the last few days at home driving around Abitibi-Ouest, an area in my riding of Abitibi—Témiscamingue that is now at a high risk and greatly affected. Our peaceful forests, our hard-working communities and magnificent, invaluable memories are being darkened by this unprecedented disaster. No one can remain indifferent to such a sad state of affairs. I thank all my colleagues for all their wonderful words over the course of the day.
I have seen with my own eyes the human distress and the concerns of our families in our towns and communities. These are communities where everyone knows their neighbours.
My colleagues who spoke before me presented the issues and spoke about the need for an energy transition, which is a crucial step in our commitment to the environment. It requires a shift to renewable and sustainable energy sources.
Given what is happening here, I invite the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry in particular to reflect with his colleagues on the economic policies of that transition, with special consideration for the regions whose resources will be sought-after commodities. I am thinking in particular about forestry and mining. We must accelerate investments at the start of the battery supply chain and recover the economic losses that are plaguing us. The Standing Committee on Industry and Technology recently tabled a report on the green transition, and another on the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises. They contain some very good recommendations.
I want to talk more about what is happening on the ground, what is happening at home. Due to the warmth of its residents, Abitibi-Ouest may be one of the friendliest places in Quebec but, unfortunately, that is not what we are talking about right now. On the ground, our forest firefighters and forestry workers, with their machinery, are working non-stop to fight a monster that is trying to engulf the towns of Normétal and Saint‑Lambert, in particular, and Val‑Paradis, which is in the riding of my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.
They are digging trenches, pulling down trees to create firebreaks and continually spraying the fire from morning to night, and even during the night. Nothing is left to chance. The forest firefighters from SOPFEU can rely on firefighters from Normétal, who are led by their fire chief, Ms. Doris Nolet. While they are on the front lines, they can rely on an army of volunteers who provide services so they can lead the fight. Those volunteers provide meals, clean-up services and supplies.
What is happening in Normétal is just one example of the solidarity people in my region are showing. When I visited La Reine, I heard from seniors who brought photos with them because they were afraid they might never be able to go home and would lose their precious memories. Dedicated people at the La Sarre reception centre were there to listen to people's concerns and provide caring support. That is not all.
Right next to the reception centre, the Centre de formation professionnelle Lac-Abitibi is working with Table des chefs to provide free meals to evacuees. I want to give a shout-out to the very dedicated Cécile Poirier, who told me that they had served nearly 300 meals that evening. That shows just how badly evacuees need this service. I want to acknowledge the work of Karine Francoeur, executive director of Maison St-André, who is helping out by providing free clothing to evacuees. This regional solidarity is crucial to supporting the evacuees.
Amidst all this chaos, our mayors are hanging in there. Some of these dedicated people in my riding are Diane Provost, the mayor of Saint-Lambert; Ghislain Desbiens, the mayor of Normétal; and Fanny Dupras-Rossier, the mayor of La Reine. They and their municipal teams are all working tirelessly to coordinate emergency measures, support citizens, keep people informed and make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. There is also Yves Dubé, the mayor of La Sarre, who is making facilities in his city, including the school, available to evacuees. I really want to emphasize the amazing work the RCM's general manager, Normand Lagrange, has done over the past few days. I have seen him in action, and I get the impression he never sleeps. My hat is off to him on behalf of the people of Abitibi—Témiscamingue.
I would also like to thank the reeve of the Abitibi-Ouest RCM, Jaclin Bégin, who is also an important leader in my riding and who works with the other municipalities. Despite the anxiety, there is hope and encouraging actions on the ground. Basic services are provided. So I want to point out that everyone is committed.
I would like to acknowledge the courage and solidarity of indigenous peoples, such as the Abitibiwinnik community of Pikogan and Chief Monik Kistabish, who welcomed members of the Anishinabe communities of Lac‑Simon and Kitcisakik. We see the same mutual support in all the communities of my region. I would also like to express my gratitude to the Coopérative de solidarité de Pikogan, which helped train 25 new auxiliary firefighters recruited among members of the Pikogan and Lac‑Simon communities.
Let us commend the mayors and chiefs of our communities across Quebec for their commitment. Their presence and dedication are being felt during these times.
I also want to acknowledge my counterparts, the elected provincial representatives from Quebec, especially my colleague Suzanne Blais, the MNA for Abitibi‑Ouest, who is very active on the ground. I send her my salutations.
The executive director, Lise Bégin, and the municipal employees of La Reine actively prepared for an emergency by contacting each person to ensure their safety. I am highlighting this to show just how much people are working hard to find solutions. During our trip to that municipality, a second fire started, so elected officials from the village of Saint‑Lambert had to be evacuated. This situation is evolving as we speak. Firefighters and SOPFEU are now facing a monstrous fire in my riding. The fight seems endless. They all hope for rain as soon as possible.
I felt a certain emotion when I saw light rain falling as I was leaving Rouyn-Noranda last night, but it was not enough to put an end to the situation. It is quite moving to feel the rain in such circumstances.
My thoughts are with the evacuated workers in my riding whose livelihoods depend on forestry, hunting, fishing and outfitter activities. No one should be overlooked in circumstances like these. I therefore want to underscore the importance of a major EI reform to better support our workers. In fact, the minister recently announced administrative measures. Maybe we should skip ahead down the list to emergency measures and make eligibility requirements easier for workers to meet. This will be very difficult if we wait, and it needs to start now. Evacuees and people currently without an income require special consideration.
Forestry and agriculture play a pivotal role in my riding. Farmers have shown tremendous solidarity by sheltering and moving animals affected by the fires to protect them from the smoke. However, this comes with added costs. I am grateful to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food for her time and attention. She understands the importance of this sector of the economy in my region. It is essential to compensate farmers for their animal transportation costs and other special expenses, and to carefully meet their needs given the devastation that the fires have caused to certain farmlands.
We must not forget private forestry producers, who will see or are already seeing years of hard work go up in smoke. Just under 650,000 hectares of forest have gone up in smoke across Quebec. Ottawa will have to be there for the forestry industry. It will have to listen to Quebec's demands in that regard. The reforestation of those areas must be a priority. Support measures for the forestry industry will be needed. I am thinking about Lebel‑sur‑Quévillon, a town where Chantiers Chibougamau just invested close to $350 million in a plant in partnership with the Government of Quebec. The wildfire-related losses will be significant for communities like that one, which will need support to get back on their feet. The same goes for the vitality of our northern communities and the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region.
These wildfires are making us experience all sorts of things. They have made us aware of how isolated our municipalities in remote areas are. The government needs to fund highway infrastructure and better air service to better take care of our territory. Ottawa needs to allocate funding to ensure that critical infrastructure is available at all times. Other options are needed.
I want to take this opportunity to remind members of the military expertise that has been lost in Abitibi—Témiscamingue over the past two decades. Because of its geographic position, my riding used to be a strategic area for national defence, and the minister has a document that sets out in detail my expectations regarding significant investments. Had she developed military expertise there, she would have been able to deploy and transport materials to more northern areas and respond more effectively. Military training in Abitibi—Témiscamingue would make it possible to get many volunteers out on the ground, volunteers who can provide support during serious crises. We never have enough trained people when a disaster strikes. These people become symbols of solidarity. They become heroes.
There are some lesson to be learned right now.