House of Commons Hansard #224 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was housing.


Affordable Housing and Groceries ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Carleton Ontario


Pierre Poilievre ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.

After eight years of the Prime Minister, housing costs have doubled, rent has doubled, mortgage payments have doubled and the down payment needed for a new average home has doubled. Before the Prime Minister, it took 25 years to pay off a mortgage. Now, in Toronto, it takes the average family 25 years to save for a down payment.

Before the Prime Minister, one could buy an average home for a modest $450,000 and at significantly lower interest rates. Now, one has to pay over $700,000 for the exact same home with the exact same walls, roof, windows, floors and basement, and one must pay much higher rates on the mortgage for that home. Under the Prime Minister, housing costs 50% more in Canada than it does in the United States, and one can buy a castle in Sweden for the price of a two-bedroom, rundown home in Kitchener.

After eight years of the Prime Minister, Toronto now ranks as the worst housing bubble in the world, according to the UBS bank. Vancouver is now the third most overpriced housing market in the world when we compare average income to average house price. It is worse than New York; London, England; and Singapore, a tiny island with 2,000 times more people per square kilometre. All these places have more money, more people and less land, and yet somehow, miraculously, their housing is more affordable.

According to the IMF, Canada now has the riskiest mortgage debt in the entire G7. We have by far the most indebted households, all of which have had to take on these massive mortgages to pay for the exorbitant house prices that have skyrocketed under the Prime Minister.

Speaking of those rocketing prices, they have two causes. One is that the Prime Minister had the central bank print $600 billion. When it does that, it does not just drop the money out of airplanes or deliver it to the PMO in a Brink's truck, as much as he might like for that to be the case. Rather, it buys government bonds on the secondary market, which makes it easier for the government to borrow and spend, which the Prime Minister loves, but it also has the by-product of massively increasing the cash in the financial system that gets lent out in mortgages, disproportionately to the wealthy insiders who have connections to the banking system, who then bid up housing prices. During that money-printing orgy, we saw the number of homes bought by investors literally double in a year and a half, a 100% increase, which led to the fastest increase in house prices ever recorded in Canadian history.

The second cause deals with supply. After eight years of the Prime Minister, Canada has the fewest homes per capita of any country in the G7, even though we have the most land to build on. Why? It is because we have the second-slowest building permits out of all 40 OECD countries. Only the Slovak Republic is slower.

So what are the solutions to that? One, we need to cap spending and cut waste to balance the budget and bring down interest rates and inflation. Two, we need to get rid of the government gatekeepers who block home building.

Now, the government has come up with this idea of a housing accelerator fund. It is a $2-billion program. The Liberals announced it a year and a half ago and so far it has not built a single, solitary home anywhere. They had one photo-op announcement, where there was a promise that it would eventually build 2,000 homes. Well, it sounds like a lot, but according to CMHC, we need to increase the projected home building by 3.5 million homes between now and 2030. In other words, even if they keep their promise of building 2,000 more homes in London, Ontario, they would have to do that same announcement and execute the announcement, with results, 1,500 times to get up to the 3.5 million homes we need.

Now, there is a very big difference. A lot of the media tried to say that the Prime Minister's accelerator is an attempt to copy my housing plan. It might be the same in messaging and rhetoric, but in practice it is totally different, and here is the difference: He is funding bureaucracy; I will fund results.

Let me use a hockey analogy. A team wins the Stanley Cup if it scores the most goals in the most games, gets into the playoffs, wins the most games in every series and ultimately win the finals. Winning is about putting pucks in nets.

Can members imagine if, instead, the referee said that he was going to give points based on the practices of the team members? He would go to the Calgary Flames' Saddledome and say that they have an excellent skating drill, so he is going to give them 10 points. Then he would go over to the Maple Leafs, which may be a bad example, and say that they have an excellent pep talk before each game, and he is going to give them a few points. Then he goes over to the Vancouver Canucks and says that they do an excellent job of practising their shooting accuracy on the ice, and gives them a bunch of points.

However, he does not realize that, when he has turned his back, the Flames hockey team might be having a beer and pizza party every night that fattens up the teammates and makes them less successful on the ice, or the Toronto Maple Leafs spend more time on the golf course than they do on the ice, or the Vancouver Canucks do not practise when the referee is not looking. Therefore, when the referee is not looking, he does not know what they are doing.

Let us bring this example to housing. The Liberals want the Minister of Housing to go around to judge the practices, as he sees them in his eyes, of each municipality and then give them lump sum grants based on what practices they take. They might speed up permits one day when the minister is looking, but then they might increase the cost of development charges on the next, or add a new site plan process that adds a bunch of extra time after it has this big grant and photo op from the minister. In other words, it might not build more houses. Just today the minister was forced to cancel a photo op with the City of Vancouver because it is proposing to raise its development charges on new home building, even though last week it made a favourable announcement.

What is the solution to this? Why do we not judge our cities and their approval processes by how many homes they complete, or in other words, how many pucks go in the net. That is judging by results. My common sense approach is very simple math. I would require every city in Canada to boost housing completions by 15% per year. If it beats that target by 1%, it gets 1% more money. If it misses it by 1%, it gets 1% less money. If it beats it by 10%, it gets 10% more money, but if it misses it by 10%, it gets 10% less. It is very simple: build more, get more. Incentives work. That is why we give kids who perform best on their exams a higher mark to take home on their report card to their parents. That is why employers pay bonuses to high-performing employees. That is how the real world works.

I am not going to tell the cities how to do it. As long as they safely allow for builders to complete 15% or more home building every single year, they would get more money from my government. By the way, they would generate more money for my government because more home building means more people working, which means more people paying taxes.

All of this is common sense. My government would be paying for results across the board. We would clear away the bureaucracy and get things done. Those who help me get things done would be rewarded. Speaking of rewards, just like with the Stanley Cup, those superstar municipalities that massively increase home building would be eligible for an even bigger home-building top-up, a massive building bonus, so they can take that money and use it to service the new communities they have allowed to be built.

Some say it cannot be done, that we cannot safely build homes faster. The Brits and Americans approve building permits three times faster than us, and they do it just as safely. It is not just them. Thank God the Squamish people in Vancouver do not have to follow Vancouver city hall rules because they are on a reserve. Can members guess what they did? They approved 6,000 new homes on 10 acres of land. That is 600 homes per acre. Now people will have affordable homes built that would not have been possible if the gatekeepers had been in the way.

Imagine if we could have stories like that right across the country. That is what my plan, the building homes not bureaucracy act, would enable. Let us build homes of the future. Let us base it on the common sense of the common people united for our common home, their home, my home, our home. Let us bring it home.

Affordable Housing and Groceries ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, in Vancouver Kingsway, we have an intense housing crisis and have had for several decades.

I would say that one of the most successful models of affordable housing has been co-ops. We had a very successful federal co-op program in this country that started in the 1970s and 1980s. It built tens of thousands of units across this country, many of which in my riding still exist today. This was thanks to CMHC long-term financing combined with provincial government support. The municipalities contributed land and were helped by non-profit societies that did the building.

I am just wondering whether my hon. colleague would agree with me and the NDP that we need a vibrant, robust, modern co-op program to build hundreds of thousands of co-op units for Canadians. Does he think that would help solve the problem? Would he support that?

Affordable Housing and Groceries ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, of course. Just name it: co-ops, market housing and purpose-built private rentals. We need it all. However, to get a co-op housing complex completed, there need to be rapid permits. The local gatekeepers need to get out of the way.

The NDP premier in the member's province said recently that he was trying to fund housing for developmentally disabled people that has been held up for two years by local government gatekeepers. The question is, why has the NDP government there not legislated away those obstacles that municipalities, which are creatures of the province, have put in the way? The reality is that under the NDP in B.C. and the Liberal-NDP coalition in Ottawa, housing costs have doubled. Nowhere is it worse than in NDP Vancouver. We need to get the government out of the way and build homes, not bureaucracy.

Affordable Housing and Groceries ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario


Chris Bittle LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing

Madam Speaker, unfortunately, the Leader of the Opposition comes here and just recycles old slogans. He is not providing anything substantial. He is threatening municipalities with cutting infrastructure but expects them to build more housing.

This bill is already having impacts, and it has not yet passed. Today, we have already seen a Toronto developer announce 5,000 new units of housing in Toronto. Without this bill having passed, it is already having an impact. Why is the Conservative Party standing against it?

Affordable Housing and Groceries ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, we are not. I do not know what he is talking about.

Speaking of 5,000 homes, if he believes removing the GST on purpose-built rental is what is needed to build 5,000 homes, then why did the Liberals not do it eight years ago when they promised it? More importantly, why did the Liberals decide to do it now? It is because they got wind that I was going to announce it, and they wanted to front-run my announcement and avoid the embarrassment of having, once again, been outdone and outperformed by the Conservative opposition, which has led this debate from the very beginning.

The bill before us today is mostly promises that the Liberals already broke or things they stole from the Conservative Party. All the Competition Act components of this bill came from my competition shadow minister, the member for Bay of Quinte. Of course we are going to support the measures we have proposed. However, this would go only a small step towards undoing the damage the Prime Minister has caused by doubling housing costs. If the Liberals really want a solution, they should pass the building homes not bureaucracy act.

Affordable Housing and Groceries ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.


Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have blamed municipalities for the delays in housing construction. However, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the National Bank and TD Bank, the lack of housing in Canada has more to do with a sharp rise in demand. This sharp rise in demand is partly the result of immigration.

What does the Leader of the Opposition think of the government's immigration targets?

Affordable Housing and Groceries ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, government targets have nothing to do with the ability to build houses. That is why the Conservative Party had common-sense targets when it was in power. We welcomed immigrants, but we were also able to build housing, create jobs and reduce wait times in the health care system, all at the same time. That is a common-sense approach.

The Bloc Québécois, on the other hand, will never be able to do anything about that, because all it wants to do is drastically increase taxes on the backs of Quebeckers. We in the Conservative Party will cut taxes.

Affordable Housing and Groceries ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I am always very happy to rise in the House. It is always a privilege. I will say one thing, though. Speaking right after the leader of the official opposition is quite a challenge for me.

Before going into the bill we have to address today, I just want to warn the leader when he talks about hockey, because he made an analogy with a hockey team in the NHL and he talked about the Toronto Maple Leafs. I like them. I am the one who likes them, even though I am from Quebec City. We have to win in Toronto, by the way, so we will win, first of all, with the Maple Leafs.

This reminds me of a good joke made by Prime Minister Harper in 2014 when he was in Quebec City. Maybe the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles was there too. The prime minister said that Quebec and Toronto have a point in common, common ground in some aspects. Those two cities dream about having an NHL again team one day, because the Toronto Maple Leafs are not exactly a very NHL-level team, but that is coming.

We are gathered here to talk about Bill C‑56, which basically covers two things: the Competition Act, which I will talk about a little later in my speech, and support that needs to be provided for building houses.

We all know that Canada is in the midst of the worst housing crisis in our history. We need concrete, effective, well-thought-out measures to re-energize the construction sector. People say that, when construction goes well, everything goes well. In Canada, that has never been truer. Construction is not going well here, and neither is anything else, certainly not when it comes to the economy, taxation or inflation.

Earlier, our leader astutely pointed out that, in just eight years of Liberal government, the housing situation overall has deteriorated dramatically, and that has really hurt Canadians. That is why we have to take concrete, effective, meaningful measures that will have a positive impact on everyone. It is time to stop setting easy targets, spouting lofty principles and making grand announcements. It is time to produce results.

That is why our leader introduced a bill that essentially reflects the broad outlines he set out in his now-famous speech in Quebec City on September 8, when 2,500 Conservatives from across the country gathered together. In his speech, the leader laid out the key areas we will focus on as a government when Canadians put their trust in us in the next election.

It is essentially about incentivizing performance to build housing and encouraging real results. This means that, as a first step, cities will have to have realistic ambitions of more than 15%. We need to increase housing construction by 15% to have more than 15% new housing, year after year. Cities that meet this target will have the necessary funding. If cities exceed that target, they will be rewarded and encouraged, because we will give them more. We are not going to punish performance. On the contrary, we will reward it. Conversely, if, by chance, some cities do not reach this target, funding will obviously drop. It is just common sense.

The same goes for public transit. Residential density will have to be established where public transit already exists and must go. The funding will guarantee both. If we build high-density housing near public transit services, more people will take public transit and there will be more funding for that. It makes sense. It is not a question of announcements to please one side or the other. It is about results.

We are also introducing penalties for blatant cases of “not in my backyard”. All too often we see developers and people in the housing sector saying that they want to work on a certain project, that they are going to do it in a particular location, but not where a certain population lives, because it might upset Mr. or Mrs. X. That is not the right approach. Rather, we need to encourage construction and go where the needs are. We must avoid the “not in my backyard” principle, which unfortunately all too often hinders housing construction.

That is essentially what our action in terms of housing will be based on, because that is what we need. There are other aspects to our housing strategy. Our approach to housing also considers the fact that, at this very moment, there is unused space in federal buildings, mostly because of the pandemic and telework. How many federal buildings are there across the country? The answer is 37,000. That is a lot.

We want to turn 15% of these 37,000 buildings into housing units. Federal buildings are essentially office buildings. Office buildings are usually located downtown. Turning half-empty buildings into housing units is a very smart and common-sense solution. Work areas will simply need to be set up more efficiently and the workforce will have to be reinstalled accordingly. It will not be easy, we are aware of that. Not all buildings will be well suited for that. It is up to us to figure that out to make sure that we can bring people back and revitalize the downtown cores and have affordable housing in the downtown areas of our cities so that people can have access to housing and services. We would do that in the first 18 months of a government led by the member for Carleton.

It is also important to be aware that there is an organization in Canada that was created several years ago to provide assistance with housing construction. I am talking about the CMHC. We are well aware that, in a situation as urgent as this one, it is time for a swift kick in the pants, as they say, to make sure there is a review of the CMHC's mandate.

I am not saying that what the CMHC is doing is not good, but we need to ensure that things are done correctly and a lot more efficiently. Since the CMHC is a Crown corporation that is a bit more independent from the government than others, it must be accountable. That is especially true for public agencies.

That is why we want to speed up the issuing of permits. Right now, it takes far too long to get a permit from the CMHC. We need to speed that up. We therefore need to reduce the salaries and bonuses of the decision-makers who are not delivering the necessary results. We need to target an average of 60 days and be very sure this will get done faster than the average we have right now.

I would like to remind the House that in my region, Quebec City, we currently have an extraordinary project called the Fleur de Lys project. It is a private investment of $1.7 billion. I had the chance to visit it two weeks ago in my riding. This project by the Trudel family is absolutely fantastic. It is getting support and assistance from the municipality. The people from Quebec City are drawn to this project because it is in a sector that was not necessarily at its peak. They are in the process of creating an extraordinary focal point. It is a $1.7‑billion private investment. These are successful people who want to share their success with everyone.

This project is so impressive that it is a bit too much, it seems, for the CMHC. The CMHC needs to be more flexible to ensure that projects like this, in Quebec City, can achieve their full potential. It is perfectly normal. We do not want to turn things upside down just to please everyone, but it is normal, in an extreme housing crisis like the one we are in right now, to have another look at the entities and the rules that are in place. When we are in an emergency situation, it takes new emergency measures to see things.

That is why Canada, now more than ever, needs a common-sense government. Now more than ever, Canada needs people who will lead the country by focusing on results instead of trying to cajole the people with empty announcements. Now more than ever, we need realistic targets and real action that will address the issues that are directly impacting Canadian families. We all have friends or family members who struggle with housing. We need action. We must build more housing units.

Our approach will build new housing units by incentivizing people to do more with better incentives and financial support instead of pretending that everything is fine. Over the last eight years, the situation has gotten so bad in this country that new constructions, sadly, are not welcome. We need to start building again in the second-largest country on the planet, where there is no shortage of space. That is common sense.

Yes, more than ever, we will be proud to welcome new Canadians.

Affordable Housing and Groceries ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Milton Ontario


Adam van Koeverden LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and to the Minister of Sport and Physical Activity

Madam Speaker, my colleague mentioned the bureaucracy, and the previous speaker, the member for Carleton, took credit for other people's work. One of these people is Mike Moffatt, author of the National Housing Accord. He had the chance to read the Conservative proposal for affordable housing.

He said that “this bill is an exceptionally weak response to the housing crisis, riddled with loopholes.” I am referring to the private member's bill, Bill C-356, which is not the bill we are talking about today but is the bill that they have been referring to on the other side.

He notes that this bill is going to increase bureaucracy, that it is going to bring more red tape, that it is actually going to increase the cost of housing and create more bureaucracy for housing.

When the foremost speaker and thinker on housing rejects his plan entirely, what is his response?

Affordable Housing and Groceries ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to answer the question of the parliamentary secretary of my counterpart on climate change and environmental issues. We have the pleasure of working together at the environment committee.

If I were the parliamentary secretary who just spoke, I would be very embarrassed to judge our proposals so harshly when his party has been in power for eight years. What have the Liberals done on housing for the past eight years? The cost of housing has doubled.

Renting an apartment is twice as expensive as it was eight years ago. Getting a loan is twice as expensive as it was eight years ago. Making a down payment is twice as expensive as it was eight years ago. Ontario is one of the worst, if not the worst province in terms of the housing bubble. Is that the legacy of this government? Houses in Canada are twice as expensive as in the U.S. Is that the legacy of eight years of Liberal governance? A common-sense government cannot come soon enough.

Affordable Housing and Groceries ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.


Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, we hear the Conservatives make criticisms and talk about what they will do when they are in power if they are elected. However, the housing crisis is urgent and is happening right now. The election might happen at any time, but it might not happen for another two years.

In the meantime, $900 million is dormant in the federal government's coffers and it is meant to go to Quebec City. I was pleased to hear my colleague talk about solutions such as repurposing federal buildings and using them for affordable housing. I think that is great, but that does not apply in every region or in every town. That being said, I was pleased to see that solutions were being proposed.

I would like know whether my colleague agrees that the $900 million meant for Quebec that is currently dormant at the federal level should be sent to Quebec and the municipalities so that they can take care of fixing the housing crisis, which is their responsibility.

Affordable Housing and Groceries ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Drummond, whom I respect and hold in high esteem. I think it is reciprocal. Perhaps he could pass the message on to others.

I want to say two things.

First of all, not all office buildings can be converted into apartment buildings. I have spoken with some leading experts who told me that it is not easy to do. That is why our common-sense plan does not apply to all buildings. Our current goal is to convert 15% of the buildings we currently have and then do an assessment to identify the ones with the most potential. It may be easier in large urban centres than in rural or suburban areas. We recognize this right away, and that is why there is no question of implementing a one-size-fits-all solution overnight. Instead, we want to target the places where it is most likely to happen.

Clearly, the money that is available must be used. We do see a problem right now. Initially the Prime Minister said he had ambitious targets, but then he went on to insult the cities, saying that it was their problem and they were incapable of solving it. That is not exactly the right approach.

Affordable Housing and Groceries ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.


Blake Desjarlais NDP Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to cite a report from 2019 that suggests, “Over 800,000 rental units...were 'lost' in the decade between 2006-2016. When these units shift to higher rent bands, more households pay over 30 percent and many over 50 percent to afford the remaining homes.”

The last time the Conservatives were in power, we lost 800,000 homes in our country, affordable homes that were lost. These are credible reports from, for example, Steve Pomeroy, a fantastic housing expert across our country. He cites this directly during the period the Conservatives were in power.

How can Canadians trust them?

Affordable Housing and Groceries ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I would just like to remind members that our government faced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Our country, under the leadership of the Right Hon. Stephen Harper, was the first in the G7 to get back on its feet during that major crisis.

We are very proud of the way we managed Canada under Stephen Harper. Let us wait and see what we do with the MP for Carleton. It will be extraordinary. Common sense will finally be in power.

Affordable Housing and Groceries ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.


Patrick Weiler Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Davenport.

It is a pleasure to rise in the House this evening. This is the first time I have had a chance to give a speech in this fall session after having been at home, like all other members, and having the chance to speak with constituents.

It is very appropriate that I am able to speak in support Bill C-56, which is an act to amend the Excise Tax Act and the Competition Act, perhaps more appropriately known as the affordable housing and groceries act. Among other concerns that I heard from constituents, including ferries, congestion on the roads and the impact of the climate crisis, it was really the cost of living and the cost of housing that are top of mind for residents of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. While inflation has slowed in Canada, it is still increasing with grocery prices and housing prices, which is why it is very appropriate that the first legislation we have introduced this fall session would take significant steps in tackling both of these challenges.

First is housing. The cost of housing has always been a huge challenge in my riding, but it has set new records, where the average home was selling for about $4 million in West Vancouver and Whistler. With low interest rates and the ability to work more from home, we have actually seen house prices increase significantly in other regions in the riding. With people being increasingly priced out of the markets, we are seeing additional demand for rentals, and with a highly constrained supply, we are seeing prices continue to elevate. Now, some of the most expensive rents in the entire country are in my riding.

This is a profound injustice for young people, who have not benefited from owning rapidly appreciating real estate nor having long-term rents at low cost. They are still mostly at entry-level positions and lower-paying jobs. Worst yet, with interest rates rising to where they are now, developers are abandoning new construction projects, because the business case is simply not there, and badly needed rental stock is being sidelined even further. This challenge has been highlighted by CMHC, which shows that we need to build an additional 3.5 million homes, on top of what we are already on track to build, just to restore affordability in Canada. This is a big challenge to make sure that we can build homes for the middle class, and it requires all orders of government to work together.

The federal government used to be heavily involved in the housing market, particularly in the business of building rentals. From the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, the Government of Canada brought in financial assistance for new home buying, loans for co-operative housing, and low-interest loans for municipal, private and non-profit housing. In fact, I can still see the apartment buildings that line Ambleside and Dundarave in West Vancouver, which were built during this era. Unfortunately, Brian Mulroney's government eliminated these measures in 1986, and for three decades successive Conservative and Liberal governments stayed out of the housing game. A good example of this is the net of over 800,000 affordable homes that were lost during the dark lost decade of the Harper Conservative government.

The federal government launched the national housing strategy in 2017 to get back into building housing, and by my count, 784 below-market homes have been funded through this program in my riding in the last four years alone. We are also now rolling out the housing accelerator fund, where we are supporting municipalities to speed up their processes to get more housing built. I note that nearly all of the municipalities in my riding have applied to this program, showing that they are also on board to do what needs to be done. I am pleased that we have a strong partnership with the Province of British Columbia, with the premier and cabinet joining in Ottawa this week to coordinate how we can do more together on housing.

However, it is clear that more needs to be done, which is why I am so pleased to see that Bill C-56 would be eliminating the GST on all purpose-built rentals. This would greatly assist in getting more rental housing built. Do not take my word for it. The Smart Prosperity Institute estimates that this will lead to an additional 200,000 to 300,000 new rental units being built. The B.C. housing minister, Ravi Kahlon, notes that this is “positive news, and a significant step toward enhancing housing affordability.” B.C. has similarly eliminated the PST on purpose-built rentals.

With that, I see my time is up and I look forward to continuing at our next session.

The House resumed from May 29 consideration of the motion that Bill S-222, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood), be read the third time and passed.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Leah Taylor Roy Liberal Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to speak on the bill, which is a small but important bill when it comes to greening our economy and fighting climate change. As always, I am very privileged to rise as the member for Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill.

Today I am going to be addressing Bill S-222 and how the use of a sustainable and renewable material such as wood can help build a greener and healthier economy for all.

Before I begin, I would like to thank the retired senator Diane Griffin for sponsoring this small but important bill, as well as Senator Jim Quinn, who saw it through its passage in the other place in this Parliament.

The effects of climate change are all too apparent, with warmer winters, heavier snowfalls, floods, storm surges and extreme weather happening around the world. Just this year in Canada we have seen record wildfires and other climate events. We do not have to look far to see the effects of climate change. They are growing in frequency and intensity with every passing year, which is why it is absolutely critical that we all step up our work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

That is why our government introduced the 2030 emissions reduction plan, our path to meet 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, consistent with the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Just last week, at the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, the Prime Minister reaffirmed Canada's commitment to fighting climate change while also building a Canadian economy that works for everyone. Indeed, the need for action on climate change has never been greater. There is always more we can do, and more we should do, every day on every front, and that includes in every facet of the Government of Canada's operations. That is where Bill S-222 comes in.

By putting a preference on the use of building materials that have environmental benefits, Bill S-222 encourages the use of wood when planning construction projects for federal buildings and infrastructure. Most of these types of projects fall under the responsibility of Public Services and Procurement Canada.

The department oversees the procurement of some $25 billion of goods and services annually. It also serves as the government's designated custodian of facilities, overseeing one of the largest and most diverse real estate portfolios in Canada. Under the greening government strategy, we have a plan to transition to net-zero carbon and climate-resilient government operations, positioning Canada as a global leader in green government. Public Services and Procurement Canada is especially well positioned to help the government fulfill this commitment.

I know the department is placing a strong focus on delivering sustainable infrastructure and retooling procurement processes to support environmental and climate priorities. With Bill S-222 and its focus on the greater use of materials with environmental benefits, such as wood, we have yet another tool to encourage a greener government.

Wood is a renewable resource that is abundantly available in most areas of this country. The many benefits of wood in construction have been clear for centuries. Newer wood products, such as mass timber, can meet the needs and demands of our dynamic world. It is also natural, renewable and sustainable. Not only does it contribute to carbon dioxide reductions, but it is a vital source of prosperity for people and communities across the country.

The forestry industry employs Canadians in nearly every province and territory and provides economic benefits in many rural, remote and indigenous communities. If mass timber products were used more extensively in construction, as proposed in the bill, those benefits would be multiplied. Indeed, we have heard during second reading of S-222 that the bill could help Canada's forestry sector produce more jobs and create more wealth within rural communities.

Simply put, increasing the government procurement of mass timber products would increase the domestic markets for our lumber. To be clear, the bill and a rejuvenated domestic market for lumber would not necessarily mean increased forest harvest, but it would absolutely mean getting more value added out of the trees we do cut.

Canada is already a leader in the engineered wood sector, and this bill would help Canadian companies scale up to maintain and grow our position. It means the creation of more jobs right here at home. It is good news for Canada's forest industry.

However, I do not want us to lose sight of how Bill S-222 would help us continue to fight against climate change. During the study of the bill, we heard specifically about how forest products could help decarbonize construction. Of course we know that long-lasting wood products store carbon that was taken out of the atmosphere as trees were growing, and we heard important information about how new trees that replace those that are harvested continue to store carbon throughout their lives.

At the end of the day, products such as mass timber have a lighter carbon footprint than other construction materials. If used more extensively in construction in Canada, it is estimated that it could mean removing more than half a million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year by 2030, which is equal to taking 125,000 gas-powered cars off the road. Right now, only 5% of large buildings use wood as a primary component.

That means we have a huge potential for growth here in the use of these products, which translates into massive potential to help decarbonize Canadian construction across the board. Bill S-222 can help us do just that.

I truly hope that we could all agree that the need for action on climate change has never been more urgent. We must continue to take every action we can, and we must take it further and faster. By making government operations greener, Canada could reach its sustainability goals. We know that one way to do this is to make better use of sustainable and renewable products, such as wood for construction and renovating federal buildings and infrastructure.

That is why our government is supporting this small but mighty bill, and I encourage my colleagues in the House to do the same. Similar bills have had backing of the House in the past, and we were happy to see such resounding support for Bill S-222 at second reading. I hope to see the same support for it this time around.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Caroline Desbiens Bloc Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is obviously in favour of Bill S‑222. In fact, I feel like saying “finally”, even though the bill may not go far enough.

The Bloc Québécois has long been committed to promoting the forestry sector and the ecological value of forestry products. We have long proposed that the federal government use its procurement policy to support the forestry sector. Since memories tend to fade, I will take the liberty of sharing the history of our commitment to this issue.

In March 2010, during the 3rd session of the 40th Parliament, elected representatives in the House debated a bill proposed by the Bloc Québécois, Bill C‑429, which was sponsored by Manicouagan MP Gérard Asselin. The text of this bill was very similar to that of Bill S‑222, which is the subject of the current debate. At that time, the Bloc Québécois was already proposing to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act to encourage construction projects involving greater use of wood products.

Unfortunately, neither the then-Conservative government nor the NDP official opposition supported the Bloc's solution, which was something the industry had asked for. In February of 2014, during the 2nd session of the 41st Parliament, we proposed the same solution again with Bill C‑574 from the member for Jonquière—Alma, Claude Patry. Again, the Conservatives voted against our bill, along with a good number of New Democrats.

In September 2020, the Bloc Québécois presented its green recovery plan focused on Quebec's regions, the result of extensive consultations held across the province. It offered concrete solutions to fight against COVID‑19 and to get the economy going again, including through investments in sustainable forests.

In October 2020, thanks to the initiative of my colleague from Jonquière, the natural resources critic for the Bloc Québécois, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources undertook a study on the forestry sector. The committee recommended that the government renew its support for the sector and develop a value chain for that industry by creating new market opportunities. It also recommended that the government create a public procurement policy to encourage buying and using low-carbon products, including wood products, by including carbon footprint as one of the criteria for the awarding of contracts.

That is a good idea. It seems timely to me because with climate change and the natural disasters that are on the rise and intensifying, I cannot believe that anyone still doubts the need to act with rigour and vigour. Incidentally, in parallel to Bill S‑222, which specifically focuses on the use of wood in construction, we should also consider the government's broader green procurement policy.

Let us come back to the genesis of this. In April 2021, the Bloc Québécois organized in Trois‑Rivières a forum on forests and climate change.

This event allowed partners from the college and university research community, people from industry, community and politics to discuss a key issue to Quebec's socio-economic development, the forest bioeconomy.

During the 2021 campaign, the Bloc Québécois proposed a plan to maximize the potential of Quebec's forests whose goal was local transformation, technological innovations development and increased productivity in a labour shortage context. The Bloc Québécois's plan also sought to reduce Quebec's vulnerability to trade agreements. We have certainly had a taste of that. It also seeks to alleviate pressure on primary resources by increasing job diversity, including through transformation. It also focuses on developing exportable green technologies. That is the constructive and positive work of the Bloc Québécois.

We have been asking for years for Quebec's forestry sector to get its rightful share of federal investments. People are not fooled. Everybody knows that, historically, the federal government has prioritized the auto sector in Ontario and the oil and gas industry in western Canada over Quebec's wood. Federal support should, among other things, be subject to a public procurement policy that encourages the use of wood products. The use of wood products in the construction sector is on the rise, and its contribution to the fight against climate change is well established and recognized. To choose wood as a building material is to choose a product that is locally sourced, sustainable and renewable. A life-cycle analysis of wood shows that it has a very good environmental performance.

Continuing its historic commitment, the Bloc Québécois has made a concrete contribution in recent years by presenting the federal government with detailed proposed actions that would support the forestry sector.

The Bloc Québécois idea is simple: The more a company pollutes, the less public money it receives and, the less a company pollutes, the more government support it receives. The Bloc Québécois is out there in the trenches, so it is always up to date on the major issues and the direction Quebec industry wants to move in. Everyone welcomes this option with open arms.

Incidentally, in its green recovery plan, the Bloc Québécois proposed establishing the carbon footprint variable as a criterion for awarding contracts and purchasing in government procurement policies. In short, with figures to back it up, Quebec is counting on the forestry sector to support regional economies and contribute to the fight against climate change. For years, the Bloc Québécois has been demanding that the federal government give Quebeckers their fair share of public assistance.

It is important to note that Quebec is definitely not lagging behind other provinces in that regard. On the contrary, it is a pioneer of best practices in the use of wood products. Quebec's policy of using wood as a building material is built upon five forward-looking principles: promoting Quebec's economic development, contributing to the fight against climate change, ensuring the safety and well-being of occupants, focusing on learning, and promoting the multiple uses of wood.

Unfortunately, the interests of the Canadian oil state all too often take precedence over those of the Quebec forest state. Here are a few numbers. From 2017 to 2020, tens of billions of dollars were given to the country's most polluting sector. Over the same period, the entire forestry sector in Canada received only $952 million, nearly 75% of which are repayable contributions. Quebec's share, assuming that it gets 22.5% of that amount, is a paltry $71 million per year. Let me remind the House that forestry is the economic sector that is best positioned to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and capture carbon already in the atmosphere. It also has a lot of potential in terms of jobs, economic growth and innovation.

It is high time we pull our heads out of the sand and start to urgently address the state of the planet. This partisan foot-dragging on both sides of the House has, over the years, contributed to disadvantaging Quebec's forestry industry, as well as the industry's direct and indirect economic players. Waiting in vain for Canada to understand what works in Quebec is costly, both in terms of the economy and the environment. Clearly, the energy transition, forestry, fisheries, aerospace, agriculture, tourism and culture are all working, but we are not moving as fast as we should. Canada is not keeping up. Canada is a pro-oil state and that is becoming less and less acceptable to Quebeckers. It will be wonderful to regain our self-determination so we can choose the cutting-edge supports for and direction of Quebec's industries to ensure that they are sustainably developed.

We must immediately make every effort to tackle climate change since we are already behind. For some, this will start with acknowledging it. Others, who are more forward looking and have already started, need our support. It is our duty to act and support our forestry industries for our children and our future.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Blake Desjarlais NDP Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased today to rise to speak to Bill S-222. I want to thank my hon. colleague from South Okanagan—West Kootenay for his tremendous work, for being a champion not only for our planet but also for workers and for all Canadians.

It takes a special kind of person to present such a bill as this one, which would seek to enhance Canada's ability to combat the climate crisis. It is no secret that the use of a private member's bill is oftentimes under constraint in this place in terms of being unable to spend. People often find that these bills go unrecognized. However, they are important; although there is no expenditure to this, there truly are savings. The savings that would come from this would be in our children's future. We would be limiting, by way of the passage of this bill, the amount of direct embodied carbon that would otherwise be found in non-wood-use buildings.

To put this in perspective, Canada's built environment is a significant contributor to greenhouse gases across the globe. It accounted for approximately 25% of greenhouse gases coming from construction, use and maintenance of residential, commercial and institutional buildings. This is, of course, by way of non-wood products. Therefore, the use of wood in the construction of any building in Canada that would otherwise use things like concrete or steel would, in fact, result in a lower embodied carbon. This would mean that we would reduce the amount of carbon emissions by way of the passage of this bill.

It is also important to recognize that Canadians, whether in the generations before us or the generations to come, will be utilizing wood. I come from the province of Alberta. Half of our province is the northern boreal forest. This, of course, is a tremendous resource, not just for the many generations of indigenous people who have utilized these territories for the production of their own homes, industries and jobs, but also for many other Albertans. Approximately 17,500 Albertans are directly employed in this industry, and over 23,900 people are in supporting occupations. The revenues exceed $7.6 billion.

This is truly a renewable industry, as long as we properly manage it. Part of the proper management is making sure that the outcome production of wood goes toward greenhouse gas reduction. This is the actual textile used with the product of the harvesting of this lumber. These are things that are possible in our country.

I spoke to a constituent just last weekend, and she mentioned that, with the rising cost of natural gas, she is hoping for her business and even her home to get green. She was suggesting that even more work be done to make sure that homeowners could truly utilize advanced products, usually by the wood industry, to ensure that her own footprint was reduced. Canadians at home are taking climate change seriously; the government must follow suit.

There is no question that we are in a climate crisis. We must do everything we can to ensure we get this under control. Although the solutions that are present from the current government are not ambitious, it is incumbent upon the government to adopt a policy such as this one, which would actually move the mark in some ways. Any and all efforts are to be called for.

In budget 2017, the government provided Natural Resources Canada with $39.8 million over four years, starting in fiscal year 2018-19, to support projects and activities that increased the use of wood as a greener substitute material in infrastructure projects. Bringing this forward is our way to call on the government to continue to support this activity through government procurement.

Government procurement plays a massive role in terms of how demand, production and supply are maintained across many industries. No different is the forestry industry from this sector. The government has a huge amount of stock when it comes to buildings and supply right across this country. Whenever it is maintaining or building new units and new projects that are on federal lands or federally managed, it would be appropriate to utilize low-embodied carbon products made from Canadian-supplied wood.

In the tradition of many indigenous folks, we utilize wood because it is a renewable resource; it returns to the land, just as it came from the land. This is the principle of being renewable; it is also a principle of reciprocity. When we are practising reciprocity not only in our daily lives but also in terms of how we build our country, we will truly get paid dividends for our children.

Should we look after our environment now, it will look after our children. This is a promise and a compact that we have with our environment and with our environmental stewards, those who do this work for a living.

When it comes to making sure that we have energy efficiency within buildings, there ought to be further regulations to ensure that more can be done so we see a continued reduction in greenhouse gases. This would be by way of other processes, other amendments and procurement of the government's resources and material. This is one concrete step that the member has put forward that would truly do this by ensuring that we have a reciprocity approach to how we treat natural resources in the country, so we are not robbing mother earth blind of all of its resources but making sure it is more sustainable. That is truly the desired outcome for New Democrats.

When it comes to ensuring that we have, for example, proper forest management and proper resource management, this also plays to the tremendous value of those in the industry who are currently participating as we see an increase in natural disasters. Natural disasters are a common feature today in Canada, by way of the climate crisis. We saw it this summer. We have seen escalating and extreme wild events, particularly wildfires and floods. My province, of course, was surrounded by wildfires from the north, the Northwest Territories. Yellowknife's evacuation been the largest evacuation in Canadian history. Edmontonians and other Albertans took many folks in, given this huge crisis. Of course, west of us, in the riding of the member who presented this bill, we have seen massive forest fires.

We must take the climate crisis seriously. We must ensure that our children and the next generation see that we are serious about making sure we lower our greenhouse emissions. Part of the solution is using wood. This is something that we can do today. This is something that the government should be investing even more into. When we are presented with a choice between producing, for example, units like homes or even commercial buildings on behalf of the government, they truly should be reviewed with the outcome of producing a net-zero building. This is an important piece to our future. The climate crisis is so serious, in fact, that if we do not make these investments, if we do not make these changes, we will pay huge amounts for lifetimes to come.

We have one opportunity, one chance, to take as seriously as we can the crisis that is at Canadians' doorstep. That is the climate crisis. We need to do everything we can. This is one piece to getting it done. We can, in fact, do the work to support good-paying, strong, union jobs like those found in the forestry industry while also bringing down our greenhouse gases. This is a promise that I think many folks right across our country expect: the marriage between industry and making sure we have good outcomes for Canadians like reduced prices and ensuring that we can combat the climate crisis. The Conservatives would like to pit these two things against each other. They would like to see workers and environmental policy at odds with each other.

New Democrats know that when these industries unite, when we have workers and industry come together toward a solution to something as big as the climate crisis, we can get achievement. We can do something for our children. We can do something to try to end this crisis. People are watching us. They expect this from their government. They expect this from their elected leaders. They expect us to act, and that is exactly what this bill would do.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Eric Melillo Conservative Kenora, ON

Madam Speaker, it is great to be back. This is my first opportunity to rise in my place since we have come back for the fall session. I want to re-emphasize the gratitude I have for the people of northwestern Ontario, in the Kenora riding, who have placed their trust in me to represent them in Parliament. It is an honour to be back, as we work to make life more affordable for all Canadians, to address the housing crisis and restore safe streets, but that is not the topic of the debate presently.

I want to acknowledge the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay for bringing this bill forward. I understand he has announced that he will not be running again in the next election. I wish him the best in whatever comes next. It is perhaps a bit premature as we still have a couple of years left in this Parliament, but I want to wish him the best. I did not get the opportunity to work with him as much as I would have liked, but I have always appreciated the chances I had to work with him. I find him a very fair and reasonable person from the other party.

I want to thank him for bringing this bill forward. This is a very important bill that we are debating, and one aspect that I really like about this bill is that it does not prescribe the use of one material over the other. It does not explicitly state any restrictions, but, rather, encourages the consideration of all materials that can help reduce emissions and what has been a primary example of that. This is important because Conservatives believe in the duty of the federal government to ensure openness, fairness and transparency in the procurement process. We certainly would not want to see anything handicap that ability, so to speak, or anything that would place strict limitations on the procurement process. The member got this proposal right in ensuring that he is not doing that. He is simply helping to encourage the alternatives.

The environmental components of this bill are perhaps the biggest benefits that we see. Conservatives believe in common-sense measures to help reduce emissions. We have spoken quite a bit about, and will continue to talk about, our plan to bring in innovative technologies and support innovative greener alternatives instead of taxing hard-working Canadians. We know as well that our plan to address climate change and to lower emissions has to include responsible and sustainable forest management, and wood products are an incredible way to do that, as has been mentioned by other colleagues during this discussion.

In Ontario alone, there are over 20 million tonnes of carbon stored in wood products. It is an incredible way to sequester carbon and ensure that it is harvested and utilized. When trees are harvested, it makes way for younger trees to be planted, which will absorb carbon more rapidly and help to reduce emissions, and the carbon within those products is taken away before forests can burn. Unfortunately, we continue to see forest fires. Fortunately, in the Kenora riding and across our district, we did not have any major evacuations that we saw in years previous, but forest fires continue to be a challenge.

We have to make sure that we are harvesting trees before they catch fire and release the carbon stored within them into the atmosphere. It is twofold: It is the ability to ensure we are absorbing and preserving the carbon within wood products, and that new trees are planted to help ensure that we are reducing emissions.

To that end, there is a statistic I would like to share, which is something we should all be proud of: In 2020, there were over 62 million trees planted across Ontario. I think that is an incredible achievement. It shows the sustainability of our forestry industry and the incredible work we are doing to protect the environment here in Canada.

Of course, we cannot ignore the incredible economic benefits that come with it as well. To have a sustainable resource and industry such as forestry is massively important to our economy right across the country. As the member for Kenora, I am going to focus more specifically on Ontario and northern Ontario. It is vital to our economy. In Ontario, as of 2020, $4.3 billion is the amount that forestry contributed to the domestic product, and, of course, there are billions more in exports. In 2021, the sector supported nearly 150,000 well-paying union jobs right across Ontario, important jobs for the people in my riding and right across the north.

With the resource revenue-sharing, 35 participating first nations in Ontario received over $93 million from Ontario's forestry sector as a direct benefit to first nations across northern Ontario. As a member who represents 42 first nations, I can say again that it is an incredibly important piece of our economy to support jobs for first nations and the communities as well through that direct resource revenue-sharing.

Whether I am in Kenora, Dryden, Ignace, Ear Falls or any of the communities across my district, there is obviously an urgent importance to support forestry, the environment and the good jobs that come with those across our district, but it flows right across northern Ontario. In the summer I had the opportunity to join the Leader of the Opposition, our common-sense Conservative leader, on a tour across northern Ontario. We had an incredible visit, although outside of my riding, with workers at the GreenFirst mill in Kapuskasing. It was an incredible opportunity to engage with them and learn about the work they are doing in their everyday jobs to support our economy and our environment. It is really extraordinary work they do.

As we were going around, I would think about the workers back home in our district of northwest Ontario, in Kapuskasing and all across northern Ontario. We emphasize them as the importance of supporting this vital industry, not just through the procurement process, of course, which is incredibly important and is the topic of the debate here today, but looking at duplicate or redundant regulations and ways that we can help support the forestry sector to make it easier for the sector to thrive. Of course, addressing the softwood lumber dispute is something that is very important. The government must act with urgency on this to help provide stability for the sector and the workers who rely on those great jobs right across Canada.

In short, I appreciate the member from the NDP for bringing this forward. It is a very important initiative. I want to urge all my colleagues here in the House to ensure we are working together to support Canada's forestry sector and good jobs for first nations and people right across northern Ontario while ensuring we are protecting our environment at the same time.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill S‑222, which finally appears to promote the use of forest products in public works. After all, it was about time, was it not?

The Bloc Québécois has repeatedly proposed that the oh-so-generous federal government use its procurement policy to support the forestry sector. It is such a bold idea that it could even have economic and environmental benefits. We have already tried this twice.

In 2010, we gently proposed amending the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act to encourage the use of wood products in construction. I have to say, the Conservatives at the time were not very co-operative.

We tried again in 2014. However, the Conservatives, and even some NDP members, chose to ignore the importance of the forestry sector for Quebec's regions. We sincerely hope that this third attempt will finally be the one that works. The mere fact that we are now at third reading of the bill makes us almost optimistic.

However, we cannot ignore the fact that the current bill lacks teeth, to put it politely. The minister is taking into account — those are the words being used — environmental benefits and can authorize the use of wood in public projects. The audacity. When my colleague, the member for Jonquière, tried to propose an amendment for the minister to maximise the use of wood, he received massive support from one person: himself. That is entirely representative of the importance given to the oil interests by the Canadian government compared to those of Quebec.

The numbers speak for themselves. Between 1917 and 2020, the oil sector received a tidy sum of $23 billion, while the forestry sector, for all of Canada, was given only $952 million, three-quarters of which had to be paid back. Through all that, Ottawa is still claiming to be seriously fighting climate change. How logical is that?

The forestry sector could be a tremendous boon if we gave it a chance. Every cubic metre of wood used in construction captures 900 kilograms of CO2. A house built using 20 cubic metres of wood would capture the equivalent of three years' worth of emissions from a car. Studies even suggest that by reclaiming forestry and agricultural waste, we could reduce our oil imports by 1.6 billion litres, or 20% of our annual consumption. Still, why support a green industry when we can throw more money at the oil sector, right?

It is high time for Quebec's forestry sector to get its fair share of federal investments. After all, it deserves at least as much attention as Ontario's auto industry or western Canada's oil sector. Ottawa has to wake up and implement a public procurement policy that truly encourages the use of wood products and sustainable materials. Quebec has already done it. What is Ottawa waiting for?

The Standing Committee on Natural Resources also recommended that the government establish the carbon footprint as a criterion for awarding contracts. That idea was also part of the Bloc Québécois's green recovery plan. We are happy to see that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources finally recognized the importance of such a policy. However, once again, it took a while for Ottawa to wake up and smell the coffee. Politics are all well and good, but real action is better, is it not?

Such a policy makes sense not just environmentally but also economically. A study published in 2021 on the maximization of the economic and environmental benefits of our beloved forestry sector showed that the optimal management of our precious forests could lead to the creation of over 16,000 jobs in Quebec in the next decade, which would represent an increase of 27%. All of that while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 7.7 million tonnes a year, which is equivalent to 20% to 30% of Quebec's environmental targets. Is this just a dream?

The forest is our hidden treasure, our green gold mine. The government must therefore do its part to develop our forests' full potential by encouraging the use of wood in construction, supporting local processing and investing in environmentally friendly technological innovations. Yes, the future lies in the responsible, sustainable and sound development of our natural resources.

I now urgently call upon the Liberals to develop a comprehensive strategy. If they feel at a bit of a loss, then I invite them to take a look at the Bloc Québécois's road map from 2021. It had unanimous support in Quebec because it was created in collaboration with all the forestry sector stakeholders. It also has the support of every forestry workers' union, including the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec and Unifor. What is more, it brought together 24 elected representatives from all nine of Quebec's forestry regions.

In addition to a public procurement policy that encourages the use of wood products, we recommend increasing budgets for basic research and developing a value chain for secondary and tertiary processing of our precious forest resources in order to foster the creation of an industrial bioeconomy cluster in Canada.

As the international trade critic, I also urge Ottawa to do everything in its power to obtain a full exemption from all tariffs on softwood lumber exports from our American friends. We also have to actively encourage diversification of export markets for our forestry products. We need a long-term vision.

In closing, I want to say that I strongly believe, as do my Bloc Québécois colleagues here, that Quebec should have exclusive jurisdiction over all of the natural resources on its territory, including its waters, fish, forests, mines and agriculture. I am convinced that the Quebec state is in the best position to fully develop the potential of our forests, a green industry that contributes to our identity.

While we wait for that glorious day to come, it is incumbent upon Ottawa to seriously consider this issue. The federal government can count on the Bloc Québécois to support any environmentally friendly development measure that shows vision and economic patriotism.

Business of the HousePrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Burlington Ontario


Karina Gould LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and if you seek it, I believe you will find unanimous consent to adopt the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practice of the House:

(a) at the time of adjournment on Wednesday, September 27, 2023, the member for Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel, the Dean of the House, be deemed elected Interim Speaker of the House of Commons until a new Speaker is elected; and

(b) the election of a new Speaker be the first order of business on Tuesday, October 3, 2023, provided that the member for Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel preside over the election of the Speaker or, if the member is absent, the member present who has the next longest period of unbroken service shall preside over the election.

Business of the HousePrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

All those opposed to the hon. minister moving the motion will please say nay.

It is agreed.

The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-222, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood), be read the third time and passed.

Department of Public Works and Government Services ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I am always honoured to rise on behalf of the people of Timmins—James Bay, who are very interested in this bill. Their region is rich in natural resources.

I am also proud to rise in support of my colleague from South Okanagan—West Kootenay, who is not only a great parliamentarian but also a respected author and biologist. In his bio, they put those things first, which shows how important he is in other aspects, as well as bringing forward a motion on sustainability.

This bill is really important. I am going to say that, in all my years in Parliament, there has been lots of talk about Canada being a world leader, our forests and blah blah blah. However, the fact is that we have been failing on a number of fronts, and we have to address that. We are in a time that the Greeks would have called “kairos”, which is both a crisis and an opportunity. The crisis happened when we lost 14 million hectares of forest land this year from the climate catastrophe that is unfolding, which the Conservatives would exacerbate with their addiction to burning more fossil fuels. We are seeing our forests under threat from climate change and the changing pressures on the softwood and hardwood resources that we rely on in our communities.

In my region in northern Ontario, there is an issue of glyphosate spraying in the cutovers. This ignores indigenous rights and the hunters and trappers who are out on the lands.

We have to deal with this, yet in the face of the climate catastrophe, we have huge opportunities as a nation. One of these is to start looking at sustainable building. This is the reason I think the option of including and changing building codes is going to be fundamental to making us more sustainable, as is bringing in more wood products.

When I was in Berlin meeting with government officials last year, I was so amazed at how far ahead they are and so embarrassed at how far behind Canada is in terms of housing, building and having a net-zero approach to all building strategies. We do not have that at all. One only has to look at Doug Ford, Mr. X and their buddies, who were going to sell off the Greenbelt land to make a bunch of bucks for insiders. That is not a vision.

What do we need to do in order to respond to the need to build more sustainable housing? We have the skills; we have the tools. Our region in northern Ontario has the wood. They call it the “fibre mask”, but I prefer to call it the trees; it is the natural environment.

We have taken a real beating over the years from the softwood lumber disputes. We saw how Stephen Harper sold Canada out when we wanted every World Trade Organization dispute on softwood lumber. We were left with a crippled market. We could use those mills to bring forward the products that could be used in more sustainable building.

When wood is compared to cement, cement is responsible for 8% of the world's global emissions. Cement is higher in its impact on the global environment and GHGs than aviation is. We focus a lot on aviation, but cement is a serious issue. We are going to have to rethink how we build. Forestry can do that. However, we are going to need to actually go beyond talk and move forward.

I would like to point to my colleagues and suggest they look at the United States. They brought in an all-of-government approach through the IRA. There has been explosive, unprecedented growth in clean tech. We can look at the state of Texas. Texas is so right-wing, it would stand out even on the Conservative backbench, although maybe they would move it to the front bench these days. However, Texas has embraced clean energy. It is now bringing more clean energy online than any other jurisdiction in the world other than China. There are now 890,000 jobs in Texas in clean tech, and they came through the brutal, deadly heat waves. They were able to keep their air conditioners on because they had so much solar capacity.

What is happening in the United States is that all-of-government approach on infrastructure, on building, on the tax incentives and on procurement. Procurement is what we need to talk about, so we can say to our forestry communities, such as Elk Lake, Timmins and Kapuskasing in my region, that we can use these products. We can then say to the mill towns that we have lost, such as Smooth Rock Falls, Iroquois Falls, Espanola and Kirkland Lake, that there is potential for restarting mills to build new products, new fabrication and sustainable housing. The market is there.

We could be selling this internationally as well. We need to do it sustainably and with full indigenous involvement, consultation and participation. We need to do it with the lens that we are dealing with a time of kairos.

A climate catastrophe is unfolding. We need to get serious as a nation, to move beyond talk and actually become the global leader that we should be and can be and will be if we follow motions like what we see with this excellent motion tonight.