Mr. Speaker, this adjournment debate gives me the opportunity to come back to the question I asked on February 4 about the complete disregard for private lumber producers in the Conservatives' plan to “save” the forestry industry, or rather to diversify the economies of single-industry regions.
I remind the House that the private lumber industry represents $400 million in sales, $700 million in payroll, $4 billion in processed products, $500 million in tax revenue, 29,000 jobs and 35,000 producers. I also remind the House that these producers have lost $70 million over two years, and are now on the brink of bankruptcy. But the situation facing private lumber producers was completely ignored—and still is—by the Conservative government.
There are many of these producers in my riding and elsewhere, and their demands are legitimate. I will mention a few of them.
The president of the Fédération des producteurs de bois du Québec, Pierre-Maurice Gagnon, and the president of the Syndicat des producteurs forestiers du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Jean-Louis Gagnon, are both worried, and with good reason. I completely agree with their requests, which can be summarized as follows.
First of all, they are calling for lumber producers to be recognized as workers, which would allow them to contribute to employment insurance and thus be eligible for benefits.
They are also calling for tax measures so that, like farmers, they can deduct 100% of their expenses in the year in which they are incurred, not in the year the income is received.
They are also calling for one-off, immediate assistance so that people in the industry can continue to manage the forest despite the crisis, in order to keep our forests healthy, as well as financial assistance for work on the logging road network and improved transportation, given that greater distances have to be covered and that the cost of fuel oil and gas is rising.
When we think of the effect of the crisis on the owners of private woodlots, we must think about all the secondary losses suffered by the people in the industry. This affects people in transportation, people who sell machinery and the employees. All sectors that benefit from the purchasing power of these individuals are also affected indirectly.
In the Lower St. Lawrence region, these producers supply 80% of the material required by the factories. This gives an idea of the importance of this sector for our regions, especially mine, of course.
In the Lower St. Lawrence region, 7% of our producers live exclusively off the forest. The others make 25% of their income from agriculture, the maple syrup industry and the forest. Losing 25% of one's income can often be disastrous. That often makes a great difference for people whose net family income is between $25,000 and $30,000 a year.
I would like to reiterate my question, for I think it is completely relevant. How will the Conservative government help these private wood producers? These are self-employed people who create their own employment and do their work while fully respecting the environment. They are entrepreneurs who bring a crucial dynamic quality to our communities. How could the Conservative government have forgotten them completely and how can it continue to ignore them?