House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was province.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Avalon (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Won his last election, in 2004, with 58% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Forestry December 13th, 2004

We had meetings. We had lots of good discussions.

Forestry December 13th, 2004

Madam Chair, this is a very serious issue but I have seen serious problems before that were addressed with money and no real plan put in place. That was done to Newfoundland and Labrador by the former Conservative government of 1992 during the closure of the fishery, where $2 billion were spent but no actual rebuilding plan was put in place. Today we are in a similar situation to what we were in 1992.

I do understand the seriousness of the situation. We have been working very diligently with the B.C. government and with industry toward a long term plan to solve this problem but it is not an easy one.

I want to ask the hon. member a direct question, because it is a massive, serious issue that will impact negatively on British Columbia for a long time and therefore we need to get our ideas together. At what time in 2004, when the hon. member represented his constituency and his major concern was with the people of British Columbia, did he request all members from British Columbia, myself and all interested parties to sit down and have a discussion?

Forestry December 13th, 2004

The member has not read the plan.

Forestry December 13th, 2004

The election was in June.

Forestry December 13th, 2004

Madam Chair, it is interesting to sit in this hon. House and listen to the comments from speakers on both sides today, December 13, 2004. On December 12, 2003, I was sworn in as Minister of Natural Resources. It is difficult to understand why hon. members would stand in the House now, 12 months later, and make all these comments about a comprehensive plan that needs to be put together.

One would have thought that after all of these months that have gone by we would have been able to sit down at the table or that I would have at least received a phone call.

Let me ask the hon. member this question, with a premise to the question. First, we are putting together a comprehensive plan; second, we are concerned about communities; third, we are concerned about the environment; and fourth, we are concerned about a complete clear-cut and what all the impacts are. At what time during this year did the hon. member call my office and request a meeting to sit down and discuss this issue?

Forestry December 13th, 2004

Madam Chair, I take exception to the hon. member's comment that we will let nature take its course. I did not say that. I said that the only permanent result was that if we could be so fortunate in answer to our prayers to have a cold snap that would eliminate that problem. However we have no control over nature.

Are we sitting back and letting nature take its course? Absolutely not. We are doing things within our control, which is why industry, municipal, provincial and federal agencies of government and the Canadian Forest Service are collectively putting in place whatever measures we can.

I agree with her comment about the future impact on these communities. because the hon. member is absolutely right. This will have a devastating impact, even more than it is having today. Today we are not feeling the major impact on the loss of incomes and the loss of jobs that this will bring in the future.

Planning is what is happening now. Collaborative discussions and planning to lessen the impact on people's lives in the future is what we are doing.

Forestry December 13th, 2004

Madam Chair, my colleague is absolutely right about the amount of work that the Canadian Forest Service has been implementing along with the Government of British Columbia and the industry as a whole. This work is not just done in isolation of the industry, the communities or the Government of British Columbia. It is done in cooperation with everyone.

One of the major things being done by the Forest Service is research. A total of $9.25 million has been committed to collaborative research projects within Canadian universities, the national forestry research institutes and other research agencies. That is quite a large amount of money. The idea is to find out if there is any type of control that can be used to stop the spread of the pine beetle. We also need to look at lessening the impact on communities and how the cut can be managed and controlled.

The Canadian Forest Service is working in many different areas and working in cooperation with communities, the industry and the Government of British Columbia. Cooperation is the key word.

Forestry December 13th, 2004

Madam Chair, yes, I was briefed by my department almost a year ago. It was a year ago yesterday that I was sworn in as Minister of Natural Resources. One of the first things my department made me aware of was the mountain pine beetle problem in British Columbia. I also have been to British Columbia on a number of occasions and have met with the forestry association and the minister responsible.

I am fully aware of the problem of the pine beetle in British Columbia, as I am of the spruce budworm problem in Newfoundland and Labrador. I also am fully aware of other infestations in British Columbia and in other parts of Canada.

This problem, as massive as it is, is not only impacting negatively on the province of British Columbia but there are other problems with similar infestations in other areas of Canada.

I would also like to note that not on one occasion since I became Minister of Natural Resources has one member opposite asked me for a meeting to sit down and discuss the pine beetle infestation in British Columbia and its impact on the people in their ridings, in the communities or the municipalities, with the exception of one individual who told me that we needed to discuss this further at some time.

It is a big problem and we are fully aware of it, but it is a problem that only nature can solve. It is an infestation by an insect that feeds off the pine and if a a cold, frosty winter came in it would resolve the issue.

The federal government has already invested $40 million into research and development and to work with the province of British Columbia to design a program that will minimize the problem as much as we possibly can. We are doing some things. Can we resolve this problem by throwing money at it? No, we cannot. Can we lessen the impact on people in communities by spending money? Yes, we can and we will continue to do that.

Forestry December 13th, 2004

Madam Chair, I welcome the opportunity to share with the House the Government of Canada's response to challenges faced by the citizens of British Columbia and indeed many western Canadians in dealing with the mountain pine beetle infestation. It is an infestation of the mature pine forests, that can only be described as massive, approaching an estimated 10 million hectares, and expected to increase.

The effects are direct and expensive. Many British Columbians draw their income from the forest or from activities related to the forest. When I speak of these activities, I am speaking of private woodlots, commercial forestry firms, mills and other operations across the country that contribute some $40 billion to Canada's export earnings.

I wish we could bring this infestation under complete control. Due to the scale of infestation and the abundance of the mature lodgepole pine, which is the insect's food source complete, control is not feasible. I wish we could change the weather because the only measure we know that would bring this blight under control would be prolonged winter cold with temperatures of minus 40° for a number of days, or a dramatic drop in temperature during a fall or spring cold snap.

The Canadian Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada, or as we call it the CFS, is responding to this epidemic in a way that is designed to complement provincial activities to combat the outbreak. For more than 100 years, the CFS has worked diligently to sustain Canada's forest resources for the benefit of all Canadians, from coast to coast to coast, today, tomorrow and long into the future. I want to add that much if not all of the province's strategy is based on CFS science data.

May I remind the House of our government's activities dealing with the mountain pine beetle. The Government of Canada has invested $40 million in the mountain pine beetle initiative, or the MPBI announced in 2002. This is a six year program that is working in concert with the provinces MPB activities and is consistent with the federal mandate. It was developed as a response to provincial requests for federal programming.

The focus is not only on the issue of the day, dealing with the effects of this outbreak and reducing the current manifestation and its impacts on our environmental, economic and social well-being, but also, important, on reducing the risk of the future beetle epidemics, aiming to safeguard the problems for the economic benefit and enjoyment of our next generations.

All the initiative's programs are now fully operational and being delivered in close cooperation with many partners and stakeholders. I include in this list other federal and provincial agencies, national forest sector institutes, first nations, academic institutions, industry and private landowners and managers. The war we are waging on this infestation includes working to assist beetle control and forest rehabilitation on federal forest lands in B.C., the national parks in the Rocky Mountains, first nation reserve lands and non-corporate private lands.

Government of Canada researchers and program officers have been located in the beetle epidemic regions at Prince George and Kamloops to lead the research effort and to facilitate delivery of the MPBI's programs.

Dovetailing with the province's 10 year wood salvage plan, the Government of Canada's investment is funding research to: first, estimate the commercial life span of beetle-killed timber; second, determine how best to utilize the large volume of dead timber; third, understand the impacts of the timber flow changes on forest dependent communities; and fourth, understand and mitigate, if not eliminate the ecological impacts of managing the beetle killed timber stands.

The B.C. ministry of forests recognizes that this MPBI research will provide critical information to the province in support of its 10 year plan. This principle of cooperation and collaboration was established at the outset of discussions with B.C. officials.

The initiative's research agenda was developed after a series of regional consultations with companies, provincial officials and first nations. It is strategic scientifically sound and a practical complement to operational needs.

I would like to emphasize that in addition to providing the necessary information to allow the mills to use the timber killed by the beetle, the MPBI research will provide communities with valuable information on the economic impacts after the beetle epidemic. Researchers are working to assist the province in a case study on economic diversity options for the forest dependent communities.

I am proud of my officials at Natural Resources Canada who continue to work closely with their provincial colleagues in B.C. and in Alberta in the development of a decision support system to guide effective beetle management across western Canada and the rest of the country. Alberta is at risk because like B.C., the province boasts of an abundance of mature jack pine stands. We have to reduce the likelihood of the mountain pine beetle expanding into these other timber stands of the boreal forest and spreading across the country.

We wanted to respond to this crisis effectively and directly, and I believe we have.We will continue to do so within the roles of the two governments as clearly articulated in the Constitution and respecting the government's forestry mandate.

Members of the House are no doubt aware that provincial crown forests land management is a provincial mandate. I bring to members' attention that the Government of British Columbia's forest legislation requires major forest licence holders to carry out reforestation at their own expense. The reforestation component of the mountain pine beetle initiative allows the Government of Canada to initiate efforts on lands that are outside the responsibility of the province.

There are no quick fixes to this problem and there never have been. The Government of Canada has records from the time of the first world war that note the existence of the mountain pine beetle in western forests. Indeed, over the years there have been numerous outbreaks of this beetle documented. This one, however, is the worst. Therefore we are all doing our best to reduce the environmental, economic and social impacts in a cooperative and collaborate way.

May I remind the House that officials from the provincial and federal governments work together and continue to work together long and hard to develop and implement the mountain pine beetle initiative that I have just described to the House. The Government of Canada's response has been significant and we will continue to support B.C. and Alberta working within the federal mandate.

The only thing that we could pray and wish for is that nature itself would bring in the temperatures efficient enough to take care of this massive, major infestation in our forests. Other than that, it will be a long, troublesome battle that the communities, the municipal, provincial and federal governments will have to do everything possible to lessen the impact on the people and the industry at large.

Supply December 9th, 2004

Well, you should.