Mr. Speaker, I am supporting this bill at second reading. It is important to refer the bill to committee because some amendments should be made to the bill, and the committee should hopefully take care of that and then bring it back to the House.
Let me just outline that very quickly with a little background.
The bill is a resumption of a bill that was tabled in 2010, which we also voted on at the time. The bill would require that before soliciting bids for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal immovables and federal real property, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services give preference to the concept that promotes the use of wood, while taking into account factors such as cost and greenhouse gas emissions.
I say “amendments” because I am not entirely happy with the wording of the bill where it says “give preference to”. I believe there is a better way to say this, perhaps “compare materials” or something of the kind. I certainly hope there will be some amendments to the bill.
The important part of this bill is not only the use of wood, and I will talk about why that is important in Canada. The government could save money with this bill, using more wood in the construction and repairs of federal buildings.
A life-cycle cost analysis produced by the U.S. defense department some years ago demonstrated that wooden structures cost 40% less per square foot than steel or masonry structures. Construction cost was 37% less for wood. Operation and maintenance costs were 55% less for wood than for other materials. This would help not only our wood industry, particularly the specialty wood industry.
When we think of forest products and the use of wood, and a lot of people think of 2x4s and maybe pulp for pulpwood, and if we are to make our forest industry as diverse as possible, let us think of the construction of buildings, of beams, of curved beams, of the sorts of main parts of structures of buildings where we could find new uses for forest products.
I want to briefly mention what has happened to the forest industry in the last number of years. I will go through some facts and figures because it is very instructive. I will talk about direct employment in our forest industry, meaning those who actually work with the wood. It is usually indicated in the forest industry that for every direct job there are three indirect jobs, so we can extrapolate how important these jobs are, have been and were to Canada, and what we have lost in the meantime.
In general, since 2008, with the big downturn in Canada and the rest of the world, we have lost 30% of its forestry jobs. The hardest-hit provinces were: Quebec, where the losses were 32.3% in direct jobs, and I am not talking about indirect jobs because that would be much more; Ontario, 34.2%; and British Columbia, 29.7%. All of the provinces had a loss. Newfoundland and Labrador had a net loss of 55.8% of its forest industry.
It is incumbent on us in Ottawa to ask how we can move forward with a very vibrant forest industry, which we have and have had, and help to ensure that forest products are used to their fullest extent and with their best possible uses. This bill would go a small way in that direction.
I like to think that the forest industry has perhaps bottomed out in terms of job losses. In my riding of Thunder Bay—Rainy River, in Fort Frances, the mill closed two years ago and is now going to be completely shuttered, and these losses still continue. In fact. in northern Ontario, if I remember my figures correctly, we lost 44,000 forestry jobs. That was more than half the forestry jobs that we had in northern Ontario. It was a huge loss. That is one of the reasons I am supporting this bill at second reading.
It is important to note that in Canada the national codes, the federal codes, allow for the safe use of wood while providing occupants appropriate protection from fire, earthquakes, or storms, so if people are thinking that wood will not do the job that concrete will do, for example, they should know that it can do the same job.
A bill with these amendments that I was talking about would just make sure that when there is a federal building project, wood would be considered. The bill is not binding. The purpose is really to establish that wood is one of the options available and should be considered.
Annual sales of Canadian forest products are about $57 billion and represent about 12% of Canada's manufacturing GDP. Even with these huge job losses across the country, the forestry sector is still one of the country's biggest employers. It has activities in more than 200 forestry communities. Many of them are in northern Ontario, but others stretch right across Canada. Two hundred communities depend on forestry to provide their tax base, to provide employment, and to make these communities vibrant.
I want to talk about Quebec very briefly. The wood charter has been adopted so that managers of public projects can systematically evaluate the option of using wood in producing a comparative analysis of the greenhouse gas emissions of materials. I think it is important to note that wood compares favourably with other building materials, such as steel and concrete, which consume 26% to 34% more energy and emit 57% to 81% more greenhouse gases than wood. As well, on average each cubic metre of wood captures one tonne of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
We can think of it in environmental terms. I talked about cost and I talked about environmental terms, and wood just simply makes sense.
It is important for us in this place to show that we support forestry workers right across this country and that we support the use of local products, provided these products comply with the standards in effect across this country. We want the government to make judicious choices by giving consideration to life cycle and cost analysis when considering wood.
By the way, the government already has a policy on leadership in energy and environmental design. It is called LEED certification. It is a rating system recognized as the international brand of excellence for green buildings.
In any number of areas, the use of wood is something that should be considered. I will be supporting this bill at second reading, hoping to get it to committee where we will see an amendment or two that will make this bill even better and perhaps more palatable in this place. I will be following this bill very closely and, quite frankly, so will Canadians in 200 forest communities right across this country.