Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Durham.
The forestry industry is extremely important. The amount of forest land in Canada is 347 million hectares. We cut 594,000 kilometres a year, about 0.6%. That is all, and 60% of the land we harvest in the commercial forest industry is reforested. The forest industry has a great environmental track record.
In fact, I am going to focus on the environmental track record of the forest industry. Previous speakers spoke at great length about the economic issues related to the forest industry. I will look at the environmental side.
Some 321,000 people are directly and indirectly employed in the forest industry, with $8.6 billion in wages and salaries. The value of exports is about $28 billion a year. That is the economics of the forest industry, which is truly remarkable.
In my own life, I had the honour of being the environmental director at a forest company. It was the Pine Falls Paper Company in Pine Falls, Manitoba. It used to be part of the venerable Abitibi-Price Inc., the greatest newsprint company in the world. It fell on hard times and divested itself of the mill in Pine Falls. The employees bought the mill. It was a tremendous experience. I joined the mill shortly after the employees purchased the mill, and I became the environmental director at the mill. I managed the environmental operations of the mill itself. I managed the waste-water treatment plant. My comments on the forest industry are coloured by my direct experiences with the forest industry.
In my own constituency, I have two great forest products companies. There is Louisiana-Pacific, which produces oriented strand board, and now produces SmartSide siding for the international market. The other is Spruce Products, which is a softwood lumber company. Both are extremely efficient producers.
In addition, I had the honour of owning 300 acres of forest land myself. I have lived on my farm since 1979. One needs to do that in order to understand forestry from the standpoint of forests having a life cycle of their own, and very few people have experienced the life cycle of a forest.
For example, in 1987, on our own farm, my wife and I clear-cut a small piece of the farm, about half a hectare, for firewood for a year. This writ large is forestry, but in our case it was very small. Nevertheless, about four or five years ago, I went back to that clear-cut and saw a stump we had cut. I could see it was rotting away. It was about 30 years after we had cut it. Standing beside that stump was a brand new tree. I felt so heartened by that, because it told me the management that I was doing on my land was appropriate. I actually knelt beside that stump, grabbed that tree, and had my wife take a picture of me. I will admit to the House of Commons right now that the member of Parliament for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa is a tree hugger, and I am very proud of that statement. Conservative and conservation, the two words work well together.
Let us expand this small example of my own little farm to forestry across the country. There has been an ever-increasing improvement in technology in the forest industry. I saw that as the environmental director at the Pine Falls Paper Company. For example, before a forest company can harvest forest over a large piece of land, it goes through an environmental process. There are hearings and licensing, and what comes out of that are terms and conditions that the forest company must follow.
The notion that it is a free-for-all in the forest is nonsense. Every single commercial forest company has to follow the terms and conditions of a publicly provide licence, and there are inspections.
Reforestation in Canada is largely a responsibility of the forest companies. For example, in the last couple of years 594,000 hectares of forest have been harvested in Canada and forest companies replanted 347,000 hectares of forest land. The rest of the forest land was regenerated through natural regeneration. Our industry exemplifies sustainable development.
The woodland side of forestry is one part of what the forest industry does. The second part is the processing. Again, I use my own example of the Pine Falls Paper Company that I used to work for. Unfortunately, the Pine Falls Paper Company does not exist anymore. It was a newsprint company that only produced 500 tonnes of newsprint a day. As a result of smart phones and the Internet, we are using far less newsprint than we used to. The loss of the newsprint industry in Canada is tragic in my view but inevitable perhaps because of technology. When I think of these venerable mills across the country that are now defunct, I am quite saddened. To see a site that used to be a flourishing town and a paper mill lying vacant is truly saddening.
Nevertheless, I go back to 1995, when I joined the Pine Falls Paper Company. By the way, I would remind the House that Brian Mulroney was named the greenest prime minister in Canadian history. Brian Mulroney's Conservative government in 1989 implemented the pulp and paper effluent regulations that mandated every single pulp and paper company in Canada to construct waste-water treatment plants. The company that I managed for three years did exactly that at a cost of $25 million. Our effluent went from being a somewhat toxic effluent to effluent that you could actually drink. That is the progress that the forest industry has made over many decades. That is a feature of modern industrial societies, constant environmental improvement, and again today, we see the results of that: blue skies and clean waters. We have not solved every environmental problem by far but advanced industrial societies are one of constant environmental improvement.
I have two major forest product companies in my constituency. One is Louisiana-Pacific, which is located in the Swan River area. It has produced in the past oriented strand board but recently it converted to creating a product called SmartSide siding. It is a hardwood mill that uses poplar pulp. What was interesting about the SmartSide siding conversion was that wood consumption was decreased, it increased value-added, and increased employment at that mill, the essence of sustainability.
The other company in my constituency is Spruce Products Limited. It is a small softwood lumber-producing company. Many members, regardless of which partly the belong to, have toured lumber mills to see the laser technology they have employed to minimize waste. I saw logs come off the line and immediately the computer said 2 two-by-fours would come out of it, a two-by-six, and so on. The forest industry is not a sunset industry by far. It is an industry that is on the march.
The last part of our motion talks about the effect of environmental groups on our industry. There was an article in the March 3 edition of the National Post that described the Greenpeace attack on Resolute Forest Products. This was an interesting article. Greenpeace went after one of the largest forest companies in this country. The article reads “Greenpeace admits its attacks on forest products giant were 'non-verifiable statements of subjective opinion'.” One of the largest environmental groups in this country basically lied about what a forest products industry did and it admitted it.
I am going to paraphrase what Greenpeace said in the lawsuit that was filed. The publications used the words “forest destroyer”. It is of course arguable that Resolute did all of this. Greenpeace adds that its attacks on Resolute, and this is important, “are without question non-verifiable statements of subjective opinion and at most non-actionable rhetorical hyperbole.”