|| That, in the opinion of the House, the government should introduce a series of measures to assist businesses, communities and workers hard hit by the forestry crisis, including: (a) an economic diversification program aimed specifically at communities that depend heavily on the forest industry; (b) tax measures that encourage the development of processing activities in the region; (c) a government loan and loan guarantee program for business modernization; (d) a refundable tax credit for the research and development of new products; (e) the establishment of absolute reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions, allowing businesses to sell emission credits on an exchange; (f) a program to support the production of energy and ethanol from forest waste; (g) improvements to the employment insurance plan; and (h) an income support program for older workers.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise on behalf of my party to speak to Motion No. 414, which you have read.
It is pretty clear from the wording of the motion that its purpose is to provide immediate assistance to the forest industry. For the benefit of those watching, I introduced this motion on November 22, 2007, which means that the provisions it contains were very timely at that time. The situation has continued to deteriorate dramatically ever since. I therefore call on the good faith, assumed to be a given, power of reasoning and intelligence of my colleagues in this House, who, I am sure, will give unanimous support to this motion.
I referred to the date of November 22, 2007, for a reason. Indeed, on January 10, 2008, the Conservative announced the establishment of a $1 billion trust to help the forestry and manufacturing industries. This is an investment over three years. The twist—and this is what sparked an outcry in Quebec—is that, in a Machiavellian subterfuge, the made the allocation of this money dependent on the passage of the upcoming budget. I do not know when this budget will be tabled, but the tradition and practice of this House has been that the budget be tabled about the end of February or in March.
The assistance for the forestry companies could be completely ineffective, since the fight will be over. Mills will close and it will already be too late. In the meantime, job losses have been adding up. This is why the Conservative 's tactic or subterfuge, to make the allocation of the trust conditional on the passage of the budget, is disgusting and not good enough. This is not going unnoticed in Quebec.
Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, the riding I am honoured to represent here in the House of Commons, has been greatly affected by the forestry crisis. The mills affected have been running for several years and are cost-effective. I worked for 14 years in the pulp and paper industry for Abitibi-Price—seven years in the Saguenay region and seven years in the Quebec City area. It is true that this industry goes in cycles, but this is no longer a cycle; it is a disaster.
Last week in my riding, an AbitibiBowater sawmill in Château-Richer, and another one in Saint-Hilarion, in Charlevoix, were forced to lay off 55 workers for a 12-week period. But before the crisis, the Saint-Hilarion sawmill was running very well. A specialty paper mill in Beaupré and a newsprint mill in Clermont have also been affected.
Furthermore, last year in my riding, Kruger had to announce the closure of three of its sawmills on the North Shore, including the Jacques Beaulieu sawmill in Longue-Rive and the Forestville sawmill.
Some very effective and active companies, such as a workers' cooperative in Sacré-Coeur, Boisaco, and the associated mills in Les Bergeronnes and Haute-Côte-Nord are currently surviving the crisis, but, as the former president said, they are in desperate need of help.
The Conservative government is acting like a doctor standing at his patient’s side but with his foot on the oxygen tube. The patient needs more to survive, but the Conservative government is totally oblivious.
Of the $1 billion program that was announced, only $216 million will go to Quebec over three years. In his desire to treat all the provinces equally, the is giving a basic $10 million to all of them.
Even though Alberta is awash in surpluses, largely thanks to oil and natural gas, it will get $10 million to assist its forest and manufacturing industries. How many sawmills and paper mills are there in Alberta? So far as I know, there are two or three at most. So even though Alberta is drowning in surpluses, it will get $10 million.
Prince Edward Island has a population of only 123,000 but still it will get its basic $10 million plus its prorated amount depending on the population. That is way too much money for Prince Edward Island, which will scarcely know what to do with it all.
The Conservatives’ program is unfair and unjust to Quebec workers and the Quebec forest industry. In view of the magnitude of the crisis, there is a desire now on the part of both workers and industry representatives to come together and discuss the situation. When people do not think they have a huge problem on their hands, they tend to be intransigent and stick to their positions. I know something about it because I was in labour relations for 16 years. In this case, though, the union representatives from all the plants are willing to sit down with management and find a solution to the problem. However, the Conservatives’ program is totally ineffective and useless, in addition to having a timetable that extends far too long into the future.
Why do I say that the apportionment is unfair? People often criticize the Bloc and say it only complains and never makes any positive contributions. So I am going to tell the how the funds should have been distributed. The funding should have been based on size of the forest industry in a particular province. Quebec’s forest industry represents 32.8% of the Canadian total, and the program should logically reflect this. Quebec wants no more but no less. We are not asking for charity.
In passing, I would say that I hope everyone is aware that the billion dollars that will be paid into this trust is money that belongs to Quebeckers. The federal government is not giving us a present. It is not coming out of the pockets of the Conservative Party, stuffed with money though they are for its next election campaign. In reality it is money that belongs to the taxpayers of Quebec and Canada. Let us not imagine that the government is giving us a present.
In other words, it would have been logical if, of this billion dollars, about $328 million were to go to Quebec, given that Quebec represents 32.8% of the forestry industry in Canada.
I also referred to the fact that making this measure conditional on the budget passing is completely immoral on the part of the Conservatives.
We have noticed another phenomenon, with the Conservative pseudo-spokesman for forestry, the member for . He is wandering around the regions, in Rimouski and elsewhere, saying a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for the right team. We get the impression we are back in the good old days of Duplessisism. The Conservatives are trying to make us believe that if we vote for the Conservatives, money will fall from the sky and we will be able to pick it up by the bucketful. Well, Quebeckers are not dupes. The Conservative Party is showing its true colours: it is showing its stinginess by offering this inadequate and ineffective program.
I challenge any Conservative member to come with me and meet some union representatives and company representatives. They will tell them what they think of their program. It does not pass the test. As well, the indictment of the Conservatives’ program in Quebec has been unanimous, starting with the Premier himself, Jean Charest. Mr. Charest, together with the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, had the opportunity to denounce this program, which is ineffective and unfair to Ontario and more particularly to Quebec. Premier Charest does not have a reputation for being overly sovereignist, but he understands common sense and he realized that Quebec was being had, given what was being proposed.
Ottawa has the resources. A billion dollars is plainly inadequate. As well, we know that this government is patting itself on the back and saying it made an $11.6 billion surplus for fiscal year 2006-2007. That is $11.6 billion of our money, money that belongs to the taxpayers of Quebec and Canada. The government is collecting too many taxes for the services it provides. That is the problem. So it has the resources: $11.6 billion. The proof that this Conservative government has resources is that since the Conservatives came to power they have made military purchases totalling about $17 billion, instead of helping the forestry industry and workers. They have spent $17 billion to go and fight a war in Afghanistan, when we have no business being there, while the government is thinking seriously of extending the mission to 2011. When the time comes we will have an opportunity to talk more about that.
Mr. Speaker, you are going to say that my comments are not relevant when I refer to the war in Afghanistan, but it is completely indecent to invest $17 billion to buy military equipment and say that they do not have money to help our workers and our regions.
We could also talk about tax cuts. Every time anyone talks about the Conservatives' budget decisions, they say that they have cut taxes. We could take a look at what that means for the citizens and young families we represent and compare that to the tax cuts they gave to oil companies.
The Conservative government is offering Quebec a $216 million program over three years, while the oil industry, which, it just so happens, is concentrated in Alberta, in the west, will save $992 million thanks to the Conservative government's tax cuts. That amounts to $2.8 billion over three years. The poor oil companies will rake in 13 times more money as they carry on fleecing people in the regions by increasing the price of gas.
People in the regions,and young people in particular, have no choice but to move to larger centres, such as Quebec City and Montreal, to have access to specialized services or to study. In my region, Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, people are always on the move. The government would rather help oil companies than communities that have been deeply affected by the crisis.
I see that my time has nearly run out, but I have much more to say. If my colleagues agree, I would like to seek the unanimous consent of the House to continue talking about this until noon because it is so important.
In closing, I would like to appeal to my colleagues' good will, and I hope that Motion M-414 will be adopted unanimously by all members of the House of Commons, including the Conservatives.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Motion No. 414. While this government has supported, currently supports and will continue to support those impacted by the challenges facing the forestry industry, it does not support this motion.
The simple matter is that a number of measures proposed in the motion have already been implemented by the government or are measures for which the industry has not specifically asked. Furthermore, the motion underscores the complete lack of understanding the Bloc has toward the real needs of the forestry industry and its workers and the measures the federal government has already delivered.
The Speech from the Throne indicated that the Government of Canada recognizes the importance of the forestry sector in this country and we understand the challenges this sector is facing.
The forestry industry is a dynamic contributor to the Canadian economy. In 2006, the forestry sector contributed almost $36.3 billion to the economy. This is the equivalent of 3% of our gross domestic product. The industry provided 900,000 jobs from coast to coast in over 300 communities. A good many of these well-paid jobs are in small and rural locations.
With exports valued at $38.2 billion and revenue from goods manufactured at $80 billion, Canada's forestry sector is the number one exporter of forest products in the entire world. Nevertheless, members on both sides of the House are aware that the industry is confronting serious challenges, due in large part to the decline in U.S. housing, a decline in the North American newsprint market, and increased low cost competition.
These pressures have intensified over the past year, especially with the rapid appreciation of the Canadian dollar, which steadied at around parity with the greenback. In addition, higher housing inventories and difficulties in the U.S. subprime lending market have led to significant declines in U.S. residential construction, the key driver of lumber and panel consumption in North America. In fact, U.S. housing starts over the first half of 2007 were down by 27% compared to the same period in 2006.
The bottom line is that forestry companies have suffered losses and workers have endured significant layoffs due to economic struggles in the U.S., not in Canada.
Both industry and government have been responding to these pressures. For their part, Canadian producers are working to improve their competitiveness by driving down costs, closing high cost facilities, selling off non-core assets, pursuing mergers and acquisitions, and converting production to higher value products. For its part, the government is creating a supportive business environment for all industries, including the forestry sector, one that promotes competitiveness, innovation and success.
We are delivering for industry with leadership and a willingness to act with urgency when industry needs it most. Furthermore, the Bloc refuses to listen to the industry. At the industry committee, its members clearly heard industry leaders say that:
||--when government dictates industry structure, it almost inevitably gets it wrong. Let the marketplace decide the structure of industry...we need the changes in business climate.
That is exactly what the government has been doing. We are ensuring that our economic fundamentals are correct. The Conservative government has introduced broad-based tax reductions that will deliver over $8 billion in tax relief for manufacturers and processors over the next several years. This was voted against by the Bloc Québécois.
The government has improved capital cost allowance rates and has introduced a science and technology strategy that will help boost industries' innovation and productivity. This was voted against by the Liberals and the NDP.
We are modernizing our infrastructure through a $33 billion built in Canada plan so that our manufacturers can take advantage of economic opportunities within Canada as well as other countries. That is also opposed by the opposition.
We are streamlining the review of large natural resource projects, reducing red tape and the regulatory burden on businesses.
We are investing in people, skills and training so that manufacturers have access to the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world.
In short, we are creating a climate where industry can be more productive, innovative and successful in securing jobs for Canadians, but the Bloc neglects these facts because in order to justify their existence here in Ottawa its members spend every waking hour trying to prove that somewhere, at some time, the sky might be falling.
Let us now turn to some of the more specific measures the Government of Canada has implemented to help address the competitive challenges facing the forestry industry.
In the fall of 2006, Canada and the United States cleared one of the most significant hurdles this industry has ever seen, the softwood lumber dispute. Less than nine months after taking office, this government made good on its pledge to bring an end to the 20 year trade dispute.
The agreement is good for Canada and its forestry industry. It eliminates U.S. countervailing and anti-dumping duties. It brings an end to costly litigation. It protects provincial management policies. It returned over $5 billion to Canadian producers. This contributes to the industry's stability, therefore benefiting workers and supporting the economic development of rural communities.
It is in the interest of Canada to see the softwood lumber agreement last its full term. The ability of the agreement to last a minimum seven years would be jeopardized if the government were to accept the Bloc Québécois measure of a government loan and loan guarantee program set out in the motion. This is the hypocrisy of the members of the Bloc. They voted in favour of the softwood lumber agreement that returned needed money to Canada's forestry industry, but they would turn around and demand loans and loan guarantees that would send Canada back to years of litigation, where the only people who would get paid would be the lawyers.
This government has provided over $400 million through budget 2006 to strengthen the long term competitiveness of the forestry sector. We want to combat the mountain pine beetle and support worker adjustments in an industry going through a major transition.
The Conservative government's $128 million forest industry long term competitiveness initiative was designed to advance a prosperous forestry industry and the communities and workers that depend upon it.
The sum of $70 million has been provided for the forest innovation and investment fund. This includes funding to assist in the consolidation of Canada's three national forest research institutes to form FPInnovations, the largest public-private forest research and development institution in the world; funding for pre-competitive, non-proprietary R and D to address the development and adaptation of emerging and breakthrough technologies in biotechnology and nanotechnology; and funding for the creation of the Canadian wood fibre centre, a new research entity to increase our knowledge of wood fibre qualities and how best to utilize this wonderful resource.
As well, this Conservative government is expanding opportunities in new export markets and encouraging value added wood production. These are important priorities of our government. We recognize their importance for the long term future of the sector.
The forest industry long term competitiveness initiative is providing $40 million in funding for programs designed to: one, expand offshore markets for wood products; two, develop new applications for wood products here in North America; and, three, to assist value added wood manufacturers.
Through the Canada wood program, offices have been established in Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Brussels, London and Seoul, which make it easier to establish contacts and promote Canadian wood and its attributes to governments, builders and consumers. The program has raised the profile of Canadian wood products in these markets, resulting in increased exports. The reality is that the Bloc will never deliver this type of access to Canadian and Québécois forest products because that party will be forever in the parliamentary penalty box.
The North American wood first program is an initiative that will increase wood usage in North America in recreational, commercial and institutional applications such as restaurants, schools, hospitals and shopping centres.
In addition, the value to wood program facilitates secondary wood manufacturing opportunities and enhances the competitiveness of this very important sector.
Each one of the initiatives I have mentioned is already up and running, but this is not the end of the matter as far as the government is concerned. Given the importance of the forestry sector to Canada, we must continue to support its long term viability.
This Conservative government has and will continue to deliver real results for Canada's forestry industry. We will continue to do this despite the ardent opposition of the Bloc and inflated rhetoric.
Unlike the Bloc members who will forever be doing nothing in Ottawa but playing politics with the lives of these forestry workers at a time when they need our support, this Conservative government is delivering real tangible results for the forestry industry. During times of challenge it is the true leadership and clear vision of this Conservative government that is getting the job done for this industry and its workers.
Mr. Speaker, regardless of everything we just heard, the industry is in crisis, and it is in crisis for a number of reasons. One reason is the lack of action by the Conservative government, but there are others. There is the high dollar, the low demand due to the housing crisis in the United States, high energy costs and increased world competition. There are a lot of reasons that the industry is in crisis, but it is in crisis and it is getting worse all the time, mainly due to the lack of action by the Conservative government.
In northern Ontario we have been calling this a crisis for quite some time. The crisis is right across Canada. In small towns everywhere in Canada, people are feeling the pinch of this ongoing problem in forestry. When the going got tough the Conservatives sold out to the American lumber lobby. That is part of the reason. They left $1 billion for the United States to fight against our forestry practices, and that is not the bad part. The problem is they gave over our sovereignty of our forests.
Any decision that a province makes or plans on making to help its forestry sector become competitive and to make sure it is sustainable in the future is now questioned by the lumber activists in the United States. Whether it is safety issues over roads or anything where the governments are trying to step in and make sure the companies can become sustainable and carry out their forestry practices, the American lumber lobby is questioning it now.
Right across Canada we have quite a few problems. There are municipalities, single industry towns, that are basically being shut down. When there are problems, and we hear about these problems all the time in the large centres where there are large job losses due to plant closures, it is devastating for the large cities. In Dryden, the sole employer is a large pulp and paper operation. It is still running with about 500 employees, but it had a peak a few years ago of 1,100 employees. If that shuts down, 75% of the workforce will not be working in Dryden. We have quite a few problems, especially in small single industry towns.
I want to speak for a moment about the first nations. A fact that a lot of Canadians forget is that over 17,000 aboriginal Canadians work in the forestry industry. More than 1,400 aboriginal businesses provide employment. All of these are affected by the downturn in the forestry economy and the lack of action by the Conservative government.
Motion No. 414 talks about an economic diversification package aimed specifically at communities that rely on forestry, and in my riding of Kenora we have a lot of that. I will speak for a moment on the integration of the forestry plants in northern Ontario, and it is the same for many areas of Canada, because a lot of people do not understand exactly how it works.
Whether it is a lumber plant, a pulp and paper plant, an OSB, plywood, or laminated beams plant, all these plants produce specific items but they all feed into the general stream that makes the other plants viable. Integration of all forestry plants in northern Ontario is important. It is vital to make sure they are viable, and I will give several examples.
In Ignace a state of the art sawmill has been closed down. It got value out of the trees at the best possible values, but all the residue chips were sent to Dryden. Ear Falls is still running but at a reduced rate. It is the same thing. It is allowed to sell lumber. It can make money because it sells the chips. The hog fuel also goes to providing energy. These plants have to continue to operate.
Kenora had a newsprint mill and when it shut down, all the residue chips that it did not use which normally would have gone to Dryden had to be flown somewhere else at a higher cost. The Dryden operation is the only large pulp and paper operation left in my riding, and without these sawmills running, due to the whole number of reasons I listed in my first comments, it cannot operate. It cannot operate at an economic level. It is closing down capacity and it is basically producing less paper without that support.
Motion No. 414 also talks about tax measures. Again I will go back to the issue of Kenora but it has happened right across Canada, in northern Ontario, northern Quebec and everywhere. There are large plants that are now closed and sitting empty. These are large sites.
Regarding the Kenora example, there is over $100 million worth of infrastructure sitting there. One of the most important is a very large treatment lagoon which could be used for another industry if we had tax measures that would allow industries to come in. The problem again is that no one is going to come in and invest in forestry the way the cycle is right now, but other measures could come in to allow some other industry to come in.
We are in the centre of Canada. Few people realize that the Kenora riding is almost in the dead centre of Canada. There is a lot that we could do if we were given the tax measures to interest somebody to come in. We do have large markets close by in Minneapolis and Chicago. There has to be some way to allow these plants to reopen, to provide some kind of future for the people of Kenora.
With government loan guarantees for modernization, there are many upgrades that sawmills could carry out. The bottom line of all modernization has to be that we get more value out of the tree. For too often we brought in large trees and sawed them into 2x4s. There is equipment out there now that could be bought which could help the sawmills become more productive, more feasible and again make sure they are operating at peak capacity and make sure that they provide employment for the local people and a product that the world needs.
Government loan guarantees could be used for new paper machines. Recently in Dryden a machine that produced about 355,000 tonnes was closed down to run one for about 155,000. These machines are 25 years old. If loan guarantees were available, the company could look at putting in a brand new paper machine that could produce whatever was demanded, whether it was 155,000 tonnes or up to the larger amounts of 500,000.
These things should be put into place. Companies should have the option to get these guarantees to make sure that they can move forward, use the fibre that is so abundant in northern Ontario and make sure that they provide employment and again a product that the world needs.
With respect to greenhouse gas reduction targets, most of the public does not realize that the pulp and paper industry is ahead of the curve. This industry has done very well in making sure that its emissions are under control and ahead of what is proposed for Canada. It has a lot to offer. Again, we go right down to the other uses. Sawmills are not large emitters but they have opportunities to benefit from carbon plans that could come in making sure that they get value for the investments that they have made in the past.
The government could do more to make sure that programs are in place to protect our environment. We have spoken in the past about protecting the environment. Operations could be closing the loops in their systems. Most operations bring water in at one end, use it for the needed processes and then clean it up and discharge it at the other end.
With today's environment conscious nature, we could be closing these loops. There is no reason that the water in the plant could not be recycled and used over and over again so there would be no effluent travelling into our rivers. The best way to protect the environment is to make sure that everything stays inside the system and close the loop.There have to be opportunities available for us in that.
With respect to refundable tax credits and research and development, this is really the future of the forestry industry, an industry that has played a very large role in the development of Canada. This has been our past. This is how we opened up the country. There are tough times. When there are tough times no one is going to invest. It is up to the government to step forward, make sure that it provides some kind of incentive and make sure we are looking to the future and make sure research and development is well funded so that our companies can be ready to face the future and whatever opportunities that are there.
There are other support programs, energy and ethanol for forest waste cogeneration. Again, in my riding and many ridings across Canada the waste on the forest floor is left to pile up and then it is burned. When we fly across northern Ontario in the fall we can see thousands of large fires, after the forest fire season has ended. They burn this waste. There is a lot of opportunity to use this in cogeneration. Again, with respect to Kenora, we put forward plans to make sure that a lot of that forest waste was brought forward, used in co-generation to reduce the energy costs in the mill.
We have to get everything we can from the fibre stream. We have to use the trees for their best value. We are just starting the process and making sure we are extracting the most value from our forests. This is our future.
On employment insurance, there are all these towns that have been devastated, Ignace, Ear Falls, Kenora, Sioux Lookout and Dryden. They all have workforces that have been displaced. The government plan is to retrain them and move them out. I want no part of that. I do not want to have to retrain every employee in northern Ontario and then ship them out somewhere else. What will be left when we do find the answers to make sure industry can survive in northern Ontario?
Support for older workers is something that the government can be involved in. If there are buy-outs to be had or if there are retirement incentive packages, the government can be part of that to make sure that our workers are respected for their long service, and that at 54 or 55 years old they are not shipped somewhere else.
We did have a lot of these answers in the $1.5 billion forestry package. This was thrown out by the Conservatives when they came into power and it is going to cost the communities in Canada a lot.
Canada grew out of its small towns. We need to keep small town Canada. The only way we are going to keep small town Canada is by investing in it. When it is tough times, that is not the time for the government not to back them up. It is not going to help small town Canada. We have to make sure that we respect our small towns. We want to make sure that they are involved in our future.
There is a future in forestry. It is not enough to wash our hands and simply say we are retraining all the workers. We should put packages together to make sure that we respect those workers and make sure that forestry is part of our future.
Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by saying that I represent a riding whose economy is very dependent on the forest industry. My riding covers more than half of Vancouver Island and a very large piece of the central coast of British Columbia. There are many small towns in the riding that are solely dependent on the forest industry. They are struggling and have been for a number of years.
I have been speaking about what is going on in those communities and advocating for them since before I was elected to this position. Therefore, it is with a lot of emotion that I stand here today to speak about what is happening in our communities.
I grew up in a logging family. My father and grandfather were loggers and both of my brothers work in the logging industry. We grew up in small logging communities and I am very well aware of the cycles in the forest industry, but what we are seeing today is not part of that cycle, the ups and downs of the industry. It is a growing crisis across this country.
We see it in coastal British Columbia and in the interior with what is happening with the pine beetle encroaching on the boreal forest and the destruction it is causing. We see it in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes where mills are closing. People are starting to wake up and realize this is a growing crisis and is not something that happened by accident. It is partly because of the policies that governments have put in place that have encouraged some of the practices going on today.
I want to thank the Bloc for bringing forward this motion which speaks to some of those things but would also like to add a few others.
Like I said, my riding is dependent on the forest industry. I have had the opportunity to travel around the riding and this summer I took an airplane trip up the coast to one of the very remote communities. On the way, we were flying very low over some of the logged areas and there was a lot of activity going on. There were trees being cut, put into the water and floated down to Campbell River or Vancouver, which is not in the riding. From there, they get loaded on barges and shipped out of the country.
I have always said that the irony is not lost on the people of the north island when they see their logs being shipped out of the country to get processed. We then have to buy the lumber back. There are mills closing and people are out of work in the milling industry. It is all part of what has happened with the softwood lumber sellout.
The who spoke before me mentioned that, as a result of the softwood lumber agreement which the Conservatives are very proud of, we are not able to pass a motion like this because it would been seen as a subsidy to the forest industry.
One can only wonder why the government would agree to something that would allow the U.S. lumber lobbyists to dictate our very own forest policy and what we can do in our country. It is shameful the government would agree to something like that. I am very proud that the NDP caucus did not support that softwood lumber sellout and will be continuing to fight for our forest communities for years to come.
There are a number of things in this bill, like the economic diversification program, aimed specifically at communities that depend on the forest industry. In my riding, there are towns like Port McNeill, Port Alice and Port Hardy. Port Alice has a fibre mill that went down a couple of years ago. It had to get help from the provincial government to reopen and now it is only at half capacity. Again, because of the softwood lumber sellout, all the logs that are cut down and shipped out do not go to that mill for the fibre.
This mill makes a very high quality fibre that is recognized around the world and yet it cannot obtain the logs needed. It has to go to Alaska to get the logs. Alaska is not part of Canada, and it is bizarre that we are surrounded by trees and cannot get them.
It is asking for help to diversify its small community with a dock. It does not need much money, maybe $500,000 to get going, and it would increase the opportunities for tourism and other things in the community, but we are having a hard time getting any money out of the government for that community.
Any kind of program that would help these single industry towns, which are dependent on the forest industry, to diversify is a good thing. It will keep people in the community. It will keep jobs there and it will actually help grow those communities and give them a better economic base.
Another issue is the tax measure that encourages the development of processing activities in the region. The government's ideology is that if we give general corporate tax cuts, it will help the trickle down effect, however it has never helped any sector create jobs.
Take the auto industry for instance. My colleagues from Windsor West and Windsor—Tecumseh know full well that we could create cleaner, greener jobs where we have lost our standing compared to other countries. We have dropped from fourth to tenth in assembly production in the automotive industry and yet today the government will not support the Ford Essex engine opportunity in Windsor. My colleagues have been pushing for that and general tax cuts do nothing to increase industry. All they do is give the corporations big tax breaks.
We need to see investment in people and in communities to help increase our greener types of industries. Some of those in the forest industry would be like a little company in our community called Woodland Flooring. It makes flooring out of the wood that is left in the forest by the big logging companies. It is difficult for it to get that wood. It does it but it needs help. It is always a tough fight for small industry.
Other things like using wood waste for fuel for bio-energy is something we have been looking at in our committees when we are talking about biofuels and wood waste. Instead of just burning the slash in the bush and having it smoke, we could use that wood that would be waste anyway and create energy out of it because we know that is what we need to do. It is also better for the environment.
There are so many things I could say regarding this bill which would help communities in my area. The Comox Valley, Courtenay and Cumberland areas are communities where we used to have mills and they have closed. In Campbell River the Catalyst pulp mill and the Elk Falls Lumber Mill are going through downturns every few months and they are closing production for a few weeks. It is really hard on the workers in those communities.
The mills on Vancouver Island are asking the municipalities for tax breaks because they are struggling to stay open, so they are looking for anything. But unfortunately for the municipalities, they cannot afford to give tax breaks because the government needs to make sure it is supporting communities.
We are not seeing that through infrastructure investments in our communities. Small towns need to have the mills' tax base to maintain their infrastructure, so it is a double whammy for them.
Other little towns like Sayward, where we used to have a huge logging industry, is now almost a ghost town and it is looking for other ways to diversify. It is hard for it because it does not have the means. It does not have the capacity to build alternative industries. So, that is why we need to have the supports for the diversity.
I want to thank the Bloc for this motion. Hopefully--
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by reading the beginning of the motion:
|| That, in the opinion of the House, the government should introduce a series of measures to assist businesses, communities and workers hard hit by the forestry crisis—
We must not forget that whole communities—workers, families, women and children—are affected by this unprecedented crisis. It is truly time to take action and we must act now. It is our responsibility as parliamentarians to support this motion because we must take action. That is what citizens are asking us to do and it is important to do so because this crisis is unprecedented.
This is a very serious crisis for Quebec. Since the Conservatives came to power, 78,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost. The majority of Canada's job losses have occurred in Quebec, where the forestry industry alone has lost 21,000 jobs, half the Canadian total. Almost one quarter of these jobs have been lost since the Conservatives came to power. Some regions, such as mine, La Mauricie, have been devastated. Between the summer of 2004 and the summer of 2007, 58% of forestry jobs were lost in Hautes-Laurentides; 38% in Abitibi-Témiscamingue; 34% in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean; 32% in the North Shore; and 29% in Mauricie. And more cuts are coming.
The Bloc Québécois not only believes it is urgent that action be taken, but has solutions to suggest. For one thing, we are proposing an economic diversification program devoted specifically to communities that are heavily dependent on forestry. We know that there are single-industry regions; one industry provides the livelihood for an entire region or village. So when people depend on a single specific industrial activity, which is vulnerable to the ups and downs of the dollar or the price of gas, as in the forestry industry, an economic diversification program is needed to help those communities. We certainly do not want an exodus from the regions of Quebec.
In the fall of 2006, when the Conservatives came to power and this widespread crisis was occurring, the minister responsible for the economic development of the regions of Canada terminated the fund, claiming that it was being badly used. We are calling for the fund to be reinstituted, but management of it to be assigned to the regions, based on their own needs. The bureaucratic requirements have to be more flexible, and the fund certainly must not be terminated. In our opinion, Ottawa is not the one in the best position to decide what the regions need. The people of Lebel-sur-Quévillon, Trois-Rivières and Donnacona know perfectly well how to spend that money and how to diversify their economy.
The government’s assistance plan does not do what we need it to. The EDC’s CEDI-Vitality program is not up to the challenges that the regions of Quebec are facing. The Bloc Québécois is proposing that a billion dollars be placed in a fund set aside strictly for diversification of forestry-based economies. We are also suggesting tax measures to encourage the development of processing activities in the regions. How can we do this? We have to encourage skilled workers to settle in the regions, by doing as the Government of Quebec has done, offering a refundable tax credit worth $8,000 for every young graduate who settles in a resource region to take a job in his or her field.
We are also suggesting that job creation in resource regions be encouraged and companies operating in secondary and tertiary processing in those regions be given a tax credit equivalent to 30% of the increase in their payroll. We are further suggesting that the development of small and medium-sized manufacturers in resource regions be encouraged by offering them a tax holiday equivalent to 50% of their income tax. We have discussed all these measures at the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. They are measures that will enable our regions to survive, that will enable our economy to diversify.
We are also suggesting a government program to provide loans and loan guarantees for modernizing companies. Investment in modernizing production equipment is the solution for a company and for the entire industry so it can continue to be competitive. In the softwood lumber crisis, we saw the federal government’s failure to act.
The Bloc Québécois has consistently called for loan guarantees for companies, and the government has turned a deaf ear. Among other things, paper mills have been unable to invest, and ultimately we have experienced significant job losses. It is high time to have refundable contributions of $1.5 billion for companies to purchase new equipment. The refundable tax credit for research and development seems to us to be one such solution.
In closing, this was one of the recommendations in the report on the manufacturing sector. Why is this government not making an effort to do this? Why has this government come in with a plan, a trust, that is unacceptable, and with amounts that are too small or too badly allocated?