(a) forestry is a major employer in Canada;
(b) Canada is a world leader in sustainable forestry practices;
(c) the government has failed to secure a Softwood Lumber Agreement and to make softwood lumber a priority by including it in the mandate letter for the Minister of International Trade; and
(d) forestry workers and forest-dependent communities are particularly vulnerable to misinformation campaigns and other attacks waged against the forest industry by foreign-funded environmental non-government organizations like Greenpeace and ForestEthics;
the House express its support for forestry workers and denounce efforts by foreign-funded groups seeking to disrupt lawful forest practices in Canada.
He said: Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to ask your permission to share my time with my friend, the member for , who will add to what I have to say.
I am very proud to be the mover of today's official opposition motion, a motion to protect and support the softwood lumber industry and workers in regions across Canada and Quebec and, of course, in Lac-Saint-Jean.
Given the importance of the issue raised in the motion, I think it is a good idea to start with a few simple reminders. I want to refresh members' memories so that everyone in the House understands the enormity of the issue we are debating today.
First, let us remember that, in late June, Canadians were distraught to learn that a surtax would be imposed on softwood lumber exports to the United States.
Let us also remember that that unfair and unjustified tax is being imposed on top of the countervailing duties imposed on companies in April. It is worth noting that this surtax is significant and varies between 13% and 20%. Members should also keep in mind that the softwood lumber agreement expired a year ago last week, and that Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has still not negotiated a new agreement and presented it to the public.
Let us also remember that, during the last softwood lumber dispute, the Canadian industry lost $5.4 billion in surtaxes, wasted money that had a direct impact on our companies and their employees.
To put that into perspective, 66% of Canadian softwood lumber exports are destined for the American market.
Here are some statistics that will help members understand the economic impact of this issue. The softwood lumber industry accounts for 400,000 jobs across the country, including close to 60,000 in Quebec and 10,000 in indigenous communities. It is a key economic sector, particularly in the beautiful Lac-Saint-Jean region. It is a source of pride for many men and women. It is a creative industry, and Canadians are using their expertise to make it more and more environmentally responsible.
Unfortunately, the industry has been the victim of many misinformation campaigns, funded by foreign interests that harbour prejudices and spread false information about forestry operations. Let us be clear. It is not in any company's interest to give up its forest capital. It is in all of their best interest to develop a sustainable industry.
Softwood lumber logging and processing feed hundreds of thousands of families, are vital to the survival of many regions, and allow thousands of Canadians to have a stable financial future.
However, the forestry industry, which brings in $15.8 billion a year, also provides the government with $1.5 billion in tax revenues paid by corporations and workers. This means that the entire country benefits, as our local businesses and thousands of Canadians who work in this sector help build our hospitals and ensure services are provided in our schools and community organizations at all levels.
While the dithers, hesitates, and backs downs, he is jeopardizing the livelihoods of forestry workers across Canada and Quebec and in Lac-Saint-Jean. It is estimated that Canadian producers have paid about $500 million in countervailing and anti-dumping duties because the Liberal government refuses to negotiate.
That $500 million, a huge amount, could have been invested in the economy and job creation. It could have been invested in thousands of projects that will now never see the light of day. This means additional debt, rather than additional public services and programs.
Does the government realize how many communities are at risk, as more and more time goes by and nothing is resolved? There are entire towns that depend on this industry. Will those towns survive without some good news, without an agreement?
I want to point out that the softwood lumber industry is a crucial and important sector, especially for regions such as Lac-Saint-Jean, and we must support it. We are now learning that German exports to the U.S. have soared by 916% compared to last year. We are losing our privileged place in the U.S. market, which is our main market.
Time is of the essence. Sawmills are closing and jobs are being lost across the country and in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. It seems that the Liberals are incapable of negotiating an agreement. Workers deserve more stability and predictability from this government.
Perhaps we are being naive in continuing to believe in this Liberal government and in its ability to quickly meet expectations, represent Canadians' interests in all forums, and negotiate agreements that benefit everyone. When will the demonstrate true leadership and come back to Canada with a signed agreement? The Netflix tax break, the threat to supply management, NAFTA negotiations, and this government's new negotiations abroad are extremely disappointing. Perhaps we are naive to believe that the Liberal government made the softwood lumber industry a priority. I want to point out that there is no mention of a new agreement in the mandate letters of the ministers currently negotiating with the U.S. government.
Not only is the government jeopardizing the entire industry, but it is also discouraging young people from considering a career in forestry. A few weeks ago, 400 young high school students from across Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean learned about the different facets of the forestry industry at the 11th annual Viens vivre la forêt event, which was held at the Chicoutimi campus of the Université du Québec. The event allowed hundreds of young women and men to get behind the wheel of a semi-truck, operate a backhoe, and learn about wood processing.
However, what are the prospects for these young people who might want to pursue a career in forestry, give back to their community, find jobs in their region instead of moving to big urban centres, and grow the economy in their part of the country? What can we promise them? The prospects are not very good at all under this Liberal government. Times are very tough. In Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, more than 5,000 jobs depend directly on the forestry industry. In other words, 5,000 worried families are waiting for the to give them a clear message, a sincere commitment, and express a strong will to save their jobs.
Instead of paying lip service, can this Liberal government finally give us a deadline and clearly spell out its negotiation objectives? Can it announce to the thousands of Canadians who are keeping the forestry economy going and doing their part to build a prosperous country that it will sign an agreement and put an end to the unfair and unjustified surtax as soon as possible?
In the hopes of obtaining a clear and unequivocal response, a real departure from the partisan rhetoric, and taking into account the concerns of Canadians who have been waiting for far too long, I invite the House to express its clear support and vote unanimously for today's motion, which reads as follows:
(a) forestry is a major employer in Canada;
(b) Canada is a world leader in sustainable forestry practices;
(c) the government has failed to secure a Softwood Lumber Agreement and to make softwood lumber a priority by including it in the mandate letter for the Minister of International Trade; and
(d) forestry workers and forest-dependent communities are particularly vulnerable to misinformation campaigns and other attacks waged against the forest industry by foreign-funded environmental non-government organizations like Greenpeace and ForestEthics;
the House express its support for forestry workers and denounce efforts by foreign-funded groups seeking to disrupt lawful forest practices in Canada.
We are making a heartfelt appeal today for all workers across Canada and Quebec, and specifically those from Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean who will be voting next Monday in the byelection. Let us send them a clear sign that we support them. I sincerely hope that all members in the House of Commons, Liberal government members especially, will vote in favour of this motion tonight, so that all these people feel supported and so that we can negotiate a deal for all workers across Canada.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in today's debate, which I think is critically important. Although I used to be a city girl, I am now a proud ruralist, so I really understand how much the government across the way has given in to the Americans.
Whether we are talking about supply management for our municipalities or softwood lumber, we need to be strong and stand up to the Americans. We need to have frank negotiations, as a matter of pride, to save our small towns in places like Charlevoix and Lac-Saint-Jean. Some of these small communities depend entirely on this industry. Softwood lumber is very important to our small towns. Everyone here, across party lines, knows how much those communities need us to fight for them so that the Americans understand that what we are talking about today is negotiable, but also non-negotiable.
We simply cannot jeopardize the softwood lumber trade over a few trivial details. I hope the , who is on the ground there right now, understands this and will send the right message to the right people, specifically, that softwood lumber is a priority. When it is a priority, it must be included in the mandate letter to the minister who is negotiating with the United States. We need to remember that 96% of U.S. softwood lumber imports come from Canada and that 69% of Canadian softwood lumber exports go to the U.S. When you have such conclusive numbers, it is important to negotiate fairly, but more importantly, in a way that is equitable for Canadians. Our citizens, Canadians, Quebeckers, and the people of Lac-Saint-Jean, must not be the ones who lose because this government is sitting on its hands. To negotiate means to speak frankly, but without kowtowing to the U.S.
Our Conservative government negotiated an agreement in late 2006, three months after we took power, in order to settle the softwood lumber dispute. It was also the Conservative Party that negotiated an extension of the agreement in 2012 to ensure market stability until October 2016. It is now 2017. What has been done? What are we debating? What figures can the Liberal Party provide? What has it negotiated? I hope that it has not been at the expense of forestry workers.
Sawmills are closing everywhere. We are not talking just one or two; many sawmills have closed. I am referring to Quebec because that is where I come from. Many of our sawmills have closed and it is unacceptable today to listen to the Liberal Party proclaim that it is the champion of the middle class. Standing up for the softwood lumber industry is a good way to defend the middle class because forestry workers are part of the middle class. They are the ones who work hard for us.
Today, we have no figures and we have no idea where negotiations stand.
There is no mention of the new softwood lumber agreement in any of the mandate letters of the ministers involved in the negotiations. That leaves us with the impression that they could not care less. I hope that we, on this side of the House, are wrong. I hope that we can drop the partisanship and that all members will work together to save supply management and our sawmills.
Today, my comments are directed especially to the people of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. They must stand up to the . They must be passionate, and even cry if they must, so that their message is heard: today, we want the government to stand tall and be frank in the negotiations in order to save the softwood lumber industry.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that, on issues as important to our small communities as softwood lumber and supply management, the Liberals are happy just to get some good photo ops. People need to eat and they want some reassurance about their future. We do not know what is being negotiated by the other side of the House. We are in the dark. The Liberals are not telling us anything. We do not even know what has been done on this file since 2016, and we probably never will because the Liberals themselves do not even know what direction they are taking with the American administration. That is rather frightening for ordinary Canadians who struggle every day to put food on the table.
We on this side of the House have always stood behind the softwood lumber industry. A number of our ministers have defended the industry, including the hon. Denis Lebel, who fought for his community of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. He is still fighting for the forestry industry today. I hope that the motion that we moved today will send the clear message that we all stand behind the people who make a living from working in sawmills and the lumber industry. We must not play politics at the expense of workers in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, Charlevoix, and across Quebec and Canada who make a living from this industry. I hope that the government party will understand that this is a heartfelt plea and that we must work together to strengthen our future. We must all stand behind forestry workers.
In my riding, representatives of Greenpeace came to see me to lecture me about the forestry industry, which is unfortunate. I have nothing against the environment. On the contrary, I do everything I can to protect the environment in my riding, but when groups like this attempt to destroy an industry, it is because they do not know enough about it. They do not have all the facts.
It is up to us, the members of Parliament, to listen to industry representatives. Today I am asking the members of the party opposite to join us and vote unanimously in favour of this important motion for workers in the forestry industry, so that we may negotiate honestly and with head held high.
Let us not bend to the United States.
Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for for this motion.
I know that, like our government, he fully appreciates how important forestry is to Canada.
The forest industry employs more than 200,000 Canadians and contributes more than $23 billion a year to our GDP. In fact, it provides more jobs per dollar than any other natural resource sector. We export more than $34 billion worth of forest products to 180 countries around the world.
Today forest producers are strengthening composite car parts, making vehicles lighter, reducing emissions, and replacing plastics made from non-renewable fossil fuels. A forestry worker is as likely to be wearing a white lab coat as a red plaid shirt. He or she might be a genomics researcher investigating ways to make trees more resistant to disease or an economist working to optimize supply chains. To paraphrase that classic Oldsmobile commercial, this is not our father's forest industry. In fact, the Canadian forestry industry has transformed itself into one of the most innovative parts of our economy.
It was not that long ago that forestry seemed to be on the ropes. To many it seemed like an outdated or even dying industry, then something remarkable happened. Instead of wringing its hands, the industry rolled up its sleeves and began a transformation, whose best chapters are still being written. Forestry leaders reached out to their critics, listened to the concerns, and made changes to their operations. The industry invested in research, developed new products, and established new offshore markets, creating not just a new image but a new vision of what forestry was and could be.
Today, the forestry industry is poised to help our country tackle some of its greatest challenges by combatting climate change, driving innovation, creating job opportunities in indigenous and rural communities, and boosting trade.
Let me touch on each of these.
The first is climate change. It would be hard to overstate the importance of the forest sector in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that there can be no global solution to climate change without the forest sector. It is that important. Why? It is because forestry is unique in that it actually takes carbon out of the air.
Most of us will remember enough of our high school science to know that trees suck up vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and store it for decades. However, forestry's contribution goes far beyond that. It is developing clean technologies, producing green energy, reducing its need for energy and water, and lowering both emissions and waste. While Canada's overall greenhouse gas emissions fell by 3% between 2004 and 2014, the forest sector reduced its emissions by an impressive 49%, and it is just getting started. Lignin, a material found in trees, could become the crude oil of the future, with biofuels substituting for fossil fuels in the production of plastics, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals.
Then there is wood as a building material. Pound for pound, engineered wood can be as strong as steel, making it safe and practical not only in buildings but also in infrastructure, such as bridges. With funding from our government, project Origine was opened in September. The tall wood construction project in Quebec City's Pointe-aux-Lièvres eco-district is the tallest wood-constructed condominium in North America.
In 2016, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the tallest wood building in the world, a new student residency at the University of British Columbia. This magnificent building is not only an engineering and architectural showpiece, it is an environmental game-changer, storing close to 1,600 metric tons of carbon dioxide and saving more than 1,000 metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions. That is like taking 500 cars off the road for a year.
Even in more modern structures, wood is far better for the environment. Building with lumber can result in 86% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than using traditional building materials such as concrete and steel.
To encourage greater use of wood in construction projects in Canada, the Government of Canada created the green construction through wood program. We are currently receiving expressions of interest for the next great Canadian projects.
Forestry also helps to fight climate change through its sustainable management practices. In fact, third parties have certified these practices among the best in the world.
Canada now boasts 37% of the world's certified forests, far more than any other jurisdiction in the world, and that matters. It matters because our customers can be confident that wood products brought from Canada were harvested through sustainable practices. Any tree harvested on crown land must be replaced, and permanent removal of forests for agricultural or municipal development, for example, is declining. The result is that actual deforestation is less than 0.02% a year.
We assess our sustainable forest management system by looking at a range of scientific indicators, from regeneration to forest disturbances, from carbon emissions to volumes harvested.
Canada has also developed a carbon budget model that simulates forest carbon conditions. It forms the basis of our carbon monitoring and accounting system used in international reporting. It is being applied in more than 25 countries.
Whether it is by providing greener building materials, finding new uses for wood products, or sustainably managing its resources, the forest industry is playing a central role in combatting climate change.
Second, it is helping to drive innovation. For decades, the forest industry has been developing and investing in new products and ways of operating. Look at the rise of clean tech and bioenergy, a renewable energy source derived from things like wood, wood waste, and straw.
Our government understands that the economy of tomorrow will be a bioeconomy. In September, Canada's forest ministers unanimously endorsed a forest bioeconomy framework aimed at making Canada a global leader. That framework outlines a bold new vision for the future of the forest sector and the role for biomass in the transition to a low carbon sustainable economy.
Just last week, in my hometown of Winnipeg, I had the pleasure of hosting Generation Energy, the largest energy forum in our country's history. I can tell the House that biomass and bioenergy figured prominently in those discussions.
In July 2016, I travelled to Port-Cartier, Quebec to announce $44.5 million for the first commercial-scale facility to convert forest residues into a form of renewable fuel oil. This project is a shining example of governments working together to support the industry and advance Canada's bioeconomy.
An increasing number of remote and indigenous communities are now using bioenergy to end their dependence on high-emission diesel generators for their electricity. We are supporting this effort with an investment of $55 million to deploy proven bioenergy technologies and support the biomass supply chain in rural and remote areas. The government is working with industry and provinces to develop the forest products of the future through investments in R and D and innovation, and by helping first-in-kind clean innovations reach commercialization.
Third, forestry is a dynamic engine of growth, creating economic opportunity across the country, including in indigenous and remote communities. While its reach is global, the forest industry's impact remains the local lifeblood of rural Canada and a major source of income for about one in seven municipalities across the country.
As I mentioned at the outset, the forest industry has reinvented itself by demonstrating what can be achieved through collaboration and engagement. Nowhere have those efforts been greater than with indigenous communities, 70% of which are in forested regions. It is no surprise then that forestry is one of the leading employers of indigenous people, providing some 9,700 well paying jobs across the country.
These jobs bring hope of lasting prosperity and sustainable change.
Today, governments, indigenous communities, forest companies and environmentalists are all working together to preserve the sustainable forest industry we need while protecting the environment we cherish.
Fourth, and related, forestry creates jobs at home by driving trade abroad. There has been a remarkable rise in the export of wood products to markets such as China, up more than 1,200% over the past 10 years.
In June, I had the honour of leading a trade mission to China to showcase the ingenuity, innovation, and opportunities Canada had to offer. I was joined by a delegation of more than 50 representatives from Canada's forest, energy, and clean technology sectors, focused on strengthening ties with our Chinese counterparts. The mission generated new business. All told, Canadian companies signed commercial agreements of close to $100 million.
One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the Sino-Canadian low carbon eco-district in Tianjin. This is a $2.5-billion project, involving more than 1,300 houses in its first phase. Once completed, the community will cover almost two square kilometres, all built with Canadian lumber, Canadian ingenuity, and Canadian expertise.
With the support of China's ministry of housing and urban-rural development, the buildings will be approved as test cases, opening the door to revised building codes and more wood construction. This project is a direct result of the MOU signed between our two countries in 2012. While in China, Minister Chen Zhenggao and I renewed that MOU, maintaining the momentum it had created and enhancing supporting for green building in China.
For China, the eco-district means cleaner air, healthier communities and lower energy costs. For Canadian companies, such as Nu-Air, SOPREMA, and Kryton, it means new markets for their innovative products and services. With the success of this project comes the chance to replicate it throughout China, creating even more opportunities for collaboration and furthering China's climate change goals.
The Tianjin eco-district is a remarkable testament to what can be achieved when international partners come together to tackle big challenges.
While in Tianjin, I also had the pleasure of announcing the opening of a Chinese-Canadian wood technology centre, further cementing the bonds between our countries and opening the door for exciting new partnerships.
These are the concrete, practical ways that the government can support the forest industry, an industry that is on the leading edge of technology and setting the pace on environmental performance.
The U.S. market remains vitally important for Canadian producers of softwood lumber, but continuing to expand into other markets and other types of products is helping to diversify our trade and boost our prosperity.
Our government believes in this industry. We have a clear vision of it playing a central role in some of the most important issues of our times, such as combatting climate change, driving innovation, and creating economic opportunities for rural and indigenous communities. That is why we are standing by this industry and why we are continuing to work toward a new agreement on softwood lumber.
Our government disagrees strongly with the decision of the United States Department of Commerce to impose unfair and punitive duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports. We are vigorously defending Canada's softwood lumber industry against these unjustified duties and we will litigate, if necessary, where we expect to prevail as we have in the past.
We remain confident that a negotiated settlement is not only possible but in the best interests of both countries, not just any deal but a good deal for Canada.
It is one of the more interesting quirks of our Constitution that it assigns natural resources to the provinces but trade and commerce to the federal government. This means we have to work together and draw on one another's strengths.
In February, we did just that, creating the federal-provincial task force on softwood lumber. Through the task force, we shared information with our provincial colleagues about how best to help affected workers and communities, and we arrived at a comprehensive action plan.
All told, our government announced $867 million to provide loans for industry through the Business Development Bank and Export Development Canada; access to the work-sharing program to help employers and employees protect jobs; funding to provinces to help workers find new jobs; new resources for the indigenous forestry initiative to support indigenous participation in economic development; extensions of the investments in forest industry transformation and forest innovation programs to develop the next generation of wood products; and access to the expanding market opportunities program to reach new markets and expand the use of wood construction.
This is a comprehensive plan designed to meet real needs in real time and it is a clear and compelling demonstration of our commitment to this vital industry.
The motion before the House today reflects the importance of forestry to our communities, our economy, and our way of life.
Our government is aware of how much the forestry sector contributes. That is why we work day after day to support its future and help it reach its full potential.
I urge all members to join us in our efforts.
Madam Speaker, I am glad to have the opportunity to speak to this motion, because I am proud of the Canadian forest sector. I know how important it is to hundreds of communities, small and large, across the country and I am concerned about the future of our forest industry.
However, I must say, off the top, that I cannot support this motion put forward by my Conservative colleagues. Their former government is equally to blame for this crisis, and for them to play partisan politics with people's livelihoods is something I cannot condone.
My riding has the complete range of forest industry operations. There is the big Celgar pulp mill in Castlegar; big Interfor sawmills in Castlegar and Grand Forks; Kalesnikoff's more specialized sawmill at Thrums; the ATCO plywood veneer plant at Fruitvale; the Vaagen Brothers mill at Midway that processes small dimension logs; the family-run Son Ranch just south of Eholt; pole mills at Nakusp community forests and woodlots; and Greenwood Forest Products in Penticton that produces wall panelling and edge-glued laminated panels; and Structurlam which the minister mentioned in his speech just now, a continental leader in the manufacture of glulam beams and cross-laminated timber panels that are at the heart of the large wood building revolution. As well, there are all of the fallers and truck loggers, and the whole logging sector that supplies logs for these mills.
It is a long list, and I hope I have not left anyone out. It is repeated many times over in many ridings across Canada, in communities big and small, from Campbell River to Cornerbrook. More than 200 communities across rural Canada depend on the forest industry for at least half of their base income.
Across my riding today, I see a forest industry that is innovative and efficient, each mill specializing in some niche that will allow it to survive and, hopefully, thrive. I imagine that is the case throughout the forests of Canada. The forest industry is critical to the Canadian economy and to the hopes and dreams of thousands of hard-working families across this country.
In British Columbia alone, it contributes $12 billion to the economy every year, and $2.5 billion in direct government revenue. It creates 145,000 British Columbia jobs; one in every 16 jobs in British Columbia. Across Canada, the forest sector contributes more than $20 billion every year to our real GDP.
Canada is a world leader in sustainable forest management. Our forests account for 40% of the world's forests certified as sustainably managed, the largest area of third-party certified forest in the world. Canada has become a leader in the use of biomass energy, using waste and residues from forest manufacturing practices to power mills across the country.
However, the industry has suffered in the past few decades. A vast pine beetle epidemic swept across B.C. in the last decade, killing trees throughout the interior. That epidemic has now moved into Alberta and is threatening the forest industry there. Catastrophic wildfires burned over a million acres of forest in British Columbia this summer, and climate predictions tell us that these hot, dry, and smoky summers will only happen more frequently in the future. That, of course, has reduced the annual allowable cuts for these mills. Mills that were already suffering from the pine beetle epidemic now have even less forest to access.
Then there is the softwood lumber dispute between Canada and the United States that has pressured many mills to close in the last 10 to 15 years. I will talk more about softwood lumber at the end. I just want to say that in my riding that dispute resulted in a lot of job losses: the Weyerhaeuser mill in Okanagan Falls closed in 2007, putting 200 people out of work; and the closure of the mill at Slocan hit that small community hard. In fact, during the years of the Harper Conservative government, Canada lost over 134,000 jobs in the forestry sector, including about 21,000 jobs in British Columbia, 40,000 jobs in Ontario, and 41,000 in Quebec.
I would like to spend the next part of my speech talking about the positive ways to give the forest industry a boost in Canada. An obvious strategy to mitigate the losses from the softwood dispute is to develop markets outside the United States. We have been working on increasing our share in the Asian market, particularly in China.
The minister mentioned some recent efforts there. British Columbia exporters have been in China for over 10 years, though, and doing quite well. However, those efforts have plateaued because we are up against Russian competition that can simply move products to the Chinese border by train. With the low value of the Russian ruble, it is very difficult for Canadian companies to compete from the other side of the Pacific, for the foreseeable future. That is what I hear from the industry in British Columbia.
As an aside, lumber prices are so high because of the softwood lumber dispute that builders on the east coast of North America are starting to turn to European markets such as Romania and Germany to supply their needs. It is crazy. I think a better strategy in the mid-term is to expand our domestic markets through innovative new wood products and new ways to use wood in buildings.
As I mentioned earlier, in my home town of Penticton, there is a company called Structurlam that creates glulam beams and cross-laminated timber panels that can be used to construct large buildings entirely out of wood. The company just completed an 18-storey project at the University of British Columbia, Brock Commons, the tallest wood building in the world. The only steel and concrete in the building is in the elevator shafts. As the parts were pre-built off-site, Brock Commons took only 66 days to construct. That is 18 stories in just two months. The UBC project used 1.7 million board feet of B.C. lumber. Structurlam gets its lumber locally at mills such as Kalesnikoff, so the benefits spread through the region.
I was happy to see that the government included some money in the latest budget to help this innovative part of the forest industry grow. The minister mentioned that as well. Canadian companies are real leaders in this new technology in North America, but they need to expand to maintain that lead.
With this in mind, I have tabled a private member's bill, Bill , which promotes the use of wood in government infrastructure buildings. This bill asks the government to assess the material options for large buildings, balancing the overall dollar cost of the project and the impact of its greenhouse gas footprint. That way we can decide whether wood, concrete, steel, or a combination of those materials is best for the building.
This bill is not meant to exclude non-wood materials but simply to ask the government to look at these new wood technologies that can be used to create beautiful, safe, and environmentally sound buildings. I was happy to hear from the concrete industry a couple of days ago that it has almost exactly the same ask of the government. It was not, of course, asking for the government to use more wood in buildings; but it was asking the government to use the same lens to look at the lifetime costs of the materials and the carbon footprint of the project when building infrastructure.
I believe that this process would result in more large wood buildings being constructed by the federal government. Many of them could be hybrids, of course, built with concrete and steel as well. This would have three positive impacts on the forest industry. It would stimulate the growth of this exciting new technology, keeping Canada ahead of the pack in North America; it would help all the players in the local forest industry to weather the difficulties they are facing through the softwood lumber dispute; and it would be taking real action to meet Canadian goals in the fight against climate change.
The forestry sector is facing serious challenges in Canada: a future with declining wood supply, more catastrophic fires, insect epidemics due to climate change, and rising costs associated with trade disputes with the United States. I want to turn now to that trade dispute, the softwood lumber dispute with the United States.
About year ago, on October 17, 2016, in this place we debated a similar Conservative motion that specifically focused on softwood lumber. The motion urged the government to take all necessary steps to prevent a trade war with the United States over softwood lumber exports. I supported this previous motion, of course, because for the many thousands of Canadians whose livelihoods depend on this important industry, it is imperative that Canada secure a fair deal with the United States, a deal that respects our regional differences and protects high-quality Canadian forestry jobs.
However, a year later, here we are. The Canadian government continues to fail in its ability to get a deal. The industry has been hit by the U.S. Department of Commerce with massive, unfair tariffs reaching as high as 27%. These tariffs and our government's inability to secure a trade deal have led and will continue to lead to devastating job losses and damage to this vital Canadian industry.
A report released by The Conference Board of Canada at the end of May 2017 stated that the U.S. softwood lumber duties will result in the loss of 2,200 jobs and a $700 million reduction in Canadian exports over the next two years. Softwood lumber is a vibrant part of Canada's forest sector, and as I mentioned, for many rural communities it is the backbone of the economy.
According to Canada's labour force survey, in 2015 the forest industry counted for 300,000 direct and indirect jobs, compared to more than 400,000 jobs in 2003. Hundreds of sawmills across Canada have been shuttered, taking with them high-quality, well-paid jobs.
Today, the softwood lumber industry is on the verge of more job losses. If we consider such factors as the crash of the U.S. housing markets and the other environmental impacts I mentioned, our already hard-hit industry will be further devastated. Canadian producers and workers need a new softwood lumber agreement that will bring fairness and predictability.
This dispute first began back in 1982. For 35 years, the American industry has argued that the Canadian producers benefit from subsidization, which is a claim that has been defeated time and time again in trade tribunals. I think it has been 14 or 15 times.
Over the years, there have been several managed trade agreements, but upon their expiration Canadian exports have seen more duties applied, and Canada has spent approximately $100 million in legal fees to defend our position. While it is true that Canada has consistently won tribunal warnings under the free trade agreement, NAFTA, and the WTO, which found that U.S. tariffs were unjustified, Canada has lost tens of thousands of jobs. I find it extremely disingenuous that the government touts these so-called tribunal challenges as wins. However, I am quite certain that the people who lost their jobs due to poorly negotiated agreements are thoroughly unimpressed with them.
I also find it extremely concerning that Americans are hell-bent on eliminating NAFTA's chapter 19, the dispute resolution mechanism that has protected Canada against those challenges for so long. After the previous agreement expired in 2001, the U.S. levied $5.4 billion in duties on Canadian imports. This was money that should have stayed in Canadians' pockets, but instead was given to the American industry. It was the beginning of a decade of massive job losses in the Canadian industry.
Soon after the Conservatives were elected in 2006, they negotiated a new agreement with little or no consultation with Canadian stakeholders. The result was a very controversial agreement that many argue represented a sellout of Canadian interests. That agreement took $50 million from Canadian industry to create a binding dispute settlement system whereby the U.S. was able to bring more actions against Canada. Perhaps most egregiously, the agreement allowed the U.S. to keep $1 billion of the duties it illegally levied on Canadian producers. Canadians were furious with the 2006 SLA. When the Conservatives brought it to Parliament in the form of Bill C-24, the NDP argued vehemently against the agreement.
When we look back at this agreement, it is fair to say that the Conservatives caved to American interests. Today, it is imperative that the Liberals do not do the same, and yet, considering the lack of leadership they have shown during the NAFTA renegotiations, I fail to see any change between our past and current governments.
As we know, the 2006 agreement was renewed in 2012 and expired last October. Again, after the Liberal government failed to negotiate a new agreement, the Liberals seemed to spend more time denying their own responsibilities and blaming the previous Conservative government rather than ensuring forest industry workers had the job security they so desperately needed.
Despite the highly flaunted bromance with former president Barack Obama, the Liberals broke yet another one of their own commitments and failed to get a deal done before the time ran out.
Now we must negotiate with President Trump, whose administration has moved to hit our softwood lumber industry with even more tariffs. As with the huge hit lumber companies took in 2006, our industry is again reeling, and it is the forestry workers who will suffer most. After years of being unable to negotiate a fair deal, Canadians are left feeling unsure and, quite frankly, abandoned by their government. There seems still to be no path forward.
After two months of foot-dragging, the government introduced a compensation package, which the NDP welcomed, but I must point out that it contained nothing to improve EI benefits for workers who lost their jobs because of this dispute. The $867 million support package was a good short-term measure for industry and forestry companies; however, forestry workers need long-term solutions.
While many concede that another managed trade deal is better than more costly litigation, there is something inherently unfair about the fact that, despite continued findings that Canada is not in the wrong, we continue to negotiate agreements that are clearly in the interests of the U.S. industry.
Many witnesses expressed a desire to see Canada and the U.S. reach a negotiated settlement, one that would work for all our regions, but we also heard in committee, very clearly, that people do not want to see another bad deal. In Quebec, for example, they made a lot of changes in their forestry practices, and any new agreement must recognize these and other regional differences. A one-size-fits-all solution simply will not do.
In the spring of 2016, the Standing Committee on International Trade held meetings on the softwood lumber agreement and submitted a report to Parliament. Sadly, one important voice we did not get to hear at all at the committee was that of labour.
The United Steelworkers, which represents some 40,000 forestry workers, has laid out several requirements for what it would like to see happen. First, it wants to see the creation of a provincial forest community restoration fund, to be invested in workers, forest-dependent communities, and forest health. It wants fair access to the U.S. lumber market, and it discourages a new quota system. It also wants a guarantee that Canadian producers will have the same access to the U.S. market as other countries will enjoy.
I appreciate the Steelworkers' perspective because it represents the workers' point of view. These three things would help give workers greater job security and strengthen the industry instead of weakening it.
In the committee's final report, there were five recommendations made to the government, including that it get a deal done that serves Canadian interests, that it consult with big and small producers, and that any new deal respect regional differences.
I want to raise an issue I have seen more of recently, due to the NAFTA renegotiation process, one that has affected many aspects of the trading relationship Canada has held with our American neighbours. That is, it is an extremely unbalanced and abusive relationship. Repeatedly, whether it has been the 35 years we have argued over softwood lumber, or the nearly 30 years we have had a bilateral and trilateral trade agreement with the Americans, consecutive Canadian governments have continually negotiated bad deals. Perhaps this has to do with the size, strength, and wealth of the United States, but I cannot dismiss this huge lack of leadership and apparent cowardice and weakness shown by consecutive federal governments.
We often speak of political will in this place, so when I see Canadian producers being hit with U.S. tariffs of around 27% in forestry or 300% in aerospace, when I see mills and manufacturing plants being shut down right across Canada, and when I see thousands of people's lives at risk and jobs lost, I have to say that something is wrong. The way we negotiate trade deals is wrong.
I hope the government understands the gravity of what these job losses mean in our communities. Thousands of people have no job to go to and no more paycheques to bring home. Families are worried about how to pay the rent or make the next mortgage payment. I urge the government to act in the interests of those whose jobs are on the line. That means getting the right deal and working collaboratively with the communities.
If the Liberal government is serious about holding out for a good deal, instead of signing a bad one tomorrow, then it owes Canadians more transparency and openness about how it will help Canadians and Canada's industry weather the impending trade storm. Canadians deserve answers from the government, not more empty promises and hollow words.
Madam Speaker, it is indeed an honour to rise to speak to something that, as many in the House know, I am deeply passionate about. The forestry sector has played a vital role in Canada's history and is leading the way toward a bright future. It is clean, it is green, and it is growing. Trees provide jobs, sustain our economy, and truly help define our culture. After all, where would Canada be without hockey sticks? I love that point. It was sent to me by a friend who is in the forestry industry, which has been hard hit and has felt a little neglected over the last while. It was a forest leader in my province of British Columbia.
These are indeed troubling times we see moving forward and indeed have faced over the last two years.
In the last two years, I think I was the first person to bring up softwood in this Parliament. I am deeply passionate about it. I am probably one of only a few members of Parliament who can honestly say that I know what it is like to get up at two o'clock or so in the morning and then drive hundreds of kilometres to the block. I ran a skidder for a while as well as bucked. I ran a chainsaw. I know exactly what it is like to have sawdust in my hair—I know that I do not have hair, but at one time I did—and to have chain oil underneath my fingernails and on my hands.
Forestry truly is the lifeblood of our economy in British Columbia.
I want to apologize. The first time softwood was mentioned in this House I attributed to me. I want to be on the record saying that I was wrong. I erred. It was not me. It was my colleague from who raised it on December 7, 2015, just an hour or minutes before I gave my maiden speech and mentioned it as well. I was, however, the second MP to mention softwood, the next day, when I got up in questions during the debate on the Speech from the Throne. It was not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. As a matter of fact, it has been missed completely by the current government from day one. The Speech from the Throne failed to mention the importance of softwood and our Canadian forestry workers. The first time it was actually mentioned by a Liberal member of Parliament was on January 29, 2016. I asked a question, and it was the Liberal member of Parliament for who said that the government was consulting. I asked where we were in terms of the softwood lumber agreement and that it meant jobs, and well-paying jobs, in communities right across Canada.
This has been a priority for us from day one. Indeed, our previous Conservative government invested a lot of time and effort. I mentioned earlier, and I have said it before, that the Conservative government put an end to one of the longest and most costly trade disputes between Canada and the U.S., our number-one trading partner. We put to bed this long-standing trade dispute in 2006. We did it within three months of our mandate.
There is much to be said about that trade dispute. In doing research for this presentation, something interesting I found was that the trade dispute was very costly. It cost our Canadian producers dearly. It was found to be unfair and unjust. The penalties that were assessed were unfair and unjust. Do members know who really benefited from that? There is some good that came out of that trade dispute. When signing the 2006 Canada–U.S. agreement, we did more than bring some peace to a perennially problematic trade file.
What it did was guarantee that $500 million of the penalties and duties levied against the Canadian lumber industry would not go to the American industry. It went to American charities, and one of them was Habitat for Humanity. The organization has built over 19,000 homes since that time, with 70,000 people in the U.S. benefiting from the $500 million that went to Habitat for Humanity due to the Conservative Party's negotiations to make sure that the money did not go only to the American side, which was unfair. Again today, the U.S. is penalizing our forestry producers, families who depend on forestry for their livelihoods, as well as U.S. consumers. It is unbelievable that the Americans are so nearsighted that they are holding their own consumer market hostage. Why? What product makes up a good portion of all the homebuilding and new housing market in the United States?
An hon. member: Softwood.
Mr. Todd Doherty: Softwood, and Canadian softwood. Why is that? It is because we have the best product in the world right here. Not only that, our industry is leading the way in green technology. It is the leading the way in harvesting methods and principles. Despite what we hear, which I will get into, we are being continually attacked by outside interests that have a sole purpose, and that is to shut down the Canadian industry. Whether it is the forest industry, the fishing and marine industry, the tanker industry, or the oil sands, outside interests are intent on one thing: shutting down the industry in Canada.
I got a little off topic, but I will go back to one of the very early throne speeches that the addressed to Canada and the world. He said that under this government, Canada will be known more for its resourcefulness than its natural resources. That rings true to this point. Projects are not being approved. Definitely energy east has gone by the wayside. Where is softwood lumber? That is why we are debating this today. We are seeing more and more uncertainty.
The government's role always is to create an environment in which industry and organizations want to invest to create jobs. At this point, two years into the Liberals' mandate, all they have done is create more uncertainty. A recent article stated that Canada is no longer one of the most economically stable environments or countries in the world because the government continues to cause uncertainty through inconsistent policy, inconsistent measures, and, indeed, questionable actions.
British Columbia is the largest producer of softwood lumber in North America, with $33 billion in output and $12.9 billion in GDP for the province. In 2016, there were, indirectly and directly, over 140,000 jobs tied to the forest industry. There was a total labour income of $8.6 billion. There are over 140 communities in the province of British Columbia that are forest-dependent. My riding of Cariboo—Prince George is one of them.
This past summer, B.C. faced one of the most unprecedented fire seasons. Over 53 million cubic metres of fibre have been scorched. To put that into context, that is the equivalent of one year's annual allowable cut for the province of British Columbia and 10 years' annual allowable cut for my riding of Cariboo—Prince George. It remains to be seen how much of that is still marketable. There is a very small time frame for forest producers to get in to see whether there is any salvageable or marketable wood or fibre.
We call on our provincial NDP government to allow access to industry, to get in to find out what is going on. We are calling on it again today to make sure that this is taking place. The earlier we can get in and figure out the status of our fibre, the better we can strategize and plan as we move forward.
The B.C. forest sector is the world leader in sustainable forest management with less than 1% of our provincial forests harvested. For every tree taken, three are replanted. That is something that many people never mention, but we can always do better. Our previous government invested in that. We spent hundreds of millions of dollars in green technology allowing us to reforest. If we replant we have a root structure along a bank that means rivers, lakes, and streams are going to be secure as well. We are going to need that more than ever before with the 53 million cubic metres of fibre that has been scorched. Our rivers, lakes, and streams have lost that critical root structure, so we call on the federal government to assist our provincial government to make sure that takes place.
I also want to talk about the impact to Canada. The talked about the importance to Canada. He has been speaking to the file for awhile and he talked about the value to Canada, $22 billion in GDP. We employ over 200,000 first nations and people right across Canada, with 9,500 jobs in indigenous communities. I would hazard that the actual indirect numbers are well beyond 200,000 and forest-dependent communities are in the hundreds right across Canada.
We see that the government has dithered away a good amount of time on the softwood lumber issue. It was not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, the very first message to Canadians about what the Liberals were going to do during their mandate. We heard earlier that the first time it was mentioned by a Liberal member of Parliament was January 2016 on a question from a Conservative.
In the early part of 2016, we heard there was a new-found relationship, that the and the outgoing president were BFFs and they were going to get this deal done. As a matter of fact, one of the ministers said that the Prime Minister was absolutely giddy. That was the term that she used in one of her interviews. There was a bromance going on and they were going to hammer through all the challenges.
We pressed from this side and we later heard that within 100 days there would be some form of agreement. I believe the president at the time stood in the House and said “we will come up with a solution to this irritant.” I took offence to the fact that he called it an irritant. This irritant employs my family, my wife's family, so many families in my riding and as we have heard, many families across Canada. It is not an irritant, Mr. President, it is a way of life. It is one of our number one industries. It is the cornerstone of our national economy and it is shameful when a sits there and smiles and calls it a bromance. When he went to a state dinner, he left the at home. He is more focused on the red carpet and taking selfies than negotiating a softwood lumber agreement.
I am getting a little frustrated because people in my riding, family members, friends, and neighbours have been waiting for good news. Time and again, it is us sitting here pounding away and what do we get? Platitudes or a hand on the heart.
We are seized with this issue. Somebody must be kidding me. Two years.
I have been on those trips to Washington. I have heard comments from folks on the other side, who are not Conservative friendly. They say the Liberals have mismanaged this file from the beginning of their mandate. They limped into the discussions. They did not negotiate from a position of strength, and that brings me to my next point.
Throughout this tenure, whether it is my file on fisheries, oceans and Canadian Coast Guard, whether it is electoral reform, whether it is forestry, foreign-funded groups have taken credit for the defeat of the Conservative Party in the 2015 election. The senior policy adviser to the at one point was the president and CEO of one of those groups. Some of the chiefs of staff and those who advise ministers on our files, files that are key to our national economy, have roots based in these groups. Whether it is ForestEthics, Greenpeace, Tides Canada, or Tides Foundation, they all have one thing in mind but they like to say that it is all about making things greener or it is for the good of the land.
I will bring the House right back to something else that happened in my community, and I am speaking of the Mount Polley mine disaster. There are no two ways about it, it was a disaster but the company and our community, those that mattered, those that are dependent upon the lakes and streams and the environment and the mine for the economic viability of our region, all banded together and managed to get things done, They all agreed that they never want to see this happen again.
When we did an ID check at the front gate it was interesting to note who was protesting. Busloads of people were sent to protest and they were not from Williams Lake, Quesnel, Prince George, Vanderhoof, or Cariboo region. These people, these paid activists, came from other countries, they came from south of the border, and they came from larger communities.
It does not surprise me that our NDP colleagues are not supporting this motion. During the 2015 election these groups openly targeted those Conservative ridings that were seen as vulnerable, and my riding was one of them. I could show the House the documents. Who did those groups support? They supported NDP candidates and other candidates who were not Conservative in order to defeat Harper, to defeat the Conservatives.
It is interesting to note that the NDP members, with whom we have banded together so many times in recent weeks to point our fingers at members across the way for their failures, will not stand up with us in support of our forestry workers. That is shameful.
Our policy should always be developed in the best interests of Canadians and without the influence of foreign groups. With that, I am going to rest.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
The motion before the House calls on the government to reaffirm its support for forestry workers and denounce efforts by foreign-funded environmental activists to tarnish the Canadian forestry sector's environmental reputation. I am happy to be speaking today because forestry is central to the economic prosperity of my own region, the Mauricie, in Quebec.
I can assure the House that our government is well aware of the very real hardships the industry is facing and of the impact recent events have had on our forestry communities and their workers, in the Mauricie and elsewhere. I would remind the House that it was our government that took targeted and tangible measures to protect and defend the industry. We have also worked to foster new business opportunities in some highly competitive markets in order to ensure the prosperity of our forestry workers.
Our government is always endeavouring to find new, innovative ways of supporting every stakeholder in the industry, from large corporations and small family businesses to every last worker along the value chain, in every community that relies on forestry.
As Minister of International Trade, I know that over 70% of Canada's forestry products are exported. That is why selling our forest products to the world and Canada's international reputation as an environmentally responsible supplier of sustainable forestry products are among our government's top priorities.
As I was saying to my colleague opposite, my first team Canada trade mission was focused on the Chinese softwood lumber market and included all of our forestry partners, such as Canada Wood and Quebec and New Brunswick representatives. Our goal was to showcase the innovation that we are famous for in the Chinese market.
What I feel is important to emphasize today is that our industry, the best in the world, is about so much more than the product it sells. It offers real solutions to the needs of all modern societies: it supplies a product that is in demand, fights climate change, and adds major value. That is why we are opening up new markets for our producers. For one thing, we want them to have more choices, and for another, softwood lumber offers solutions and is an essential commodity for the biggest markets in the world.
We have also turned to other markets in Asia, where we have held meetings, such as in Singapore, in Vietnam and in the Middle East, to increase our exports and promote our commitment to sustainable forest management. The goal of our plan is to improve business relations with the current main foreign buyers of Canadian forestry products, and to establish stronger relations with new long-term buyers. We are doing that with the support of our team of highly qualified employees in Canada’s missions abroad, and we also use the tools and expertise of Export Development Canada, the Business Development Bank of Canada and the Canadian Commercial Corporation.
As Canada’s chief marketing officer, I have made a priority of softwood lumber. I am first and foremost the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain. I have often had the opportunity to meet with employees at Resolute Forest Products, in Haute-Mauricie, and I can testify to their love for the forest and their professionalism. They are proud, hard-working and responsible people.
Remember, with my colleagues the and the , we announced on June 1 that our government would invest $860 million in tangible measures under the Lumber Action Plan. My colleague called for tangible measures earlier. We have invested a total of nearly $1 billion to promote innovation and productivity in our forestry sector. This plan offers support to forestry workers and to communities affected by the United States' recent measures targeting softwood lumber.
This plan was developed to directly support workers, as mentioned by the Quebec Forestry Industry Council, whose new president recognizes the work that we have done and that we continue to do in support of the forestry industry. He was once a colleague of ours in the House, a Conservative member; I salute him. That investment is concrete assistance for softwood lumber that will allow for its sustainability and ensure continued operations and development.
It is also our government that has taken strong and concerted action to counter the American administration's unfair measures. This action plan shows the Government’s commitment to taking quick action to overcome the difficulties our important forestry sector must face. It describes the overall strategy of our government to develop markets around the world in a targeted and global manner in order to increase the diversification of trade and Canadian wood and wood product markets as part of our commitment to promote a clean growth economy.
These concerted efforts, combined with the quality products of our Canadian businesses, have already provided initial results in terms of positive growth for exports of Canadian softwood lumber to markets outside the United States. For example, in the first half of 2017, exports to China increased by nearly $50 million dollars compared to the second half of 2016, which is a significant increase. India tripled its imports of Canadian softwood lumber over the same period. We have also seen positive growth in new and emerging markets, including the Philippines and South Korea.
These recent initiatives were not put in place overnight; they are based on our department’s long-standing commitment to support trade associations and businesses that want to develop international trade. Consequently the Canadian trade commissioner service, which has five central regional offices in Canada and more than 161 offices worldwide, is actively involved in various international trade promotion and development initiatives for Canadian forestry products in traditional and emerging markets, often in partnership with national and provincial trade associations throughout Canada, our federal partners at Natural Resources Canada, and of course, our provincial and territorial counterparts.
By working together, we obtain much better results. The trade commissioner service, whose focus is to help small and medium-sized businesses, has employees in 44 of our embassies and consulates around the world who are responsible for offering direct export support for Canada’s forestry product businesses.
These international trade professionals work on the ground, and I commend them for their efforts and know that my colleagues on both sides of the House do too. These professionals work to facilitate numerous initiatives to promote international trade development by Canadian wood product trade associations that receive funds form the expanding market opportunities program led by Natural Resources Canada.
Last year, the tangible results of that commitment included some 45 initiatives specific to forestry products and wood carried out in 16 countries by our trade commissioner service, more than 40 trade agreements with foreign organizations, and some 500 forestry sector clients across Canada who received services and support over the course of the year.
On behalf of forestry sector workers, I thank the trade commissioner service staff for being there to help.
I will set my notes aside and simply say to those watching us that the people who are familiar with the forestry sector, the workers who I meet when I return to my riding on the weekends, know that our government is there to help them. We are with them, we were with them, and we will be with them every step of the way.
As a member of the government, a member of the government's Quebec caucus, and a minister, I always have the interests of forestry workers at heart. I take every opportunity to promote them.
Mr. Speaker, I thought you were going to ask me to ask a question of my colleague, the , whom I commend for his extraordinary work. I would have liked to ask the minister how the union presidents and entrepreneurs in his region reacted to the measures that we implemented and that he listed. I can say that his answer would have been quite clear. Entrepreneurs are satisfied with the measures we have implemented. I will have more to say about that in the next few minutes.
I would like to reassure my opposition colleagues, notably my colleague from , that the softwood lumber issue is an absolute priority for our government. I will say it again. It is an absolute priority. As the Minister of International Trade said earlier, we are proud of our world-class forestry sector. Canadian forestry companies employ more than 230,000 Canadians across the country, often in rural regions, where they play a key role in the economy by employing hundreds of middle-class workers. That is the case in my riding, Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia. Our businesses and our economy largely depend on forestry, and I am very proud of our entrepreneurs’ work in the forestry industry.
The forestry sector is clearly a major contributor to Canada’s economic growth, contributing more than $21 billion to the country’s GDP. We have worked hard to diversify our export markets and to offer the highest quality Canadian products around the world. These measures have created excellent opportunities for Canadian businesses in Asia, particularly in China. The United States is obviously the primary destination for Canadian softwood lumber exports. In 2016 alone, 78% of such exports were destined for the United States, with a value of more than $7.6 billion. It is therefore essential that we maintain stable and predictable access to the American market if we want our softwood lumber industry to continue to prosper and if we want Canadian workers to keep their well-paid jobs. That is why the softwood lumber file has been an absolute priority for our government since our first day in office.
As soon as he took office, the , who was then Minister of International Trade, asked for broad consultations with the main stakeholders in the softwood lumber industry, including provincial and territorial governments, small and large softwood lumber businesses, producers of various types of softwood lumber products, industrial associations, unions, and representatives from indigenous groups.
In my region, particularly in Amqui, Carleton-sur-Mer, and Gesgapegiag, I have had the opportunity to consult with various stakeholders and entrepreneurs who are working hard to grow their businesses. I have met with them, along with some of my colleagues who are here in the House, to listen to their concerns and determine how our government can support them in concrete ways in the development of their businesses. They made some good suggestions. Later, I will talk about concrete measures that our government has taken.
In order to assist us, federal public servants have gone across the country to meet in person with stakeholders who clearly indicated that they supported the negotiation of a new agreement that reflects the bests interests of Canada. However, those stakeholders warned that it was better to not enter into an agreement than to enter into a bad agreement.
Our government then worked to negotiate a new agreement with the United States. Negotiations began in January 2016 and are continuing at a good pace. In just 12 months, our two countries held approximately 20 in-person meetings and numerous conference calls to advance discussions. Our government has raised this issue with the highest representatives of the American government and will continue to do so.
The has spoken with President Trump about softwood lumber on numerous occasions, including last week on his trip to Washington on October 11. The has personally assumed responsibility for this file since the start of the negotiations. She has raised this important issue with the American Secretary of Commerce at every opportunity. As a result of that high-level political engagement, this crucial file remains on the political agenda in the United States.
Close collaboration between the provinces and territories and the industry, as well as their active engagement, are at the heart of our management strategy in this important file. The minister and federal officials, as well as the hon. members on this side of the House, have made a sustained effort to establish dialogue with Canada’s largest exporters and principal producers, such as remanufacturers and manufacturers of specialized softwood lumber products.
Furthermore, as part of our government’s efforts to establish nation-to-nation relations with indigenous groups, measures were taken to consult first nations representatives, particularly those in the sawmills belonging to these groups. We held various types of consultations, including consultations in person, regular updates in advisory forums for governments and the industry, official and informal bilateral meetings, and telephone calls with premiers and ministers across the country.
The government’s efforts have clearly paid off. Provincial governments and industry representatives have publicly congratulated our government on the firm resolve it has shown in this file. The close ties between our government and the provinces and territories and the industry have allowed Canada to speak with one voice at the bargaining table, which has strengthened our position.
This united front was confirmed last August, when provincial envoys from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick met with the ambassador in Washington to clearly demonstrate that the provincial governments stand together with the federal government in this matter.
Although Canada consistently defended its interests at the bargaining table, the United States was unwilling to accept the conditions that were acceptable to Canada. I would like to point out that, although we would prefer to reach a new agreement that will give our industry more stability and predictability, we will not sign an agreement that causes considerable permanent damage to our industry and our workers. Our position is very clear: we want to reach a fair and balanced softwood lumber agreement with the United States. However, I repeat that we will not accept just any conditions. We will continue to work very hard for our industry. There are too many jobs at stake.
With that in mind, I would now like to outline the measures we have taken. I would remind those who claim that the Government of Canada is not committed to standing up for the interests of the forestry sector and its workers that we have allocated a total of $867 million in direct support for the industry, its businesses, and its workers, naturally. This support is made available through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada, and I have personally spoken with stakeholders in my riding to make absolutely sure they were all well aware of the measures being offered.
The interesting thing to note is that there has been a steady rise in lumber prices in Canada over the past few months. Two-by-fours, for example, have gone from roughly $500 to $650 per 1,000 board feet. Obviously, that means more money for the industry, and other domestic industries will benefit as well, since local businesses will have to hire in order to increase production. In light of all of the devastation that has been wrought upon the United States, the demand for softwood lumber keeps going up, which is good for prices and, in turn, for our business community.
We want to reach an agreement with the Americans and thus bring some stability to the market. I can assure the House that our government has made this file its top priority and that we will keep working to ensure that the softwood lumber industry continues to grow, while still looking to diversify our markets and foster innovation. We are very proud of our Canadian industry.
Mr. Speaker, I suspect that the calls that we are receiving are in support of this magnificent motion before us today. In that case, I would ask that you be more tolerant so that we can take calls from Canadians who want to join us in testifying to the importance of this motion.
The forestry industry is a major employer in Quebec and across Canada. Quebec’s forestry workers in particular deserve stability and predictability from their government. As we know, the forestry industry is the cornerstone of many communities in Quebec.
However, as I mentioned, the government has been unable to negotiate a softwood lumber agreement. The livelihood of forestry workers has been jeopardized, not only in Quebec, but all across Canada. While the continues to drag his feet on this important file, workers in this sector that is vital to the Canadian economy remain vulnerable to misinformation campaigns conducted against their industry.
These are schemes by non-governmental organizations funded by foreign interests, such as Greenpeace and ForestEthics, groups that do not understand that Canada is a world leader in sustainable forestry practices, but who take advantage of our forestry industry, which is currently very vulnerable.
All of this is because of the Liberal government’s inaction. On this side of the House, we are very aware and very concerned about the current situation in Canada’s softwood lumber industry. The situation remains unacceptable for thousands of workers, their families, and their communities. These people depend on the federal government to take action with the American administration.
According to the Quebec Forest Industry Council, the softwood lumber industry in that province generates $15.8 billion a year, including nearly $4 billion in salaries and benefits. Natural Resources Canada indicates that the industry employs more than 200,000 people, including 9,500 in indigenous communities. In Quebec, 58,000 jobs are directly related to the forestry industry.
Despite these impressive figures, we are still waiting for concrete action by the government. This lack of leadership jeopardizes the security of entire communities that depend on the softwood lumber industry. We are hearing this message everywhere. We hear it from workers, from people who live in towns and villages across Quebec, from people in British Columbia, from people all across Canada where there is a large forestry industry, and from people on the ground who depend on the sustainability of the softwood lumber industry.
We hear this message from people like Gilles Potvin, spokesperson for the forest committee of the Union des municipalités du Québec. Back in April he told La Presse:
The Quebec forestry industry is being doubly penalized by the new U.S. tariffs on softwood lumber.
This puts us in a really difficult situation, and the last small, family-owned businesses that are still in the game are going to be further penalized. They do not have the capacity to withstand this additional pressure.
In Quebec's regions, in places like Matawinie, forestry companies are expecting this to have a significant impact.
This spring, in an article in the newspaper L'Action, it was estimated that lumber mills like the one in Saint-Michel-des-Saints would have to pay up to $3 million a year because of the new tariffs.
The Alliance des chambres de commerce de Lanaudière stated in May:
...this new conflict jeopardizes the competitiveness of many companies and the very survival of the forestry industry, which is crucial to the economic vitality of Quebec City and its regions.
Despite all that, the government still does not seem to understand the importance of the serious issues we are talking about today. In the previous speech, I heard an argument to the effect that this government simply does not understand the urgent need to take action and to stand up to the Americans.
The fact that the rise in lumber prices from $500 to $650 is being used as an excuse as to why the government is in no hurry to reach an agreement with the Americans explains a lot about our current predicament. We can understand why the issue of a new softwood lumber deal was never raised during the Prime Minister's first meeting with the American president, President Obama. Why was it not raised? The Liberals told us not to worry, that there was plenty of time, that the industry would be able to manage on its own. “No need to worry”, they said. We were told that prices had gone up, and that there was no need to negotiate because people were not complaining too loudly. Families are concerned and people are afraid of losing their jobs? No need to worry. The Liberal government certainly is not. Now there is a byelection. No need to worry. The Liberals will just say that they are getting around to it, but by next week nothing will have changed. This is serious.
It is important for the government to carefully examine today's motion and to take action against these foreign-funded groups seeking to disrupt our forestry industry because the damage being caused now is permanent, even though the price of softwood lumber has risen. These people are being allowed to tarnish the reputation of our forestry industry. The government is doing nothing and then wondering why thousands of jobs have been lost in regions like Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. That is unacceptable.
Organizations like Greenpeace and ForestEthics, which are spreading misinformation about the forestry sector and have been trying for a long time to destroy it, have understood that this government had no intention of doing something about this harmful propaganda and that they could continue with this campaign of misinformation. Why not, when no one is standing in the way? They need this campaign to fundraise abroad or, even worse, to obtain money from certain U.S. lobbies who do not want Canadian softwood lumber entering the United States. These are the issues we must focus on and address today with the motion moved by my colleague from . That is why, today, we are asking the government to stand up for once to these groups that are threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs across Canada.
Mr. Garneau told The Globe and Mail that Greenpeace is not satisfied with marauding just our companies, but also our way of life, which is built on nurturing healthy forests that are the lifeblood of the people who live there.
Forests are synonymous with Canada. Forestry workers are at the heart of Canada's history. The forest is a major resource that has made Canada one of the most beautiful, greatest, and richest countries in the world. We must preserve our forests and, above all, we must protect it against foreigners with interests other than protecting the families of Canada's forestry workers.
Mr. Speaker, I want to speak today about the softwood lumber industry, the motion, and share some concerns. I come from a northern British Columbia riding. Forestry is big in Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies. Just two weeks ago, I visited Lakeland Mills in Prince George to see how it was doing. It was affected by the mill fire and loss of life. It has recovered well and selling its lumber, thankfully, with the temporary lifting of the tariffs until, I guess, the U.S. decides to re-establish them in November.
I made a lot of trips to the U.S. to understand its view on the softwood lumber industry. I got to know Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior, and a week into the Trump administration's mandate, in February of this year, I understood where they were going. They are developing a lot of their public timber and fibre to be much more competitive with Canada's. The concern is that Canada supplies a lot of their timber and lumber.
When talking about the softwood lumber agreement, the reason I bring up the U.S. is that 69% of our softwood goes to the U.S., which is a big deal. Meanwhile, the U.S. administration to the south of us is sharpening its pencils and doing its very best and whatever it takes to develop its industry. We cannot blame it for that. It is defending its country, just as we defend ours. The government seems to be making a lacklustre effort to negotiate a softwood lumber agreement. It was the former Conservative government that actually negotiated and extended the last softwood lumber agreement. Conservatives think it was a successful agreement, with two streams to it. When I go to the U.S. and talk to the Secretary of the Interior, I ask why we cannot sign a similar agreement to the one that worked for everyone before and I argue that the U.S. needs our lumber, etc.
I will go back to why we are debating this today in the House. We have a government that does not seem to be interested in the softwood file. It is busy with NAFTA, which is a big part of what it is dealing with right now, but on softwood lumber, I would say as a person from the province of British Columbia, that it is equally as large in terms of exports. It is a massive part of our industry base, providing jobs and employing British Columbians and Canadians in the province and my riding. That is why Conservatives are deeply concerned.
When the Liberal government was elected in 2015, it seemed that some positive things were going to come from the relationship between the Liberal government and the then Obama administration. On softwood lumber, the and the president promised to have an agreement within 100 days. When those two key figures make a promise like that, there should be no reason why they could not come together. Ideologically, there were not many differences between the two administrations. There was a lot of hoopla, fanfare, and expense for the president to come to Ottawa. We always welcome heads of states from other countries in this place, in this room where we sit today. With all of the fanfare, we hoped that a book would be opened and the softwood lumber agreement would be signed.
Days went by, the president spoke in this place, and then left, with no agreement being reached. Members with softwood in their ridings knew it was a huge missed opportunity. It sent signals to forestry workers in B.C., Quebec, and across Canada that the government did not view softwood as that important an issue. Selfies, pictures with the president, and dinners with fancy suits and dresses were important, but no signal was sent by the and the president in reaching a softwood lumber agreement, which could have been done easily. That makes us question if the government understands how significant this industry is to the entire country. It sent a signal that really did not exist.
I understand that it is difficult to conclude a softwood lumber agreement, but when we hear a promise by a prime minister and a president that they can reach one within 100 days, we would expect them to have it all sorted out. They had three months to get it done. They already had a pre-existing agreement that had worked for both countries. It would have been very simple to bring that back to the table and sign off on it so we could continue.
Right now, we are caught in a dispute that is just going to get worse. With our American neighbours elbowing us out for their own industry to grow, it is likely not going to get better.
We cannot cry over spilled milk, but there was a whole bunch of spilled milk that day when the agreement was not signed and fulfilled. It left a promise unfulfilled by both individuals.
Concerning a lot of our communities, we wonder about our government's resource development philosophy. We see projects in B.C., even pipelines, being over-regulated to the point that companies are pulling out of the province of B.C. The Energy east project has been halted, with the company saying there are too many regulations and too many risk factors to proceed with that particular investment.
We look back at other industries like agriculture and forestry that have chugged along year after year over the centuries in Canada, and we look to rely on those even more for stability in our economy. It is troubling that the government appears not to understand how significant that is. It has really failed our forestry industry and workers.
As politicians we are often guilty of talking about the economy, numbers, GDP, exports, and import tariffs, and all of that kind of terminology, but it really comes down to food on tables, roofs over heads, and sustaining families where they want to live.
I was born and raised in the Peace region. We lived out here in Ottawa when my kids were small. We are happy to be back in Fort St. John and the north Peace area of the province of British Columbia. People ask why we would want to go back when we lived in such a nice city, in Ottawa. It is because it is home. A lot the forestry workers simply want a nice place to live, which we have in beautiful northern British Columbia.
Robson Valley is another place where there is a lot of forestry, including in Valemount, McBride, Prince George, and all the way up the Rocky Mountains. They all really rely on the forest industry. It is not a number they rely on in the forest industry; it is a person, a family, and other industries. There are subsets of those industries, employing heavy-duty mechanics and others. I have often said that a person at Tim Hortons selling coffee to people in the morning is likely selling it to someone who works at a mill and makes lumber. Likewise, someone who works on trucks, like my son, a heavy-duty mechanic, likely works for a company in forestry. He is a first-year apprentice. He works on trucks and heavy equipment that go right out into the forest. That is how he makes his living. It has afforded him a nice car and lifestyle.
I want to get back to the government needing to care about that person on the ground. We are coming up to Christmas. We will be celebrating a great season with our families and we want to make sure that those jobs and lifestyles are sustained.
I hope that the government considers how important the softwood lumber agreement is to British Columbia, Quebec, and Canada. I hope it will do a better job than it did in the past. We saw a lost opportunity, and I hope the relevant ministers and the grasp how important the agreement is and how much it means to Canadians. I hope they will think about the people who are attached to these forestry jobs and how they would be affected by a signed softwood lumber agreement.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member for .
As members know, this is an issue that affects ridings all across the country, and my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac is no different. This is a file that has been critically important to our government, and continues to be today. It is one that we have made a top priority since day one of this dispute.
Our forestry sector supports 230,000 good-paying, middle-class jobs for Canadian workers and communities all across the country, such as communities like Juniper in my hometown. Softwood lumber production contributed $21 billion to Canada's GDP. In particular, softwood lumber is an economic anchor in more than 170 rural communities.
Given Canada's geographic proximity and close commercial links with the United States, it is no surprise that the U.S. is our number one export market for softwood lumber. Today, the U.S. market accounts for over 78% of Canadian softwood lumber exports. We all know that there are significant benefits for the U.S. in having access to Canadian lumber. For many decades, the U.S. has relied on our exports to fill the gap between domestic production capacity and demand for softwood lumber.
Canadian softwood lumber has historically been used to meet about one-third of the U.S. demand overall, but despite this mutually beneficial relationship, softwood lumber has been a contentious subject in a long-standing trade dispute between Canada and the United States. Since the early 1980s, Canada has experienced very few months when either litigation or a managed trade agreement have not applied to its softwood lumber exports to that country. Softwood lumber is a deeply complex issue, and although Canada has been engaged in intense negotiations with the United States in an effort to secure a new softwood lumber agreement, we always knew that finding mutually acceptable terms would be highly challenging.
I would like to reiterate that this is a priority for our government and we are working closely with the provinces, territories, and industry on this issue. My colleague the has held several meetings with the provinces, territories, and stakeholders to find solutions to support our workers and our communities. We have also been working hard with our stakeholders towards the likelihood of litigation at WTO and under NAFTA following U.S. final determinations.
We strongly disagree with the decision of the U.S. Department of Commerce to impose unfair and punitive duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports. These penalties are unjustified and are damaging to workers, communities, and consumers in both Canada and the United States. The accusations made by the U.S. lumber industry are baseless and unfounded. From the very beginning, this has been a frivolous case designed to shake up the industry, and has ultimately resulted in higher prices to consumers on both sides of the border.
There have been four previous U.S. countervailing duty investigations over the past 30 years, and U.S. duties have never survived the legal challenge. The U.S. has always lost before the WTO and NAFTA panels, because Canada does not subsidize softwood lumber. We will vigorously defend Canada's softwood lumber industry, including throughout litigation. We expect to prevail as we have in the past.
We fully understand that the duties that were unfairly imposed on Canadian lumber producers created uncertainty for the workers and their families within the industry. This is why in June of this year our government announced $867 million for the softwood lumber action plan to support the workers and the communities affected by these duties.
Specifically, we have two measures in the action plan that will help workers. First, our government is spending $9.5 million over four years for a work-sharing program that gives employees and employers the flexibility that they require when there is a temporary reduction of business activity. This program supplements employment insurance benefits and eligible workers who are working temporarily reduced hours. It extends the maximum period for work-sharing agreements from 38 to 76 weeks in order to reduce layoffs. This measure will help companies to retain skilled workers even during difficult economic times. Second, we are providing $80 million over two years through labour market development agreements. This funding will help workers to upgrade their skills and transition into new opportunities. We recognize that career transition can be a difficult and stressful time. To help make it easier, workers will receive salary top-ups through a targeted earning supplement while they are making the move to another field of employment.
I also want to acknowledge that forestry is very important to our indigenous communities across the country. This is why we will provide $10 million over three years to support forestry initiatives in our indigenous communities. These initiatives can be in clean technology, environmental stewardship, or forestry resource management.
As the had said when the package was announced, “...This action plan delivers on our pledge to take swift and reasonable action to defend our softwood lumber industry and charts a stronger future for the workers, families and communities that depend on it.”
Finally, our government is actively working to help the forestry industry access new international markets. The is leading forestry-related trade missions around this issue. For example, Asia is a market with an increasing potential for Canadian lumber products and the minister has promoted the use of Canadian forestry products during recent visits to China, Vietnam, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan.
Canada continues to believe that a negotiated settlement that brings stability and predictability to the softwood lumber industry is the best option for both countries, but we will not accept a deal at any cost. It is not right for our industry, it is not right for our communities, and it is not right for our workers. A durable negotiated agreement would be the best outcome for Canadians and for Americans. While there is no deal at this time, we are continuing to work toward this goal. We are looking for a good deal, not just any deal.
It is important that we realize that this should not be a partisan issue. This is an industry that affects communities, families, and workers all across this country. It is important to note that we as a government have said from day one that we support these families, we support the workers, and we support the industry stakeholders during this difficult period.
In my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac, softwood lumber plays an integral role. It is huge in my riding and it is huge in the province of New Brunswick. The majority of New Brunswick softwood lumber exports go directly to the United States. It takes three and a half hours to drive the length of my riding, and the entire length of that is the U.S. border. We work strategically hand in hand with U.S. counterparts that are just across the border trading back and forth in an industry that often has shared resources for industry stakeholders on both sides of the border.
When I talk to American consumers, which I have done on several occasions over the last six months, they want to see softwood lumber prices stay relatively where they are. That is because they do not want to see the cost of their homes go up. That is where the U.S. is offside. It is offside for a plethora of reasons, but one of the main reasons is because it is failing to recognize the detrimental impact this is having on U.S. consumers.
As a politician in the Canadian government, I find it offensive both to myself and to our government that people are trying to play partisan politics on an issue that we should all be united on. The last softwood lumber agreement stretched over half a decade and it too was filled with partisan comments back and forth. What did that ever get us? We spend a lot of time in the House nitpicking back and forth for partisan political reasons when we should be focused on the task at hand which is to support Canadian workers, to support the sector, and to support industry stakeholders through this difficult time and to help them try to adapt and find new markets, focus on civil culture, focus on ways that they can grow their business and respect those families and try to do this collectively.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to participate in this very important debate, for it gives me an opportunity to speak about our forests and Canada's forest industry and how they are serving to build a stronger economy for all Canadians while helping to protect and preserve a healthy environment for our children and for future generations.
The topic of today's debate is rather timely. It was just last week—on October 12, to be precise—that I had the opportunity to attend and actively participate in the Forest Stewardship Council's general assembly in the beautiful province of British Columbia. For those not familiar with the Forest Stewardship Council, it is a global not-for-profit organization, whose stated goal is promoting environmentally sound, socially beneficial, and economically prosperous management of the world's forests. It is one of three independent third-party standards that Canada recognizes as tools to demonstrate Canada's sustainable forest-management practices, and it is complementary to Canada's rigorous forest-management legislation and regulations. In fact, Canada has more forest land independently certified than anywhere else in the world: 168 million hectares as of the end of 2016.
Approximately, 800 delegates from more than 80 countries attended this session in Vancouver. A number of important issues were discussed, including climate change and boreal forests. I had the pleasure of speaking to the delegates about our government's approach to combatting climate change, as well as our efforts to protect and recover boreal caribou populations.
Colleagues on both sides of this House have spoken about the importance of Canada's forest sector. It employs hundreds of thousands of workers throughout Canada generating billions of dollars for the Canadian economy, and it is the lifeblood for many rural communities right across the country.
Our government believes that a strong economy and a clean environment go hand in hand. That is why all stakeholders need to work together to find a path that will lead to further economic growth that is consistent with sustainable forests and the protection of biodiversity. To accomplish this, we are working with the forest products industry, provinces and territories, local communities, indigenous communities, environmental non-governmental organizations, and others to ensure that Canada continues to be a world leader in the conservation of biodiversity while promoting sustainable economic growth.
One thing we should not overlook during this debate is the importance of Canada's forests in the fight against climate change and the protection of human health. Canada's forest industry leaders are well aware of the role they play in helping to address climate change. They have been leaders in the development of the clean technology that is helping to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.
Further, Canada's forests represent one of the largest carbon stores in the world, which is why our government is committed to enhancing carbon storage in forests through land use and conservation measures, including significant reforestation, and through encouraging greater use of wood in construction projects.
Over the past four decades, global forests have absorbed about one-quarter of the carbon emitted by human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels and the changing of land uses. It is clear that forests in Canada and elsewhere have a huge role to play in helping the world combat climate change.
Our forests also make a major contribution toward improving air quality. Back in June of this year, there was a study published in Nature Communications by scientists at Environment and Climate Change Canada, which demonstrated, among other things, how forests would reduce ground-level ozone levels, resulting in better air quality and in turn healthier Canadians.
Our forests also play a key role in the protection and recovery of species at risk. Our government recognizes the importance of conserving Canada's biodiversity and maintaining and improving our species at risk protection and recovery. That is why we are working with members of the forest sector, provinces, territories, and indigenous leaders to ensure that our forests are managed sustainably, including the protection and conservation of special areas.
There is no question that our forest industry is an economic driver in Canada, particularly in my province of British Columbia, but it is also an important contributor toward realizing positive conservation outcomes in Canada, particularly for species such as the boreal caribou. The boreal caribou is a priority for this government, and we are determined to protect this iconic symbol of our rich Canadian cultural identity. As members know, the Species at Risk Act creates legal obligations for the Government of Canada to act to protect this threatened species. Therefore, in 2012 a recovery strategy for boreal caribou, including an identification of the species' critical habitat, was developed. The strategy recognized the lead role of provinces and territories in managing the boreal caribou and its habitat, thus providing those jurisdictions with up to five years to establish range plans for how habitat would be restored to support self-sustaining herds.
Most provinces and territories are still working to complete recovery plans for boreal caribou. To be effective, their plans will need to focus on the maintenance and restoration of critical caribou habitat. This implies a focus on things like selective harvesting and intensive reforestation as elements of broad solutions, particularly in areas where habitat disturbance levels are already high.
In July, the Government of Canada published a proposed action plan that set out the federal government's contribution to support caribou recovery and protection in collaboration with partners and stakeholders. Under this action plan, we have invited the forest sector, as well as indigenous peoples and other stakeholders, to participate in a new multi-stakeholder forum called the National Boreal Caribou Knowledge Consortium to share information, indigenous knowledge, and lessons learned on boreal caribou conservation science. We will also be pursuing conservation agreements with provinces and territories to accelerate work and collaboration on boreal caribou and reporting to Canadians, which includes the release of a five-year progress report at the end of this month. We are now reviewing some of the documents we have received from provinces and territories to determine whether caribou and their critical habitat are or will be adequately protected. We intend to report on the adequacy of these plans in April 2018.
Once adequate range plans are in place, Environment Canada will explore with provinces and territories, and other parties as appropriate, the establishment of conservation agreements to clearly describe the commitments each party is making to protect and recover boreal caribou. The government will enter into such agreements if they provide specific, measurable, achievable, and time-bound measures that are founded on a scientific basis that enables confidence that such agreements will over time provide for the protection and recovery of the species and its critical habitat. Robust conservation agreements with concrete protection and recovery measures could achieve important progress toward protecting boreal caribou.
On September 15 of this year, the hosted the annual meeting of the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers. At that meeting, ministers recognized the important role that the forest sector can play in helping to recover and protect caribou. Federal, provincial, and territorial ministers discussed the need to work with indigenous peoples, with stakeholders, and with industry to protect and recover boreal caribou populations. They unanimously agreed on the importance of taking a collaborative, science-based approach and of sharing best practices to help support conservation agreements, while considering the socio-economic benefits of the forest sector for communities.
Developing effective range plans and conservation agreements that lead to the protection of critical habitats certainly does not preclude continued economic activity in the boreal forest. I believe that, by working in partnership with all stakeholders, we will ensure continued economic growth for Canada's forest industry, reap the benefits of carbon capture through sustainable management of our forests, and protect many species at risk such as the boreal caribou. I know that the forest sector is committed to working toward innovative ways to support a robust and sustainable Canadian economy while also contributing to caribou conservation. I know that the industry recognizes the need for sustainable development, particularly in the boreal forest. I look forward to continuing to work with our forest sector and all stakeholders in efforts aimed at protecting our boreal forests and biodiversity and to ensure a healthy, sustainable forest industry for decades to come.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member for .
I am pleased to speak in support of this motion and in support of the Canadian forestry industry. Across Canada, forestry plays a key role in the growth and economic prosperity of provincial economies, and of small communities in particular. In fact, over 650 communities throughout Canada rely on forestry, and roughly 160 of those communities are solely reliant on forestry. In 2016, Canada exported $34.6 billion in forestry products, a 5.2% increase from 2015. It represents a key component of Canada's export portfolio.
In my home province of Alberta, there are more than 27 million hectares of forest area. Forestry employs more than 20,000 people and pays out close to $1 billion a year in salaries and wages. The forestry sector contributes $5.5 billion to the Alberta economy, and the workforce in the prairie provinces in forestry could double by 2020. It is clear that forestry is vital to the Canadian economy, and the federal government must do its part to support forestry workers and processors.
The official opposition's motion today calls on the government to support the forestry sector and its workers by securing a softwood lumber trade agreement. The motion also asks the government to denounce efforts by foreign-funded non-governmental organizations that actually seek to disrupt Canada's lawful and sustainable forestry practices, and other natural resources development, such as crucial energy projects, that benefit communities and raise the standard of living of all Canadians.
For example, ForestEthics has called pipelines that would safely transport oil to export markets “dirty energy projects”. Greenpeace recently celebrated the cancellation of the energy east pipeline by calling it a “victory”. These groups do not represent the vast majority of Canadians, who support responsible natural resources development. In fact, they actively campaign against the good-paying jobs and benefits the natural resources sector creates in Canada on which the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Canadians depend.
The most recent softwood lumber agreement expired over two years ago. There is no agreement to protect Canadian forestry workers. The negative impacts of this Liberal failure are huge. The last softwood lumber dispute cost the Canadian forestry sector $5.3 million. The previous Conservative government negotiated a new agreement within three months of coming into office in 2006. Conservatives took action again in 2012 and negotiated a two-year extension, which protected the Canadian forestry sector and workers until October 2016. It provided the forestry sector with certainty and stability, unlike this Liberal inaction, which has put the sector and workers' livelihoods at risk.
On March 12, the then minister of international trade heralded a real breakthrough on softwood lumber negotiations and said that there would be the structure of a deal within 100 days. The deadline came and went. “No softwood lumber deal, as 'challenging but productive' talks drag on”, was the headline after that deadline passed.
The tariffs currently being imposed on Canadian producers are as high as 24%, which will undoubtedly lead to job losses for Canadians and will make it increasingly difficult for Canadian forestry producers to thrive. Forestry is an important part of Alberta's economy. It provides over 20,000 Alberta jobs, and the forest products industry is Alberta's third largest manufacturing industry and second largest manufacturing export industry. However, because of Liberal inaction, these jobs and the economic contributions from the forestry sector are at risk.
With the countervailing and anti-dumping duties combined, Alberta's forestry producers are faced with trade barriers as high as 30%, with no clear remedy in sight. This, in addition to the mountain pine beetle infestation, is causing real damage. For example, in Alberta alone, nearly $500 million has been spent to fight the mountain pine beetle, but it continues to spread. In fact, six million hectares of land are currently at risk.
Albertans know the impact of hard times in the forestry sector. In Lakeland, Millar Western had to shut down its sawmill in Boyle. In a town of 950 people, 10% of the population lost their jobs, which eliminated roughly a quarter-million dollars in property taxes and other revenues for the village. It is devastating.
However, there are many success stories. Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. is a pulp and paper company, also in Lakeland. Alberta-Pacific is one of the top 100 employers in Canada and one of the top 100 employers of young Canadians. It is recognized as being one of the top environmental companies in the world. In addition to pulp products like paper and tissue, it produces renewable energy from forest biomass to power its mill site. This is a great Alberta story.
As a key contributor to Alberta's economy, it is crucial that the Liberals secure a new softwood lumber agreement.
Paul Whittaker, president and CEO of the Alberta Forest Products Association, said, “If you look at the significant challenges facing Alberta’s forest sector, if Item 1 is the mountain pine beetle, Item 2 is the future of the softwood lumber agreement.” He went on to say, “it provides a stable and predictable platform for trade with the most significant, to Alberta, external market that we have.” In 2014, 24% of Alberta lumber processed by member companies of the Alberta Forest Products Association went to the United States, but with still no deal, it is clear that the Liberals need to change their approach to negotiating.
Naomi Christensen, a softwood lumber expert with the Canada West Foundation, says that Canada needs to show the U.S. government how increased tariffs on Canadian lumber will negatively impact American consumers. Increasing tariffs on Canadian lumber products will actually cause higher housing prices for Americans, lost jobs, and lost wages. She also said:
There is only one real reason behind the U.S. Lumber Coalition’s move to petition the Commerce Department to place duties on Canadian softwood lumber—to raise the price of lumber. Yet, while the U.S. domestic industry benefits from higher profits, U.S. consumers lose out. This is clear by looking at the effects of the duties prescribed by the recently expired Softwood Lumber Agreement. Ranging from 0 per cent to 15 per cent, depending on the price of lumber, U.S. producers earned more than $4-billion because of the duties, according to the Montreal Economic Institute; meanwhile, U.S. consumers paid an extra $6-billion.
Prior to the U.S. government imposing duties on Canadian lumber, it was estimated by the U.S. National Association of Home Builders that imposing a 25% tariff on Canadian softwood lumber imports would result in nearly 8,000 American jobs lost and $450 million in lost wages. Ms. Christensen points out that Canada can motivate the U.S. to remove these tariffs. She said:
The housing market plays a major role in U.S. economic health. After the Great Recession of 2008, the U.S. economy only began to recover when the housing market did, and Canadian lumber aided this recovery.... Imposing duties high enough to significantly restrict the export of Canadian lumber to the United States will raise prices, decrease consumption and slow growth. A cooling housing market will make it difficult to boost growth in the [American] economy as a whole.
In other words, the Liberals need to make it abundantly clear to the United States how imposing high tariffs on Canadian lumber imports could, in fact, have significant negative impacts on Americans. Unfortunately, it appears that the Liberals have not convinced the U.S. and are not concerned with securing a new agreement to protect Canadian forestry workers, despite all the Liberal rhetoric. This continued uncertainty is bad for workers, bad for Canada's world-class forestry industry, and bad for the Canadian economy.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of the softwood lumber industry.
All of us, in some aspect of our lives, touch up against the softwood lumber industry. I had an opportunity recently to tour DMI in Peace River. It gave me a three-page document, listing all the companies where its product ended up in a final product. Members will be pleased to know products like Kleenex start out in northern Alberta in the form of a tree. Products like Pampers, or like the very paper in front of us started out as a tree up in northern Alberta.
This is very important to each and every one of us. The very fact is that western civilization, the lives that we all lead, the quality of life, the products we use, all are bound up in the softwood lumber industry.
I recently had a report on my desk that said that 127,000 jobs in the northern half of Alberta were affected by the softwood lumber industry, 127,000 jobs. That is just in northern Alberta. That says nothing of the jobs across Canada. I know that 85% of the softwood lumber sold in North America is produced in Alberta or B.C. Therefore, it is a very important part of the Canadian economy.
When I say 127,000 jobs are affected, we often take that as one large number. However, I would like to bring this down to the individual level as well.
I am going to talk a little about Mark, who is a mechanic in Whitecourt. He is self-employed. He has a small tax shelter out of which he works. It is a personal corporation. He works there every day. He works for a number of different logging companies, fixing up their logging equipment. We we are talking about those people when we defend these kinds of jobs. Mark is raising his family in Whitecourt. His family moved to the Whitecourt area because of the economic opportunities.
I also want to talk a little about a buddy named Guido. Guido drives a logging truck during the winter and he farms during the summer. I talked about this same fellow the other day. Guido's ability to farm comes from the very fact that he is able to drive a logging truck during the winter. He is able to make money during the winter in order to plant his crops in the spring. As I said the other day, he also had significant crop failure last year. He had to save up the money again this year in order to put his crops in. It is not looking great for his crops this year, again. Hats off to Guido for the efforts.
However, it does speak to the fact that we need the softwood lumber industry in Canada and we need to support it.
When I talk about the softwood lumber industry, it is people like Guido and Mark who I think about. I am not thinking about the next prize I am going to get from an international organization. It is not about looking for a seat at the UN Security Council. It is not about being able to say that Canada is back, wherever this may be. It is about looking after Canadians and ensuring that each and every one of us has the opportunity and the ability to make a living in order to support our family. It is with that in mind that I come to the defence and recognition of what our softwood lumber industry does for each and every one of our communities.
I recently hosted a round table in my riding on softwood lumber. The member for came up to visit with us. The industry folks we met with are very much concerned about where we were headed with the softwood lumber agreement. They know that without the agreement, we end up in an area where our products are put at a significant disadvantage. We need to ensure we can avoid the high tariffs that have been in place and ensure our product, which is some of the best product in the entire world, can compete on the world stage, particularly in the North American market.
One of the things that was repeatedly brought up was the idea of quotas that could come into force without the new agreement. That was significant for them. Each and every time the quotas were mentioned, they were concerned about how Alberta, in particular, would be affected. The last time there was an agreement production was divided up across the country. Alberta seemed to always exceed its quota. Alberta was forever penalized under the tariff regime. Whatever comes out in the next agreement, which we hope will happen any day now, they want to ensure Alberta gets its fair share of the quota if that is the direction in which the Liberal government is going.
For the sake of the 127,000 jobs in northern Alberta, it is crucial we get a softwood lumber deal. We in the Conservative Party have been pushing hard for that. I want to ensure the government continues to work hard to get a softwood lumber deal sooner rather than later.