moved that Bill C-574, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to begin debate on my bill to promote the use of wood in the construction of federal public buildings.
Bill C-574, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood) is quite simple. It reads as follows:
1. Section 7 of the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (1):
(1.1) Despite subsection (1), before soliciting bids for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal immovables and federal real property, the Minister shall give preference to the concept that promotes the use of wood, while taking into account the factors of cost and greenhouse gas emissions.
My bill amends the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act and calls on the federal government to give preference to projects that increase the use of wood products in construction. A number of governments have realized that using more wood in their buildings is not only a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it also provides direct support to the industry. The long list of governments that have their own policies on wood use includes Quebec, France, Sweden, Norway, Austria and Finland.
Bill C-574 was introduced by the Bloc Québécois, which would like to see the House of Commons pass it. A similar bill introduced by the Bloc Québécois in 2010 passed second reading stage in the House. Only the Conservatives refused to support it.
The forestry industry needs help to adjust to changes in the pulp and paper market. The Conservative government must stop stalling and follow the lead of other countries that have adopted a policy to use wood as a building material in public buildings.
Given the Conservative government's failure to support the Quebec forestry industry, the Government of Quebec had to be proactive by putting in place a wood charter. With the adoption of that charter, construction projects that are funded wholly or in part by the Government of Quebec must now systematically demonstrate that a wood solution was evaluated.
Not only will this strategy help revitalize the forestry industry, but it will be an excellent way to combat greenhouse gas emissions, something that is of little consequence to the Conservative government. Renewing our forests will also help with carbon capture and improve Quebec's record in that regard and, by extension, that of the federal government, which prefers to promote the expansion of the oil sands industry.
The Quebec forestry industry is in need of urgent help. To date, the Conservative government has given forestry companies nothing but crumbs. Meanwhile, it has given billions of dollars to the Ontario automotive industry.
It is imperative that the House support Quebec's initiative in this regard and pass Bill C-574 in order to follow suit in the construction of its public buildings.
The bill that we are proposing would provide immediate assistance to forestry companies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The use of wood in federal buildings would help our businesses develop new secondary and tertiary products and find new markets for local products.
Furthermore, given that timber products are alternatives to energy inefficient products, such as steel, which takes a lot of energy to process, the use of wood is a tangible way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to capturing carbon dioxide, wood is also a green alternative to energy-intensive construction materials.
In 2011, Canada's forestry industry represented approximately $23.7 billion of the Canadian economy, which is about 1.9% of the total gross domestic product.
Canada is the second largest exporter of raw forest products in the world, after the United States. It is the fourth largest exporter of all the wood products considered. Canada is the largest exporter of pulp and paper, newsprint and softwood lumber in the world and the fourth largest exporter of wood panels.
A total of 65% of Canadian forestry products are exported to the United States. China is an increasingly important market for Canadian forestry products, particularly pulp and softwood lumber.
In 2011, the forestry industry generated approximately 233,900 direct jobs for Canadians. If we include indirect jobs, such as those in construction, engineering and transport, the forestry industry is responsible for almost 600,000 direct and indirect jobs across the country.
The forestry industry is important to Quebec. Quebec has 2% of the world's forests, an area of 760,000 square kilometres—the equivalent of Sweden and Norway combined.
The industry provides 50,500 manufacturing jobs—26,800 in wood processing and 23,700 in pulp and paper—and more than 10,500 forestry jobs. There are also 630 engineers who work in forest management and logging operations.
The forestry industry generates more than $7 billion in sales outside Quebec, which is about 13% of all Quebec exports. The forestry industry is currently the economic driver of 140 Quebec municipalities. Forests represent the heritage of all Quebeckers, and 90% of them are public land, while 10% belong to private interests—more than 130,000 owners. In Quebec, the potential for public forests is 29 million cubic metres a year, and it is 12 million cubic metres a year for private forests.
For years, the forestry industry has been going from one crisis to the next. First, there was the softwood lumber conflict with the United States from May 2002 to fall 2006. During that period, Quebec's forestry industry lost more than 10,000 jobs.
Even though the Conservatives promised during the 2005 election campaign to create a loan guarantee program for forestry companies that were suffering as a result of the conflict, they reneged on their promise once they came to power. The Prime Minister, who wanted to sign a softwood lumber agreement with the Americans, chose instead to starve the industry to ensure that it would accept any old agreement. Since the industry was short of cash during that period, it was not able to invest money to improve its productivity, and it emerged from the conflict substantially weakened and ill-equipped to face challenges. The consequences are still being felt today.
Then, there was the rising dollar. Boosted by Alberta oil, the Canadian dollar rose by about 60% in four years, compared to the American dollar. Forestry companies lost their competitive edge on foreign markets, especially the American market. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that Canada's forestry industry loses $500 million in revenue for every 1¢ increase in the value of the dollar. The Quebec Forest Industry Council estimates that loss at $150 million in Quebec.
In addition, the paper market is saturated and in slow but steady decline, partly because of improved communication technologies. What is more, companies are being hit with higher oil prices, which increase their production and transportation costs. To top it all off, the construction market in the United States collapsed because of the financial and housing crisis. Not only are sales down, but prices are down and companies are in poor financial shape, which diminishes their ability to invest, innovate, modernize and develop new products. Today, while the higher dollar should allow forestry companies to buy new equipment at a reasonable price to improve and diversify their production, they are often unable to invest because they emerged from the crisis crippled with debt.
The forestry crisis that hit Quebec was very serious. From 2005 to 2011, the forestry industry lost nearly 30% of its workforce. The industry went from 130,000 workers in 2005 to 99,659 in 2011. From 2004-05 to 2012-13, there was a 38.7% drop in jobs in silviculture and timber harvesting, which reduced job numbers to a little more than 10,000 in those areas. Approximately 26,000 direct jobs were lost in the wood product manufacturing sector from 2005 to 2010. Just over 3,000 more were lost in 2011 and 2012. In total, there was a 29% decrease. At the same time, the pulp and paper industry lost 33% of its jobs.
In 2011, Quebec's softwood lumber production dropped by 10% and deliveries were down by nearly 6%.
Quebec and Canada have a long history of using wood in housing construction. Most single family homes are built of wood. Commercial and industrial buildings, however, are usually built out of concrete and steel. Recent technological breakthroughs in engineered wood like finger-jointed wood and glued laminated timber have helped facilitate the development of wood construction. At the same time, many government building codes allow the use of wood in a wider range of situations. For instance, British Columbia allows the construction of buildings of up to six storeys in wood, compared to past norms, which allowed for only three or four storeys. Sweden has buildings of up to 10 storeys with wooden frames.
What have other governments done to encourage the use of wood to build public buildings?
Quebec is already relying on increased use of wood in construction in the province, particularly in public buildings, other non-residential buildings and multi-family dwellings. This strategy aims to maximize Quebec's dominant position in high value-added products.
On April 30, 2013, the Government of Quebec passed its wood charter, which compels contractors to consider using wood in any project paid from public funds. In its own projects, the Government of Quebec is setting an example by promoting the increased use of wood in the construction of large-scale buildings.
By changing the rules in the Régie du bâtiment du Québec, the wood charter allows five and six storey buildings to be built out of wood. In general, this new tool aims to increase the use of wood in construction in Quebec, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop higher value-added wood products.
The wood charter also seeks to promote the use of a combination of wood and other materials and the use of appearance wood. To achieve that goal, educational institutions and centres of expertise will be called upon to provide training related to the use of wood in structures. These institutions will also promote this use so that professionals, such as architects and engineers, will have the latest information on the use of wood as a structural component.
Wood products can be substituted for products with high embodied energy that are at the mercy of rising fuel costs. Environmental concerns have led a number of countries to develop a strategy for the use of wood products, which is an important part of their strategy to combat greenhouse gas emissions.
British Columbia would like to develop the domestic wood market by requiring all new public buildings to use British Columbia wood, if possible, and by making changes to the Building Code that would allow for the construction of six-storey wooden buildings. British Columbia worked with the other provinces to make the same changes.
France's Wood, Construction, Environment plan is designed to increase the market share of wood in the construction industry by 25%. This increase, achieved by replacing products such as concrete and steel with wood, could allow the country to meet nearly 14% of its target under the Kyoto protocol.
Under its carbon neutral public service program, the New Zealand government requires wood and wood products to be considered as the main construction materials for new government buildings of three stories or less in height.
In Norway, the strategy to increase the use of wood involves promoting and showing the possibilities for the increased use of wood.
The use of wood can help combat climate change. Forest renewal makes it possible to capture and store carbon. Once mature trees are harvested, young trees absorb more carbon as they grow than trees that are at the end of their life cycle. Moreover, wood products will continue to store carbon throughout their useful life.
As long as the carbon remains stored in the wood, any increase in the overall volume of timber supply will reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Thus, an increased use of wood in construction is a simple way to combat climate change.
Since wood products store carbon, the atmosphere will remain free of that carbon as long as the wood product is being used and even after, if the product is re-used or recycled as a secondary raw material or for energy production.
The use of wood materials in construction can reduce CO2 emissions because they require less energy to manufacture than other building materials.
The use of wood will kick-start the forestry and wood industry. We are seeing more and more buildings made of wood. Furthermore, wood is also being used together with steel and concrete. In my riding, an increasing number of tourism buildings are being built with concrete, steel and wood, which is becoming more popular. It will revitalize the wood industry.
The minister, my colleague from Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, has already said in an interview that more federal government buildings should be built with wood in order to revitalize the wood industry.