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Results: 1 - 15 of 42
Denis Lebel
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Hon. Denis Lebel
2017-11-20 15:37
Thank you for invitation. Merci beaucoup. I will do my presentation in French as I think it will be much easier for the translators. I'm very happy and proud to be here.
I would like to congratulate the new MP for the riding of Lac-Saint-Jean, Mr. Hébert, who is here with us today, as I just heard you say, Mr. Chair.
I am here to speak to you today as the president of the Quebec Forest Industry Council. I am responding to your invitation to discuss the economic aspect, among others, of the Canadian forestry sector. Our topic is the supply of secondary supply chain products in the forestry sector, but it is impossible to discuss the secondary supply chain or secondary forest product processing without first talking about the primary function. Before we get to the second and third processing of wood products, we have to ensure that we can first harvest the wood. I want to say a few words about the challenge this represents.
This is a big challenge today throughout Canada. As you know, the importance of the forest industry varies in various regions of the country. Mr. Hébert knows very well that 75% to 80% of the economy of a riding like that of Lac-Saint-Jean depends on the forestry industry. That is the case for several other regions of Quebec. And so the predictability of the wood fibre supply is important, and that depends on the provinces.
In 2012, the Province of Quebec changed the way in which it awards forestry contracts. A part of the wood is now auctioned off. This is a very important aspect. At the time this was done to respond to American demand, among other things. The Quebec market is extremely dependent on the American market.
We know that 56% of Canadian wood exported to the United States comes from British Columbia, and approximately 20% comes from Quebec. However, 96% of Quebec's exports go to the United States, whereas Asia is an important market for British Columbia's wood exports. And so it is extremely important for the province of Quebec to remember the importance of wood processing, and to keep its markets open in the United States.
One of the major problems we face regarding wood supply is the workforce we need to harvest that wood. From the time the tree is cut down until the wood leaves the plant, you need workers. This is a very important issue at this time. I know that you are fully aware of the fact that there is currently a labour shortage throughout Canada. The regions of Quebec are not an exception. In Quebec, we often say that we are going to run out of workers to process the wood before we run out of wood. Consequently this is an extremely important aspect for us.
I am repeating things you already know, but with close to 1.3 million projects starting up every year, the Americans need to import at least 30% of their wood to meet the demand. Why is it so difficult to make them understand that they should choose to buy wood from their neighbour Canada, their biggest economic partner, rather than wood from other countries? We know that that is currently creating a large price increase for American consumers. The number of new projects continues to grow, but that raises the risk of cost increases in home construction.
When we signed this agreement in 2006, Canada's market share was set at a maximum of 34%. Historically we know that Canada's annual market share in providing wood to meet American needs has never been more than 32%. Here we are talking about negotiating 28%. According to the econometric figures we have in Quebec, the drop of this rate to 28% will lead to the closure of about a dozen plants in eastern Canada, several of them in Quebec. And so it is extremely important that we follow this issue very closely.
I want to talk about the forest itself. From an environmental point of view, the forest is seen as a very promising solution for the future. That is one of the main reasons I decided to work for the forest industry.
I commend the initiative of California and British Columbia, who recognize the forest industry as an important component in their plans to fight climate change. They have integrated the forest into their plans, and have set the contribution of the forest to reaching their greenhouse gas emission reduction targets at 30%.
It is extremely important to see the forest as a carbon sink. We have to be able to regenerate our forests to go further still.
Of course, we have to be able to face natural disasters like forest fires and insect infestations like the mountain pine beetle or the spruce budworm in Quebec.
It is also important that we continue to reforest and replant our wood to capture and store carbon. You all know that the trees in a forest that reach maturity become windthrow, and will be knocked over by high winds or destroyed by forest fires. Not only do we lose their economic value, but they also emit carbon dioxide. Environmentally speaking, that is less interesting for society as a whole. Conversely, a young growing forest provides more food for animals, contributes more life and is more promising for the future. It's extremely important that we see the big picture.
I would like to make an aside here on the famous issue of the woodland caribou. When I was minister, I worked in cooperation with all of the opposition parties and tried to avoid getting into personalities or partisanship. We concluded that more scientific research on the woodland caribou was needed. In parks like the ones in Jasper or Banff, the woodland caribou populations are declining, whereas they are increasing in Quebec regions where there is a lot of forestry.
According to the Quebec forest industry, we have to know a lot more about the woodland caribou. Of course we want to protect ecosystems and ensure the sustainability of our forests, and the government of Quebec is helping us, but it is also important that we know more about the woodland caribou.
The vision we have of development, and of protecting our environment in connection with the use that is made of the forest, is extremely important. People say that we have to limit costs and reduce CO2 emissions. The reduction of a ton of CO2 emissions in public transit will cost between $400 and $500. Of course public transit is important; I am not saying that it is not important. All I am saying is that if we plant more trees and use more wood in residential construction, we will store even more carbon. Thanks to the savings that will generate, we can pay a part of the cost of public transit throughout Canada.
The future of the forestry industry and of the forest itself must be integral components of the federal government's environmental strategy.
Over the past few years, in its negotiations with the Americans, Quebec has always maintained its three-point position. First, we insist on the recognition of the new Quebec forestry regime, which includes auctions, which means that wood is sold at market value. Secondly, we try to hold on to the market share we have had, historically. Thirdly, we are counting on the recognition of border sawmills; 50% of their wood supply comes from the United States, mostly from Maine. These are aspects upon which we must continue to focus.
We must also see the forest as a source of energy for the future. In several regions of Quebec and Canada, there is progress in that area. Several forest biomass projects are ongoing, or completed, which provides good opportunities for the forest industry.
Of course this always leads to comparisons between the cost of new energy sources and the cost of other sources of energy. In Quebec the comparison is with hydroelectricity. In light of the lower cost of hydroelectricity, certain new energy projects may sometimes be less profitable, but I would rather see them as promising projects for the future.
The same thing applies to biofuels. In Quebec, several projects to create energy from resin or wood fibre are being pursued on the North Shore, in the Mauricie Region and elsewhere in the province. Soon we will be able to produce biofuel using wood fibre, which is clearly a promising avenue for the future.
Since my time is almost up, I will conclude by pointing out that we need to recognize the enormous environmental potential of the forestry industry and of the forest everywhere in Canada. The construction of houses, residences and multi-story buildings will be important to the future of the forestry industry in Quebec and the rest of Canada.
Thank you.
Denis Lebel
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Hon. Denis Lebel
2017-11-20 16:01
Good afternoon, madam.
Denis Lebel
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Hon. Denis Lebel
2017-11-20 16:01
I miss you too.
Denis Lebel
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Hon. Denis Lebel
2017-11-20 16:01
First of all, thank you for the question.
Of course, I do miss you and life on Parliament Hill, but I have been in my new position for a month and a half, and I am still learning every day.
It is important to remember that in order to be able to do secondary processing, you have to make sure that you can harvest the wood first, as I was saying earlier. The important thing is to keep our markets open.
Of course, the future belongs in part to wood processing. There is an organization in Quebec that is related to the Forest Industry Council called Cecobois. The organizations that promote the use of wood in Canada and Quebec are working very hard to develop markets and increase the number of wood buildings. As we were saying earlier, it's important that building codes allow for this, while respecting all security standards. So you need that first processing level.
Secondly, we must continue to work on facilitating access to various markets. For all sorts of geographic reasons, British Columbia is much closer to Asian markets than Quebec. As we heard earlier, the United States is still the most important market for British Columbia, followed by Asia, which is easier to access from British Columbia than from Quebec. We want to continue to work with the industry in British Columbia, as it is essential for us that the forestry sector throughout Canada does well.
And so we need to continue to promote the culture of wood. My colleague was right to say that in educational institutions, in universities, cegeps and high schools, we need more stakeholders from the sector, whether they be architects, engineers, technicians, carpenters or cabinet makers, who can promote the value of wood, so that people are aware of the value added by using wood in construction.
Our governments could highlight the environmental value of the different products. Of course, you can build using steel and cement, and that is a choice that is up to the consumer. However, if the environmental value of the product used in construction were recognized, this would allow the forest industry to sell more wood. I believe this is a promising avenue for the future. The forest is a promising solution for the environment in Canada, and must be seen as such.
At the same time, we must continue to keep our markets open. Our workforce is extremely important, and we have to facilitate the entry of the workers we need in several areas of the country. I know that there is a shortage of labour in your riding, Mrs. Boucher, for forestry enterprises. The same thing applies to the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region for forestry work in the summer, and when reforestation needs to be done. Who is doing that work at this time? Workers from Africa. We are lucky to have them. We have to open our hearts, our minds and our doors to immigration; it's a necessity. It's not necessarily easy, but a lot of things can be accomplished.
That is my answer, in part.
Denis Lebel
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Hon. Denis Lebel
2017-11-20 16:05
Thank you, Mr. Schmale.
Denis Lebel
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Hon. Denis Lebel
2017-11-20 16:05
I can speak about that.
As I said in French, it's very important to see the forests as a whole, and the future for the environment, and consider the ability to stop carbon with wood construction.
In Quebec we have many organizations working on that. We have Cecobois, which is one of the companies that is working very hard to have more wood in construction. For sure, that is the key for the future of the environment in Canada.
Denis Lebel
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Hon. Denis Lebel
2017-11-20 16:15
Yes, as my partner said before, we have to open the market. You talked about fire. I attended a presentation about that by the American Wood Council last week. I know exactly what you are talking about, and those are facts, but we have to continue to push. Canada for sure has to let the market open. It's very important to do that. I know we now have a way to defend our rights, and I totally agree with that, but we have to all work together.
Denis Lebel
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Hon. Denis Lebel
2017-11-20 16:18
I want to champion Chantiers Chibougamau. Like my partner today, they are delivering structures all across America. They're a very good company. They continue to work on research and development to continue to help us. They're in the north. That's not very close, as you said. They're in Chibougamau, which is around 650 kilometres from Montreal. No matter, they're working all across America and they're doing a very good job of that. They will continue to develop this market too.
Bioenergy is very important in the region too, but we are often far from the markets. That's one of our problems. It's very important to have the right infrastructure to export too. Because of Quebec's small population of eight million, we can't get all the market we have. We have to export some of it. That's why ports are very important to develop.
We have to continue to try to promote this. I think we also need a government strategy that recognizes that.
If for transit we accept to pay $400 to $500 to not produce a tonne of GHG, we have to respect the fact that in the forest industry, that will cost a lot less if we use the forest products. I'm not telling you that transit is not important. There are two things we have to do. We compare numbers to not produce GHG. For me it's easier to see that we can have results in the forest industry to help to pay for the rest. That's two different things.
The comparative cost of avoiding the emission of a ton of greenhouse gas to the cost of capturing and storing carbon is a very important question. In my opinion, using forest products while accomplishing necessary public transit projects is a promising solution.
Denis Lebel
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Hon. Denis Lebel
2017-11-20 16:20
Mr. Hébert, I would first like to wish you a long and fruitful career in Ottawa. I am very happy that you are now the person representing the most beautiful riding in Canada, the riding of Lac-Saint-Jean. Now I can say that.
We are talking today about secondary processing, and it is extremely important. Earlier I was highlighting the importance of the first level of processing. We have to remember that in order to get to secondary processing, we first have to have that first processing.
Your question was about wood chips. In the case of softwood lumber, when the wood is cut, the remaining products are extremely important for the value chain of enterprises. Of course, the drop in the consumption of newsprint over the past years has reduced the demand for chips accordingly, and that is why it is important to work on other products. We still produce newsprint and cardboard, which is increasingly used for e-commerce deliveries. However, it is important to find other uses for chips, for instance to produce biomass or other biofuels.
We are not going to change the needs of the clientele. The clients and the market will always decide. However, we can work on enhancing the use of these chips. As you know, this was an important issue, and it still is. It makes it possible to make sawmills profitable.
For our part, we are going to continue to work on developing new products. Canada probably has the best forestry workers in the world. The use of these products will allow us to go further.
Denis Lebel
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Hon. Denis Lebel
2017-11-20 16:22
We already have set up some programs in the past to support the community and the forest industry and the Quebec government to spread the stuff needed to protect the forest, but we have to be ready to do what we have to do. What happened with the pine beetle in British Columbia was that they had to harvest the wood before it lost all its capacity. I think it's important to be ready for that and to have support programs when it happens. For sure, we have to continue to be in front of the problems with some programs and some research, but we have to be ready to do what has to be done. For sure, that has to be done in partnership with the provinces that control the land, the forests that will be the source of the wood. It's very important to be at the front on that because we will have some wood to harvest very soon.
Denis Lebel
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Hon. Denis Lebel
2017-11-20 16:24
Thank you for your comment. It's always an honour to be with you. I will continue to work like a team player. Everywhere in my life, that's important for me. That's my way of living.
We have to understand that Canada is a large country with different realities. As I said before, when I had the honour to be a minister of our country, I went to the Vancouver port and I saw many boats waiting for wood to take to Asia, when we can't send any from Quebec. We have to respect that this is a different reality. I'm very happy that we can export some wood from B.C., Alberta, and Manitoba to Asia. That's very important to continue. However, in Quebec, it's more difficult to export other than to the U.S.A., because of where we are geographically. We have to understand that. We can send some stuff to Europe and we will continue to work with that, but the dimension of the wood is different.... As my friend said, we already have a lot of competition in second transformation in Europe, in Austria, Finland, Germany, and many other countries that are very good.
We have to continue to give education and information to our people, to our guys, to be better and to continue to open the market. We will always have some way to do it. In pallets now we are doing it well in Quebec. We can export more. We will have to continue to transform our work to export into the U.S.A. There are companies like Chantiers Chibougamau and many other companies like Nordic—I'm not talking about hockey, but its name sounds the same as the former hockey team in Quebec—Nordic Structures. It's very good to export, too. We have to continue to transform the wood in building houses and find a different way to do it. We have to transform more. That's for sure.
Denis Lebel
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Hon. Denis Lebel
2017-11-20 16:31
Good afternoon, Mr. Lefebvre.
As you know, I had the honour of working with the mayor of Kapuskasing on important forestry sector files. Of course, we can't go back. We have to turn toward the future. Given that Matériaux innovants Rayonier is a chemical products company rather than a forestry enterprise, clearly this will pose some challenges. What will these people do with their sawmills and all the rest? We are not going to make any assumptions about the future, but we are resolutely turned toward the future. We are trying to use the products in different ways. We are focusing on research and development, such as in the area of bioproducts. What is interesting is that there is a future in that. The purchase of the plants by that company will open the door to the products of the future.
Moreover, I'd like to add that most of the fires that broke out in wood homes occurred at the construction phase, for various reasons, and not after the houses were built.
Denis Lebel
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Hon. Denis Lebel
2017-11-20 16:32
We didn't talk about it earlier, so I wanted to point that out.
Denis Lebel
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Hon. Denis Lebel
2017-11-20 16:32
So we are talking here about promising projects, and a great deal of diversification in chemical-based products.
Denis Lebel
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Hon. Denis Lebel
2017-11-20 16:33
Of course, we have to defend the various animal species and care for the animal world, but on the basis of scientific data. As I said earlier, I have been working for several years on forestry issues, and my impression is that there has not been enough scientific research done on the woodland caribou.
Before making decisions that could have repercussions on tens of thousands of jobs in all regions of Canada including the north of Ontario and northern Quebec, we need to do research and acquire more knowledge. Of course, we have to protect animal species like the woodland caribou, but this has to be based on scientific data rather than on simple perceptions. In my opinion, and according to the Quebec forest industry and our council, we do not have enough knowledge. We have to encourage the public servants at Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada to do more research and gather more data. If need be, we can make some science-based decisions in the future.
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