Mr. F. Oberle (Prince George-Peace River) moved:
That this House condemns the Government for its neglect of Canada's forests and its indifference to the threat posed to Canada's forests and forest industries by pests, fire, pollution and foreign competition, and calls upon the Government to stimulate the research needed to promote superior growth and diversify export products, and acknowledge its responsibility to protect the Canadian environment and the millions of Canadians whose livelihood depends upon Canada's forest resources.
He said: Mr. Speaker, let me first express my appreciation to my colleagues on this side of the House and thank them for their foresight, their interest and their concern for our forests, which of course is reflected in our decision to set aside this parliamentary day to talk about forests, in competition with many other weighty issues that are occupying our attention now.
The motion I have introduced may appear unreasonably harsh to those people who have listened to the Minister whose responsibility it is to speak for the Government on matters relating to our forests. At the outset I wish to say that I appreciate the sincerity and the genuine commitment to this important component of the dual responsibility of the Minister. I know he believes as I do that in a country depending to such a great extent for its economic and social well-being on its forest resources, it is imperative the management and care of this resource be given the undivided attention of a Minister. This view is shared and strongly advocated by all sectors of the forest community.
1 know the Minister is trying his very best, but considering the limits of his mandate and the competition he faces in Cabinet from his colleagues for power and scarce financial resources, his best efforts fall far short of any expectations his pronouncements have generated. We intend today to remind the Minister and the Government of its neglected responsibility regarding our forests and the multifaceted, important economic and social issues associated with this most precious of our natural resource heritage.
In 1871 Sir John A. Macdonald said:
The sight of immense masses of timber passing my windows every morning constantly suggests to my mind the absolute necessity for looking into the future of this great trade. We are recklessly destroying the timber of Canada and there is scarcely a possibility of replacing it.
Also he said:
It occurs to me that the subject should be looked in the face, and some efforts made for the preservation of our timber.
Of course, I have no idea from which particular vantage point Sir John A. made his observation, but I can assure the House that whatever it was he would no longer have to be troubled by such sights here in Ottawa Valley. The timber is long gone. The great trade of which our first Prime Minister spoke has rapidly expanded over the years, but it has moved on to other parts of Canada as the forests became depleted and until a decade ago no one heeded the warning of how recklessly we were destroying our forests. The crisis which was foreseen 100 years ago for the Ottawa Valley now affects the whole country. One might say that the Ottawa Valley really has not suffered all that much. As we always do, we simply adjust to a different economy, one less dependent on natural resources.
We might be able to renew our industrial structure with robots and computers. I have every confidence that we as Canadians can compete with the best in the new information-based world economies. But our real strength as an industrial nation will always flow particularly from those of our natural resources which are renewable as is the case of our forests.
There are four major biological systems on which the world will depend for its survival. Trees are one of them. Canada owns 10 per cent of the world's total forest inventory. Our wood-converting industry produces 22 per cent of world market requirements in manufactured forest products and 30 per cent of its pulp and paper products are traded internationally. This trade generates $12 billion annually in net foreign exchange earnings, which exceeds the earnings of all other major resource sectors such as fish, grain and hydrocarbons combined. According to forecasts by the United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization, the world's demand of industrial softwood will increase by 2.1 per cent every year over the next 20 years.
Merely to maintain our market share would require an increased output of 50 per cent of wood products by the year 2000. Everyone except the federal Government knows now that such a goal cannot be realized with present policies. We would have to produce 210 million cubic metres of wood by the end of this century, and to sustain such massive harvests it
May 30, 1983
would require equally massive efforts toward advanced scientific research and new management practices, with the emphasis on forest protection, the enhancement of productivity of existing stands through thinning and fertilization and, of course, the replanting of harvested areas.
The cost of such efforts after so many years of neglect are high, but they are not high in comparison to the economic benefits which we derive from our forest harvest. Governments receive approximately $2 billion annually from taxation and other direct and indirect benefits. That is roughly shared fifty-fifty between the federal and provincial Governments. That, if nothing else, should be sufficient reason for our Government to commit itself to a greater share of the cost connected with maintaining a healthy resource base. We in fact believe it to be a fundamental principle that the responsibility for funding the maintenance of the resource should be relative to the benefits received.
With that in mind, let us see what commitment the federal Government is prepared to make. Last year the Minister published a policy statement entitled "A framework for forest renewal". It recognized the most basic requirement identified by the committee of provincial resource ministers to increase public spending in areas of government responsibility by 10 per cent annually. Estimated expenditures for forest renewal in 1982 were about $300 million. The federal Government contributed $100 million, or 37 per cent. To meet even the most minimum targets, $650 million in 1982 dollars will have to be spent by the year 1987. The federal contribution to this amount would be $130 million or 20 per cent of the total, hardly a substantial increase over a five-year period. Fully 80 per cent of the cost will be passed on to the Provinces. Again this can hardly be seen as being relative to the benefits received.
I have spoken earlier of the Minister's limited mandate in forestry matters and the competition he faces in Cabinet. An example of that is the most recent announcement by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce (Mr. Lumley) regarding the establishment of a task force to advise him of the forest industry's needs in terms of assistance to help the industry maintain its competitive position in the world market and expand its productivity.
I give the Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce full marks for recognizing the forest sector's potential for growth and the creation of new jobs and for realizing the forest Minister's limited authority and resources to respond to the industry's requirements. However, it is because we have in the past segregated the industrial side of forestry from the management side that our forests are in such a state of neglect.
All that was to change with the announcement in 1981 by the Minister of a new forest sector strategy committee. The tripartite approach involving industry, the Provinces and the Federal Government in an all out effort will try to remedy some of the past sins. Already that appears to be forgotten. Incredibly, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce testified before the committee last week that his star-studded
task force and the resources he plans to put at their disposal will be concentrating only on the expansion of our industries and the development of new markets. Anything to do with management of the forest will be left to his colleague, the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Roberts). Is it not that type of divided jurisdiction which got us into all this trouble in the first place?
For a while we thought that some of the new people we had brought into the Canadian Forestry Service, together with some fine professionals already there who understood the problems and knew the solutions, were getting their message across. When the Department of Regional Economic Expansion was reorganized, the Canadian Forestry Service was to get that share which was earmarked for the forest sector, or so we thought. The new federal-provincial agreements of the type which had been signed with Nova Scotia were to include longterm forestry plans of at least 20 years' duration. The federal money was to be used to help industry and the Provinces to improve timber stands and plant new forests on lands for which there were no competing uses.
However, Industry, Trade and Commerce now appears to be taking charge again with its own set of priorities. What I find exceedingly difficult to understand is the apparent new frame of mind of our present generation of industrial leaders. As you know, Mr. Speaker, I was in a very modest way involved in the business before I came here. In my day, all you wanted from the Government was a tax and royalty regime which compared favourably with that of our offshore competitors. The only help asked for from the Government was toward transportation, communication and community infrastructures which were required to develop new areas and get our products to market as cheaply and efficiently as possible. We kept arguing with government for a set of rules and standards in terms of environmental and other considerations which were firm and fairly applied without a whole lot of overlapping jurisdictions exercised by federal over provincial regulators, or rules that were overruled by conflicting mandates of different departments of government.
The new generation of corporate managers appears to have additional requirements from government. The Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce testified before the committee that he is receiving literally hundreds of applications daily from major and minor forest companies, applications which have been filed with his Department for grants and subsidies to rebuild and expand their plants and to construct new ones. They are looking to government and the taxpayer to take most of the risk out of their enterprises. As we know, the Government has been most accommodating to this new approach which provides it with the necessary justification to intrude even further into the private sector. That is a worrisome trend indeed.
Sir, in my humble opinion the forest industry needs a stable supply of feedstock that is commercially viable and accessible. As we know, 95 per cent of all our wood supply is publicly owned and therefore it is obviously in the public interest and is
May 30, 1983
a collective responsibility to keep our forests healthy and ensure an adequate supply.
Insects, disease and fire destroy two-thirds as much timber as is being harvested commercially every year. Much greater efforts must therefore be made to protect our forests from these predators. We must learn to manage our forests much more intensively. Our Scandinavian and American competitors spend many times what we commit in terms of money and human resources in the management area. For instance, we in Canada have a professional forester for every 380,000 hectares of forest land. In Sweden, the ratio is one for every 15,000 hectares.
In terms of research and development, the record is not much better. One major U.S. company spends more on forest products research every year than the total combined efforts of all of the governments and industry in this country. To produce the wood required by industry to keep its world market share, it is estimated that our scientific research efforts will have at least to double over the next ten years. This would require an additional 150 forestry post-gratudates per year for the next ten years. Our schools have produced 55 masters and a mere 11 doctoral degrees per year since 1978. Of those, nearly half were foreign students who have left for their home countries. Our forestry schools require massively increased block funding to permit them to respond to the challenge.
The federal Government must play a leading role in basic research in biotechnology, genetic engineering, soil chemistry and so on. Together with industry, we must invest much more in forest products research to develop new harvesting techniques, new products for a changing world market and techniques for reforestation and intensive stand management. The privatization in 1978 of our forest products labs did not bring about the results which had been predicted, even though this is clearly one area where industry can and should participate.
We suggest that a charge be levied on industry, either on stumpage or on the basis of the grade stamp, to provide a fair share of an expanded effort toward forest products research and development. We also recommend that federal funding for research and development, forest renewal and forest protection should be based on a fixed percentage of annual gross forest products sold averaged over a five-year period. As can easily be seen, this would provide greater stability and facilitate longterm planning of research projects and indeed ensure that they are carried through to conclusion.
In addition to that, there is nothing wrong with programs which the Government might initiate from time to time to reduce periodic manpower surpluses. I applaud the recent initiatives of the Minister of Employment and Immigration (Mr. Axworthy) designed to entice unemployed workers to work in our forests; but again, such special efforts can only reap maximum benefits if they are properly planned, managed and co-ordinated with existing silviculture programs by people who know what they are doing. Any moneys therefore committed by the Government for such special needs must be channelled through the Canadian Forestry Service.
There is even a role for the Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce, the superministry, particularly now that it has been integrated with External Affairs. Our industry needs help in finding new markets and developing them to suit our products. But again, it will be of little benefit to Canada to have the world's most modern harvesting plants without a stable and sufficient supply of raw materials or the markets to sell the products.
The Science Council of Canada recently published a statement which is worth considering. It points out the potential benefits of improvement in forest management policies. If the goals we have set ourselves are achieved, we would increase our sales by $22 billion, $12 billion of which would come from exports. We would create between 75,000 to 100,000 new jobs and generate in excess of $3 billion in additional tax revenues. Such is the magnitude of this important sector of our economy.
The report also points out the cost of failure to act. We would experience mill closures, increased unemployment and the economic destabilization of whole regions of our country whose livelihood depends on logging and wood preserving industries. A decline in our forest industry would have a pervasive effect, the report states, on our whole economy and our balance of trade. A thriving forest industry is essential to the prosperity of Canada.
Let us, as John A. Macdonald urged, look the subject in the face. The industry can no longer move on to exploit new areas of virgin timber. Even this great land has limits to the rich bounty of her forests.
We must do now with what we have and must care for it responsibly. The great philosopher Goltz said a century ago: "Of all nature's scenes, it is the woods in which all her secrets and all her favours are found together". Our forest are truly our most precious resource and our greatest riches. Let us realize this fact and begin to act accordingly.
Subtopic: BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic: ALLOTTED DAY, S.O. 62-FOREST INDUSTRY