Mr. Lome McCuish (Prince George-Bulkley Valley):
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to have this opportunity on behalf of my constituents in Prince George-Bulkley Valley to address the Speech from the Throne. People in my riding are very straightforward and direct. They tell things as they see them. They have a distrust for fancy words, promises and platitudes. For them the proof is in the pudding. Obviously, the authors of this Throne Speech, be they ministerial or bureaucratic, would find it very uncomfortable to be in my riding.
The history of Prince George-Bulkley Valley reads very much like the history of Canada. We find in the past explorers like Simon Fraser, the Hudson's Bay Company, pioneers, settlers, loggers and dreams. These dreams are very much alive today in a place which views itself as a viable and growing entity. However, there is a mounting sense of frustration which stems from the feeling that a great deal of potential is being thwarted.
There are two facets of the economy in Prince George-Bulkley Valley, Mr. Speaker, which I would like to address today. The first is forestry and the second is farming and ranching. These are both endeavours which have gone hand in hand with the development of mankind and with the shaping of the character of Canada. In looking at forestry, farming and ranching, I hope to point to the areas where we as legislators can facilitate a more prosperous and stable future for those who involve themselves in these honourable professions.
Our attitude toward the forests of Canada has changed vastly from the early days when the slogan was "Burn off the timber and bring in the settlers". This slogan soon changed to a plea- "Save our winter payrolls". Canada at present is facing a similar dilemma. We must rationalize our immediate gain with the future consequences.
For generations, Canadians have been able to rely on forestry for jobs, for government revenue and for balancing our trade accounts. More than 300,000 Canadians work at jobs
directly related to forestry. An additional 700,000 jobs are indirectly supported by that industry. One in 10 jobs in Canada, Mr. Speaker, is dependent on the forest industry.
While the contribution of forestry to Canada's economy is profound, it is even more so in my province. A full 25 per cent of British Columbia's labour force is supported by forestry. This represents 250,000 jobs. Roughly 50 cents of every dollar earned in the province can be traced to the forest. Prince George-Bulkley Valley is in the heart of the forest land. It is little wonder that Prince George has earned the title of the white spruce capital of the world.
As the present Government well knows, industry of this magnitude is an important source of tax dollars. Every year the forest industry provides this Government with $3 billion in revenue. The Government returns only a small fraction of this amount to assist the industry. Less than 1 per cent of the wealth created by the forest in British Columbia is reinvested in their future. Perhaps this neglect is due to a feeling that tax dollars are better spent creating temporary jobs to garner votes rather than creating permanent jobs and securing the future of a vital industry.
Forestry is also important to Canada because of its contribution to our balance of trade. It outstrips the combined net contributions of mining, agriculture, fisheries and petroleum fuels. In the latest year forestry was responsible for production valued at $25 billion, and a whopping $11.4 billion of that contributed to Canada's balance of payments. That, Mr. Speaker, represents 15 per cent of Canada's total exports. Placing British Columbia's contribution in context, the province produces 60 per cent of all Canadian softwood and over 30 per cent of its pulp.
In addition, our forests provide the setting for a multimillion dollar recreation and tourist industry. They also play an important role in the ecological balance. Forests minimize erosion, regulate stream flow, improve water quality, clean the air, moderate extremes in temperature, provide habitat for fish and game, and protect spawning grounds. Even if one was to accept the demise of forestry as an industry, we would have to contend with mother nature as well.
Some 300 communities in rural Canada are completely dependent on forestry. These communities face possible extinction if we do not help to plan their future prosperity. There can be little doubt that forestry has been, is and will be a critical part of Canada's economy. In fact, most observers of the industry conclude that there is significant room for growth. The Science Council of Canada has suggested that, given the proper recognition, forestry industry can generate an addition-
January 26, 1984
The Address-Mr. McCuish
al 75,000 to 100,000 jobs, double its present output to $22 billion, creating additional exports of $12 billion. This could potentially produce another $3 billion in tax revenues. As I alluded to in the beginning, however, forestry is not without problems which have arisen because of neglect and which require immediate and careful consideration.
Before 1 go on to discuss these problems I must express gratitude which should be shared by all in this House. The Hon. Member for Prince George-Peace River (Mr. Oberle) has done much to bring this issue to the attention of government and Canadians. His report entitled "The Green Ghetto" is a comprehensive study of the industry's present situation, and details a number of areas of neglect which we would be wise to pay attention to. There is a plethora of woes which are threatening the continued prosperity of forestry. Some of these ailments are man-made and some, of course, are natural. The cure for many of these problems can be found in research and development, and in returning some of the monies which have accrued to the federal Government in taxes.
The biggest problem facing Canada's forest industry is that we are depleting our supply of marketable wood faster than we are regenerating it. Every day a newspaper such as The Globe and Mail consumes more than 2,000 trees. Each year we harvest two million acres of lumber, an area the size of Prince Edward Island. The result of such depletion is obvious: we will eventually run out. Research and silviculture, the essential components of reforestation, are pitifully underfinanced by this Government in the face of short-term budgetary considerations. Moreover, if we fail to reforest our land, we are forced to harvest more remote and more expensive resources. The answer to the regeneration issue is to inject nearly twice the money we presently invest.
Our reforestation efforts must make use of the techniques which will assure us of producing marketable wood in a timely fashion. This means that inventories of existing stock must be made and we must incorporate the proper spacing, fertilization and thinning methods. If we implement a worthy reforestation schedule, we will be on the road to guaranteeing ourselves a future in the forest industry.
Canada will need to upgrade and expand its present forestry labour force. Our chief competitors, the United States, Sweden and Norway, have approximately one forester for every 34,000 acres of land. Canada has one for every 1,100,000 acres. The United States has 40 forestry schools. Canada, to our shame, has but six. In spite of an obvious shortfall in skilled labour we have taken only tiny steps toward correcting this heinous situation.
Another arena in which we are not scoring might be labelled as competition. Our leadership position is being challenged on virtually every front. We are lacking in research and development, skilled labourers, reforestation and export competitiveness. To put it simply, we are not competing, Mr. Speaker. As the President of the Ontario Forest Industries Association has said, "there is no major forest producing nation in the world in
which the owners of the forests, in this case the public of Canada, have taken more out and put less back in". In 1980 Canada invested $10.55 of new capital in manufacturing plant per cubic metre of log input. In the same year Sweden invested $22.95 and Finland invested $21.60. These Scandinavian countries double our investment. As this gap grows it will become more and more difficult to close. In this age of rapid technological change the time factor becomes much more important.
There is no doubt that Canadians, the Government, academic institutions and the forest industry must pull together in order to maintain our competitive edge. Many of the experts involved in this issue feel that the Government must play a leadership role. It can do this by returning a much higher percentage of revenues to the industry and by co-ordinating the various groups which need to be involved.
The first step which the Government might take is to restore some of the recognition which forestry was once accorded. It is somewhat frightening to me that such a labour-intensive industry is represented by an assistant deputy minister in the government. Let us recognize, as we once did, the importance of this industry. Forestry, Canada's number one industry, will prosper only to the degree that we make it prosper.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY