Réginald BÉLAIR

BÉLAIR, Réginald, B.A.

Personal Data

Party
Liberal
Constituency
Timmins--James Bay (Ontario)
Birth Date
April 6, 1949
Website
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Réginald_Bélair
PARLINFO
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=7c68448c-8394-4a1b-a4f9-2c4c89b4af87&Language=E&Section=ALL
Profession
administrator, manager, political assistant

Parliamentary Career

November 21, 1988 - September 8, 1993
LIB
  Cochrane--Superior (Ontario)
October 25, 1993 - April 27, 1997
LIB
  Cochrane--Superior (Ontario)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Supply and Services (Public Works and Government Services) (December 6, 1994 - February 22, 1996)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works (Public Works and Government Services) (December 6, 1994 - February 22, 1996)
June 2, 1997 - October 22, 2000
LIB
  Timmins--James Bay (Ontario)
November 27, 2000 - May 23, 2004
LIB
  Timmins--James Bay (Ontario)
  • Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole (January 30, 2001 - May 23, 2004)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 567 of 569)


September 26, 1989

Mr. Belair:

Mr. Speaker, I have a brief comment. Under the Constitution Act, 1982, natural resources including forests are a provincial jurisdiction. From an environmental point of view, this does not mean in any way that the federal government should divest its responsibility for the forestry sector. The industry needs us and national parks need the federal government. We should take our responsibilities also.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY
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September 26, 1989

Mr. Belair:

I thank the hon. member for his question. Indeed , I addressed the same issue briefly in my speech.

What I saw in B.C., and I am going to use your words, was awesome. We have met with some environmentalist groups as well as with people from the industry. This is why I mentioned in my speech that there is still room for compromise.

Government Orders

I will come back to the same two examples I gave to you. In Tofino, the hills surrounding the town itself are absolutely beautiful. Right now there is a possibility that a company which has a tree farming licence may strip those hills completely, clear cut them of all wood. So, if you are on one side of the issue, can you imagine promoting the tourism industry and having those stripped hills to show to the people?

On the other hand, this is where the compromise could be. What if the companies strip only the side of the hill which is not visible to the tourists. That would be number one. In that manner it would not affect the tourism industry. There is also the possibility of selective harvesting. This would mean that one tree could be cut and one left to make sure that those steep hills do not erode. It is a very simple matter to say that if there is no topsoil on top of that bedrock it will not be able to grow another tree. If a hill is clear cut, then forget it, it is impossible to reforest that particular area.

At the same time, we could talk about sustainable development. The industry and the workers have to realize that today, yes, there are trees to harvest. But the way it is going now, in 20 or 50 years there will not be anymore trees to harvest and, therefore, some jobs will be lost. So now is the time to sit down and try to reach a compromise depending on each and every specific situation.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY
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September 26, 1989

Mr. Belair:

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member from Fredericton on his speech. There are a number of issues that the member forgot to address-I do not know if it was intentional or not-namely, the decrease of 11.9 per cent budget dollars for this year's forestry department.

Would the member not agree that if we are going to have a strong forestry department in Canada that at least we should have the budget to support it?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY
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September 26, 1989

Mr. Reginald Belair (Cochrane-Superior):

Mr. Speaker, before starting my speech, I would like to thank the Hon. Member for Restigouche (Mr. Arseneault) and congratulate him on the excellent speech he made .yesterday. It was very well researched and contained a lot of information that will certainly be useful in the years to come.

September 26, 1989

Bill C-29 will also have a major impact on my constituents. I would like to mention that my riding has four paper mills operating at top capacity and also a large number of sawmills which will be able to take advantage of what the new Bill has to offer.

Ever since Jacques Cartier set foot on Canadian soil, the lumber industry has played a very important part in our country's economy and still does. A century ago, there was practically nothing in the way of regulations that applied to the forestry industry. At the time, the Crown, through the provinces, gave individuals tracts of land which they worked very hard to clear, using the wood for the construction of buildings on their property.

Briefly, these people farmed the arable land they had cleared during the summer and worked as loggers during the winter, supplying saw mills and pulp and paper mills with the raw material they required.

At the time there was no advanced technology. In other words, tools and means of transportation were primitive, and that is why clearcutting forests was not as serious a matter as it is today. What I mean to say is that when forests were clearcut, the bare expanses were not as readily visible as they are today.

The forest was also a source of food, which shows how important it was at the time and still is today. Aboriginal people living on reserves depend on the forest, especially for their hunting grounds and trap lines.

The situation has changed today. The speed with which our forests are being cut has a dramatic effect on the Canadian Government's future vision and policy.

The forestry industry provides one in ten jobs in Canada directly or indirectly. In fact close to 800,000 people work in the industry, 350 communities depend on it, and huge chunks of income tax are paid to the federal government. Therefore it should only be fair that a lot of that money be put back into Canada's forestry to ensure its economic stability.

Yesterday the minister outlined the department's history which I do not intend to repeat today. Please allow me one comment.

Government Orders

It should be noted that since the turn of the century the department was bounced around on nine different occasions which explains its lack of continuity, competence and national involvement. There should be a strong federal presence to provide the much needed leadership. In this case it is better late than never for the federal government to impose its presence. Indeed, the creation of a department of forestry is a step in the right direction.

One cannot argue the generalities the bill offers, except in clause 6(c) where it only refers to the promotion of the forest industry but does not include enforcement.

I whole-heartedly encourage the minister to pursue the idea of hiring inspectors to oversee and supervise forest management. For example, he has mentioned that in Canada there is approximately one inspector for every

450,000 hectares of forested land, whereas in the United States there is one for every 15,000 hectares of forested land.

What I am saying is that it is not enough to advocate a forest management policy. It has to be enforced. The question is how.

The department does have the leverage power through the forest resource development agreements to impose its conditions on the provinces, namely in the area of reforestation and silviculture.

We have a lot of catching up to do. Canada's productive forests cover a total area of 220 million hectares.

Over the years, 12 per cent of those lands have not been satisfactorily restocked. We are looking at an increase of 200,000 hectares or nearly 1 per cent per year. Granted, 88 per cent has been reforested satisfactorily.

However, it means that next year, it will be 13 per cent and the year after, 14 per cent, and so forth. We cannot let a situation like this develop. We must act instead of constantly blaming the provinces. It is the only way to enforce the rules of sound forest management, as described in subsection 6(c).

September 26, 1989

Government Orders

Not enough emphasis can be put on silviculture and reforestation. Harvested land must be restocked. The notion that our forests are inexhaustible is totally false. This is where the concept of sustainable development is universally accepted. It is the means by which we can save our forests and prepare for tomorrow.

Subsection (d) of Clause 6 deals with sustainable development. In very simple terms it means ensuring that in 50 years to 100 years from now there will still be trees to harvest in Canada. We can no longer take for granted that our forests will exist forever.

As the minister is saying in The Green Ghetto, published in October of 1983, "The federal government must begin by putting its own house in order. Federal forest lands have the poorest inventories, the worst neglect of regeneration, and virtually no protection from fire and insects." Mr. Speaker, co-operation between the provinces, the federal government and the industry is a must.

I would go so far as to propose that the federal government enact strong legislation to lead the companies involved in clear cutting to reforest any area that has been harvested. If stiff penalties are the only way to get the message across, then let us not be afraid to impose them. Our future needs to be protected because jobs depend on it. The survival of those 350 communities previously mentioned should benefit from the vision that we, as legislators, have today. The minister's view in The Green Ghetto fully supports the statement, "Rapid action is needed just to protect the industries and their employees. Without significant improvement in our forest performance we will not only forfeit opportunities to expand, we will suffer rapid and painful deterioration".

Sustainable development should also be promoted because some regions depend on forestry as a means to develop and promote tourism. One example comes to mind. A few weeks ago I visited the town of Tofino, British Columbia, with my hon. colleague from Hamilton East. We were greatly impressed by the scenery. It is easily understandable why the local residents express such a strong desire to keep their surroundings intact. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, 57 per cent of the town's population depends on tourism. Can you imagine the devastating effects of clear cutting the steep hills that sculpt the background? Erosion of the top soil to the bedrock would undoubtedly prevent any regeneration. It spells

disaster. The spectacular sight it offers today would disappear forever.

I maintain that there is room for compromise, especially if forest companies across Canada would agree to selective harvesting, intensive reforestation and preservation of specific areas where nature would be forever stripped of its assets.

Another fascinating example would be the preservation of the Carmanah Valley with its prestigious spruce grove. These trees took 300 years to 400 years to grow; it would be a shame to destroy all of that within a few days.

Clause 7 of Bill C-29 stipulates that the minister should:

(a) promote co-operation,-with the governments of other

countries-

Co-operation, though, should not be a giveaway as it is the case with the softwood lumber issue. The government via the forestry minister has acknowledged that the 15 per cent export tax on softwood lumber is terribly hurting the industry in Ontario and in Quebec. If I were an American, I would also be very reluctant to terminate the softwood lumber deal struck in December of 1986.

The forestry department should indeed stand up for the industry and demand that the deal be abolished. Failing the Americans doing so, the forestry department should request a hearing at the bilateral procurement board and take it from there. We should not go down without a fight when so many jobs are at stake.

Subclause 7(b) refers to the possible creation of a national data bank of forestry. According to the last Auditor General's report, "there is little information to assist Parliament in making judgment on the national Canadian forestry service program priorities as to how successful CFS has been in meeting its objective".

It is clear that with the rapidly growing importance of the industry such a bank is a must.

Bill C-29 does not mention unemployment in the forestry industry. Together with the Department of Employment and Immigration, the new department should set up a new training program for workers who have been laid off as a result of mechanization and advanced technology. It is alarming to note, Mr. Speaker, that in the forestry industry's logging and transportation sectors alone, unemployment increased in 1987, rising to 22 per cent. This is extremely high if we consider that at the time the national average was 8.9 per cent.

September 26, 1989

Government Orders

I could not conclude my remarks without referring to the desperate situation which is currently unfolding in the rain forests of the Amazon. Western leaders are creating a dependency by forcing Third World countries to blindly exploit their natural resources, namely forests.

It is hopeful that Canada will remain sovereign in its exploitation of its natural resources. A strong forestry department is the only insurance against the forceful hand of other industrialized countries.

The new department should have a clearly stated national responsibility for federal leadership in forestry matters, research and technology transfer, forest resource development agreements, forest resource data, industry marketing, trade and employment and public awareness.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY
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September 26, 1989

Mr. Belair:

Indeed, it is a pleasure for me to answer that question. Reforestation, of course, is the major component of this new concept that has been thrown around for the last couple of years, namely sustainable development.

From the beginning of the century until the early 1960s, reforestation was not a major aspect of the forestry industry. For the last 20 years, companies and governments have started to realize that if there is not a very strictly adhered to program of reforestation, in 20 to 50 years from now there will not be trees to harvest in Canada.

Maybe I should be more specific. Now, most of the companies are within 50 to 100 miles from their plants. In 20 to 50 years they will be 200 miles from their plants. It is going to be extremely expensive for them to harvest and bring the product back to either the sawmill or the pulp and paper mill.

If we are going to endorse sustainable development, reforestation is a must. It is a major factor in ensuring the industry's future.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY
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