Market Diversification

December 14, 2022

Minister Wilkinson, thank you for being with us here in the Senate.

I’m interested in ways Natural Resources Canada might catalyze greater innovation and market diversification in the use of wood waste. You mentioned the topic earlier. As you know, there are a growing number of compelling use cases for wood waste, whether it be wood pellets, biochar — which sequesters carbon and improves soil health — or other innovative applications.

In Nova Scotia, we were overly reliant on a single use case for wood waste, and that was pulp. As a result, the closure of one pulp mill caused catastrophic consequences and economic hardship for thousands of rural families that were dependent on the sector — despite the high lumber prices of 2021.

What measures is your department considering — like regulatory reforms or incentives — to create innovative and more diverse market opportunities for value-added and climate‑friendly uses of wood waste?

Thank you.

Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson, P.C., M.P., Minister of Natural Resources [ + ]

Thank you. I think it is an important area. It’s also an area that I know reasonably well. I used to work for a biomass energy company that actually used wood waste to produce thermal energy, which provides all the energy at the University of British Columbia. No natural gas is used there.

It is the case that Canada, on a dollars-per-cubic-metre basis, does not do very well in terms of the utilization of our fibre resource. There are a number of reasons for that, but we need to do better. Part of that is about better utilizing what we often term as waste. That is a critically important area. It is part of the new strategy that we are looking to put into place at Natural Resources Canada. We’re really focusing on that, which is driving the dollars per cubic metre up, which means investments in technologies and innovation relating to the utilization of waste.

I know this is an area that you have been involved with for some time. We are very interested in it as well.

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