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Department of Public Works and Government Services Act

Bill to Amend--Second Reading--Debate Continued

May 7, 2019

Hon. Donna Dasko

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-344, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (community benefit).

Senator Omidvar is the sponsor of Bill C-344 in this chamber and she has well described its purpose and function. The Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada may ask bidders and contractors about community benefits relating to certain projects. That is whether and how a project will deliver economic and social benefits to the host community during and beyond the duration of the project.

Bill C-344 applies to the construction, maintenance and repair of federally owned or leased properties, not the much broader category of infrastructure projects supported by federal funds. The minister is required to keep Canadians informed about developments in community benefits by tabling an annual report with each House of Parliament.

Senator Omidvar, on leading the second reading of the bill, said:

. . . community benefits maximize the potential of companies and communities. They take public and private dollars that are already earmarked and use them in a way to deliver a double, triple, quadruple bottom line.

. . . community benefits are an innovative and cost-effective way of achieving multiple benefits through public expenditures without increasing procurement costs.

According to the senator, Bill C-344 is a modest bill that will have far-reaching impact. Bill C-344 is a small start on a big idea.

I would like to open the lens to connect this small start to a much bigger idea that I think is relevant to the bill before us and to our deliberations more generally. Honourable senators, I support this bill because I believe that the federal government must use every opportunity, direct and indirect, large or small, to contribute to a sustainable future for all.

Canada has committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in 2015 for implementation by 2030.

The 17 sustainable development goals are governed by four guiding principles and they are: universality, which means that the goals apply in every country, including Canada; integration, which means that the achievement of any one goal is linked to the achievement of others; aspiration, which means that there is a need to move past business as usual and seek transformational solutions; and leaving no one behind, in which success depends on the inclusion of the poorest and most vulnerable.

I will not quote all 17 goals here. Indeed, the goals and how they are being implemented are worthy of a review by this chamber at some point. I would like to draw your attention to the goals that I think are particularly relevant to a discussion of community benefits and to Bill C-344. They are:

Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive sustainable industrialization and foster innovation . . .

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

We often associate the goal of sustainability with the environment and environmental best practices. Wisely, the UN Sustainable Development Goals fully encompass what is necessary for quality of life in all respects. Bill C-344 is an incremental step we can take that is consistent with these lofty goals.

The federal government owns or leases some 20,000 properties. These include 17 large public infrastructure projects, including the Alaska Highway, bridges and dams, and over 36,000 buildings. The 2018-19 Department Plan for Public Services and Procurement Canada, PSPC, indicates that planned spending for 2019-20 on real property services is over $2 billion.

PSPC is already working on a range of sustainability initiatives, including “smart” building technology, energy reduction and greenhouse gas reduction, contaminated sites management and universal accessibility. I note with particular interest that in 2017 PSPC engaged an external firm to undertake a GBA+ analysis of the Long Term Vision and Plan for the parliamentary buildings. That analysis noted, among other things, that PSPC is leveraging novel procurement strategies that target increasing the participation of youth, Indigenous people and women in its work on the parliamentary precinct.

Bill C-344 confirms for PSPC that it has an important and valued role to play in growing the community benefits that can be generated when constructing, maintaining or repairing federal real property. Bill C-344 encourages the department to do more.

Senator Wells has asked Senator Omidvar why legislation was needed when the minister could simply add community benefits as a condition of funding. This is a good question. Yes, the minister could add such a condition now. I think, for instance, of the Federal Contractors Program administered by the Labour Program of Employment and Social Development Canada. It relies on the client and contractual power of the federal government as a big buyer of goods and services. The program ensures that provincially regulated contractors maintain a workforce that is representative of the Canadian workforce, including the members of the four designated groups under the Employment Equity Act, if they wish to work on federal projects.

However, I do agree with Senator Omidvar that there is added value in this legislation beyond current administrative initiatives. I do not believe in this bill creates red tape, and as someone who had a career in the private sector, I would say that red tape is clearly not something that contractors and bidders want to see. In many cases where community benefits will be articulated, bidders will be asked to recognize what they are and to bring it forward. Transparency will add value.

In other cases and as the program matures, contractors and communities will come to the table to voluntarily design, implement and assess the benefits. Projects and community interests and objectives will vary widely and will be purpose-built. Sharing information on how this tool is being used will support implementation and innovation.

Bill C-344, as pointed out by Senator Omidvar, is about adding tailored, incremental value to communities on a project-by-project basis. It seems to me that it parallels the Infrastructure Canada Community Employment Benefits General Guidance, which has similar aims but similarly is not mandatory. Looked at together, they put the federal government in a position to encourage innovation, to monitor experience and to contribute to best practices in this emerging area. The federal government can and should show leadership in this emerging tool.

The importance of sustainability is understood by Canadians, who are going through these same processes in their own lives. It is also understood by Canadian corporations, which are embracing corporate social responsibility. I note the International Standard Organization Guidance on Social Responsibility, ISO 26000, which sets out best practices on how businesses and organizations can operate in an ethical and transparent way that contributes to sustainable development.

Businesses and the communities in which they operate are changing business as usual when it comes to community benefits. I support Bill C-344 because it keeps the federal government, as a property owner and manager, current with evolving business practices, increased wealth creation and economic growth, and improved societal outcomes.

Innovative business practices and sustainable development goals — there’s much to like about this bill and I urge that it be sent to committee for study as soon as possible. Thank you very much.

Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate)

Honourable senators, I rise today to support Bill C-344, which proposes to enter into agreements for community benefits. The bill would give the minister the authority to require a bidder selected for a federal construction, maintenance or repair project to provide information about the benefits that could be derived from the work. My colleagues spoke at length about how this community benefits program could boost employment and regional development. The Honourable Senator Dean’s remarks were based on his own experience. My comments will be based on what I have heard and also on my experience in various past roles in the Quebec government pertaining to labour market development. I will give four reasons why I believe that we should quickly adopt this bill at second reading in order to study it in detail.

First, I want to say that I support this bill, because this kind of program is an important part of an active labour market policy. All provinces have workforce, training, skills development and employability strategies. However, employability strategies are not enough. People who use public employment services must be able to gain work experience and put their skills to use. Many senators have shared examples of countries that adopted community benefit programs for certain government contracts that had a positive effect on various categories of workers, including Indigenous peoples, immigrants and young people. The community benefits helped all categories of what we call “vulnerable workers.” This is a very important reason to support this bill. This new tool could be used in labour market policy to provide experience and training at a time when all companies are reporting a skills shortage. They are reporting a skills shortage and also asking to bring in foreign workers. Several worker categories in Canada are experiencing particular problems.

Community benefit agreements provide employability services and access to an open and concrete labour market.

The second reason I support this bill’s underlying principle has to do with Quebec. Since the early 1990s, Quebec’s social economy enterprises have been grouped within a rapidly growing sector that we call the Chantier de l’Économie sociale. By the numbers, Quebec’s Chantier de l’Économie sociale is made up of 150,000 employees working for 7,000 businesses, including 3,300 cooperatives and 3,700 non-profit organizations involved in market activities.

That is how the Government of Quebec’s action plan to grow the social economy, which was introduced in 2015 and covers the period from 2015 to 2020, defines social economy enterprises, also known as collectively owned enterprises. These enterprises produce and sell various types of goods and services while meeting social needs, such as fostering social and occupational integration, creating jobs, sustaining local services, and preserving local and cultural vitality. Market activities are not an end in themselves; they are a means of achieving these organizations’ social missions.

All of these social economy enterprises, which are grouped together in certain sectors in Quebec, are important. In its action plan, the government wants to do more to ensure their development, consolidate them and diversify their areas of activity. It wants to promote government contracts in maintenance services to better develop social economy enterprises.

This is a principle that could be used in a federal program in the context of developing social enterprises in Quebec.

The third reason I believe this bill should be referred to committee quickly is that it will enable all small, medium and large businesses that wish to improve their social record. More businesses are interested in this than you might think. In fact, making the assessment of social benefits mandatory can be a plus for many companies in some cases.

As you know, there is a lot of competition between companies, and if we don’t force them to do something, they often won’t do it. For instance, if the minimum wage were not set out by law, there would be a lot of wage competition, and employment conditions definitely would not be as good as they are now. Basically, by forcing companies to promote social benefits in their submissions, we are forcing them to act. Many companies will be happy to have the chance.

The fourth and final reason I support this bill is that these agreements on community benefits will enhance the multiplier effects of federal investment projects on local and regional economies, which will contribute to a better distribution of prosperity.

By requiring companies to promote community benefits, we ensure that the economic spinoffs happen in the places or regions where these contracts are awarded. This will help us achieve certain regional development objectives, because we know that economic development in Canada is not balanced. Not all the provinces enjoy the same level of economic development. Not every region develops at the same speed.

For these four reasons, dear colleagues, I believe that we should send this bill to committee as soon as possible to be studied in more detail.

In closing, I would remind you that this bill started as a private member’s bill sponsored by the Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen. He introduced Bill C-227 in 2016. That bill was studied in committee at the other place and was subject to amendments. When he became minister, Bill C-227 was reintroduced by MP Ramesh Sangha as Bill C-344, incorporating the amendments that had been adopted in committee.

I see no reason why we should oppose this bill in principle, since it is constitutional. It complies with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and was passed in the other place after going through all the required steps. It offers a concrete way of promoting employment and local development by investing taxpayers’ money. In my opinion, it is a good way to make cost-effective public investments.

Thank you for your attention.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore

Do you have a question, Senator Klyne?

Hon. Marty Klyne

Yes, I do.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore

Senator Bellemare, would you take a question?

Senator Bellemare


Senator Klyne

I support the approach to this in terms of doing business. Would this extend beyond Public Services and Procurement Canada into Crown agencies? At the expense of admitting that I haven’t read the bill, does the bill state that the government must do this or the government should consider doing this?

Senator Bellemare

Thank you for the question. What I understand is that the minister may ask those bidding on public contracts for a federal construction, maintenance or repair project to provide information about the community benefits that would be derived from the work, but he is not required to do so.

This bill doesn’t address all public spending. It only concerns public procurement. This bill would authorize a minister to require a bidder selected for a project to assess the community benefits. You might say it’s a way of comparing different bidders. That is my understanding of this bill.

The Quebec government’s action plan proposes to do something similar with public spending as well, but I believe Quebec is casting the net a little wider.

Senator Klyne

So it would be voluntary, but for those who chose to take this approach, would they put a weighted criteria in the selection for the company that has a great corporate social responsibility, plus strives to achieve sustainable development goals, plus can demonstrate that there will be good community benefits if they were awarded the contract — would they get weighted criteria for that?

Senator Bellemare

I should hope it would be that way, but I think these are questions that we can ask in committee to those with experience in those kinds of agreements. There are some countries doing these kinds of programs — the U.S. in California, for instance. So I’m absolutely certain that we could dig into the details. They say it’s going to increase bureaucracy. I think there could be a formula and ways to account for those local benefits more easily with experience.

On the other question about whether it’s voluntary, what I understand is that the minister “may,” but when the minister “may,” he can say for specific contracts that those who apply must give local benefits that they think will be promoted if they have the contract.

Hon. Colin Deacon

Thank you, colleagues. I, too, am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-344 at second reading. To Senator Klyne’s point, I believe this bill would amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act so that the minister may require a community benefits assessment of federal construction and repair projects. I think the criteria by which that is done is a really good question for the committee.

Its sponsor in the Senate, Senator Omidvar, provided an excellent overview of the bill back in December and its potential impacts. As many of you likely already know, I’m a big fan of and a very strong proponent of private-public partnerships. I believe community benefits agreements can play an important role in encouraging and creating a diversity of opportunity.

We’ve already heard a lot of about economic benefits from Senator Omidvar and Senator Moncion. Senator Francis spoke about the benefits to communities. Senator Dean focused on the benefits and the work of social enterprises. I think Senator Dasko tonight talked about novel procurement strategies and what they could do to promote inclusiveness in communities. Senator Bellemare spoke about the importance of providing these programs for skill development and work experience.

I’d like to try and string those together and show the connection between all those different themes because I think it’s quite strong.

For me, I see Bill C-344 as introducing creativity and innovation in places where they might not typically exist. It’s about empowering groups who might not otherwise be provided with the opportunity to contribute to federal construction or repair projects, and it’s about unlocking possibilities, potential and promise.

I was first introduced to the sustainable power of investing in community benefits when I was a director of the Halifax Assistance Fund, a foundation that happened to be created a year before Confederation. I was constantly surprised by the creative ways in which pervasive social issues, issues that were primarily affecting those living in poverty, were being addressed by some remarkably entrepreneurial leaders.

An example that stood out to me was Halifax’s MetroWorks. It was created over 40 years ago. This organization sought to address the growing cost of and dependence on social assistance based on the underlying belief that most people would rather work for a living.

MetroWorks seeks to deliver what its president and CEO Dave Rideout refers to as a triple bottom line. Senator Dasko referred to this.

One of its businesses, Stone Hearth Bakery, assists about 70 individuals a year — about 20 at any given time — to gain employability skills. The costs of this program are partially covered by government funding but largely covered by sales revenue.

A fully funded employability training program could cost $10,000 per client, but Stone Hearth’s business model has dropped that cost by 75 per cent down to about $2,400 per person.

That is a huge savings for all involved and also has the benefit of providing otherwise marginalized individuals with the ability to receive job skills and benefits from community involvement. That savings could be reduced even further if, as is contemplated in something like Bill C-344, government could support Stone Hearth through a sales contract rather than just providing funding support. That’s what Dave Rideout means as a triple bottom line.

Government gets the service they require at the budgeted price point; the social enterprise generates revenues that make them self-sustaining; and clients get an opportunity to develop employability skills that allow them to take advantage of employment opportunities and become economically independent, which in turn reduces the costs to governments in supporting these individuals through social programs, health care services and corrections.

In recognition of the creativity we observed in our community, the Halifax Assistance Fund established something called the Social Innovator Award. The intention was to identify and recognize innovative ways in which some of our most marginalized citizens were being helped.

We created a $10,000 Social Innovator Award and we expected maybe the community might identify and nominate five or six creative community leaders. We were astonished when over 45 remarkable individuals were nominated for this award. We struggled so hard to select a winner that we decided to expand the number of prizes.

I’m always amazed by what you don’t see because you’re not looking and what do you see when you do look.

I think that’s true for all of us. I’m astounded by what we found. I think that’s why we need to create formal mechanisms for large procurement projects that make sure that we don’t overlook opportunities that can benefit communities, formal mechanisms like the one outlined in Bill C-344.

It will remind procurement managers and project contractors to seek opportunities to improve, to do more, to not always do things the way we’ve always done them and to give someone a shot who might not otherwise get that chance to deliver disruptive value.

As someone who has spent more than two decades building businesses that offer a unique value proposition, I have some sense of how hard it is to break into traditional, conservative marketplaces.

The barrier created by the sentiment “that’s not how we do it here,” is always much higher, wider and more resilient than you expect. Even when the promised results are disruptively positive, it can be incredibly challenging to convince managers to change their buying habits. Finding that one person who, like you, has been frustrated by the limited number of traditional solutions and who is willing to give you a shot can sometimes seem almost impossible.

This is what Bill C-344 is all about. It provides the opportunity to create market-based solutions for pervasive social issues. It is about causing decision makers to not always choose the path of least resistance but to sometimes try something a bit different, to find something that will meet the requirements but promise to deliver benefits to the community, uncover previously unseen opportunities, to help make a particular project unique and make it special in a very positive way.

Great improvements rarely emerge from the centre of accepted practice; they almost all are outliers.

In business, I’ve been inspired by the tremendous productivity gains that employers benefit from when they hire neurodiverse adults. Senator Munson has certainly provided this chamber with ample proof of the benefits that come from unlocking the potential of marginalized Canadians, specifically those with autism spectrum disorder. There are plenty of inspiring news stories on the opportunities that emerge when those on the autism spectrum are hired for jobs that require exceptional levels of precision and accuracy, including cyber security threat detection, software quality assurance, licensing and regulatory compliance and data analytics.

This is an outlier of an idea that was created from a previously unseen opportunity. I’ll bet it would never have been uncovered unless someone had not taken a risk, likely a motivated family member, and provided that as an opportunity in their business.

It was a random and fortunate act that uncovered tremendous productivity gains and created new opportunities where they did not previously exist. I believe that as an economy and as a society we can no longer afford to count on random acts. We need to deliberately innovate in all areas of how we do business.

I would argue that the advantages of including community benefits in infrastructure and repair projects cannot be ignored and we can no longer leave them to chance.

Our honourable colleague Senator Wells raised an important question last week as to whether Bill C-344 might place an onerous burden on a micro or small business that is trying to get a federal contract.

I look at the issue underlying his question a bit differently. I see Bill C-344 as providing small and local organizations with the opportunity to partner with much larger businesses that are looking to strengthen their community benefits portion of their project.

If passed, Bill C-344 would provide the additional advantage of drawing more attention to these smaller organizations as larger corporations start to seek them out. There is no shortage of inventive partnerships that could be formed as a result of this proposed legislation.

Partnerships can come in all forms. Consider the growing shortage of skilled workers in several trades.

Arlene Dunn, the new director of Canada’s Building Trades Union, voiced her support for Bill C-344. She pointed to the challenge of replacing the 250,000 skilled workers expected to retire over the next 10 years. This has caused her to focus on attracting and retaining under represented groups in the construction trades. Bill C-344, she says:

. . . will give under represented groups the first priority to training and employment opportunities.

Hers was not the only letter of support I received, arguing against the suggestion that this bill could be onerous to business. I also agree with the Mainland Nova Scotia Building Trades when their executive director said:

Procurement decisions made by the federal government create economic multipliers, employment opportunities and environmental and social ripples. We believe that all federal construction, maintenance and repair projects should benefit the people and businesses in the communities in which they happen. Far too often, however, this is not realized and benefits go elsewhere.

It’s clear to me that Bill C-344 is not a burden but an opportunity.

I’ve mentioned before that our own Senator Christmas was one of the authors of Nova Scotia’s Ivany report. It identified community economic development and social enterprise groups as “. . . indicative of what can be done when leaders in different sectors put their heads together to change attitudes and build better future from the ground up.”

The Now or Never report, which he helped to produce, also noted the role of these organizations to help “build a new culture of entrepreneurship amongst our youth.” Let’s not limit that to our youth. Let’s start to fully embrace entrepreneurship across all that we do. Bill C-344 helps us do just that.

Professor Howard Stevenson is a revered leader in entrepreneurship studies based at Harvard Business School. He defines entrepreneurship as “the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled.” It’s a very simple concept, but it’s quite profound: The pursuit of opportunity beyond the resources you currently control.

This definition promotes a distinctive approach to management generally rather than simply representing a specific stage of an organization’s life cycle. This definition promotes the idea that entrepreneurship can be fostered in any organization or project. It’s not just about tech start-ups.

This definition of entrepreneurship — the pursuit of opportunity beyond the resources you currently control — captures the spirit of Bill C-344 for me. It encourages entrepreneurial action to create opportunity in areas where it does not yet exist.

It is my genuine hope that my honourable colleagues will choose to expeditiously send this bill to committee for further study, where I believe we will hear more examples of the ways in which community benefit agreements can help create opportunities and benefits in our communities and in our economy.

Let’s work to do better as we also work to do good. Thank you.

Hon. Percy Mockler

I have rarely spoken at such a late hour since I was appointed to the Senate in 2009.

I rise this evening to speak at second reading of Bill C-354, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, use of wood.

Madam Speaker, this debate is very important to Canada’s industry.

I will always cherish and remember when Senator Mercer was the deputy chair when a report was tabled in the Senate of Canada in July 2011. I remember it very well. Senator Eaton was also a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry at the time.

We tabled a report, for the benefit of all honourable senators, entitled The Canadian forest sector: a future based on innovation.

I remember very well the comments made by Senator Mercer about the importance of using wood. When I look at the report that was tabled in July 2011, I remind everyone about Recommendations 6 and 7. Recommendation 7 says:

The Committee recommends that, by 2015, the Minister of Industry, through the National Research Council Canada: . . .

fosters a consensus among provincial and territorial partners to amend the National Building Code to permit the construction of multi-storey wood-frame buildings to a maximum height of seven storeys.

We did visit such infrastructure buildings across Canada. Western Canada was certainly a leader in that respect.

We also remember Recommendation 6. Again, it reflects on Bill C-354 that we are debating this evening and is laudable. Recommendation 6 said:

The Committee recommends that the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs promote the issue of the harmonization of building codes across Canada at federal-provincial ministerial meetings, to facilitate the increased use of wood in the residential and non-residential multi-level construction sector, and remove restrictions on the use of wood.

Looking at Senator Mercer, I think this report has permitted the debate that we’re having this evening on Bill C-354.

To the sponsor of Bill C-354, please let me thank and congratulate Senator Griffin for her leadership. I have to admit that with her work and her team she provided some great guidance for the preparation of the bill being debated this evening.

The objective to send it to committee is applaudable.

Being from New Brunswick, I understand the importance of this bill, and Senator Griffin, being from the neighbouring province, understands the significance of the wood and the impact those products have on our Atlantic provinces and the rest of Canada when we look at their economies.

As a reminder, honourable senators, in 1867, the province of Prince Edward Island hosted a meeting that created a great country, the best country in the world — Canada.

Senator Griffin, your work as a member from P.E.I. in this chamber will have an impact that will leave a legacy for the next generations, with Bill C-354.

As the critic of Bill C-354, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood), I have to admit, to use the expression of Senator Harder, I will be brief with my remarks.

Honourable senators, my community of Saint-Léonard, New Brunswick, is home to the largest sawmill east of the Mississippi River, so I can’t criticize the policy objectives of this bill, which calls on the Minister of Public Services and Procurement to consider the use of wood to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during the construction, maintenance or repair of federal property. In this case, although I am being critical, I do strongly support the objective of Bill C-354.

Honourable senators, allow me to give you a little context. The forestry industry in my home region of Madawaska, in northwestern New Brunswick, has generated total revenues of $363 million, which represents 26.6 per cent of all jobs in the region. New Brunswick’s forestry industry generated more than $1.7 billion in economic spinoffs in 2016. This amount will be higher in 2017-18 and no doubt in 2019.

However, honourable senators, what I can criticize is that the lower house did not fully consider how this bill would be beneficial to all the Maritimes and specifically my province of New Brunswick.

I do not know whether it is because the sponsor in the other place is from British Columbia. His focus on the debate was on the forestry sector and the environmental benefits for the West Coast.

Honourable senators, this bill is a step in the right direction for the economy of Canada.

Honourable senators, I do not need to convince you or senators from Prince Edward Island on the merits of this bill. However, I will focus on the economic and environmental benefits to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

As of 2017, the forestry sector in New Brunswick provides direct employment of 12,820 jobs. With apologies to my friend Senator Mercer, Nova Scotia only provides approximately 4,500 jobs. We must do better.

Clearly, in New Brunswick, lumber is king, but it is an important part of the economy in all our provinces, especially in Atlantic Canada.

According to the Forest Products Association of Canada, if Bill C-354 becomes law, there is the potential for 10 per cent growth in the use of wood across Canada when this bill is combined with a review of building codes to allow the construction of tall wood buildings. The Forest Products Association of Canada predicts, honourable senators, the possibility of an increase of between 500 to 750 direct jobs for all of the Maritimes and approximately 1,500 to 2,000 indirect jobs in the area of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Honourable senators, from an environmental perspective, every additional cubic metre of wood used in Canada eliminates one tonne of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. That is a lot. The increased use of wood by the plants of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Canada would eliminate 160,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, which is equivalent to the carbon dioxide produced by 35,000 vehicles. However, we do not know the exact quantity for many other sectors.

Honourable senators, when the environment and the economy go hand in hand, Canadians come out as winners.

Honourable senators, wood from northern New Brunswick was used by the British Empire to sail the globe, and wood from northern New Brunswick created the Republic of Madawaska. Honourable senators, let us see how wood from New Brunswick and the Maritimes can help build new federal structures from coast to coast to coast.

Honourable senators, let us move forward and send this to committee, as recommended by Senator Griffin, the able chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, because it’s the right thing to do, and it’s the right thing to emphasize that wood is important to our economy. Thank you.

Hon. Terry M. Mercer (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals)

Senator Mockler, I want to give some advice to my colleagues that are new to the chamber. If the opportunity ever arises while you’re here to travel to northern New Brunswick and places like Saint-Léonard, Edmundston and Grand Falls in New Brunswick with Senator Mockler, take the trip.

It is worth the trip, but I have to tell you, those of you who think you are not political, there is a lesson here. There isn’t a hand in that part of New Brunswick that Percy hasn’t shaken at least 15 times. You should go because it is an education, but it’s also an eye-opener about the opportunities in the forestry sector.

I will not speak on this. I will save most of my time for later on.

The interesting thing Senator Mockler may not be aware of is just yesterday, Senator Plett, Senator Griffin and I, who are now the steering committee of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, sat down and talked about future studies. One of the major studies we talked about was, again, about the use of wood in construction, and the reflection on that report was one where we actually asked the analysts for the committee to come back and give an update on that report because there were some very important recommendations. You’ve only mentioned a couple.

Your Honour, I am going to move the adjournment of the debate for the balance of my time, where I will get into more detail on the subject.