Department of Public Works and Government Services Act

Bill to Amend--Second Reading

December 9, 2021


Honourable senators, I would like to acknowledge that I’m joining you from the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people.

I rise today to speak to Bill S-222, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood). By my count, this is the sixth iteration of this bill. As I said before, I feel a sense of déjà vu. I applaud Senator Griffin for her determination in trying to get this bill passed.

Forestry in Canada is a big deal. According to the 2020 annual report from Natural Resources Canada entitled, Canada’s forests: Adapting to change, with 347 million hectares of forest, Canada is the third-most forested country in the world. Canada has 9% of the world’s forests.

In 2018, the forest sector directly employed 204,555 people. That’s a lot of folks.

In 2019, Canada’s forest sector contributed $23.7 billion to Canada’s nominal GDP.

This bill makes a lot of sense just in those practical terms. We have the supply. We have the plan for sustainability. We have the people. What is most important about the forestry sector is its sustainability and environmental benefit.

According to the same report, 200 million hectares of forest in Canada have a long-term forestry management plan. That’s according to the numbers in 2016.

Canada has 168 million hectares of forest certified to third-party standards of sustainable forest management — that’s according to the numbers in 2019 — and 77% of Canada’s managed Crown forest land is certified to third-party standards of sustainable forest management. This is important to the long-term viability of the industry. By protecting the sustainability of our forests, product can and will be available, however we want to use it.

Trees also have the added benefit of cleaning our air. Ensuring a sustainable forest sector is vital to our fight against climate change. The environmental impact of using wood as opposed to steel and concrete is clear.

As my honourable colleague noted in her speech, and it bears repeating, one cubic metre of wood emits 60 kilograms of carbon, compared to 345 kilograms for the same volume of concrete and 252 kilograms for steel. As we navigate our way through mitigating the effects of climate change, it is important that we weigh these factors when deciding what material to build with.

This bill would require that in developing requirements with respect to the construction, maintenance and repair of public works, federal real property and federal immovables, the minister must consider any potential reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and any other environmental benefits, and may allow the use of wood or any other thing — including a material, product or sustainable resource — that achieves such benefits.

I think it is an idea worth exploring further. I look forward to hearing further information when we get this bill to committee.

Thank you, honourable senators.

The Hon. the Speaker

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and bill read second time.)