by David Lindsay, President and CEO, Forest Products Association of Canada
The perception most Canadians have about Parliament comes from Question Period. Television news coverage of the House of Commons tends to focus on the cut and thrust during this 45 minute slice of, what is usually, a very long day for politicians in Ottawa.
Preparing for Question Period by crafting questions and practicing the barbs and retorts is part of the process. The theatre is usually more important than the substance. But for all its profile and focus, the real work of parliamentarians mostly happens away from the cameras in other smaller forums such as House of Commons Committees.
Hard working MPs and the staff who support their work grind away at law making and policy development every day but rarely does their work make headline news. The study of legislation, the review of ministerial spending and the development of policy papers — this is the work of Parliamentary Committees.
Recently the Standing Committee on Natural Resources tabled a 54 page report titled “The Transformation of Canada’s Forest Sector”. It didn’t get any media coverage and wasn’t the focus of a heated exchange in Question Period. However it establishes an important foundation for further policy work to advance the Canadian forest sector.
The Natural Resources Committee is Chaired by Leon Benoit (Conservative) and two Vice-Chairs, Guy Caron (NDP) and Geoff Regan (Liberal). FPAC met with Members of the Natural Resources Committee including the chair and vice chairs over the course of the couple of years to discuss the issues, opportunities and the challenges of the Canadian forest sector. After some discussion among the committee, they decided to undertake a study of the progress made by the forest sector since the Natural Resource Committee report of 2008 “Canada’s Forest Industry: Recognizing the Challenges and Opportunities”.
The Committee invited witnesses to come and make presentations. They heard from individual company representatives, provincial associations, First Nations, municipalities, Union representatives and academics as well as FPInnovations and FPAC. Over the course of eleven hearings the committee members asked informed questions of the witnesses and deliberated over what they heard.
The final report of the committee was prepared and tabled in the House of Commons on June 18, 2015.
The Natural Resource Committee report contains seven recommendations (copied at the end of this blog) plus the Official Opposition attached an additional 40 detailed recommendations.
FPAC was very appreciative of the dedication and hard work of the committee members to complete this report before the adjournment of the House for the summer recess. We were very pleased with the overall tone and recommendations of the report and issued a media statement in response (Forest Industry Applauds Committee Report on Transformation of Sector).
These recommendations are designed to support Canada’s forest products industry and the more than 230,000 employees and hundreds of communities across the country which depends on a strong globally competitive forest sector. The report won’t get much coverage in the media; it is unlikely to become the focal point of a theatrical performance in Question Period. Nevertheless, it is important work.
The deliberations of the committee involved hundreds of hours of effort and the recommendations provide a solid foundation for a policy discussion. As is often the case with studies like this, the Committee has asked for a comprehensive response by the Government. FPAC looks forward to further policy discussions with the Government and Parliamentarians after the election. In the interim, we encourage the parties and candidates to consider the recommendations in this report.
Summary of Committee Recommendations:
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to provide leadership to the forest sector by making strategic investments that promote research and development of innovative technologies, product commercialization, and market and export diversification.
The Committee recommends that, in relation to the forest sector, the Government of Canada's approach to species at risk continue to be based on science.
The Committee recommends that national building codes continue to be reviewed and updated in light of new technology and building techniques in order to facilitate the increased use of wood.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to pursue opportunities that diversify forest sector markets by promoting trade through the finalization of free trade agreements.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to work with provinces and territories, local communities, First Nations and industry stakeholders to promote business development, skills training, and capacity building that meet the needs of Canada's forest sector.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to work with the industry to defend and promote the sector's environmental record and promote the fact that Canada is a world leader in forest sustainability.
- The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to take an active role in combatting the spruce budworm and other forest pests which negatively affect the health of Canadian forests.