The Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources – PaperWeek Canada Conference Speech


February 17, 2017
Sheraton Centre, Montreal

Thank you very much. Particularly, I want to thank you for the invitation to be in Montreal, which is my second favourite city. My favourite city is Winnipeg, because I was born and raised there and live there still with my family.

And for all of my life, I was a partisan des Canadiens de Montréal. And when I was a student at McGill University, I had a season ticket to the Canadiens, and they won the Stanley Cup both years I was there. I lived in the McGill student ghetto, so when I walked out of my apartment, if I turned left, I would walk to the Forum, and if I turned right, I walked to Schwartz's Delicatessen. So, my life was dominated by hockey and smoked meat.

And to also know that this is the 103rd anniversary of PaperWeek, and for every one of those years, it was hosted in the great city of Montreal. So, I'm very happy to have accepted your invitation.

It’s great to finally join you.  Last year I wasn’t able to be with you but my Parliamentary Secretary, Kim Rudd, came back with very good things to say about PaperWeek and all that I’d missed, so I’m happy to be here to experience it for myself. She wasn’t exaggerating.  You’ve put together a terrific program reflecting the energy and dynamism of the pulp and paper and forest products industries.

I was particularly struck by your theme for this year, Staying Ahead of the Curve, because that's exactly what this industry is doing. For some people, the forest industry conjures up images of tarpaper shacks and logging camps. Its mythology is woven into the history of Canada, evoking stereotypes of burly woodsmen with bushy beards, axes slung over their shoulders. But today, I'd like to talk about the forest industry you and I know — an industry that is not only staying ahead of the curve, it's reshaping it.

Today, wood fibre is being used in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few decades ago. Strengthening composite car parts, making vehicles lighter, reducing emissions, replacing plastics and chemicals made from fossil fuels. From 18-storey tall wood buildings to sweetening our foods and powering our cars, the industry is on the leading edge of innovation and setting the pace on environmental performance.

Today's forest sector worker is as likely to be wearing a white lab coat as a red plaid shirt. She might be a genomics researcher investigating ways to make trees more resistant to disease or a biologist helping companies plan their harvesting in the most sustainable way or even an economist working to optimize supply chains. What makes it more impressive is it wasn't so long ago that this sector seemed to be on the ropes — its prospects grim, its potential limited, and its practices criticized.

To many, it seemed like an outdated, even dying, industry. But then something remarkable happened. Instead of wringing its hands, the industry rolled up its sleeves and began a transformation whose best chapters are still to be written. Forest industry leaders reached out to their critics, listened to the concerns and made changes to their operations. With government support, you invested in research, developed new products and established new offshore markets, creating not just a new image but a new vision of what forest products could be.

Now the forest sector has transformed itself into one of the most innovative parts of our economy, writing a success story most Canadians don't know well or hear often enough. And instead of patting yourselves on the back, you're focused on staying ahead of the curve. So let's talk about the road ahead.

Like any industry, this sector faces its share of challenges, and one that is top of mind these days is softwood lumber. I understand the importance of this issue to you and to Canada and to communities across this great country. That's why our government is working so closely with our provincial and territorial partners, as well as with the United States, to arrive at an agreement that is equitable and durable. In fact, this Friday, I will be discussing options and planning next steps with my provincial colleagues.

I can assure you our Government will vigorously defend the interests of Canadian workers, communities and industry. The softwood dispute reminds all of us of the importance of the path you’re on – long-term transformation and increasing market diversification

And while this issue looms large, we shouldn't overlook the underlying strength of the forest product industry as a whole. It's healthier than it's been in years, ideally positioned to help address four of the biggest challenges facing our country: combating climate change, driving innovation, creating economic opportunities for Indigenous and rural communities, and advancing trade.

Let me touch on each of these. First, climate change. It would be hard to overstate the importance of the forest products industry to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I would even go so far as to say that there can be no global solution to climate change without it. It's that important. Why? Because forestry is unique among resource sectors in that it actually takes carbon out of the air.

But its contribution goes far beyond that. It's developing clean technologies, producing green energy, reducing its need for energy and water and lowering both emissions and waste. While Canada's overall greenhouse gas emissions were rising between 1990 and 2012, pulp and paper mills were actually reducing their emissions by an impressive 66 percent.

If other sectors had realized similar reductions, there would have been no need for Canada to figure out how to meet our commitments under the Paris Agreement or on climate change, because we would already have exceeded our targets. But impressive as the industry's green infrastructure has been, I believe that you're just getting started. New wood fibres such as cellulose filaments are coming to market, creating new sources of revenues.

Then there's the renaissance of wood buildings as new stronger and more environmentally friendly products come to market. Pound per pound, engineered wood can be as strong as steel, making it safe and practical, not only in buildings but also in infrastructure such as bridges. Canada is a leader in tall wood construction. I know that because last fall I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the tallest wood building in the world, at the University of British Columbia. This magnificent building is not only an engineering and architectural showpiece. It's an environmental game changer, storing close to 1,600 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide and saving more than 1,000 metric tonnes in greenhouse gas emissions. That's like taking 500 cars off the road per year. One building!

But UBC was just the start. Our government is also supporting the construction of a 13-storey, cross-laminated timber condo building in Quebec City.

Forestry also plays a critical role in fighting climate change through its sustainable forest management practices. With the third-largest forest area on the planet, Canada boasts 40 per cent of the world’s certified forests, far more than any other country.

And that matters. It matters because your customers can be confident that wood products bought from Canada are harvested through sustainable practices. Quite simply, when the world wants to learn about sustainable forestry and best practices, they look to Canada, they look to you. The forest industry is a key part of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Increasing the use of wood for construction, boosting the generation of bioenergy and bioproducts, advancing innovation in forestry — all of these will help Canada meet our 2030 climate commitments.

Second, it's helping to drive innovation. For decades, the forest industry has been developing and investing in new products and new ways of operating. And this commitment to innovation continues. For example, just recently the Canadian and Quebec governments announced two important investments: in Thurso, Fortress will be the first mill outside of Scandinavia to produce dissolving pulp from birch trees. And in Masson-Angers, Papier Masson will introduce new screening technology to produce wood-plastic composites.

These investments, totalling $25 million, are terrific examples of how this industry is diversifying product lines, breaking new ground and opening new markets. We're also seeing the rise of bioenergy — a renewable energy source that is increasingly being used by remote Indigenous communities to end their dependence on high-emission diesel generators for their electricity.

This summer, I had the pleasure of announcing the Government of Canada's $44.5-million investment in AE Côte-Nord Canada Bio energy, which has developed an exciting process to convert forest residue into renewable fuel oil. Indeed, the whole bioeconomy holds tremendous potential to reduce demand for fossil fuels, create jobs and lead us to a lower carbon future.

That's why our government is committed to working with you, with academia and with our provincial and territorial partners to develop a forest bioeconomy framework for Canada. We'll look at everything from harmonizing regulations and breaking down bottlenecks to developing better market intelligence and building an innovation system across sectors. In Budget 2016, we announced more than $1 billion over four years to support clean technology, including in the natural resource sectors.

Since then, we've learned from stakeholders, including in your industry, about the limited support for clean technology, RD&D and the need to focus on breakthrough clean energy technologies. As we prepare for Budget 2017, we look forward to collaborating on clean technology innovation, including growing the bioeconomy to support the resilience and environmental excellence of our natural resource sectors.

Few countries in the world have both the resources and the technical know-how to fully embrace the opportunities of the bioeconomy. We do. And it's time to get strategic about how we're going to lead in this emerging area.

Third, forestry is a dynamic job generator in Indigenous and remote communities. Seventy percent of Indigenous communities live in forested regions, and forestry is one of the leading employers of Indigenous people, providing some 9,000 well-paying jobs across Canada. These jobs are creating the potential for enduring prosperity that we have an obligation to share with our Indigenous people, bringing hope to communities for lasting change.

Fourth and related, forestry creates jobs at home by driving trade abroad. There's been a remarkable rise in the export of wood products to markets like China, up more than 1,400 percent over the past 10 years. Today, the forest products industry employs almost 200,000 Canadians and contributes $21 billion a year to our GDP. In fact, it provides more jobs per dollar than any other resource sector, and we export more than $31 billion worth of forest products to 100 countries around the world.

Continuing to invest in developing and exporting clean technologies and products will not only position Canada as a leader in the fight against climate change, it will also generate jobs and revenues here at home. This is critical because while its reach is global, the forest products industry's impact remains local, the lifeblood of rural Canada and a major source of income for about one in seven municipalities across the country.

Over the years, forestry has written many chapters of the Canadian story, helping to define us as a nation and shape us as a people. Today, it's doing it again. Our government believes in this industry and sees it playing a central role in some of the most important issues of our time: combating climate change, driving innovation, creating economic opportunity for rural and Indigenous communities and driving trade.

Yes, there are some big hills to climb. The transition of this industry is far from complete. But I believe that by working together, governments and industry, academia and communities, we can take on the challenges ahead. In those efforts, our government will continue to be with you shoulder to shoulder doing everything we can to help you succeed.

Thank you. 

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