Earlier this month, the Standing Committee on Natural Resources released its report on the “Unique Opportunities and Challenges Facing the Forest Products Industry.”
As a member of the committee, I initiated this review and am very pleased this four-month study successfully put the issues of the forest industry back on the national agenda following more than two years of inaction.
In 2005, the Liberal government committed nearly $1.5 billion to help the forestry industry make the transition to competitive strength and sustainability.
That plan was cancelled by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2006.
The committee’s report contains 23 recommendations to the government which encompass a wide range of areas of concern for the forest sector. I will highlight three areas I believe are especially important.
First, the committee “believes that it would be in the public interest for the prime minister to convene a national summit, with all stakeholders, on the future of the Canadian forest industry with a view to developing a national strategy to support the renewal of the industry. . . .”
This is an action that originally was called for in January, 2007 by the Communications, Energy & Paperworkers Union and the Forest Products Association of Canada.
The request has been repeated over the past 16 months and has been continually ignored by Prime Minister Harper.
In contrast, as an indication of his understanding of the importance of the forest sector to the Canadian economy, Liberal leader Stéphane Dion promised in April, 2007 that he would hold a national summit as soon as possible upon becoming prime minister.
Second, the committee’s report outlines a number of recommendations relating to the need for additional research and development, including the need to “consider investments in innovative [R&D] programs that stimulate co-operation and facilitate the formation of industrial forest clusters,” as well as a recommendation to “establish a national forest industry innovation fund.”
The report also recommends increased funding for R&D on bioenergy and bioproducts to assist in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy conservation.
Third, the committee’s report recommends various tax measures to assist the forest industry in working through the recovery process.
These recommendations include:
•an improvement to the scientific research and experimental development (SR&ED) tax incentive program;
•a full extension for the next five years of the accelerated capital cost allowance (CCA) treatment for investments in manufacturing and processing machinery; and
•changes to income tax rules and regulations to facilitate the deduction of forest management expenses.
These are just a few of the very important measures recommended by the natural resources committee in order to help the forest industry.
It is now time for the government to take action to implement the recommendations of the committee’s report as such action is long overdue.