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Kapuskasing mayor to Ottawa: 'The forestry sector could help your housing needs'

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“The solution to Canada’s housing crisis can be found in the forest.”

The words of Mayor David Plourde in his open letter to Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes.

An undated photo of forestry operations. (File photo/CTV News Northern Ontario)

“Canada’s forest sector can offer expedient, economical and climate-resilient solutions to this problem, through the benefits of building with wood and harvested wood-based products,” wrote Plourde, in the letter.

“You know the roadblocks that I hear, we’re moving roadblocks, we’re removing roadblocks, short of totally getting ready of the planning act, I don’t know how much more you can do,” he told CTV News.

“Now is the time for action.”

Kapuskasing's mayor, David Plourde, has written an open letter to his member of parliament looking to get the forestry sector what he says is a much-needed shot in the arm. (Supplied/Town of Kapuskasing)

His letter to Hughes outlines that there are ‘boots’ on the ground ready to help and as far as he’s concerned, it is the federal government that can get things rolling.

Among his recommendations, “actively promote Canadian wood and mass timber solutions within a federal affordable housing strategy, establish a harmonized regulatory framework for permitting processes to expedite approvals safely and responsibly, adopt a performance-based approach and increasing tall wood building height allowances in the National Building Code, and promoting national certified, pre-fabricated building typologies for wood-based structures that meet municipal standards.”

"You know a lot of the policies that exist and that we all follow, we march to the same drum, they're all developed in a larger centre, not a smaller centre like Kapuskasing … that far north and all too often we're forgotten, so we want to make sure ‘hey we have the flag and that we're still here,’” said Plourde.

It is a position that Hughes said she and the NDP agree with.

“I think certainly Mayor Plourde and especially Mayor Seguin, have been great advocates for pushing for this,” said Hughes.

“I certainly think there has to be more conversations and we need to see what we can do to mitigate the impact on climate change and how to build to that.”

Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing Member of Parliment Carol Hughes said she and the NDP agree that innovation and stimulation is needed in Canada’s forestry sector. Hughes is applauded after delivering a speech in the House of Commons prior to voting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

She added that several innovative examples are happening in the region and across the country that would help to further promote the sector.

CTV News did reach out to the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources who was unavailable for an interview due to the proximity of the federal budget being released but his office did offer a statement.

A spokesperson for Jonathan Wilkinson wrote that the federal government sees the benefit of building homes and other buildings with wood from sustainably managed forests and the important contributions wood structures can make to Canada’s housing priorities.

“Lumber has long been used in residential construction, and increased use of mass timber and other engineered wood products in building construction can provide materials solutions that are renewable, require less energy to manufacture, and are able to store carbon for the service life of buildings and beyond, if they are re-used,” the statement reads in part.

While there is mention of working with provincial and territorial partners to share best practices and collaboration through the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, there’s no specific mention of inviting communities or stakeholders like Kapuskasing to the table.

While it’s unclear if Ottawa will follow all of Mayor Plourde’s recommendations, he told CTV News that he remains hopeful and while he knows there won’t be a quick fix to the situation the forestry finds itself in.

“It’s time for action now,” he said.

“We have to start moving and if we all band together, work together in the same direction, I think we’re going to get there.”

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