Wednesday, July 8, 2020
ECONOMIC RECOVERY AND LOCAL PRODUCTION AND INNOVATION
A. Olsen: As B.C. addresses the health crisis caused by COVID-19, the most pressing issue becomes, like for the rest of the world, the economic crisis and rebuilding our economy. The $1.5 billion stimulus package, which government is preparing to spend, invests a substantial amount of capital into our economy to precipitate foundational changes. As we know, we can't afford to go back to business as usual, because going back means being unprepared for what's ahead.
The health crisis has highlighted the many areas in our society and economy that lack resilience. In many cases, our lack of local technological and manufacturing capabilities has forced us to rely on fragile global supply chains. The final report from B.C.'s first innovation commissioner points to an opportunity to use CleanBC as an economic driver by incenting made-in-B.C. solutions to help us meet our climate targets. We can develop and strengthen our domestic supply chains while lowering GHG emissions.
My question is to the Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness. Is her ministry developing a concrete proposal for how stimulus spending can enact this recommendation to use CleanBC as an economic driver in recovery that can also help us build greater resilience in local supply chains?
Hon. M. Mungall: Thanks to the member for the question. I know that he's very interested in this topic, because we've actually been talking about it over the last few months. In a short word, the answer to his question is yes. This is very important. I think COVID-19 has shown us all — and Dr. Winter is absolutely correct to point it out — that global supply chains have been disrupted. We have to do more to localize those supply chains and bring that production closer to home.
Some of the things that we already started doing, during the height of the pandemic, was to create a supply hub. Now, the supply hub was helping people who needed medical PPE to get medical PPE and other types of supplies. The people that created that were right here in British Columbia. Traction on Demand, which is a British Columbia company headed by a young man who originated from Nelson — I have to put that in there, hon. Speaker — put together the supply hub, in partnership with our government.
There were other B.C. companies who were also part of this important project. Westlab in Surrey, Breathe Medical in Kelowna, WestBond Industries in Delta and Prototype Integrated Solutions in Langley were all contributing to this important initiative that allowed greater supply chains here locally in British Columbia.
Going forward, we know how important innovation, as our former innovation commissioner pointed out, is going to be for our future economy. We've already appointed the member for Delta North. He's already the parliamentary secretary, giving him the added responsibility for expanding and growing our mass timber industry, as an example.
Another example. Innovate B.C. has also created 100 paid internships with Mitacs for small and medium tech companies that are building solutions in the COVID era.
This question of localizing our supply chains is an important question that the new innovation commissioner is going to be looking at. I'm very much looking forward to announcing who that person will be in the near future.
Mr. Speaker: Leader, Third Party, on a supplemental.
A. Olsen: COVID-19 has daylighted our lack of stockpiling and local production of personal protective equipment, and the minister mentioned it. PPE is critical to protecting front-line workers, and we saw the devastating health consequences when we lack supply. B.C. has a lot of natural resources, much of which we export raw. This is not sustainable and forgoes many local potential jobs. Now, more than ever, we need immediate job-creating measures. Coupling our abundance of natural resources with the strength, value-added industry, will mean a more resilient economy and well-paying jobs for the future.
Our forest could provide essential bioproducts such as masks, which will help transition the forestry industry and bring jobs to many hard hit communities. Researchers at UBC have created a biodegradable and compostable N95 mask made entirely of B.C. wood fibres and will apply for Health Canada certification. Shovel-ready, shovel-worthy.
My question is to the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development. The minister has spoken about shifting the industry to value-added instead of volume. We haven't yet seen many concrete changes. What steps is the minister taking to capitalize on the opportunities in bioproducts, like masks, and making it a reality for our forest industry?
Hon. D. Donaldson: I welcome the question from the interim leader of the Third Party to discuss innovation in the forest sector. We definitely have a focus on adding value over volume on the use of the public resource — the forests of B.C. — and innovation is an important part of that. Unfortunately, the forest sector we inherited under the previous government had an overconcentration of tenure and a focus on traditional forest products. Those factors do not lead to the stimulation of innovation.
In Budget 2020, we allotted $13 million over the budget cycle to the new forest economy. That's to increase First Nations participation in the bioeconomy and to work on the supply side around fibre, and access to fibre, for innovators. That gets to the point of the member's question.
That access to fibre is absolutely essential for a company like Harmac Pacific, who I just spoke with — the CEO and senior managers — yesterday on the telephone. Harmac Pacific has doubled the supply they provide to companies producing surgical gowns, for instance. So that access to chips for that pulp is something that is important to innovators like Harmac Pacific, and we've taken measures to reduce waste in the forest and taken measures to drive logs to domestic production, so that chips are available for the innovators and for the production of value-added products like surgical gowns and the pulp that goes into that.
We've also worked with FPInnovations. I believe the member's question, when it referenced that the biodegradable N95 masks that UBC [audio interrupted] .
Overall, this is important for the workers and important for communities.
Mr. Speaker: Minister, thank you. I think we had a bit of a technical glitch there.