Opening the 76th OFIA AGM in Toronto at the One King West Hotel, Jamie Lim, president, and CEO addressed key issues for the Ontario forest industry, including sustainability and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) review.
“Collectively we are happy with the Ford government to take decisive action on the ESA review and to ignore the misinformation from full-time environmental lobbyists,” commented Lim.
“We are asking for business certainty because for far too long, self-promoting environmental groups have manipulated the Ontario government into developing policies based on satire and fake facts. Enough is enough. And as Rex Murphy said, ‘the source of all social and political wealth begins in the primary resource sector, and unless you build the primary resource sector, you have no country.’ Well, I can guarantee you that the people in this room today, won’t let that happen. Not on our watch,” added Lim.
Following Lim’s presentation, Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski encouraged attendees to participate in the ESA review. He said the government’s goal is a positive outcome for species at risk while reducing burden for businesses. “He also announced the Ontario government is committed to maintaining the $54 Million Forest Access Road budget in 2019.
“Despite the challenges that we face with the deficit, our government is committed to maintaining the current budget for access roads program at $54 million for 2019. These roads play a vital role in access for industry and the public, and during the previous fire season, these roads played an important role by providing for the safe evacuation of many cottagers and important access for fire suppression equipment.”
Yakabuski also said the Ontario government is taking measures to make Ontario the best place in the world to do business.
“We plan to grow our economy to create and protect good-paying jobs. Our government is making us more competitive by cutting red tape affecting business by 25% and lowering business costs. By doing so, we are making Ontario open for business and open for jobs. We are creating an environment where job creators can grow, thrive, and invest right here in Ontario.”
He went on to explain the Ontario government is undertaking an ongoing review of the province’s laws and regulations to ensure success. “At the same time, we are working on a strategy for promoting economic growth within the forest sector. Our goal is to reduce barriers and improve efficiencies and identify opportunities for innovation.”
Yakabuski has been traveling around the province holding round tables to learn what to include in the strategy.
“These discussions have been very productive, and I appreciate the opportunity to get a better understanding or your suggestions and concerns. In addition to the roundtables, I encourage you to submit your comments online by filling out our survey. We want to hear from you on the most significant issues that you face and the red tape that affects you most. And how you think we can work together to grow Ontario’s sustainable forest industry.
“A provincial strategy will create conditions in which the forest industry can innovate, attract investment, create jobs in the north and all communities that depend on this sector.”
A forecasting panel made up of Kevin Mason, managing director of ERA Forest Products Research, Hamir Pastel, director, Paper & Forest Products, CIBC, and Michel Vincent, chief economist, Quebec Forest Industry Council, provided insights on the industry’s economic future.
Mason, said the lumber supply in B.C. will decrease due to a drop-off in the amount of pine-beetle-killed wood. He said this would lead to more mills closing in B.C.
“We think another billion to a billion and a half board feet has to come out of production,” he explained. “This presents an opportunity for other industry players in the country.”
Overall, Mason says lumber demand will continue to grow until the next recession.
According to Patel, the U.S. housing market peaked in 2018, but the country’s aging housing stock has laid the foundation for a strong underlying R&R (remove and replace) demand. In contrast, Canadian housing starts are predicted to continue declining by 12% this year, as a result of pricing concerns and availability.
Michel Vincent said despite an excellent economic performance for businesses in general, the softwood lumber industry in central Canada has been profitable for only four of the last 12 years.
“Many people in government and the media seem to believe that all our problems are behind us because we have had a good few years of growth,” explained Vincent.
“But the softwood lumber industry in central Canada is not financially healthy. For the sector to make a full recovery, industry professionals must sit down with stakeholders including government, companies and First Nations.”
The OFIA presented its 2019 Forest Sector Champion Award to Lacey Rose, a forester for Renfrew County, and co-founder of Women in Wood. Rose received the award for her work elevating the status of professional forestry and promoting forestry through projects such as Mighty Jobs and Women in Wood.