The 2016 edition of the COFI Annual Convention lived up to the event’s long-standing reputation as the premier forest industry event in Western Canada.

COFI’s number one goal is to help create the conditions for a thriving, sustainable, globally competitive forest industry. Presenters at this year’s convention provided lots of food for thought around how that might be achieved.

Beginning with Steve Thomson, the BC Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, we heard about the government’s commitment to this goal. He outlined some of the actions that they are taking to help address the competitiveness challenge and to help communities and the forests through a time of change.

Jock Finlayson from the BC Business Council then reminded us of the economic importance of the sector: that while smaller than in the past, we are still a dominate force; part of the foundation of the economy, which is why it is so critical that we continue to thrive. He included some thoughts about what we can do in taxation, regulation and other hosting conditions to ensure that this sector continues to be able to support a robust BC economy and help fund the services that we all enjoy as citizens of this province.

FEA Advisors’ Paul Janke gave us his outlook on the markets for lumber. He had a lot to say about markets, supply and China, but his main message was that, while 2016 may not be great from a price perspective, the mid-term outlook for lumber is good and he sees upward pressure on prices in 2017 and beyond.

Daryl Swetlishoff from Raymond James provided context for public companies that are looking to raise money in the capital markets. He talked about the challenges of being just 1% of the index and relatively illiquid, but also talked about the great value he sees in our sector.

Abacus Data’s Bruce Anderson provided us with some great food for thought. He talked about the changes he is seeing in the political discourse, the trends in public psyche and what that means for a sector like ours. He shared with us the good news that our industry generally enjoys public support but challenged us to do more to tell the great stories about or business because as he said “Canada grows trees.”

Tim Sheldan, Deputy Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, talked about the work underway in collaboration with industry to get at the issues that are impacting our competitiveness. And Diane Nicholls, our new Chief Forester, showed us graphically the impact of the pine beetle and confirmed what we all know, that the AAC is coming down. But she also called on us to work with government to innovate and to find new ways to make previously uneconomic timber economic because as she said “we are all in the business of forestry.”

The BC Forest Safety Council’s new CEO Rob Moonen and Barry Nakahara from WorksafeBC concluded the first day’s presentations. It was good to hear from them and to see that industry and the regulator are working together to ensure the safest industry possible.

Day two of the Convention started with a Mayors’ Panel, during which we got to hear about “what keeps them up at night,” as well as some of the challenges we collectively face and how we can work together towards solutions.

Ken Shields, President and CEO of Conifex, shared with us how innovation in his company, with the startup of the Mackenzie power plant, has helped transform his business. He was joined by Glenn Mason, Assistant Deputy Minister of Natural Resources Canada, who reminded us of the history of our industry in Canada and where we are today as a sector across our country. Glenn stated clearly that it is time to reposition our industry as part of the climate change solution, as a clean tech leader and as a focal point to engage with First Nations.

Our panel sessions concluded by hearing from three industry CEOs. Ron Gorman of Gorman Bros. was joined by West Fraser’s Ted Seraphim and Interfor’s Duncan Davies, and each brought a message of hope for the future of the industry.

Closing the program was Premier Christy Clark, who provided a keynote address before sitting down with COFI President and CEO Susan Yurkovich for an intimate one-on-one Q & A session.

With the conclusion of the 2016 Convention, COFI’s Yurkovich then announced the worst-kept secret at the event: the 2017 Convention will be held in the Vancouver Convention Centre. So mark the dates in your calendar and we’ll see you in Vancouver April 5-7, 2017.