By Derek Nighbor – CEO, Forest Products Association of Canada
The debate about the future of Canada’s natural resources has dominated 2018. While our friends in the oil and gas sector have been at the centre of the discussions and protests, the challenge is being felt by all of us working in the natural resources sector – from chemistry to forestry to mining.
Why is it that Canada, a country with among the most stringent environmental, health and safety, labour, and human rights laws and regulations in the world, is facing continued pressure to restrict resource development and losing jobs and economic opportunity in the process? As Lorraine Mitchelmore, federally appointed Chair of the Resources of the Future Economic Strategy Table so smartly mentioned in The Globe and Mail recently:
“We have commodities that would be the envy of any other country in the world. And yet, for a variety of reasons, we seem determined not to take full advantage of them. We are not building as many projects as we should, we are not attracting our share of global capital, we are not fully reaching global markets, and in certain cases, we are selling our products at significant discounts to benefit other countries.”
Working with governments and local leadership to secure a predictable and successful future for our sector’s workers and their families will be central to the work ahead of us in 2019. As we consider the necessary steps to take, we must be mindful that there are things we can control – and things we cannot.
One of most unpredictable forces over the past couple of years has been the Trump administration and its protectionist approach to trade. Historically, Canada and the US have enjoyed a healthy, productive trade relationship but it’s been put to the test through a host of anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations, and a difficult negotiation of a new NAFTA. The recent tensions between Canada and China will also be something to watch given how important the Chinese market is for trade with Canada and market diversification.
Of the things we can control with support from our federal and provincial governments and partners on the ground, FPAC has developed our 2019 wish list:
- Greater pride in Canadian forestry. Canada’s working forests are a model for the world. Consider the careful planning that envisions horizons beyond 100 years, and our commitment to multiple values including watershed health, wetlands preservation, supporting multiple species of birds, mammals, and fish, and mitigating fire risks. Our sector also provides solutions to fight climate change while bringing economic opportunities to communities and families that desperately need them. Let us be proud of our record and our commitment to continuous improvement and stand up for our work and our people who are doing so much.
- A better strategy to supporting species at risk. Governments are approaching species at risk management by looking at one species at a time. Federal and provincial governments are often not on the same page. It’s simply not an effective nor sustainable approach to supporting the living creatures in our forests. A comprehensive multiple-species approach that considers our changing climate and forest dynamics is something that’s desperately needed.
- A transportation system we can count on. Our sector has lost over $500 million this year (and counting) because the transportation system we rely on has failed us. If we are to be successful in expanding trade opportunities and diversifying markets, we need more truck drivers and much better service along our rail lines to our ports.
- Expanded partnerships with Indigenous communities. We continue to see a significant expansion of joint ventures and collaborations between forest products companies and Indigenous communities. There are so many experiences to build on and 2019 presents a great opportunity to do more.
- Doubling down on innovation. We have made significant progress in modernizing our mills, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, advancing more efficient and effective forestry practices, and developing new products for Canada and the world. Let’s keep the momentum going.