Last week I noted that change happens and can happen even in this best of small home towns. My focus was primarily on the forest industry. Today I want to report further on the events and challenges of the forest industry as I interpreted them at the Premier’s Natural Resources Forum.
The US lumber market is vital to BC’s economy. A downturn in housing starts south of 49, failure of Canada to get an agreement by October 2016, or a post October 2016 imposition of countervailing duties or anti-dumping duties will send pain throughout our entire economy.
BC needs a negotiated settlement that makes sense to BC. And we want it soon. The best-case scenario will see a deal that resembles the deal that expired in October 2015. In British Columbia our Government is getting ready for a strong defense. Mr. Trudeau needs to make an equally strong case from the Federal perspective – and soon.
Given that more than one-half of all Canada’s lumber exports to the US is milled in BC and a big pile of that is milled right here in our home town, it doesn’t take a truck-load of smarts to recognize how much Chetwynd relies on stability in the forest industry markets.
One hundred forty-five thousand jobs in BC depend on forestry; that’s one job out of every 16. In a town like Chetwynd the ratio of forestry jobs to other callings is even higher.
West Fraser operates 40 mills in British Columbia, Alberta, and the US. Canadian Forest Products operates 11 sawmills in British Columbia alone. But with too many mills chasing too few trees, the challenge is to find ways to adjust to the future with as little disruption as possible to the communities that are home to these mills.
How does British Columbia remain engaged in a highly competitive world market? Timber supply is decreasing; there are increasing constraints on land use; the delivered cost of the log is increasing as is competition for the fibre. Add to all this the challenge to attract and retain workers in an uncertain market and we begin to see some of the picture of the environment in which our mills operate.
Reliable transportation is vital to our forest industry. Every fourth ship smoking out of BC waters is loaded down with forest products. Try counting the trucks heading out of town loaded to the limit with SPF for distant markets.
Secure access to the markets of the US and Asia must be achieved!
With forestry providing secure, stay-at-home, community-building jobs – hundreds right here in Chetwynd – a skilled workforce is just one more of the key elements in a prosperous economy built on the forests that surround us. Forestry provides opportunity for the emerging generation of aspiring operators, technicians, foresters, service industry workers, school teachers, and others to find satisfying careers, learn from their elders, and grow old and mellow at home while enjoying the capacity to savor the beauties of Creation surrounding us.