April 18, 2018
The Council of Forest Industries (COFI) has always been a highlight of the year for me. This year in Prince George Mayors and Councillors from across British Columbia were provided the 2018 version of the usual agenda. We got to hear from industry CEOs and Government Ministers, including the First Minister, about the state of the health of the forest industry in our province and the prognosis for the next few months.
The short version: for the most part, the industry is healthy, progressive, innovative, and pushing hard against the designs of the United States competitors while enhancing contacts elsewhere, primarily in China, India, and other Asian jurisdictions.
On the other hand, we have some challenges. Most obvious is the shortage of professional drivers to move product: logs, primarily. A few weeks ago I noted in this column the crisis looming over the industry because of the number of trucks sitting idle waiting for drivers. Those drivers are not materializing and it is not just in our town. The lack of drivers is presenting a challenge across Canada that likely will get worse before it gets better. It takes more than a Class 1 with Air to make a log truck driver – or any driver for that matter. The piece of plastic is just the beginning.
The rest comes with experience. And experience comes with hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, with chaining up and chaining off (maybe including the steering chain), with recognizing what is safe and what is unsafe, by learning when to pour the fuel to the engine and when to slack off. Time. Time. Time. A time to hit the brakes and a time to refrain from hitting the brakes.
I have learned that it takes ten years of focused effort to become proficient in any skill.
The Beetles did their hard time stressing their vocals and flexing their fingers in Germany before they tested their worth in the United States. It might take four plus years to get a Red Seal credential in a trade but at least six more years of growth will happen before the artisan is fully proficient. So keep on task. Keep on truckin’. Never say “Whoa om a bad spot.” This was my Dad’s motto when he trucked with horses – not all that long ago as time is measured.
The declining herds of caribou also caught the attention of virtually all of us at the conference. It is not a new phenomenon but it is new on my detection devices. I would say that most of us attending COFI came away thoroughly concerned with the decline and with the implications of the decline. With the species now declared at risk and with Canada and British Columbia apparently committed to reversing the trend, we can expect to see measures enacted that may limit access to territory presently occupied by the caribou.
This is not a localized problem. Caribou herds across Canada are in decline and have been for years but serious measures to fix the problem may soon come to a back road near you.
In the meantime (and all time is mean), your friendly northeastern municipalities and rural areas are putting their elected heads together to try to find a made-in-the-northeast solution that will not excessively disrupt our well-established way of life in which we have tended to take the wilderness somewhat for granted. Perhaps those days are drawing to a close. Perhaps we may have to give up some of the wilderness in order to retain access to the rest. Perhaps not. If you have a solution (or even two solutions), wait not to share your wisdom with one of our elected heads.
Those were the big items for me at COFI. Of course we indulged in the usual networking to pick one another’s brains on the latest successes and failures in local government. We were thoroughly entertained by the newest ideas from the economists. Economists have yet to lose my attention when they hold forth with graphs and charts on the trends in housing prices or where the aging millennials are going to find roofs when mom and dad finally show them the door. Good stuff.
Oh, by the way, as we try to develop strategies to deal with the serious issues we face, it might be wise to remember this ancient piece of wisdom: “Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing.” And all of us are mortal.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor