By Jim Stirling
Life has been turned inside out for more than a year for individuals and businesses—including the forest industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has seen to that.
Knowledge about COVID, vaccines to combat it and rules governing our behaviours in dealing with it continue to change regularly. One consistent thread has been and continues to be the bans on corporate travel and in-person events which continue to be regularly enforced across the country and around the world. COVID-19 has become a huge impediment to conducting business in anything approaching the normal fashion.
That considered, the British Columbia Council of Forest Industries (COFI) is writing a new page in its history by turning to technology. COFI’s 2021 annual convention will be presented in a virtual format. The half-day event will take place Thursday, April 8. “We plan to offer a rich and impactful program,” promises Susan Yurkovich, president and CEO of COFI.
Participation in the virtual event is essentially a matter of registration. “It’s very simple,” she adds.
One of the features of past COFI conventions has been the attraction of keynote speakers worthy of the appellation. Work was underway at Logging and Sawmilling Journal’s press time to uphold the tradition.
On the agenda is Katrine Conroy, the B.C. Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, in her initial official appearance before a COFI audience. The recently appointed forests minister is the NDP MLA for Kootenay West.
Yurkovich said the event organizers were working toward assembling a panel discussion to focus on the role and value of partnerships within the association’s activities. Also on the virtual event’s agenda is a further edition of the CEO panel. It’s an informal discussion, more of a chat really, among some of the key forest company executives in the province. The event has proven hugely popular with the audience because the conversations about the day’s most pertinent issues tend to be frank and forthright. The participants are also available for questions.
The last keynote address is traditionally reserved for the premier of B.C. Yurkovich says it’s hoped John Horgan will maintain the habit in this first virtual event.
www.Cofi.org is the place to go for the latest info on the speaker’s list and full registration information.
The COFI convention is usually by far the largest gathering of the forest sector in western Canada. It brings together industry executives, managers, suppliers, business and professional services along with government, community and First Nations leaders.
Technology will allow COFI’s 2021 annual convention to proceed in its abbreviated form. “We think it’s important to still connect,” adds Yurkovich.
But the trade show component of the convention won’t be presented in its normal and informative fashion. There’s a further, more intangible ingredient that will be missing from the usual COFI convention experience in 2021: the opportunity to renew old industry friendships and connecting through networking is the glue of good business and an essentially enjoyable part of it.
Yurkovich is adamant that element will return to the COFI convention tradition just as soon as it can be, hopefully in Vancouver in 2022.
In the meantime, the B.C. forest industry has a challenging year ahead to navigate as effectively as it can. Fittingly, it’s characterized by change in leadership. In the U.S., President Trump is out and President Biden is in.
“Our proposition is that there will greater stability and less volatility,” says Yurkovich, with the new administration taking over the White House. She expects more international ties to organizations like the World Trade Organization to be reinvigorated and other connections made to the broader industry.
The U.S continues to be Canada’s number one market for lumber and other wood products. And while work will most definitely continue to further Canada’s position, Yurkovich is not predicting major changes to the U.S. stance of placing financial impediments on Canada’s softwood lumber imports into the United States. Canada’s case is habitually vindicated in international trade rulings but only after a protracted process and financial hardships for Canadian softwood lumber producers. Yurkovich reckons that public health related issues will dominate the domestic U.S agenda, as COVID continues.
Meanwhile, she notes, the U.S. housing market has been and remains strong. It rose 4.5 per cent between November and the end of 2020.The growth includes the single family dwelling sector which is good news for Canadian lumber manufacturers. “Wood is a green building material which offers a climate change solution,” she adds.
At the time of going to press it remained to be seen what forest policies the B.C. NDP might introduce now that it’s backed by a majority government. Premier Horgan has talked in the past about B.C.’s forest industry being in transition from a high volume industry to a high value one. “We have a strong secondary manufacturing sector now in B.C.,” says Yurkovich. “It’s not either or.” A strong primary sector is what supports the value added sector, she points out.
Yurkovich says COFI has talked to the B.C. government about the possibility of creating a working forest in the province. COFI launched the idea most recently a couple of years ago. “We need secure access to fibre at a reasonable cost,” she explains. B.C. needs to be a jurisdiction that can compete with others around the world, she asserts.
The forest industry remains a cornerstone of the B.C. economy representing more than 100,000 direct and indirect jobs. The situation was reinforced and amplified through a study conducted on behalf on COFI based on 2019 and 2020 data. The study revealed how deeply and uniformly the forest industry positively influences the B.C. economy.
The 19 members of COFI purchased some $7 billion worth of goods and services in 2019 from nearly 1,900 B.C.-based companies and indigenous suppliers from every region of the province.
“This study clearly demonstrates how our forest industries’ deep roots are supporting workers and families right across our province,” explains Yurkovich of the regional supply chain study report.
The survey provided further insights. Drilling down, it showed COFI members purchased $2 billion worth of goods and services from 2,100 businesses located across 19 municipalities in Metro Vancouver. Vancouver-based companies were the top recipients of forest industry supply chain spend, with local purchases totaling $978 million.
The study assessed the supply chain spend and reach of COFI member companies. It found that more than 340 communities and 120 First Nations and organizations of all sizes benefited economically from the forest industry supply chain.
On Vancouver Island, $1.2 billion worth of goods and services were purchased from 1,600 suppliers, with more than a quarter of them located in Nanaimo. In the North, Prince George was home to 970 forestry suppliers that provided $718 million in goods and services. And more than 550 businesses from Kelowna and Kamloops in the Interior provided a combined $220 million of the forestry supply chain spend.
Importantly, the study confirmed that forestry is also a primary industry in many indigenous communities. Forest business agreements between the industry and First Nations generated about $250 million in economic benefit to indigenous business communities participating in the industry.
“As we look to recover from the devastating impact of this global pandemic, our sector can help light more British Columbians up by keeping our operations running and continuing to buy goods and services from local businesses,” says Yurkovich.
“To do this, we need to work together to address the challenges we face and seize new opportunities ensuring our deep roots continue to be the foundation for strong communities, sustainable growth and shared prosperity for long into the future,” she concludes.
There will be a variety of topics under discussion at the upcoming Council of Forest Industries (COFI) annual convention, including the growing use of wood in construction in Canada.
COFI is of course a strong supporter of wood use in all types of construction, and that advocacy by the industry has paid off in B.C.’s largest city—Vancouver.
Last year, Vancouver City Council approved bylaw amendments allowing mass timber construction up to 12 storeys for residential and commercial use.
“Vancouver City Council has taken an important step, seizing Vancouver’s green building opportunity while also supporting an industry that is a cornerstone of the B.C. economy,” said Susan Yurkovich, COFI President and CEO. “By giving the green light to building taller wood buildings, Vancouver is advancing its work to combat climate change and supporting forestry-related jobs right here in the Lower Mainland and in every corner of the province.”
Building with sustainably harvested, renewable, low-carbon wood products is emerging as a safe go-to solution in jurisdictions around the world looking to reduce their GHG footprint, notes COFI. That is because carbon remains in the wood not only for the life of the tree, but for decades after—in products such as lumber, millwork or furniture.
The City of Vancouver joined municipalities across B.C. that are embracing green building as a climate change solution. This includes flagship projects such as the Brock Commons Tallwood House at the University of British Columbia—which, at the time of its construction, was the tallest mass timber building in the world. The B.C. government’s commitment to use B.C. wood in the construction of the new St. Paul’s Hospital and in more public infrastructure are other good examples of the leadership being shown, and all good steps in maximizing the opportunity for using B.C. wood, says COFI.
On the Cover:
Logging contractor Tyler Backer of Pro Link Logging has seen a technological revolution within British Columbia’s forest industry, and says he’s always got an eye open for new harvesting equipment developments and techniques that might enhance Pro Link Logging’s efficiency. Read all about his logging approach—and the equipment he executes that approach with, such as this Hitachi 260 processor —beginning on page 18 of this issue (photo courtesy of Pro Link Logging).
B.C. partnership steps up to the plate in training equipment operators
The City of Quesnel, B.C. and partners are looking to step up to the plate to train logging equipment operators on harvesting methods new to most B.C. loggers.
Virtual convention coming up
The BC Council of Forest Industries’ Annual Convention is going virtual for 2021, and we talk with COFI CEO Susan Yurkovich about the compelling speakers and the important issues in forestry that will be discussed at the convention in April—and what new U.S. President Joe Biden might mean for the industry.
Dealing with changing logging logistics
Logging contractor Tyler Backer is dealing with changing logging logistics in the B.C. Interior these days, such as working in steeper ground—but he has the dedicated people and tough iron to successfully take it all on.
Landrich 2.0 is launched
The Landrich harvester 2.0 version has been launched by New Brunswick’s A. Landry Fabrication, and the new machine features a number of improvements suggested by very loyal customers of the original Landrich harvester.
Enhancing pellet production—and quality—at Pinnacle
Pinnacle Renewable Energy recently completed a $30 million investment package in B.C.’s Cariboo region designed to enhance pellet production efficiency—and product quality.
Big recovery boost for Quebec mill with upgrade
The Bois CFM Inc. sawmill in Sainte-Florence, Quebec recently installed a new optimized primary and secondary line from USNR to meet growing customer demand, that will move its production to the next level.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC), FPInnovations and the Faculty of Forestry of University of B.C.
The Last Word
Jim Stirling takes a look ahead for the forest industry, beyond the recent elections, and COVID-19.