By Tony Kryzanowski
After a three-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic, the Alberta Forest Products Association (AFPA) will hold its 80th Annual General Meeting & Conference September 28 to 30 at Jasper Park Lodge, in Jasper, Alberta.
The last day of the conference, September 30th, is also ‘Orange Shirt Day’ across Canada. AFPA will recognize this day as part of Recommendation #92 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report which calls on corporate Canada to engage in reconciliation.
Orange Shirt Day raises awareness about the history and legacies of the residential school system attended by Indigenous peoples in Canada.
“We take our relations with Indigenous peoples and the land that we have our activity on very seriously,” says Jason Krips, AFPA President and CEO. “Our companies work closely with Indigenous nations to ensure that any harvesting is done respecting Indigenous lands and lands that have been used for trapping, hunting or religious and medicinal purposes.”
Krips added that the AFPA is on the journey, like many other organizations in Canada, investigating ways to engage further with Canada’s Indigenous peoples and communities. It has hosted webinars involving members and Indigenous guests to discuss reconciliation and in particular economic reconciliation.
“We’re trying to increase opportunities for learnings for our members and we are working to provide a lumber grading school for Indigenous participants,” says Krips.
All of those in attendance at the conference are being encouraged to don orange shirts on September 30th. A blessing and opening remarks will be provided by an elder after breakfast, followed by a presentation related to opportunities for greater Aboriginal economic involvement in the forestry sector provided by special guest speaker J.P. Gladu.
Gladu’s forestry background makes him an ideal guest speaker as it relates to opportunities for economic reconciliation with First Nations. He previously served as the President and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) from 2012 until 2020 and is currently principal of a consulting firm called Mokwateh. He completed a forestry technician diploma in 1993 followed by obtaining an undergraduate degree in forestry from Northern Arizona University in 2000. He holds an Executive MBA from Queens University and the ICD.D designation from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.
Gladu has over 25 years of experience in the natural resource sector. His career path includes work with Indigenous communities and organizations, environmental non-government organizations, industry and governments from across Canada.
Currently, Gladu holds several positions on corporate boards, is on the board of the First Nations Major Projects Coalition Advisory Centre and is Chair of Canada Forest Trust and the Boreal Leadership Champions.
Overall, Krips says that both AFPA members and staff are looking forward to the return of an in-person conference with so much to discuss as it relates in particular to the impact that COVID has had on Alberta’s forest industry and supply chains, the huge swings in lumber prices that have occurred over the past few years, the softwood lumber tariff placed on Canadian lumber exported to the United States, and the consternation among members about the poor state of rail service, which is critical to shipping their products to market.
In some cases, AFPA members are only receiving 25 to 30 per cent of the number of railcars that they are requesting, which is causing significant product backlogs particularly in Alberta’s pulp sector, raising concerns of product degradation, the need to pay for warehousing while waiting for more railcars, as well as having to pay extra expenses to truck product to larger centres to make rail connections.
“Transportation, in particular rail transportation, is a big challenge for our members right now,” says Krips. “We’re finding that our sector continues to suffer from major transportation issues with too many mills unable to get the railcars that they need and this certainly has massive implications for Alberta’s forestry communities and customer relations around the globe.”
AFPA has increased its advocacy on this issue in concert with about a half-dozen northern Alberta mayors to express their concerns, with letters sent to both the Minister and Deputy Minister of Transport Canada, and also meeting with Transport Canada officials. There has also been advocacy through the media with hopes of stimulating a national conversation on ways to improve the national rail service and increase accountability to the system.
The past three years has been an interesting journey for the AFPA itself as Krips was named the new President and CEO in April 2020 just when COVID became a major issue. In fact, this will be his first in-person conference as CEO, although he is very familiar with the event and the AFPA from his previous positions with the Government of Alberta for a couple of decades. He was Deputy Minister for two different departments, Agriculture and Forestry as well as Economic, Trade and Tourism.
He says that since he has joined the AFPA, the organization has enhanced its policy capacity with the retention and hiring of several key individuals skilled and able to assist on key forest management, environment, and Indigenous relations issues.
‘‘I enjoyed my time with the Government of Alberta but this opportunity came along to be part of an industry that I think is a big economic contributor to the province,” says Krips.
In addition to the focus on Orange Shirt Day on September 30th, the conference will also feature a keynote address as the event opens with the welcome dinner on Wednesday, September 28th, delivered by Nate Horner, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.
The next morning features a keynote address by a representative from the Ministry of Environment & Parks and then a popular returning presentation called the ‘Alberta Economic Overview’ provided by Todd Hirsch, Vice-President and Chief Economist at ATB Financial. The economic landscape in Alberta has changed markedly over the past year with the bounce back of oil and gas prices, heating up the resource sector as it relates to competition for employees, and with billions of dollars of new revenue deposited into provincial government coffers, putting the province into a surplus position rather than the predicted massive deficit. Alberta will also have a new premier in September elected from the United Conservative Party caucus following the recent resignation of Premier Jason Kenney. A general election will be held next spring.
Lunch on Thursday, September 29th, will feature the traditional AFPA Health & Safety Awards as well as the AFPA Grade Awards.
Another popular session returns in the afternoon where AFPA members can connect with senior members of key government ministries in what is called the ‘Deputy Ministers’ Panel Sessions’. Attending will be Shannon Marchand from Agriculture and Forestry, Bev Yee from Environment & Parks, Donavon Young from Indigenous Relations, and Kate White from Jobs, Economy and Innovation to answer questions on hot button issues from AFPA members.
Of major interest to members is what direction forest products markets are headed and providing that input later on Thursday afternoon will be Paul Jannke from Forest Economic Advisors LLC and Brian McClay from McClay & Associates.
AFPA also has a hot-off-the-presses economic report to share with AFPA members conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers showing the contribution that Alberta’s forestry sector is making to the province. It shows that the industry contributes about $13.6 billion in economic output, $2.7 billion in labour income and more than 31,500 jobs in
over 70 Alberta communities.
On the Cover:
Veteran British Columbia sawmiller James Dodich is parlaying his experience working with a variety of wood product combinations into producing high value wood products, with his company Cats Eye Logging and Sawmilling. Having experimented with various combinations with his Wood-Mizer LT40 band sawmill , Dodich feels that he has found the right formula for his operation. Read all about some of the lessons Dodich has learned beginning on page 36 of this issue. (Cover photo by Tony Kryzanowski).
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