Lumber Issues Unsettled

Issues concerned with the cross-border softwood dispute remain among critical questions facing BC’s lumber industry. A sellout crowd of 225 at yesterday’s annual North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA) Vancouver Regional meeting heard updates on Canada’s litigation efforts to “vigorously defend the industry” through five separate challenges. A hearing scheduled next Tuesday on the challenge regarding injury is considered to be the most critical of three challenges with NAFTA, all deemed to be significantly more important than two challenges with the WTO ( “a retaliation mechanism”). Colin Barker, Director Softwood Lumber Division, Global Affairs Canada update report confirming dormant cross-border softwood negotiations echoed remarks by US ambassador David MacNaughton at the COFI Convention April 4th.

Provincial government perspectives were shared by Jennifer Burleigh, Director of the Trade and Export Policy Branch with the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. On the heels of Minister of Forests Doug Donaldson’s “new model of forest management” discussion at the COFI Convention, she reiterated this provincial government’s “very different approach”.  Burleigh noted both Donaldson and Premier John Horgan’s “strong passion for forestry” citing the Coast Revitalization initiative and the recently announced Interior process as examples. Softwood lumber meetings with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) were tempered by acknowledgement of “no public interest” in the U.S.

COFI President and CEO Susan Yurkovich expanded on four challenges in BC’s forest sector today, specifically access to 1) fibre, 2) capital, 3) markets 4) talent. In accessing fibre, she noted increasing constraints on the timber harvesting land base. “We need to find a way to preserve the timber harvesting land base.” Yurkovich also expressed frustration with the punitive softwood lumber duties in the face of a lumber supply shortfall in the US: the lumber supply gap (“delta”) estimated at 14 billion FBM cannot be filled by domestic production.

Andy Rielly, President, Rielly Lumber Inc., and Chairman, Independent Wood Processors (IWPABC), and Executive Board Member, Western Red Cedar Lumber Association, fired up the audience which included majority of IWPABC’s 58 member companies. With an eye to SLA negotiations, Rielly emphasized the influential role of associations (“you don’t need an agent until you need an agent”). He highlighted the “double-whammy” facing the value-added sector: 1) re-manners are independent, non-tenured, non-subsidy companies and 2) the punitive application of the AD/CVD on the selling/border price instead of the first mill price. The association is advocating for a negotiated settlement “sooner rather than later” under a transferable quota-based system, with allocation of quota not based solely on historical shipment volumes (“new jobs here in BC are not coming from the primary”).

Scribbles from the 2019 COFI Convention

1. Convention buzzwords: innovation, inclusion, sharing, partnerships, relationship, certainty, predictability, capacity (ability), conservation, caribou

2. “A new model of forest management.”
Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development

3. “China-U.S. negotiations are only a small subset of the larger tensions.”
Robert Johnston, Managing Director, Global Energy & Natural Resources, Eurasia Group

4. “India and Southeast Asia will become more important for Canada’s forest sector than China.”
– Robert Johnston

5. “There are very few world leaders that are fierce defenders of globalization.”
– Robert Johnston on the “G-Zero World”

6. “Shareholders are having a stronger influence than governments on climate action – it’s very tough to get climate policy in a context of populism.” – Robert Johnston

7. “Where do we get growth from in the Canadian economy when the drivers are cooling? Productivity innovation.”
Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, Business Council of B.C.

8. “We’re in a low interest environment for as long as the eye can see. How will policy makers respond next time we move into a recession world?”
– Jock Finlayson

9. “We have seen a dramatic decrease in consumption.”
Chris McIver, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, West Fraser

10. “The use of wood in appearance applications is growing.”
Don McGregor, Vice President of Sales & Wholesale Supply, Western Forest Products

11. “There were 487 mass timber projects in 2018. In 2013 there were five.”
Bart Bender, Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Interfor

12. “It’s always easy to get a deal if you’re prepared to get a bad deal. This is not a good time, we’ll have to wait until the circumstances are right.”
David MacNaughton, Ambassador of Canada to the United States

13. “Consumer groups have very little political clout (in the U.S.). I’ve been very surprised in observing this fact.”
– David MacNaughton

14. “Nothing unites Republicans and Democrats more than unfair trade with China.”
– David MacNaughton

15. “The U.S. sells more goods to Canada than China, Japan, and Great Britain combined.”
– David MacNaughton

16. “Our relationships with the U.S. are strong and deep.”
– David MacNaughton

17. “The data lake is turning into the data swamp. Everything we do is about clarifying the complex.”
Charles Lavigne, CEO & Co-Founder, LlamaZOO

18. “How to build relationships with Indigenous communities? Go in without an agenda.”
JP Gladu, President & CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business

19. “(On caribou recovery) there will be active engagement with communities (this week) and natural resource sector parties.”
Beth MacNeil, Assistant Deputy Minister, Canadian Forest Service

20. “Under the previous government, forestry was an engine that was allowed to take over. The status quo is not acceptable. There are high expectations for the industry to make changes.”
John Allan, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development

21. “We all know what the problem is in the Interior; we have too much capacity and too few trees.”
– John Allan

22. “There is desire on the public’s part to regain some control of forestry and the management of old growth on Vancouver Island.”
– John Allan

23. “We’ve lived up to our commitments (caribou recovery) but we’ve been a bit late coming to the communities.”
– John Allan

24. “I am shocked and disappointed by what is happening this week (in Chetwynd). Without consultation, how are we going to get through these cycles? It discourages future investment in B.C.”
Ted Seraphim, President & CEO, West Fraser

25. “I hope he (Horgan) talks about our industry in such a way that it attracts young people.”
– Ted Seraphim

26. “Government to government relationship is key in China. China values relationships even moreso. We can’t get complacent, we need to refocus, continue these trade missions to get the message to the Asian markets.”
Don Kayne, President & CEO, Canfor

27. “The biggest driver is wood costs. B.C. has the highest wood costs in North America. With B.C. as our base, we needed to expand, grow our diversification in Europe and the U.S. South.”
– Don Kayne

28. “Next year, the forest products industry is expected to have 7300 openings. Youth are the future of forestry, embrace them. Offer opportunity, growth, reasonable pay. Promote economic stability, work life balance, and social consciousness. Create a respectful and enjoyable workplace. If I identify and prove that there’s a better way to do something, will I be encouraged to pursue it?”
Fiona McDonald, Communications Specialist, Conifex Timber Inc.

29. “The problem with just posting a job is you skip the first two steps of the marketing funnel (Awareness and Interest, before Desire and Action). Get out in front of prospects rather than waiting for the prospect to come to you.”
Quinn Miller, Energy Engineer, West Fraser

30. “How to motivate young professionals? Engage new perspectives and break down barriers. Encourage mentorship and knowledge sharing. Support through continued learning and education.”
Ethan Griffin, Production Superintendent, Interfor

31. When we talk about reconciliation we need to reconcile our relationship. Consent does not mean veto. Consent is shared decision-making. We have to get to a place where we can make decisions together. The fibre basket is shrinking, the AAC is coming down everywhere. How do you want this arrangement? How do you want to access that fibre?”
Terry Teegee, Regional Chief, B.C. Assembly of First Nations

33. “It’s not about a final agreement. It’s about relationship, moving forward together.”
Celeste Haldane, Chief Commissioner, B.C. Treaty Commission

34. “It always amazes me how often I get asked the question ‘What’s the best way to start a relationship?’ Pick up the phone. There’s something that intimidates people about having that conversation.”
Doug Caul, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation

35. “At the Youth Outland Employment Camp (OYEP) West, Indigenous youth build confidence, establish networks, learn how to work both independently and as a group, and develop a keen understanding of workplace expectations.” See: 2018 OYEP sponsorsOYEP StatsOYEP West – 2019 Partnership Package
Derek Orr, Business Development Manager, Carrier Lumber

36. “The forest industry is the most innovative sector in our economy.”
John Horgan, Premier of B.C.

37. “A negotiated settlement (SLA) would have been preferable, but that’s not possible.”
– John Horgan

38. “(On coastal forest revitalization) we’re not going to just take down our forests to move them down to other jurisdictions where they can extract the value.”
– John Horgan

39. “The situation in the Interior is deteriorating but there are opportunities. We’ll approach it TSA by TSA. How do we add value, not how do we allocate timber supply. It’s about how do we take our dwindling fibre basket and maximize the value. The process is evolving but it is not prescriptive; if I prescribed a solution it would be inadequate.”
– John Horgan

40. “I always talk about value-added and (the big producers) say ‘we can smell the incense when you start talking that way.. we need markets!”
– John Horgan

41. “More high value, less high volume. I’m going to give you the incentives you need to transition between high volume and high value. These are opportunities, not obligations. It’s on you to take this challenge.”
– John Horgan

On Thinking Inside the Box

With the upcoming Super Bowl, we’ll soon see again that at the risk of sometimes being routine, the most basic skills on a football field like blocking and tackling are key to surviving playoffs and winning championships. On the trading floor, challenges in the second half of 2018 offered stark reminders of importance of performing well on the fundamentals that are key to delivering effective service for our mills and customers – in all markets.

In his practical “Building Sales” column at LBM Journal, author Rick Davis has been exploring a number of contrarian sales concepts. This month, he emphasizes the value of concentrating on the “tried and true ways”, by thinking “inside the box”. He argues: “It’s so easy to boast about being an outside-the-box thinker.. but everyone should first master the great ideas inside the box. High-powered sales people don’t ignore the skills that made them successful early in their careers.” In the article, Davis expands on four rudimentary sales skills:

  • Success starts with a cold call – “the most essential skill in the box”
  • Count contacts – “the law of averages will help you grow your business”
  • Let people share their story – “the best and oldest inside-the-box idea of them all”
  • Promise and deliver the things you can do easily – “sell what you can deliver in the normal course of business”.

We might suggest that lumber traders naturally have the materials with which to build the box inside of which to think.

Outside-the-box thinkers are creative people who put out fires and believe they should resourcefully cater to the demands of high maintenance customers. Inside-the-box thinkers prevent fires and make promises within the confines of their company’s operational capability. I’ve never been a fan of the ‘under-promise and over-deliver’ concept. Just promise and deliver what you can.
– Rick Davis, Building Leaders

BMC National Meeting, Las Vegas (photo credit: Brad Taylor, Dakeryn Industries)

19 Questions for 2019

Here are 19 questions that Harderblog will be watching next year, in search of answers:

1. Will the railways be better prepared for winter weather conditions?

2. Will the extreme price volatility in lumber markets this year persist in 2019?

3. Will Justin Trudeau still be Canada’s prime minister after Canada’s federal election scheduled on or before October 21, 2019?

4. Will Donald Trump still be America’s president by the same date?

5. Will Beto O’Rourke or Joe Biden emerge as the leading Democratic presidential nominee for 2020 by the end of 2019?

6. Will the 12 months of 2019 provide conclusive evidence that trade wars are “easy to win”?

7. Will noise about the border wall on the U.S. southern border have lessened by the end of 2019?

8. Will progress be reported in solutions for solving the opioid epidemic?

9. The American Psychiatric Association says anxiety levels jumped 7 per cent from 2017 to 2018. Will 2019 see a reduction in anxiety levels among the American general population?

10. Will 2019 see a reduction in anxiety levels among continent-wide lumber distributors?

11. Will Canadian softwood lumber exports to China (dropping each year since 2014) continue to decline?

12. Will an old-growth protection strategy be established in B.C.?

13. Will the accelerating rate of climate change evidenced in 2018 be exacerbated by global climate patterns experienced in 2019?

14. Will the U.S. repeat as the FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions?

15. Will the record number of homeless people identified in the City of Vancouver’s 2018 Homeless Count be broken again in 2019?

16. Will 2019 have seen an economic recession?

17. Will Brexit status be significant in determining whether Britain is “better off” at the end of 2019 than at the end of 2018?

18. Will European lumber deliveries to the U.S. decline in 2019?

19. In view of lower lumber prices, will we see movement in the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber dispute?

Year-end Answers

As we approach year-end, you’ll recall 11 questions for 2018 we posed one year ago at Harderblog:

1. Will rhetoric of military strike pass the ‘tipping point’ into war with North Korea?
No.

2. Will the Bitcoin excitement be fading, or prove to be a bubble?
“For built into this situation is the eventual and inevitable fall. Built in also is the circumstance that it cannot come gently or gradually. When it comes, it bears the grim face of disaster. That is because both of the groups of participants in the speculative situation are programmed for sudden efforts at escape. Something, it matters little what – although it will always be much debated – triggers the ultimate reversal. Those who had been riding the upward wave decide now is the time to get out. Those who thought the increase would be forever find their illusion destroyed abruptly, and they, also, respond to the newly revealed reality by selling or trying to sell. Thus the collapse. And thus the rule, supported by the experience of centuries: the speculative episode always ends not with a whimper but with a bang. There will be occasion to see the operation of this rule frequently repeated.”
– John Kenneth Galbraith, A Short History of Financial Euphoria

3. Will the extreme weather patterns evidenced in 2017 be as pronounced in 2018?
According to The Washington Post, the extreme floods, droughts, heat waves and wildfires that broke out this year across North America, Europe and Asia were unprecedented. In Canada, it’s reported no region was spared from extreme weather events; in B.C., 2018 was the worst wildfire season in history, beating the previous record set in 2017. The Weather Channel calls 2018 the year of the California wildfires.

4. Will Trump take steps to call a halt to the special prosecutor’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election?
Who knows for sure, although reports suggest it’s less likely now than appeared to be the case at the beginning of 2018.

5. Has integrity lost some of its lustre as a perceived prerequisite for leadership success?
2018 – a year when we’ve been inured to shock! Many revelations, many developments unfolding still, lead us to believe that integrity remains a prerequisite for leadership success in the long run.

6. As higher lumber prices effectively offset impact of duties, will Canadian major producers’ newly-hedged investments in U.S. production assuage any further concerns companies such as West Fraser and Canfor might have about the ongoing Softwood Lumber Dispute?
It’s a combination of factors, including fibre supply and ongoing international trade/duty related concerns that has motivated major producers to seek out options for gaining better control over the variable factors that go into managing their operations. Contrary to Trump’s America First philosophy, these days the large integrated corporations recognize they have to think globally to be successful.

7. Will Germany repeat as FIFA World Cup champions?
No. Germany did not make it out of the Group Stage, finishing last in Group F which also included Sweden, Mexico, and South Korea. France won the 2018 World Cup, beating Croatia 4-2 in the final.

8. Will the powers that be acknowledge that the re-manufacturing (value-added) segment of the Canadian forest sector is being unfairly penalized in the application of the AD/CVD?
No. On re-manufactured specialty wood products, the cross-border Anti-dumping (AD) and Countervailing duties (CVD) continue to be applied to the selling (border) price instead of the first mill price. Freight and all processing costs are included in the AD/CVD calculation. The resulting, punishing impact of this application on the value-added segment of the Canadian forest sector has been described as “an unintended consequence” of the Softwood Lumber Dispute.

9. Will softwood lumber be incorporated into NAFTA?
Softwood lumber was not incorporated into NAFTA 2.0 which was signed November 30th but has yet to be ratified.

10. In view of the fractured supply chain, will lumber buyers abandon the “just-in-time” model in favour of securing coverage that satisfies longer-term projected needs?
No. On the heels of the epic, bull-trap riddled lumber market collapse from the record high prices reached in June, the “just-in-time” model has probably intensified.

11. Will broccoli, the least-trusted vegetable of 2017 among lumber traders and the general population, retain that notoriety in 2018, at the same time as the world watches broccoli’s favorability surge to number one in Scotland?
A not-so-random survey among lumber traders reveals that broccoli has been gaining in approval ratings among lumber traders and the general population this year. In fact a survey suggests that as of June 2018, broccoli took the lead as America’s favorite vegetable. While many vegetables consumed in the U.S. are imported from Mexico, broccoli is well down the list of imported vegetables.

O Christmas Tree

It’s a buoyant market… if you’re talking Christmas trees. On both sides of the 49th parallel, Christmas tree growers say that sales are on the right track this year.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, environmentally-conscious Millennials might be to thank. Both Canadian and U.S. tree farmers indicate it’s mostly younger couples who are fueling the optimism for green tree sales. “They’re coming in for the experience. It’s their first Christmas and they want to purchase a real Christmas tree.”

Bloomberg confirms it’s going to be a green Christmas for tree growers. With more buyers opting for pine over plastic, prices in the U.S. have surged 17% over the past two years. In the Great White North, growers point to $77 million annual sales, with approximately half their production heading to U.S. markets.

At our house, while the Christmas lights are up, ‘we’ usually prefer to wait until mid-December to buy a tree. Turns out our kids were paying close attention to the systematic setup of our neighbourhood tree lot this year. They pass the site daily when my wife drives them to and from school. Fencing went up couple weeks ago. Big tent popped up. Then activity seemed to stall. Suddenly this week, rows of crisscrossing 2×4’s appeared. Plywood walkways surfaced. Wednesday, colorful signage! On the way home yesterday, LIGHTS!! This morning, my phone rang early at the office. “Daddy, we’re thinking of buying our Christmas Tree now.”

Spirit of Thanksgiving

Posted by Ernie Harder 11-20-2018:

While Americans and Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on different dates, we note an increasing universality in search for genuine meaning in events of traditional significance. Celebrations built around tradition are less inclined to differentiate the changing times and circumstances. Even so, realities of change, well beyond climate, traumatized lumber markets, or traditional celebrations touch us all. How we adapt is becoming a question of increasing relevance. Celebrations that mark historic or seasonal events, such as the recent honoring of sacrifices and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, or, the American Thanksgiving celebration this week, command our attention even as we ponder revised distribution yard inventory values.

The events of life intersect with our lives at the same time as we struggle to assimilate disparate transitions – comprehend election results, seek resolutions to concerns such as those posed by unprecedented raging California wildfires, contemplate the world’s refugees in search of a safe place to call home, support ongoing hurricane and flood revival efforts.

Adapting to the dynamics of life is complicated by the increasing speed of unfolding change. A study published last week out of the University of British Columbia suggests humans have become one of the largest drivers of evolutionary change on the planet, with conclusions that “evolution is now speeding up”.

We’re told that peace is not a season, anymore than a holiday defines the spirit of Thanksgiving. Borders that demarcate North American as well as global nations may help delineate different currencies, exchange rates, trade objectives and culture. However, in recognizing that “the rain falls on the just and the unjust”, the laws of nature do not differentiate between country or region. So too the symbolism found in celebration around specific events is measured in lives and relationships demonstrating acts of integrity and compassion everyday. It is in that spirit that we’re reminded of the life of the late senator John McCain, who infused language of Thanksgiving with demonstrated action beyond his quote: “If there is one word that embodies the ideal of duty, honor and country it is gratitude.” Happy Thanksgiving blessings to all our American neighbors and friends.

Atlin Lake, BC