Thomson’s first priority was to address the unfolding Burns Lake tragedy and the devastating impact on the people of Burns Lake. There’s serious concern for both the immediate and long term futures of the community. Thomson then touched on B.C.’s recent trade mission to China, India, and also Japan – having led the forest delegation. While acknowledging that credit tightening policies in China have contributed to a slowdown, he was upbeat about continued growth opportunities. Re. Japan, he said this ‘mature market’ would see renewed demand for J-Grade when post-tsunami construction shifts to building permanent homes. He also noted the honour at having been in Tokyo, to announce $4.5 million in funding to construct wood framed buildings – a “legacy project” – as part of Canada’s relief efforts. By this point his audience at the smoker was likely craving a more revealing ‘insider’s’ report on his travels, but it wasn’t to be!
Thomson then plugged the provincial government’s jobs plan, telling us to ‘stay tuned’ for strategies specific to the forest sector, to be revealed in the coming weeks. In the face of ongoing arbitration in the Interior, he was pleased with the recent extension of the softwood lumber agreement with the U.S. – but didn’t elaborate. Finally, he talked about the inevitable tightening of timber supply, citing growing pressures on annual allowable cuts as salvage logging of beetle-killed pine dwindles.
The highlight of the evening was President Carl Dobler’s announcement of a $5,000 donation to the people of Burns Lake on behalf of the B.C. Wholesale Lumber Association. The donation was matched by the North American Wholesale Lumber Association. Steve Thomson added his $500 honorarium from the BCWLA, bringing the donation total to $10,500.