Year-end Answers

As year-end approaches, you’ll recall 20 Questions for 2020 asked at Harderblog almost one year ago:

  1. Will billionaire Jimmy Pattison succeed in taking Canfor private before his 92nd birthday October 1, 2020?
    No offers reported in 2020. Pattison’s bid of almost $1-billion ($16/share) was rejected by “majority of the minority shareholders” in 2019.
  2. Will volumes of reduced fibre made available to sawmills from BC woodlands be outstripped by fibre consumed in Shredded Wheat?
    According to US census data and the Simmons National Consumer Survey, 0.56 million Americans consumed at least 10 spoon-sized shredded wheat portions in 2020. This we interpolate to represent an increase over 2019 equivalent data. However, sources tell us this may be inconclusive since, according to Food Banks data, there was an increase in number of Americans (1 in 6) suffering from hunger in 2020, which represents an increase over 2019. How this relates to the reduction in fibre made available to BC sawmills in 2020 remains a mystery. However, it should not detract from the fact that according to the FDA, fibre is considered an important component of any healthy breakfast diet regardless of our political persuasion.
  3. In this age of emerging technology, will tech gadgets surface that invite even lumber traders to investigate their perceived practical value?
    Virtual event software/platforms, some better than others, enabled dealers and suppliers to engage remotely in 2020. Future blogpost on the surprising advantages of virtual events.
  4. Will the US standoff with North Korea find resolution before the Softwood Lumber Dispute between Canada and the US?
    No.
  5. Will the financial bull markets of the last decade continue to roar in 2020?
    Yes. The Dow dropped around 8,000 points in the four weeks from February 12 to March 11, but has since recovered to 30,400 points at press time.
  6. Will economic disparity between the haves and the have-nots show signs of narrowing?
    Disparity between the haves and have-nots has become more pronounced in 2020. There is general agreement that the tax cuts that were implemented in the US this year, if anything, added to that disparity. The gap in Canada did not show signs of narrowing either.
  7. Will a recovery in lumber prices postpone more production curtailments and permanent sawmill closures in BC?
    After a wave of permanent/indefinite curtailments in 2019, none of the curtailments in 2020 were permanent in nature (Source: CIBC Equity Research). Temporary production curtailments this year in response to COVID-19 have certainly intensified the supply-demand imbalances driving lumber prices to record highs.
  8. Seedlings for forest revitalization in BC are forecast to rise from 270 million seedlings in 2019 to a record 310 million in 2020. How many trees will be planted?
    Fortunately in midst of COVID-19 lockdowns, tree planting in B.C. was deemed an essential service. Following a number of ecologically disastrous wildfire seasons, 5,000 tireless tree planters accomplished a record 300-million seedlings this year under exhaustive protocols and fortuitous damp weather (Source: Western Forestry Contractors Association).
  9. As the market for sustainable mass timber construction grows, how many more cross-laminated timber (CLT) plants will open in North America this year?
    Five. Kalesnikoff (Castlegar, BC), Katerra (Spokane, WA), and Vaagen (Colville, WA) became fully operational in 2020. Smartlam started up their new plant in Montana. Element5 in Ontario just started up and will be fully operational early 2021 (Source: FEA)
  10. Will shipment volumes of European lumber flood the Northeast US market as some analysts project?
    No. Euro shipment volumes in the Northeast this year have been variously described in the marketplace as steady, limited, and balanced. Latest available trade data (October) indicates North American offshore lumber imports tracking towards roughly 1.9-billion FBM this year vs 1.4-billion FBM in 2019 (Source: CIBC Equity Markets).
  11. Is integrity still considered to be the core quality in evaluating services delivered by lumber wholesalers?
    The tenets of integrity as a core quality were on call in 2020 as perhaps not seen before in our time. One of the elements of integrity involves demonstrating consistency between words and actions, especially in the face of adversity. The unusual environment in which lumber wholesalers delivered service this year was shaped by pandemic-imposed challenges. There’s little doubt that the significance of integrity – as a preeminent quality in evaluating service delivered – remains a core quality.
  12. Will the Broadway revival of The Music Man starring Hugh Jackman later this year reprise its Tony winning best musical of 1957, when it enjoyed a run of 1375 performances?
    Trouble with a capital “T”. Broadway’s 41 theaters have remained closed since March.
  13. Will Home Depot succeed in reducing the rise in millions of dollars worth of goods stolen from the chain by organized criminals?
    While big box stores continue to improve their surveillance systems to combat organized retail crime (ORC), shoplifting has reportedly increased since the pandemic; “a lower-impact, very different kind of crime” correlated to unemployment (Source: Washington Post).
  14. In overtaking Toronto as the most expensive city in Canada, will Vancouver maintain that position in 2020?
    Depending on what metric is used, in consideration of the decline in rental costs, it’s suggested that Toronto has replaced Vancouver as the most expensive city in Canada.
  15. Will an old growth protection strategy be established in BC?
    Months after a much-pumped public engagement process concluded January 31, provincial government was presented with 14 recommendations “to inform a new approach to old growth management in BC.” Recommendation number six (“for immediate response.. until a new strategy can be implemented”) in the report, was addressed just prior to the provincial election this Fall with announcement 350,000 hectares would be protected. But we’re told here a consultation process set to begin next year is expected to take three years before the other 13 recommendations might be implemented. “In the meantime,” confirms The Globe and Mail, “logging will largely continue as it has.”
  16. Will there be significant evidence of steps being taken to counter negatives impacting climate change?
    According to Bloomberg here, 2020 might also be remembered as “the year the world started to reverse centuries of damage to the climate.” In examining what’s being done locally to combat climate change, it’s noteworthy to report on steps being taken in Prince George, BC. The laudable mitigation plan prepared by the city of Prince George is available here.
  17. Will there be a cooling in the ideological struggle that exploded in Hong Kong in 2019 between Hong Kong rule of law and Beijing rule of law?
    “Cooling?” is perhaps not the operative question that was answered through 2020. Year-end finds the protests in Hong Kong effectively crushed. Widespread reporting suggests that things can only go wrong from here. This is not indicative of a “cooling”.
  18. Will clues of democracy giving way to authoritarian governments become more pronounced in 2020?
    According to the Brookings Institute here: “The democratic model has long been under stress, with the rise of homegrown populist and nationalist movements, and external geopolitical threats from resilient authoritarian actors. But COVID-19 created a new kind of stress test, bringing into question globalization, democratic decision-making, the reliability of science and information, and ultimately the ability of the democratic model to cope with devastating events.” Based on other widely-sourced reporting, “the surge in far-right populism, authoritarianism, and strongman politics around the world has given rise to a whole cottage industry explaining the democratic decline in particular regions or globally. While the scale or reach remains a matter of debate, there is little disagreement about the global scale. There is evidence of autocratic and populist leaders across the globe, from the Philippines to the United States, gaining power in a wide range of regimes, from consolidated democracies to hybrid regimes.”
  19. Will John Bolton publish a book that contains information deemed to include “explosive, new revelations”?
    Yes, he did publish a book (“The Room Where it Happened”). Some of the claims in the book were widely-considered to be explosive.
  20. Is Donald J. Trump still president at the end of 2020?
    Yes, barely!

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