1. Will more lumber traders discover benefits of practicing mindfulness as a tool to improve mental well-being with ever increasing, stress-inducing market volatility?
2. Will either U.S. or Canadian men’s soccer teams record satisfying results in the World Cup in Qatar this year?
3. Will the labour pool for truckers grow in North America?
4. Will the latest record-shattering lumber market run end differently this time?
5. Will contemporary democracy be deemed viable in America by the end of 2022?
6. Will Putin’s Russia invade the Ukraine?
7. Will the Old Growth logging deferrals be an unresolved issue for B.C. by the end of 2022?
8. Will pandemic woes be better or worse by end of 2022 in terms of impact on ‘normalizing’ our lives?
9. Will the early lockout of Major League Baseball mean no summer ball? Should we care?
10. How will the accelerated pace of digital transformation across every organization alter collaboration between remote workers and office workers in the lumber industry in 2022?
11. Will B.C.’s largest sawmill owners’ trend of expanding their investment in forestry operations south of the border increase unabated in 2022?
12. Will the longest reigning monarch in British history – Elizabeth II – be ruling over the British Commonwealth of Nations by the end of 2022?
13. Will year-end survey ascertain that most lumber traders are in compliance with Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendation of at least 7 hours sleep per night that is required for maintaining well-being and healthy life?
On this New Year’s Eve, you’ll recall 12 Questions asked at Harderblog almost one year ago:
Will Canada achieve stated goal of having every citizen who desires the shot to be inoculated by end of September, 2021? Yes. Evidence indicates that Canada met its goal of vaccinating everyone who was eligible and/or desirous of receiving the Covid shots by stated date of September 30, 2021. Global Affairs Canada’s report by August 12th announced plans to donate 10 million additional doses of vaccines to the Covid Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX), that brought Canada’s total donations to COVAX to over 40 million doses. This contribution was possible because of the reported success in securing a supply of vaccine doses to meet Canada’s needs and stated goals. Unfortunately, that goal, albeit accomplished, loses relevance in the light of challenges posed by subsequent variants and task of inoculating eligible individuals who remain unvaccinated and at greatest risk.
Will the national security risks posed by expansion of right-wing extremism in the internet ecosystem be seen as a diminished or greater threat to democracy by the end of 2021? From all reports, threats posed by right-wingextremists in the internet ecosystem have proliferated through 2021. The threats have become increasingly transnational, as extremists become increasingly sophisticated in their use of the Internet to recruit and radicalize. Mainstream social media platforms are now a major tool to target new audiences. Extreme right-wing groups collaborating online that search out financial aid, operational support for their collaboration across national boundaries, are posing increased risks of undermining democracies across the globe.
Will lumber markets be more predictable in 2021 than was the case in 2020? No. Increasing intensity of climate change superimposed on pandemic-impacted variables cast shadow of greater unpredictability on both supply and demand factors that shaped markets in 2021.
Will the U.S. be as largely divided by partisan identity at the end of 2021 as it is at the end of 2020? From all indications, the divide is at least as large.
Will North American major professional sports leagues have returned to ‘normal business’ operations by Autumn 2021? Not really. While fans were back in the stands for baseball’s World Series and other season startups of NFL, NHL, NBA, MLS, Covid-caused disruptions included postponement of games and news surrounding individual cases (see: Aaron Rodgers vax story). Ongoing challenge with new Covid protocols has been exacerbated with new variants – most recently, the Omicron variant.
Will the record destruction caused by wildfires in California in 2020 be eclipsed in 2021? No. According to data collected by Cal Fire, the 2021 fire season was the second worst on record in terms of most land destroyed (1,863,324 acres on all their protected lands vs. the record of over 4 million acres destroyed in 2020). Here in BC, the 2021 seasonal wildfires were challenging also, with over 2 million acres destroyed. The cost of $585 million ascribed to BC’s wildfires compares with $649 million in 2017. It’s noteworthy that the wildfire that destroyed the village of Lytton June 30th occurred during record high Canadian temperature 49.6 Celsius (121.3 Fahrenheit) three days in a row.
Will Justin Trudeau be Prime Minister of Canada at the end of 2021? Yes. Trudeau’s Liberal party won re-election in September, with results that largely mirrored the election of 2019 – again resulting in a minority government in which the NDP party holds balance of power.
Will President Biden find a job approval rating higher or lower than the 63% enjoyed in January? Lower. President Joe Biden’s job approval rating is 43% according to the most recent Decembersurvey.
Will the Random Lengths Framing Lumber Composite Price break the all-time high of $955 reached in September, 2020? Yes. The Composite Price reached an all-time high of $1515 (May 25th) before crashing to $389 (August 26th). In the December 28th Random Lengths Lumber Report, the Composite Price broke through $1000 for the second time this year ($1038).
Will all things China be as dominant in international relations news stories by the end of 2021 as they are at the year’s outset? Yes. The pandemic, climate change, along with other geopolitical issues, ensured that China remained central to news dominating international relations in 2021. By year end, the challenge of constraining tense relations between the U.S. and China to “healthy competition” rather than evolving into military confrontation remained a delicate balance, with China’s warning to U.S. not to support “Taiwan Independence” following Biden’s Zoom meeting in November.
In the overcrowded virtual event market, will organizations – including lumber distributors – find new ways to encourage online connections? While engagement on social media is not a new trend, record lumber prices ignited an explosion of growth in online communities and engagement among bewildered lumber distributors, dealers, homebuilders and forest industry analystsin 2021.
Will the fashions that male lumber traders exhibited in Zoom meetings this year still be considered to be trendsetters by year-end? Year-end reports indicate that the “slob-chic” style of early pandemic Zoom era lumber trader fashions are still setting the pace. ‘Comfort’ remained top of mind on the rollercoaster that was 2021, even as traders began to return to the office.
“Transitioning to high value over high volume production will be a key element of a revitalized B.C. forest industry. The shift to value-added will help people by creating sustainable forestry jobs across B.C. We need to get more from less. Our government wants to make sure fibre is getting to manufacturers who can add more value and create more jobs as a result.” – Hon. Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
“I want my grandchildren to be able to find family-supporting work in the forest sector if that’s what they choose. But I also want them to be able to go for a hike to see old growth in the forest, not in a history book.” – Hon. Katrine Conroy
“This tension between President Biden’s goals of achieving a strong rebound for Americans, the American middle class, American workers, American jobs – and the price of lumber and the supply of lumber – is coming to a head.” – Kirsten Hillman, Ambassador of Canada to the United States
“I think that we will find that the pressure will mount for the American side to want to return to the negotiating table. To be clear however, neither the administration nor the lumber coalition have signaled an interest in doing so yet.” – Kirsten Hillman
“The Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, Nov. 2019 speaks to our sovereignty, our ability to self-determination, and speaks to recognition that Indigenous rights are human rights. The declaration doesn’t give First Nations more rights nor does it recognize that United Nations give us more rights, rather it recognizes what already exists.” – Terry Teegee, BC Regional Chief
“We can have a whole conference on this issue of free, prior, and informed consent. But what I need to really make clear is no government has a veto. There is this fearmongering that this act gives First Nations a veto which isn’t the case. Rather it creates that space where all governments can make a decision.” – Terry Teegee
“Things have changed, there’s been a real reckoning here over the last year with this pandemic. Industry must change.” – Terry Teegee
“The old way of doing business in our territory wasn’t working. I can recall back in 1992 we only had two workers in the forest industry and today I’m proud to say we probably have up to about 20 people that are benefiting from forest activity in our territory. I’m very happy that we found two organizations that were willing to work with us to create the change necessary..” – Robert J. Dennis Sr., Chief Councillor, Huu-ay-aht First Nations
“‘Everything is One’ – an integrated resource management plan.” – Robert J. Dennis Sr.
“To reach this point you need a few things.. but first and foremost, you need to have a relationship based on respect and trust. Most importantly, we were all willing to listen.” – Don Demens, President & CEO, Western Forest Products
“Where business can participate in reconciliation is on the moving forward part. We can participate by creating our own relationships.. long-lasting partnerships rather than short term transactional agreements.” – Don Demens
“Success to me is really following through on what we collectively set out to achieve and building that relationship.” – Brian Butler, President, United Steelworkers 1-1937
“What does reconciliation mean to you?” – Moderator Shannon Janzen, Vice President & Chief Forester, Western Forest Products
“Even when demand and prices rebounded it was always against the backdrop and an overhang of a devastating pandemic impacting many lives. Not everything was equal, it’s been very lumpy. It was really a 6 or 7 year cycle all condensed into one year.” – Ray Ferris, President & CEO, West Fraser
“We need to keep in context that the BC industry took more downtime than any other region in North America. When demand stopped for a period of time, half the curtailments in the industry in North America came from BC – simply devastating to our employees and the communities that we operate in. We learned again as we did in 2019 that BC is not as well-positioned as we need to be.” – Ray Ferris
“A year ago we had reduced our production significantly to try to deal with what we may be facing. We were preparing for the worst. We were running at about 30% of production in BC, 50% in the US South, and about 80% at our mills in Sweden.” – Don Kayne, President & CEO, Canfor Corporation
“I don’t mind telling you I’m tired of hearing the word unprecedented.” – Ray Ferris
“One thing for certain about trying to project prices is you’re going to be wrong.” – Don Kayne
“Wood is one of nature’s perfect materials. It’s renewable, it grows with the power of the sun, and it captures carbon as it grows. And then we convert these trees into useful long-lived products like lumber. And then we replant and the cycle starts again. BC is in an extraordinary position as the demand for wood continues to grow as a solution for climate change.” – Jeff Zweig, President & CEO, Mosaic Forest Management
“Most of the large iconic trees in BC, not all of them but most of them in unique ecosystems, are already conserved in parks. That’s a result of 30 years of old growth strategy refinement and special designations on top of that including the Great Bear Rainforest. I think everyone shares the objective to achieve long term ecosystem health. There aren’t many jurisdictions around the world that have as much parkland as BC or are as tightly regulated.” – Jeff Zweig
“Before we make changes to the way in which we manage old growth forest in BC, we need to understand what the socioeconomic impacts will be. Undoubtedly, undoubtedly we can do better. But let’s just be very considerate about how we do it, particularly during a pandemic.” – Jeff Zweig
“I have heard repeatedly if we want to build a value-added marketplace we need to make sure to cultivate that right here at home. An essential part of our approach to the industry is to make sure we do focus on that value-added marketplace and we stop chasing every stick to get it out as quickly as we can.” – Hon. John Horgan Premier of British Columbia
“Two years ago I wrote to CEO’s in the industry outlining our vision for the industry. I wrote that letter because the growing shortage of fibre following the one-two punches of successive wildfire seasons and the end of the beetle kill made it imperative we do something about the declining fibre basket and too many people chasing too few trees. And I encouraged CEO’s to work with leaders from labour, from communities and from Indigenous Nations to find a way forward to show leadership on the land base with all of the partners. And I acknowledge there were many challenges to that initiative and I was more hopeful than perhaps I should have been. Of course there have been some B2B tenure sales and arrangements with Indigenous Nations have happened, but you’ll all be aware of course that there’s progress yet to happen and I’m disappointed about that.” – Hon. John Horgan
“So to bring about the change, government will have to step in I believe to make the appropriate incentives to get the job done. And just an aside to our American friends, incentives do not mean subsidies, incentives mean we’re making the transition as a community to make sure we take full advantage of the bounty that belongs to all of us.” – Hon. John Horgan
“Those who do have tenure and do not want to share it, well we’ll have to step in and ensure there’s fair compensation as we move to a more equitable distribution of access to forest products so that we can continue to have the diversity that we all want to see.” – Hon. John Horgan
As year-end approaches, you’ll recall 20 Questions for 2020 asked at Harderblog almost one year ago:
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.
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.
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.
Will the US standoff with North Korea find resolution before the Softwood Lumber Dispute between Canada and the US? No.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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)
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.”
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.
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”.
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.”
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.
Is Donald J. Trump still president at the end of 2020? Yes, barely!
Recipe Highlights for lumber trader’s survival. A delectable turkey side dish of current lumber market opinion. Mix a peck of prudence with an abundance of caution. Stir in a pinch of patience. Flavor to pain tolerance. Mask temptation to taste before allowing adequate cooling. Stand back and stand by. Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!
Shannon Falls, third highest waterfall in BC – Sept 2020
This summer of COVID confinement might cast close-to-home vacations a hardship — unless you’re living in beautiful British Columbia. So it was that, within guidelines shaped by BC Chief Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, even lumber traders took advantage of sunny summer days for respite from wacky, inexplicable markets. This video was produced by my drone-savvy nephew Sebastian, who joined my family for four amazing days of house boating on lovely Shuswap Lake. It offered time for recreation nurturing attitude of gratitude in times that for many spell struggle, social injustice, and uncertainty.