Scribbles from the virtual 2021 COFI Convention

  1. Convention buzzwords: challenges, volatility, change, value-added, relationships, Indigenous, partnerships, diversity, climate, carbon, communities, everyone, recovery, collaboration, mass timber, pandemic, resilient, lumpy.
  2. “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
  3. “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
  4. “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
  5. “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
  6. “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
  7. “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
  8. “Things have changed, there’s been a real reckoning here over the last year with this pandemic. Industry must change.”
    Terry Teegee
  9. “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
  10. “‘Everything is One’ – an integrated resource management plan.”
    Robert J. Dennis Sr.
  11. “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
  12. “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
  13. “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
  14. “What does reconciliation mean to you?”
    Moderator Shannon Janzen, Vice President & Chief Forester, Western Forest Products
  15. “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
  16. “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
  17. “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
  18. “I don’t mind telling you I’m tired of hearing the word unprecedented.”
    Ray Ferris
  19. “One thing for certain about trying to project prices is you’re going to be wrong.”
    Don Kayne
  20. “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
  21. “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
  22. “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
  23. “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
  24. “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
  25. “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
  26. “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

12 Questions for 2021

  1. Will Canada achieve stated goal of having every citizen who desires the shot to be inoculated by end of September, 2021?
  2. 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 end of 2021?
  3. Will lumber markets be more predictable in 2021 than was the case in 2020?
  4. Will the U.S. be as largely divided by partisan identity at the end of 2021 as it is at the end of 2020?
  5. Will North American major professional sports leagues have returned to “normal business” operations by Autumn 2021?
  6. Will the record destruction caused by wildfires in California in 2020 be eclipsed in 2021?
  7. Will Justin Trudeau be Prime Minister of Canada at the end of 2021?
  8. Will President Biden find a job approval rating higher or lower than the 63% enjoyed in January?
  9. Will the Random Lengths Framing Lumber Composite Price break the all-time high of $955 reached in September, 2020? ***$1,515 summit – May 25, 2021***
  10. 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?
  11. In the overcrowded virtual event market, will organizations – including lumber distributors – find new ways to encourage online connections?
  12. Will the fashions that male lumber traders exhibited in Zoom meetings this year still be considered to be trendsetters by year-end?

Fraser River Trail, Vancouver B.C.

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!

Lumber Market Survival Recipe

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!

20 Questions for 2020

Here are 20 questions that Harderblog will be watching this year, in search of answers:

    1. Will billionaire Jimmy Pattison succeed in taking Canfor private before his 92nd birthday on October 1, 2020?
    2. Will volumes of reduced fibre made available to sawmills from BC woodlands be outstripped by fibre consumed in Shredded Wheat?
    3. In this age of emerging technology, will tech gadgets surface that invite even lumber traders to investigate their perceived practical value?
    4. Will the US standoff with North Korea find resolution before the Softwood Lumber Dispute between Canada and the US?
    5. Will the financial bull markets of the last decade continue to roar in 2020?
    6. Will economic disparity between the haves and the have-nots show signs of narrowing?
    7. Will a recovery in lumber prices postpone more production curtailments and permanent sawmill closures in BC?
    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?
    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?
    10. Will shipment volumes of European lumber flood the Northeast US market as some analysts project?
    11. Is integrity still considered to be the core quality in evaluating services delivered by lumber wholesalers?
    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?
    13. Will Home Depot succeed in reducing the rise in millions of dollars worth of goods stolen from the chain by organized criminals?
    14. In overtaking Toronto as the most expensive city in Canada, will Vancouver maintain that position in 2020?
    15. Will an old growth protection strategy be established in BC?
    16. Will there be significant evidence of steps being taken to counter negatives impacting climate change?
    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?
    18. Will clues of democracy giving way to authoritarian governments become more pronounced in 2020?
    19. Will John Bolton publish a book that contains information deemed to include “explosive, new revelations”?
    20. Is Donald J. Trump still president at the end of 2020?

Year-end Answers

As we approach year-end, you’ll recall 19 questions for 2019 we posed one year ago at Harderblog:

1. Will the railways be better prepared for winter weather conditions?
If lumber prices are any gauge, yes. In 2018, extreme cold temperatures in Q1 severely reduced rail capacity, driving lumber prices to all-time highs in Q2, 2018. In Q1 2019, comparatively muted lumber prices suggest overall network capacity improved.

2. Will the extreme price volatility in lumber markets this year persist in 2019?
No. In 2018, the Random Lengths Framing Lumber Composite Price peaked at $583 (June 5) before shedding a whopping $245 over four expensive months riddled with false starts, before finally bottoming at $338 Oct 30. In sharp contrast, this year the gap between the composite high ($378 in Feb) and low ($320 in June) was narrow. The composite currently sits at $373. Random Lengths recently described lumber markets through much of 2019 as “challenging and fickle” (Dec 20).

3. Will Justin Trudeau still be Canada’s prime minister after Canada’s federal election scheduled on or before October 21, 2019?
Yes, barely. Canada’s Liberal party under Justin Trudeau’s leadership won 157 seats to form a minority government and lost the majority they had won in the 2015 election. Trudeau’s Liberals formed a government while receiving less than 35 per cent of the national popular vote, the lowest percentage of the national popular vote of a governing party in Canadian history. The Conservative Party remains the official opposition with 121 seats. The Bloc Quebecois won 32 seats. The New Democratic Party won 24 seats.

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

5. Will Beto O’Rourke or Joe Biden emerge as the leading Democratic presidential nominee for 2020 by the end of 2019?
Beto bid the race bye bye November 1 while polls still consider Biden the nervous front runner.

6. Will the 12 months of 2019 provide conclusive evidence that trade wars are “easy to win”?
Au contraire! Ongoing reporting reaffirms damaging, costly, induced complexities in play. While baby steps on resolving trade issues are reported, what’s been described by year end as a cold war on trade with China is evidence that “trade wars are not easy to win”.

7. Will noise about the border wall on the U.S. southern border have lessened by the end of 2019?
Yes, at least based on news reports beamed north of the 49th. Or, perhaps it’s simply being drowned out by ongoing competitive, attention-seeking noises spurred on by politics.

8. Will progress be reported in solutions for solving the opioid epidemic?
A US Center for Disease Control (CDC) spokesperson said provisional data and other reports signify that “progress is being made” in the opioid epidemic. According to the agency, the turnaround is said to be due to multisector efforts at the federal, state, and local level. USA Today reports progress here in the form of awareness. In BC, it’s reported here that through the first eight months of 2019, there was a 33% decrease in illicit drug toxicity deaths over the same eight-month period in 2018 (690 vs 1,037). Fentanyl was detected in more than 85% of overdose deaths in BC in 2018 and 2019. 

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?
No. For the second year in a row, about two in three Americans say they are extremely or somewhat anxious about keeping themselves and their family safe, paying bills, and their health, according to a new national poll here by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

10. Will 2019 see a reduction in anxiety levels among continent-wide lumber distributors?
A survey of at least one lumber distributor’s office personnel revealed that lumber traders’ cheerful, positive disposition has been subjected to anxiety levels at least comparable to the stresses of a year ago.

11. Will Canadian softwood lumber exports to China (dropping each year since 2014) continue to decline?
Yes. In discussions last week with Russ Taylor, Managing Director, FEA Canada, he reported while exports to China were up 5.7% in the first nine months of 2019 YOY, shipments slowed down significantly in Q2 and Q3 due to high inventories. Taylor projects Q4 shipments in 2019 to be off roughly 50% YOY, resulting in a 5-10% decline overall this year. “For 2020, I see further declines in Canadian softwood lumber exports to China. Not only are there reduced volumes of low grades from BC, the huge surge in European log exports from the massive salvage program (wind-damaged and beetle-killed) to China (about 6.5 million m3 expected in 2019 vs 1.5 million m3 in 2018) is expected to saturate the construction lumber market by lumber produced at domestic Chinese mills. Not only will this depress construction (low grade) lumber prices, the huge volumes of damaged European logs will also keep imported log prices at low levels. Already the BC Coast logging industry is shut down for cost and market reasons – the market reasons are the surge in European log shipments to China that have pushed higher priced (and costed) hemlock logs out of the China market.”

12. Will an old-growth protection strategy be established in B.C.?
Maybe next year. According to a BC government report Oct 23, “As part of government’s new approach to managing old growth in British Columbia, a two-person, independent panel is engaging British Columbians to get input and hear perspectives on managing the province’s old growth forests for ecological, economic, and cultural values.” In July, the government protected 54 old growth trees by placing a meagre buffer zone around each of them. The action, considered to be more symbolic than symbiotic here, was described by BC Forests Minister Doug Donaldson as “the first step in a broader old-growth plan.” The public, organizations, and professionals are encouraged to share their thoughts by January 31st here.  

13. Will the accelerating rate of climate change evidenced in 2018 be exacerbated by global climate patterns experienced in 2019?
This week the Canadian Press dubbed climate change the news story of the year. The tell-tale signs and impacts of climate change – such as sea level rise, ice loss, and extreme weather – increased during 2015-2019, which is set to be the warmest five-year period on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) here. Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have also increased to record levels, locking in the warming trend for generations to come. Alluding to the challenge of meeting emission targets in a report this week here, Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Change Action Network Canada states “If we continue to ignore the root cause of climate change – extraction and combustion of fossil fuels – we’re going to keep missing the mark.”

14. Will the U.S. repeat as the FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions?
Yes. The U.S. defeated the Netherlands 2-0 in the most-watched FIFA Women’s World Cup match ever (82 million viewers). Over the 52 matches played in nine host cities across France, the average live match audience was over 17 million viewers, more than double the 8.39 million average of Canada in 2015.

15. Will the record number of homeless people identified in the City of Vancouver’s 2018 Homeless Count be broken again in 2019?
Sadly, yes. Volunteers counted 2,223 homeless people in the city this year, the highest number since the annual count began in 2005.

16. Will 2019 have seen an economic recession?
A recession is defined by a fall in trade and industrial activity in two successive quarters as measured by GDP. So while a UN flagship report in September signaled a slowing economy being fed largely by binge deficit spending, no ‘recession’ was declared in 2019. The UN’s trade and development body, Unctad, said 2019 will endure the weakest expansion in a decade and there was a risk of the slowdown turning into outright contraction in 2020. Source

17. Will Brexit status be significant in determining whether Britain is “better off” at the end of 2019 than at the end of 2018?
The majority Conservative electoral win earlier this month was significant to the degree that it allowed PM Boris Johnson to put in motion UK withdrawal Agreement from the EU set for January 31, when the post-Brexit transition period will begin. For 11 months, the UK will still follow all the EU’s rules and regulations; it will remain in the single market and the customs union, and the free movement of people will continue. The challenge for the government will be to get all its new rules and policies in place by the end of 2020. The answer as to whether or not Britain is “better off” remains unclear.

18. Will European lumber deliveries to the U.S. decline in 2019?
“Interesting dynamics here,” said Russ Taylor last week, with Q4 data TBD. “Through September 2019, European imports are 4.3% below the pace of 2018 and slowed down significantly in Q3 vs Q2 this year – probably as a result of weak US prices. However, with the China market getting over supplied and US lumber prices rising in Q4, I expect European imports to increase. If they matched Q4 levels in 2018, that would put them even with 2019. However, with a glut of moderate quality logs and rising US prices, I expect that Q4 European shipments will be up significantly over Q3 levels, and even higher than Q4 levels from 2018, resulting in a small increase for 2019. In our just-released Global Sawmill Cost Benchmarking Report, the cost structure of the German and Czech mills has dropped by US$100/MFBM due to lower log costs (and more at some mills), allowing for easy access to the US market at very profitable levels. So I expect Central European exports to soar in 2020, especially if lumber prices improve (FEA forecasts a 10% increase over 2019).”

19. In view of lower lumber prices, will we see movement in the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber dispute?
No significant movement reported. When reached for comment, Susan Yurkovich, President and CEO of the BC Council of Forest Industries, confirmed “Sadly no. Litigation will continue.”

View from The Observatory, atop Grouse Mountain (early evening 27 Dec 2019)

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