Market Milieu

Where, oh where has the market gone? This is the mournful lament intoned on lumber trading floors spooked well in advance of Hallowe’en this year.

Conditions testing the resilience of experienced traders are drawing comparisons with the global financial crisis and US housing market collapse of a decade ago. Today’s geopolitical landscape seems besieged with instability amid crises, including international trade concerns, rising interest rates, financial market volatility, and looming US elections.

Seasoned traders seek to offer reassurance and calm aimed at validating longstanding customer-supplier relationships. While financial analysts scramble to make sense of conditions in the face of seemingly disparate economic data, it seems timely to explore tips for dealing with the biggest lumber market meltdown in history.

Google has advice for handling times like these. One link offering “28 positive things you can do when business is slow” suggests a slow period is just another name for opportunity: “ask for help, take some down time, take a course, take up a hobby, network, develop new offerings, rethink your business model and processes, strengthen important relationships, write, teach, volunteer, exercise, study another industry.” Some guys have even been known to enthusiastically take up coaching – not one – but two girls’ soccer teams.

Another column suggested eating lots of leafy green vegetables to keep your cognitive abilities sharp and on high alert. Even so, we’re told Canada’s legalized cannabis should not be seen as a tool for alleviating anxiety in current market milieu.

Where, oh where has the market gone?
Like a saucer of yesterday’s beer.
I don’t wanna be short,
I don’t wanna be long,
In fact Duthie, I don’t even wanna be here.

– Ernie Harder, singing live at the 1995 British Columbia Wholesale Lumber Association Roast honoring Duthie Welsford, BCWLA Lumberman of the Year (recording below)

Lumber Trader’s Witch Hunt!

The Information Age has seemingly spawned increasingly polarized views on pretty much everything – exposing even close ties between supplier mills and wholesalers, some with ties to blogging. Fake news occasionally rears its ugly head. Reg Foot of Carrier Lumber is about to experience this when the B.C. Wholesale Lumber Association (BCWLA) honours him as The 2017 BCWLA Lumberman of the Year this week. We posed ten questions to Reg in advance of Thursday evening’s gala at the Terminal City Club in Vancouver:

1. How did you get into the business?
Started playing squash with Terry Kuzma (previous Carrier Lumber’s Woodlands Manager) about 20 years ago and he asked if I would ever be interested in a career change.. the rest is history.

2. When did you join Carrier Lumber and how long have you been Lumber Sales Manager?
Joined Carrier in September ’99 under the direction of Ron Gettling, Sales Manager and became sales manager in April, 2002.

3. Any mentors?
Absolutely.. Gord Wilkinson – my first sales manager when I was in newspaper advertising sales. Gord gave me my first break into sales and taught me some foundational sales techniques that I still practice today. Curt Garland, President of Lomak Bulk Carriers Corp – this was my second job in sales. Curt was instrumental in helping me transition from retail sales to an industrial sales environment. Ron Gettling, retired sales manager of Carrier Lumber. Ron taught me the finer points of mill lumber sales and its time-honoured traditions.

4. Others besides bloggers who have had a positive influence on your career?
My wife Sylvia, for supporting me throughout all the trials and tribulations of the lumber industry and for being my soundboard on the challenging days and helping me stay focused. Bill Kordyban, President of Carrier Lumber, for showing me resiliency, loyalty, and calmness in spite of some major market challenges.

5. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry?
Technology has really advanced the way we manufacture lumber, allowing us to be competitive in very challenging markets. As far as lumber sales, technology has changed the way we confirm orders, but thankfully it has not replaced the power of a customer-mill relationship. I hope that never happens.

6. What’s the most exotic destination you have shipped lumber to? 

7. How’s your squash game?
Limping along.. literally.

8. What do you fear most about being subject of the BCWLA Roast on Thursday evening?
No one will show up.

9. Can you describe why some consider the Roast merely to be a witch hunt, unlikely to expose positive details of your distinguished lumber career, that, with humility, you have heretofore been seeking to cover up, according to Carl Bernstein?
I am totally OK with a witch hunt. It is more entertaining to hear about a person’s failures than to listen to all the wonderful accomplishments. Just ask TMZ or the National Enquirer for further proof.

10. Please tell us why even an arms-length association you might enjoy with BCWLA distributors should not be a subject of investigation under terms of NAFTA, or, at very least, subject to renegotiation?
???? – next question.

Softwood ‘n Hard Cheese

Is it a trend that will one day see 100 per cent slivers of grated Spruce-Pine-Fir on our pasta as fake parmesan cheese? A recent report says the cheese police are on guard. Grated parmesan cheese is now being tested for wood-pulp content found to be laced by manufacturers of the product beyond “acceptable levels”. Who knew? While 2-4 per cent cellulose in your hard cheese is evidently considered to be a safe additive, over 60 per cent of grated ‘cheese’ recently tested by the FDA turned out to be wood fibre. We’re told that cheese makers commit adulterations because it saves money. “Consumers are innocent, and they’re not getting what they bargained for. And that’s just wrong,” says Neil Schuman, whose New Jersey-based company is the biggest seller of hard Italian cheeses in the United States. It’s been suggested the only solution to this issue is for the price of lumber to increase to the point it would not be a cost saving to add to the grated cheese.



The Lost Tapes

We’re pleased to confirm the painstaking audio restoration of two more timeless musical offerings is now complete – from the BCWLA Roasts for 1995 Lumberman of the Year Duthie Welsford and 1999 LOTY Doug Butterworth. The digital transfers from brittle VHS tapes of Ernie Harder singing “The Welsford Wagon” and “You Are Our Sunshine” available below (also added to the roast song archives at bottom of this post).

For roast aficionados, full audio of roaster Ernie Harder at the 1999 roast for LOTY Doug Butterworth:


2016 BCWLA Smoker

Vishva Ramlal, Deputy Director, Softwood Lumber Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, was the distinguished speaker at the 15th Annual B.C. Wholesale Lumber Association Smoker yesterday afternoon, downtown Vancouver. Having led a team of officers in the implementation and management of the 2006 SLA, Ramlal is responsible for all consultations with provinces, territories, and industry with eye to possible negotiations regarding future softwood lumber trade with the United States. It was an informal talk touching mostly on a diverse array of Ramlal’s experiences in the public, private, and non-governmental sectors.


Rafters, Roosters, and Roasters

The highly-anticipated 35th Annual B.C. Wholesale Lumber Association Roast honouring 2015 Lumberman of the Year Bill Rafter last night was a resounding success. Shortly after presenting him with an Inukshuk for outstanding service and dedication to the Association, BCWLA President Kent Beveridge turned the evening over to funny-as-ever master roast host Jack Hetherington. Archie Rafter, Ian Shopland, and Rick Fortunaso soon piled on with a rapid-fire collection of stories involving “Junior” which ranged from the hilarious to the mildly disturbing. Despite their hollers for a Nanaimo Chicken Kick, the packed house settled for Bill’s timeless Sinatra, in a flawless verse of The Girl From Ipanema. Bill’s comprehensive rebuttal can only be described as a walk-off home run.

Lumber Roast Post

Bill Rafter2

Bill Rafter

It’s all happening tonight in Vancouver. It’s the B.C. Wholesale Lumber Association’s annual dinner, at which the industry for more than 30 years has been in the habit of honouring a “Lumberman of the Year” (to date it’s been all men selected). It’s generally considered that past recipients have earned the honour in having served the industry with distinction. No doubt among the main criteria in the selection process is the ability to withstand a thorough roasting from industry associates – some of them even friends. The selection committee this year obviously liked the name association of this year’s chosen one in it’s direct link to housing construction.
So it is that Bill Rafter, recently retired from Interfor, will be lambasted when the fun gets underway this evening at The Terminal City Club. Roasters include:

  • Archie Rafter – cousin to Bill for 58 years
  • Ian Shopland – friend and colleague, first met Bill in 1972 at a curling club
  • Rick Fortunaso – GM North American Whitewood at Interfor; met Bill as a teenager while curling on Vancouver Island

Reached this morning for comment, legendary roastmaster Jack Hetherington sounded especially jacked about tonight: “Attendees can expect the unexpected,” said Jack. “These guys have all been throwing rocks at each other from a very young age.”

Upstaging the Cups

FIFA’s World Cup captures global interest every four years. It might be the center of attention in Brazil this week, but in downtown Vancouver tomorrow, the B.C. Wholesale Lumber Association (BCWLA) Lumberman of the Year Dinner/Roast will not be upstaged by World Cups.. or Stanley Cups. This splashing evening at the prestigious Terminal City Club in honor of 2014 Lumberman of the Year Bill Barnett is the 34th Annual BCWLA Roast. A full list of Lumberman of the Year recipients is available here at the BCWLA website.

I’ve learned that the idea to have a Lumberman of the Year Dinner/Roast was the brainchild of a PR committee that was formed inside the B.C. Wholesale Lumber Association. Ernie Harder and Duthie Welsford were on that original PR committee that teed up the Annual Lumberman of the Year idea. Ernie was the first MC, when Phil Tindle at Ralph S. Plant was roasted in 1980 (see images from that First Annual BCWLA Lumberman of the Year Roast at bottom). He went on to be a roaster at close to 20 of them. “I recall how the original discussions around shaping that event were concerned with ensuring that it would be a ‘classy’ event, aligned with the right image we wanted to reinforce about B.C. Wholesalers,” says Ernie. “In those days we were very much trying to reaffirm the significance of B.C. Wholesalers, communicate their value in the performance of the wholesale function in the distribution chain of forest industry products, and enhance goodwill within the industry. Early on it was thought that we should alternate naming somebody from the wholesale segment and the mill segment of the industry. Then, it spread out to lend wider appeal, and selection from among distinguished industry leadership, e.g. Mike Apsey, Don Lanskail, David Emerson. Jack Hetherington has been a longtime key guy in shaping the event; he certainly deserves credit – and the blame – for introducing bagpipes!”

Tomorrow’s Roast Program 2014 tells us that BCWLA President Chris Sainas will open the festivities before turning things over to Roast Master Jack Hetherington and scheduled roasters Tom Casey, Andy McGibbon, and Ernie Harder. I rummaged through a box of my dad’s old cassette tapes and discovered his live musical offerings from some of the earliest roasts. These recordings are archived below:

The B&S Theory of Lumber Wholesaling

It was written in 1970. Over 20 years later, I would open a textbook at BCIT to discover that my dad’s B&S Theory formed a large part of the chapter on lumber wholesaling in the Wood Products Sales & Distribution course.

I welcome your feedback on the B&S Theory of Lumber Wholesaling. Do you agree with the basis of the theory? Does the theory hold relevance today?

Top Ten Questions for 2014

On this New Year’s Eve, here are the Top Ten Questions that Harderblog will be watching in 2014, in search of answers:

  1. Is there a real shortage of fibre supply looming?
  2. Is B.C. doing enough to restore/replant forest that was degraded/destroyed by the Mountain Pine Beetle?
  3. Is the northern pipeline a relevant issue of interest to forestry in this province?
  4. Will Canadian Softwood lumber shipments to the United States be ‘duty-free’ for all twelve months in 2014?
  5. Is there a housing bubble developing in Canada?
  6. Will U.S. housing starts reach 1.25 million in 2014?
  7. What does the emerging Super Cycle mean to lumber distributors in North America?
  8. Who benefits from lumber and log exports to China?
  9. Is the gap likely to narrow between Lulongo’s income in 2014 and the average lumber trader’s income?
  10. Will West Fraser and Canfor ship enough wood to China in the New Year to renovate the Great Wall?

………. I invite your comments, suggestions, and input!


Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre holds 2,780 people. This blog was viewed over 14,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at The Orpheum, it would take about five sold-out performances for that many people to see it; the audiences would include people from 103 different countries. In 2013, there were 177 new posts, growing the total archive of Harderblog to 574 posts. There were 326 images uploaded, taking up a total of 719 MB. That’s about six pictures per week. The busiest day of the year was June 14th with 334 views. The most popular post that day was 33rd Annual BCWLA Lumberman of the Year Roast. Happy New Year!
(Hat Tip: