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

19 Questions for 2019

Here are 19 questions that Harderblog will be watching next year, in search of answers:

1. Will the railways be better prepared for winter weather conditions?

2. Will the extreme price volatility in lumber markets this year persist in 2019?

3. Will Justin Trudeau still be Canada’s prime minister after Canada’s federal election scheduled on or before October 21, 2019?

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

5. Will Beto O’Rourke or Joe Biden emerge as the leading Democratic presidential nominee for 2020 by the end of 2019?

6. Will the 12 months of 2019 provide conclusive evidence that trade wars are “easy to win”?

7. Will noise about the border wall on the U.S. southern border have lessened by the end of 2019?

8. Will progress be reported in solutions for solving the opioid epidemic?

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?

10. Will 2019 see a reduction in anxiety levels among continent-wide lumber distributors?

11. Will Canadian softwood lumber exports to China (dropping each year since 2014) continue to decline?

12. Will an old-growth protection strategy be established in B.C.?

13. Will the accelerating rate of climate change evidenced in 2018 be exacerbated by global climate patterns experienced in 2019?

14. Will the U.S. repeat as the FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions?

15. Will the record number of homeless people identified in the City of Vancouver’s 2018 Homeless Count be broken again in 2019?

16. Will 2019 have seen an economic recession?

17. Will Brexit status be significant in determining whether Britain is “better off” at the end of 2019 than at the end of 2018?

18. Will European lumber deliveries to the U.S. decline in 2019?

19. In view of lower lumber prices, will we see movement in the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber dispute?

Year-end Answers

As we approach year-end, you’ll recall 11 questions for 2018 we posed one year ago at Harderblog:

1. Will rhetoric of military strike pass the ‘tipping point’ into war with North Korea?
No.

2. Will the Bitcoin excitement be fading, or prove to be a bubble?
“For built into this situation is the eventual and inevitable fall. Built in also is the circumstance that it cannot come gently or gradually. When it comes, it bears the grim face of disaster. That is because both of the groups of participants in the speculative situation are programmed for sudden efforts at escape. Something, it matters little what – although it will always be much debated – triggers the ultimate reversal. Those who had been riding the upward wave decide now is the time to get out. Those who thought the increase would be forever find their illusion destroyed abruptly, and they, also, respond to the newly revealed reality by selling or trying to sell. Thus the collapse. And thus the rule, supported by the experience of centuries: the speculative episode always ends not with a whimper but with a bang. There will be occasion to see the operation of this rule frequently repeated.”
– John Kenneth Galbraith, A Short History of Financial Euphoria

3. Will the extreme weather patterns evidenced in 2017 be as pronounced in 2018?
According to The Washington Post, the extreme floods, droughts, heat waves and wildfires that broke out this year across North America, Europe and Asia were unprecedented. In Canada, it’s reported no region was spared from extreme weather events; in B.C., 2018 was the worst wildfire season in history, beating the previous record set in 2017. The Weather Channel calls 2018 the year of the California wildfires.

4. Will Trump take steps to call a halt to the special prosecutor’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election?
Who knows for sure, although reports suggest it’s less likely now than appeared to be the case at the beginning of 2018.

5. Has integrity lost some of its lustre as a perceived prerequisite for leadership success?
2018 – a year when we’ve been inured to shock! Many revelations, many developments unfolding still, lead us to believe that integrity remains a prerequisite for leadership success in the long run.

6. As higher lumber prices effectively offset impact of duties, will Canadian major producers’ newly-hedged investments in U.S. production assuage any further concerns companies such as West Fraser and Canfor might have about the ongoing Softwood Lumber Dispute?
It’s a combination of factors, including fibre supply and ongoing international trade/duty related concerns that has motivated major producers to seek out options for gaining better control over the variable factors that go into managing their operations. Contrary to Trump’s America First philosophy, these days the large integrated corporations recognize they have to think globally to be successful.

7. Will Germany repeat as FIFA World Cup champions?
No. Germany did not make it out of the Group Stage, finishing last in Group F which also included Sweden, Mexico, and South Korea. France won the 2018 World Cup, beating Croatia 4-2 in the final.

8. Will the powers that be acknowledge that the re-manufacturing (value-added) segment of the Canadian forest sector is being unfairly penalized in the application of the AD/CVD?
No. On re-manufactured specialty wood products, the cross-border Anti-dumping (AD) and Countervailing duties (CVD) continue to be applied to the selling (border) price instead of the first mill price. Freight and all processing costs are included in the AD/CVD calculation. The resulting, punishing impact of this application on the value-added segment of the Canadian forest sector has been described as “an unintended consequence” of the Softwood Lumber Dispute.

9. Will softwood lumber be incorporated into NAFTA?
Softwood lumber was not incorporated into NAFTA 2.0 which was signed November 30th but has yet to be ratified.

10. In view of the fractured supply chain, will lumber buyers abandon the “just-in-time” model in favour of securing coverage that satisfies longer-term projected needs?
No. On the heels of the epic, bull-trap riddled lumber market collapse from the record high prices reached in June, the “just-in-time” model has probably intensified.

11. Will broccoli, the least-trusted vegetable of 2017 among lumber traders and the general population, retain that notoriety in 2018, at the same time as the world watches broccoli’s favorability surge to number one in Scotland?
A not-so-random survey among lumber traders reveals that broccoli has been gaining in approval ratings among lumber traders and the general population this year. In fact a survey suggests that as of June 2018, broccoli took the lead as America’s favorite vegetable. While many vegetables consumed in the U.S. are imported from Mexico, broccoli is well down the list of imported vegetables.

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)

2018 NAWLA Vancouver Regional Meeting

Another sell-out crowd packed The Vancouver Club’s Grand Ballroom yesterday afternoon for the annual North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA) Regional Meeting. Vancouver’s Lumber Marketing Event of the Year also celebrated NAWLA’s 125th year “dedicated to growing and nurturing every aspect of the lumber industry.” NAWLA’s Executive Director Marc Saracco opened the meeting. Presentations by three featured speakers were all very well-received:

Jennifer Cover, Executive Director, WoodWorks USA – Wood Products Council
Russ Taylor, Managing Director – Forest Economic Advisors (FEA) Canada
Derek Orr, Business Development Manager, Carrier Lumber Ltd

Thanks to Tree Frog News for the following images posted with permission.

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Sharpening the Saw

Its been said that there is power in staying connected to other people in your industry. My fifth consecutive B.C. Council of Forest Industries (COFI) Convention, held in Prince George last week, provided again opportunity to return with ideas to sharpen skills and stay abreast of a rapidly-changing lumbering landscape. The listed takeaways include a surprise at how few marketing and sales types were among more than 550 delegates who packed the Prince George Civic Centre for agenda presentations:

-The prevailing politically-charged environment these days seemed to shape tempered viewpoints from panelists on several fronts. Folks looking for Interfor President & CEO Duncan Davies to deliver pertinent softwood lumber dispute insights were disappointed. His confirmation lauding the work the Softwood Lumber Board is doing to grow softwood lumber demand did not excite. Fortunately a pointed question from the audience, asking why Canadian producers would support the SLB when a number of U.S. members are working to constrain market access, elicited topical response: “The tariffs are wrong. Whether or not the economy is helping to soften the blow, the tariffs should not be there. Inspite of trade matters, we need to continue to invest in our biggest market.” From West Fraser President & CEO Ted Seraphim: “Today, we’re not worried about the softwood lumber dispute. But if the market were weaker, we’d all be worrying about it. So we need to grow demand.”

-While there wasn’t a panel discussion dedicated to timely transportation concerns, Federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau addressed the situation. He said CN and CP need to do better. He pointed to Bill C-49 (Transportation Modernization Act) but his reporting an improvement in railcar capacity for grain fell flat among an audience concerned with lumber shipments. From Beth MacNeil, Assistant Deputy Minister, Canadian Forest Service: “Without infrastructure, there is no trade.”

Jock Finlayson, Business Council of B.C., talked about the uncertain, shifting economic landscape in this province. He referenced the impact of uncertainty on investor confidence and how Canada is lagging in healthy capital formation. He sees little upside in residential construction in Canada, while pointing to “fundamental organic demand for housing growth” in the U.S. 30-39 age group. He suggested recent fiscal stimulus in the U.S. is unnecessary and poorly timed. Presently 300,000-400,000 manufacturing jobs in the U.S. are unfilled.

-According to Paul Jannke, Forest Economic Advisors (FEA), the U.S. labour force is the single biggest constraining factor in U.S. sawmill production.

-It was refreshing to hear from B.C.’s new Minister of Forests, Doug Donaldson, but otherwise nothing noteworthy recorded.

-An excellent presentation by Kevin Pankratz, Senior VP, Sales & Marketing, Canfor addressed export markets and the global outlook. Interesting to learn that the R&R market is bigger than new home construction. Expansive growth in hybrid construction, off-site construction, and building automation in all markets reported. “Governments everywhere will increase focus on green building initiatives to meet emission targets.”

-Most edgy presentation (“Fibre Supply – It Is What We Make It”) goes to Diane Nicholls, now two years into her job as B.C.’s Chief Forester. In the aftermath of the Mountain Pine Beetle, she seemingly referees the constant fight for access to quality fibre, further complicated by the Spruce Beetle presently eating into the midterm timber supply.

-The Forestry Jobs for Today and Tomorrow panel might have been one of the highlights. Best moderator of the convention goes to Sandy Ferguson, VP Corporate Development, Conifex. It was interesting to hear industry (Canfor/Interfor/Tolko/West Fraser) is working to rejuvenate parts of the BCIT Wood Products Manufacturing Program I graduated from, which has been dormant since 2003. From Kara Biles, Manager Learning & Talent, Canfor: “Aggressively advocate for diversity and inclusion in your company; diversity is a competitive differentiator shifting market share toward more diverse companies.” Derek Orr, Business Development Manager, Carrier provided update on planning underway for a Ranger Program aimed at development/training of Aboriginal youth. Lots of sponsor traction for the program including Carrier, Dunkley, Conifex, West Fraser, and Canfor.

Premier John Horgan seemed pleasantly surprised with the warm welcome before delivering his keynote speech Friday morning: “Thank you for clapping.” He deftly navigated the politically-charged minefield.

~~~

At first glance, the 2018 COFI Convention struck me as perhaps being lighter on content in comparison with past years. However, on second glance, it was rich in both content and opportunity, with plenty to digest. As one among four delegates from Dakeryn Industries, I again return from this convention with new and enlightening ideas. For us all, it was a worthwhile time to ‘sharpen our saws’.

Premier John Horgan with COFI President & CEO Susan Yurkovich (6 Apr 2018)