COFI Countdown

The sold out COFI 2017 Convention kicks off at 6:30pm this evening with an ice breaker in the stunning wood-infused architecture of the Vancouver Convention Centre. The largest gathering of the forest sector in Canada, we’re told over 600 delegates are registered this year, making this the biggest COFI Convention in ten years. The annual meeting brings attention and awareness to the significance of forestry to the economic well-being of the province. This year’s theme is Forestry for the Planet. Forest Products for the World.

The convention’s jam-packed itinerary ensures plenty to capture our attention through Friday. Tomorrow’s keynote speaker is renowned architect Michael Green who will present Increments of Change: from early tall wood buildings to a global movement. I’m also looking forward to the International Markets Review in the morning, and an afternoon CEO panel featuring Nick Arkle (Gorman Group), Duncan Davies (Interfor), Don Kayne (Canfor), and Ted Seraphim (West Fraser). On Friday, David Emerson, BC Trade Envoy to the United States, will discuss Canada’s Trade Negotiations Agenda with Kirsten Hillman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Trade Policy & Negotiation, Global Affairs Canada.

There’s a ton of other interesting panel discussions before we hear from BC Premier Christy Clark, keynote speaker at Friday’s closing luncheon. Speaking of politics, it’s interesting today to look back in the blog archives at Premier Clark’s keynote at the COFI 2013 Convention, a fiery speech which seemingly sparked her campaign’s comeback, leading to a surprise victory in the provincial election the following month.

A good preview of the COFI 2017 Convention is available in the podcast below. It includes a number of hard-hitting caller questions for Susan Yurkovich, COFI President & CEO. My 23 takeaways from last year’s excellent COFI Convention in Kelowna are available here.

Autumn Winds

Elizabeth Browning’s poem The Autumn refers to this time of year “Where waving woods and waters wild  Do hymn an autumn sound.” For many of us, this year’s first sounds of fall bring an unusual mix of seasonal notes:

Amid Maritime vacation memories not yet fully unpacked come reviews of first day of kindergarten for my four-year-old, a tumble and fall off the bus on day one of Grade One for my six-year-old, and newspaper reports suggesting the provincial government could seek exemptions from export duties for B.C. re-manufacturers that might come in a new Softwood Lumber Agreement with the U.S.
Ensuring access to timber for the value-added sector poses ongoing challenge. It is hoped the proposed exemption would provide incentive for big timber licensees to make more wood available to the value-added segment of the forest industry. Meanwhile, a report today from CIBC Capital Markets cites a source via Inside U.S. Trade who suggested SLA negotiations were closer at the 100-day period than they are now. 

It seems the “chilling autumn winds” that Browning talked about could deliver more than a bloody lip that highlighted my daughter’s Grade One debut. Amid election-fueled talk of softwood negotiations, lumber traders are bracing for the October 12th standstill expiry to deliver more tears than exemptions.

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Lunchtime! with Grandad – Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia (30 Aug 2016)

 

COFI Convention in full bloom

There’s always a chance that brilliance of cherry trees in blossom could upstage a Council of Forest Industries Convention scheduled for mid April in the Okanagan. However, the program itinerary ensures there’s plenty to capture our attention at the Kelowna meetings this weekend. COFI’s Convention website boasts that the largest gathering of the forest sector in Western Canada will attract 400-500 delegates “including industry CEOs, vice presidents and senior managers from continental North America and offshore, senior representatives from customers, suppliers, financial institutions, law firms, local government and chambers of commerce, Federal and Provincial Ministers, MPs, MLAs and senior civil servants, along with Premier Christy Clark… and me.

The Convention though, will see and hear the Premier, featured as closing keynote speaker. The annual gathering brings attention and awareness to the significance of forestry to the economic well-being of the province. My 25 takeaways from last year’s convention are available here.

COFI points out that “with 140 B.C. communities dependent on forestry, the 300 wood products manufacturing facilities in B.C. provide one out of every four manufacturing jobs in the province and account for 35 per cent of all commodity exports from B.C. COFI CEO and President, Susan Yurkovich, featured speaker at the upcoming NAWLA Regional Meeting in Vancouver April 21st, reminded us that “the industry directly and indirectly employs about 145,000 across the province, from Fort St. John to Vancouver, with one in 16 jobs in B.C. associated with forestry.”  All of this surely representative of an industry in full bloom.

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Lake Okanagan, Kelowna (April 9, 2016)

Tourists and Woodsmen

Aims of finding a fair balance between the tourism industry and forest industry is important to all. During the week, we make our living by marketing quality wood products produced from the forest. We facilitate shipment of those products around the world. On the weekends, we also enjoy being tourists in our own province with getaways into B.C.’s coastal and Interior woods. The unmatched natural beauty of our forest attracts visitors from around the globe. They’re expected to visit in record numbers this season. Of course, value of the loonie helps. Billions of dollars are at stake in both tourism and forest-related industries in B.C.

I was reminded of the challenges involved in balancing the interests of both industries by this article in The Vancouver Sun describing concerns over a clearcut visible from the Hope Slide Viewpoint. A Council of Tourism Association (COTA) report in 2007 entitled A Tourism industry strategy for forests provided recommendations for improving the identification, management, and safeguarding of scenic areas significant to tourism – particularly in the face of salvage logging beetle-killed wood. This 2011 report by the Association of B.C. Forest Professionals included recommendations that Visual Quality Objectives (VQO) should be a focus for nature-based tourism. Professional Foresters agree that “difficult trade-offs exist when considering the right balance following Mountain Pine Beetle damage. Increasing or reducing one value at the expense of other values requires informed discussion and debate… Public consultation in areas of high sensitivity is required to prevent undesirable outcomes.”

2015 COFI Convention – 25 Takeaways

  1. Most oft-used word at the convention: Certainty. Canfor CEO Don Kayne said China wants supply “certainty”. A member of the audience questioned how we provide that “certainty” to China in view of the Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court of Canada ruling. In another session, B.C.’s Chief Forester Dave Peterson said there’s been considerable “uncertainty” since 2000 regarding impact of the mountain pine beetle. “All these pieces of uncertainty are gone.. we’re past the point of doing math.. we know what it has done” (730 million cubic metres of timber killed). In his Forest Minister’s Address, Steve Thomson suggested working toward “certainty” on the provincial land base is a government priority.
  2. Second most oft-used word at the convention: Integrated. Integrated harvest regime, integrated forest bioeconomy etc. etc. “Bioproducts have the highest likelihood of success when integrated with existing primary timber conversion,” said Rod Albers, Manager Energy & Bio-Product Development at West Fraser. Lignin can be “re-integrated” into engineered wood products.
  3. You can make anything with lignin except money.
  4. Third most oft-used word at the convention: Partnerships. A key theme across all panelists.
  5. There’s a looming shortage of biomass in B.C. “We run out in 2023/2024/2025.” (Murray Hall Consulting)
  6. Dr. Trevor Stuthridge, Executive Vice-President FP Innovations confirmed the bioeconomy is the fastest growing economic sector in the world. The title of his presentation “Will Canada and B.C. play a role in the bioeconomy?” remains an open question.
  7. Torrefaction – the process of roasting and toasting – is not unique to Starbucks. Roasting wood into biocoal is now the 2nd generation of wood pellets (Jerry Ericsson, President of Diacarbon Energy Inc.)
  8. Dwindling fibre supply projections/forecasts/assumptions in the B.C. Interior are based on current management/conventional thinking. Are there ways that we can re-define current management?
  9. “More contraction” is a nice way of saying mills shutting down.
  10. “Biomass is everything that’s left over after everybody’s used everything they want” – Murray Hall Consulting. “There is no sawmill waste left – lets stop talking about it as an untapped source of bioeconomy growth.”
  11. Sandy Ferguson, VP Corporate Development at Conifex confirmed substantial work has been completed to resolve the equipment failure at the Conifex bioenergy plant in Mackenzie. Start-up date TBD.
  12. “Look out for China,” warned Brendan Lowney, Forest Economic Advisors. “I’m more nervous about China than I’ve been in many years,” added Russ Taylor, Wood Markets Group.
  13. “I can guarantee you 1.5 million U.S. housing starts but I can’t guarantee when” – Brendan Lowney
  14. “It’s impossible to forecast housing starts” – Russ Taylor
  15. Cost structure is changing in B.C. = rising log costs.
  16. Four shiploads of European lumber set sail for the East Coast in January. Changes in exporting countries FX resulted in 15% drop in SPF #2&Btr prices in China (Nov 2014-Feb 2015). There is reportedly now “little room for lower prices on Russian and European lumber,” according to Russ Taylor.
  17. Ecosystem-based management = balancing economic, environmental, and human well-being.
  18. Dallas Smith, President and CEO Nanwakolas Business Corp, and Nanwakolas Council, is one compelling speaker.
  19. The future of high-rise construction is wood. The proposed 18-storey wood-frame tower at UBC would be the tallest wooden building of its kind in the world.
  20. Oliver Lang, Partner at Lang Wilson Practice in Architecture, was the only speaker who addressed “urban culture” and the trend toward multi-family home construction in this urban context. While the moderator likened Lang’s presentation to “trying to drink water from a fire hose”, it was riveting. While wood is the sustainable, green building material, traditional single-family home construction is not the sustainable model of the future.
  21. “Minimizing waste created by our activity is a primary global environmental and social objective.” – Chief Forester Dave Peterson. “Given future sawlog supply reductions, it’s a very tricky balance point between the interests of existing and potential fibre users.”
  22. “There is no question we have fibre supply challenges.” – Mark Feldinger, Canfor
  23. China used more cement in the last three years than the U.S. did in the 20th century (FEA)
  24. Truck driver shortages are worsening. Only 12% of for-hire drivers are under the age of 30. Canada could experience a shortage of 25,000-33,000 for-hire drivers by 2020. (Matthew May, BST Transportation Group)
  25. This year’s CEO panel discussion featured Ted Seraphim, West Fraser and Don Kayne, Canfor. In a convention packed with punch, count this blogger among many who left that hurried luncheon session disappointed. The seated ‘fireside chat’ was void of any meaningful content beyond vague, shared “optimism” about the future.

NAWLA Vancouver – Speaker Profile cont.

Gavin Dew works with the Stakeholder Engagement and Communications group on Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project, a proposed $5.4B twinning of an existing pipeline between Strathcona County, Alberta and Burnaby, British Columbia. Since early 2012, he has worked to build support for the project among civil society and the business community. Prior to beginning his work with Trans Mountain, Gavin completed an at MBA at the University of Oxford, where he wrote a thesis on “social license to operate,” focusing on using public opinion research to understand how trust and legitimacy influence acceptance or rejection of major projects. Before his MBA, Gavin was a senior consultant at a leading communications agency known for its work on sustainability and environmental issues. He also has an extensive background in municipal, provincial, federal, and international election and issue campaigns.

Attendance for Thursday’s NAWLA Vancouver Regional Meeting is approaching 200. Event details and on-line registration is available here.

Kinder Morgan Canada is proposing a $5.4B expansion of its current 1,150 kilometre Trans Mountain pipeline between Strathcona County, Alberta and Burnaby, British Columbia.

The proposed Trans Mountain Expansion Project, if approved, would create a twinned pipeline increasing the nominal capacity of the system from approximately 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day.

Trans Mountain plans to spend $5.4 billion to construct the line and associated facilities, and a further $2.4 billion to operate it for the first 20 years.

The project includes 994 km of new pipeline, with twinning to take place within the existing right-of-way corridor where practical. Also included are 12 new pump stations and expansion of existing pump stations, additional storage capacity at existing storage terminals in Burnaby, Sumas and Edmonton, and expansion of Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby.

The Project will create new jobs in the short and long term, job-related training opportunities, and increases in taxes collected through all three levels of government.

Gavin Dew
Senior Specialist, Stakeholder Engagement and Communications
Tran Mountain Expansion Project

Pipe Dream?

As year-end projections and valuations come into focus, strong views from the the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada and the Wilderness Committee, published over the weekend in the Times Colonist:

“What B.C. needs is legislation that supports an innovative and adaptable forest industry that creates local jobs and moves products up the value chain. Raw-log exports must be banned. Strong laws should also be enacted to protect the ecological values of our working forests for future generations.

Instead of addressing our shortfall in sustainable forestry jobs, the B.C. government is narrow-mindedly fixated on the extraction and export of liquefied fracked gas. It is an unavoidable fact that B.C.’s proposed LNG industry would have to be fed by gas extracted using hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking.’

The impact of this industry is already visible all over the province’s former wilderness: In certain parts of B.C., the oil and gas industry clears more trees than the forest industry.”

Trees are the solution that LNG never will be – Times Colonist
(21 Dec.)