COVID-19, Softwood Lumber Fees and Low-Carbon Economy Provide Enough Fodder for Forest Products Association of Canada President to Take His Last Cut in 2020
To say that COVID-19 defined much of what we experienced in 2020 would be the understatement of the century.
As we look forward to putting 2020 in the rearview mirror, I would be remiss to do my annual “ looking back ” if I did not share our deep appreciation for the incredible efforts and sacrifices of frontline healthcare workers. line and first responders across Canada, and our sympathies to the more than 13,600 Canadian families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19.
The struggle for all of us to find our way began when the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic in early March. Soon after, Canada’s forest sector leaders moved quickly to work with our partners in government, labor and across the supply chain to ensure that we kept essential products in circulation, our workers and their families safe and the Canada-US border open to trade.
The federal government has rightly said that workers in Canada’s forest sector are essential. We mobilized to ensure that Canadians could obtain the sustainably sourced forest products they depended on during the pandemic. Things like lumber and wood products for construction and pulp for medical masks, hospital gowns, toilet paper and sanitary wipes have rarely been in greater demand.
During the first weeks of the pandemic, the role of the forestry sector in the manufacture of personal protective equipment (PPE) became clear.
In early April, when US President Donald Trump decided to block a shipment of 3M face masks from entering Canada, it soon became apparent that it was high-quality reinforced paste from the forests of northern Canada that was a key part of these medical masks – and this has given rise to questions as to why we are not doing more to leverage our renewable and local resources to provide for Canadians in times of urgent need.
The federal government quickly turned to Canadian forestry innovation leaders at FPInnovations to work on a COVID-19 response project to develop a biodegradable and sustainable filter for single-use face masks made from local solutions that respect the environment. This made-in-Canada innovation is now in its second phase and showcases not only the power and agility of Canadian know-how in forest sector innovation, but also the potential to do more here. at home with Canadian forest products.
I hope for 2021 that we will continue to learn from the lessons of the pandemic to do more to provide Canadians with sustainable Canadian resources.
Today, the dual threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change with the accompanying economic stressors is enough to test anyone’s courage. Canada’s forest sector is resilient, but the COVID-19 crisis has made an already difficult time even more difficult for many families, businesses and forest communities.
The softwood lumber dispute with the United States continues to be a drag with more than C $ 4.3 billion (and more) currently held by the US Treasury. This is money we don’t have access to to invest in our workforce, make capital improvements, advance product research and innovation, or support the development of export markets. .
Rising demand for wood due to booming home improvement projects and the strength of the North American housing market is good news, but for many who work in the pulp segments and papers, the market’s difficulties continue.
Despite the challenges ahead, we are excited about the potential of our sector and its workforce to contribute to a green and inclusive economic recovery. We are proud to see Canada’s forestry workers recognized in the federal government’s recent Speech from the Throne as leaders in the fight against climate change and in rebuilding our economy.
To this end, the Forest Products Association of Canada recently published Innovative, Sustainable, Resilient: Recommendations from the Canadian Forest Sector to Drive Economic Recovery and a Net Zero Carbon Future.
This report reflects our unique ability to stimulate economic recovery from the pandemic in Canada while providing solutions to build an even more sustainable, low-carbon economy.
This year also saw advancements in the use of wood and new solid wood projects in construction not only in Canada but around the world. As architects, engineers and planners increasingly recognize the sustainability of these options, the Canadian Wood Council is working with technical experts to evolve the National Building Code of Canada to provide construction alternatives. safe, efficient and GHG-efficient wood.
Whether Canada’s forest products sector innovates to keep people safe, helps build a low-carbon economy, or creates economic opportunity for working families, we see an opportunity to accelerate change and advance a recovery that leaves no one behind.
We were delighted to see the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers stand by our side as they committed this fall to raising awareness of the importance of Canada’s leading approach to sustainable forest management. and the potential to better leverage Canada’s forests, forest workers and forest products. to build a low carbon economy.
This year has been marked by the greatest health and economic crisis of our lives, highlighting our country’s greatest strengths and vulnerabilities. For the forest sector, 2021 opens a window of opportunity to develop a long-term plan to accelerate innovation in forest bioeconomy and clean forestry technologies, manufacture more forest products here at home, expand markets for exports, build bigger and better with wood Canada, protect communities from fire and put more Canadians to work.
Bring in the new year. We are ready to go.
Derek Nquart is President and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada, a voice of Canada’s wood, pulp and paper producers nationally and internationally in government, trade and environmental affairs.