Tamar Atik

Tamar Atik

May 19, 2017 - The chances of arriving at a softwood lumber solution during NAFTA renegotiations this August are not high, an anonymous source told Reuters. 

"It's hard to imagine a deal being done that soon," the source said. | READ MORE 
May 16, 2017 – Although our neighbour to the south may not be interested in Canada’s lumber, Habitat for Humanity GTA wants to use Ontario’s for a good cause.

Habitat is working with the Ontario Forest Industries Association and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to build 15 new homes for working, low-income families this month.

"Considering the challenges presented by the Trump administration trade action, Ontario's forestry leaders are glad to be working hand in hand with partners to do what our sector has been doing for generations – provide provincially sourced sustainable wood for the building of homes,” said Jamie Lim, president and chief executive officer of the Ontario Forest Industries Association.

"I'm happy to put on my hard hat and get my hammer out to help with this great project for Habitat for Humanity and I'm proud to see representatives from Ontario's forestry sector stepping up and giving back to our communities,” Minister of Natural Resources and Forest Kathryn McGarry said.

With approximately 85 billion trees, Ontario's forests cover two-thirds of the province – a land area equivalent in size to Germany, Italy and the Netherlands combined, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry website.

“We have been learning a great deal about the constant renewal of our forests as a result of sustainable forestry and also about the incredible role Canada's forests play in mitigating climate change,” said Ene Underwood, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity GTA.

Less than 0.5 per cent of Ontario's trees are harvested annually, according to the Ministry website.

“By upholding some of the world's best forest management practices, Ontario's forestry community sustainably harvests our forests to ensure that there are renewable wood products available to build and furnish homes for families today and for generations to come,” the OFIA said in a release.

Other participants of the build will include the OFIA's forestry community, members of provincial government, Indigenous leaders and students.

The initiative is taking place on May 18 and 19 at the Pinery Trail site in Toronto (140 Pinery Trail) in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday.
May 11, 2017 - Ottawa is trying to get itself exempted from softwood lumber taxes.

The Canadian Press reported that a letter was written from Ottawa to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce asking for a number of exemptions following last month's announcement from Washington.

President Trump announced on April 24 that Canadian softwood producers would be hit with preliminary taxes of up to 24 per cent.

Aside from the four biggest Canadian companies that were investigated by the Department of Commerce, most producers are facing a 19.88 per cent duty on Canadian lumber exports. | READ MORE
May 5, 2017 - Despite not being surprised by the preliminary softwood lumber tariffs imposed by the U.S. last week, EACOM Timber Corporation’s president and chief executive officer Kevin Edgson is not any less concerned.

Edgson sat down with me outside the main room at the Ontario Natural Resources Forum in downtown Toronto; two days after President Trump made the preliminary tax announcement from Washington on April 24.

“We knew it was coming for a long time… It’s in the neighbourhood of what we expected,” Edgson said. “We were disappointed in terms of the retroactivity, especially because it seems that was manufactured as opposed to anything that was reasonable or expected.”

Montreal-based EACOM owns five sawmills in Ontario and two in Quebec. It also owns a remanufacturing facility in Val-d’Or, Que., and an engineered wood mill in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Acquiring the latter is one way Edgson says EACOM is expanding its market reach.

“The Sault Ste. Marie operation produces a product that isn’t covered under this duty, so that was really us investing in and widening our product scope,” Edgson said. “Outside of that what we’ve done is we’ve minimized the amount of capital that we’ve spent in the last two years to build up our balance sheet, which is really to ensure that we have the liquidity to be able to take the hit.”

Earlier in the day, Edgson sat down with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to discuss industry concerns including partnerships with Aboriginal communities and exposing young people to the forestry industry, particularly young women. Softwood lumber was at the top of the list.

During the discussion, Wynne announced that Ontario would be providing an additional $20 million in funding for the construction and maintenance of forest access roads. 

Wynne said she discussed the preliminary duty situation with other premiers and is ready to work with them along with the federal government to find a solution.

“This has been a contentious file with the U.S. for years and we continue to go through a cycle,” she noted. “There is a real willingness to find common ground across the country in the best way that we can.”

“It’s clear that [U.S./Canada relations are] in a rougher, rockier patch than in the past,” Edgson told me. “I think, eventually, cooler heads will prevail. It is the largest trading relationship in the world. It is in the best interest of people on both sides of that to find solutions.”

Edgson said he is optimistic that ultimately, there will be a good relationship established between the two governments on the softwood lumber issue.

“When you look at our side of this dispute, it is an unjust accusation and therefore, what we need to do is take the higher road,” Edgson said. “We need to be calm in tone and response. What we need to do is defend ourselves with honesty and integrity and continue to believe in the process.”
May 1, 2017 - What used to be a $54 million investment in funding for the construction and maintenance of forest access roads in Ontario has been increased by $20 million.

“We’re going to stay very close to the industry because we want you to thrive and we want Ontario’s interests protected,” Premier Kathleen Wynne told a crowd at the Ontario Natural Resources forum in Toronto on April 26.

The province’s decision acted as a show of support for producers amidst a softwood lumber dispute that, so far, has no end in sight.

"The roads access is very important to all of the north because we need infrastructure to be safe and reliable," said EACOM president and chief executive officer Kevin Edgson.

“This is a day-by-day issue. You just never know what’s going to come out of the United States these days, can I put it that way?” Wynne asked the audience.

Premier Wynne noted her conversations with New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, saying that interests are aligned between the provinces on the softwood issue.
April 28, 2017 - Monday’s announcement of preliminary softwood lumber duties on Canadian imports to the U.S. has raised tensions south of the border.

“These duties are unwarranted and this determination is completely without merit,” said president of the BC Lumber Trade Council Susan Yurkovich.

“Reaching a new agreement is in the best interest of producers and consumers on both sides of the border,” Yurkovich said from B.C. on Tuesday.

More than half of B.C.’s lumber exports currently go to the U.S. Yurkovich said the Canadian industry needs to focus on expanding its markets and consequently decreasing dependence on the U.S. market. “The Canadian industry has worked very hard over the last number of years to diversify our markets including moving a whole lot of our lumber into Asia,” she said.

The Asian expansion plans include China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and also India.

‘Misguided effort’

Duncan Davies is president and chief executive officer of Vancouver-based lumber producer Interfor. He noted how counter-productive a trade dispute is when there are so many opportunities for Canada and the U.S. to work together. 

“The real loser in all of this is the U.S. home builder and U.S. consumer… That’s why we think this is such a misguided effort,” Davies said. “Log costs are actually significantly less in some regions of the U.S. than they are in Canada.”

Davies said Interfor was not surprised by the announcement, adding that the company is well-financed to deal with any tariffs. “I don’t see Interfor materially changing any of our practices as a result of these duties.”

He noted lumber prices in Canada have seen a rise by about 30 per cent in anticipation of the duties.

Davies said the U.S. is using this method to put pressure on Canada in its goal to find a long-term solution that will be more favourable to the U.S.

‘Compe24cfae7f84287c076a251ad29dd373a_XL.jpgletely unprecedented’

“It’s completely unprecedented what the U.S. Department of Commerce has done here,” Yurkovich said referring to the two periods the Commerce Department chose to compare in its investigation. “They’ve picked an arbitrary period to make the periods match what they wanted to find all along. It doesn’t make any sense and I will be very interested to see how they’ve come up with that calculation,” she said.

Yurkovich said government and councils are working together to put forward evidence in defense of the Canadian industry. “While we support reaching a new agreement we are also fully prepared to vigorously defend our workers and traders,” she said.

“This kind of action creates volatility,” Yurkovich said.

Solutions

Going forward Yurkovich said there is an initiative underway by federal Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr along with other ministers across the country to “provide industry support during this adversity.”

“We’re not going to be rattled. We are resilient,” Yurkovich said. “We’re going to continue to fight this fight and we’re going to be successful.”
April 25, 2017 - The investigation into the logging train accident in Woss, B.C., last week has now ended.

The derailment, which killed two people on scene and on en route to the hospital, was not caused by criminal activity.

RCMP Cpl. Janelle Shoihet confirmed this, according to the Canadian Press report. 

The train is owned by Vancouver-based Western Forest Products. “Western Forest Products will continue to focus efforts on working together to ensure that the families, workers, and all affected are supported,” said Don Demens, president and chief executive officer in a statement. “The well-being and safety of our employees and the communities where we operate is paramount.” 

WorkSafeBC and the Transportation Safety Board will now take over the investigation. | READ MORE 
April 25, 2017 - A fire that destroyed the entire BKB Cedar Manufacturing sawmill on April 5 was caused by an overheated electrical motor. 

My Prince George Now reported the cause was determined by fire crews.

No one was injured in the blaze that remained active for days after it first broke out. | READ MORE

April 25, 2017 – President Donald Trump has announced the dreaded news about countervailing duties on imports of Canadian softwood lumber.

After launching an official investigation in December 2016, the U.S. Department of Commerce decided that preliminary subsidies ranging from three to 24 per cent will be applied to Canadian softwood lumber imports going into the U.S.

The announcement came on Monday afternoon, one day before the news was originally set to be released.

"It has been a bad week for U.S.-Canada trade relations… The Department of Commerce determined a need to impose countervailing duties of roughly one billion dollars on Canadian softwood lumber exports to us,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in a statement. “This is not our idea of a properly functioning Free Trade Agreement."

Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr and Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland said the imposition will negatively affect both Canadian and American workers.


"The Government of Canada disagrees strongly with the U.S. Department of Commerce's decision to impose an unfair and punitive duty. The accusations are baseless and unfounded,” they said in a joint statement released Monday.

The following four companies were investigated by the Department of Commerce as Canada’s top four lumber exporting companies:

·      West Fraser, 24.12 per cent.

·      Canfor, 20.26 per cent.

·      Tolko, 19.50 per cent.

·      Resolute, 12.82 per cent.

The lowest subsidies of 3.02 per cent are being imposed on J.D. Irving, which requested a separate investigation.

All other Canadian softwood lumber producers will be hit with a 19.88 per cent duty following this announcement.

The U.S. Lumber Coalition petitioned the American government to apply taxes on Canadian lumber in November 2016, citing unfair government subsidies being provided on the Canadian side.

“Today’s ruling confirms that Canadian lumber mills are subsidized by their government and benefit from timber pricing policies and other subsidies which harm U.S. manufacturers and workers,” said the Coalition’s legal chair Cameron Krauss in a statement. “We appreciate today’s actions by the Department of Commerce, which has examined massive amounts of evidence presented by the Coalition, the Canadian industry and the Canadian Federal and provincial governments.”

“The Coalition is hopeful that the duties imposed by today’s decision will begin the process of creating a level playing field for the future and allow for U.S. manufacturers to make essential investments and expand the domestic lumber industry to its natural market and protect and grow the jobs that are so essential to our workers and our communities,” Krauss said.

There are 202,000 Canadian forestry workers who will be impacted by this announcement, according to labour union Unifor.

“In the early 2000s when the U.S. imposed a combined duty of 27 per cent, 15,000 Canadians were laid off within months,” the company said in a statement Monday.

Canadian forestry councils expressed their frustration following the announcement, as well as Ontario's Minister of Natural Resources Kathryn McGarry.

“These duties are unwarranted, and this determination is completely without merit,” said Susan Yurkovich, president of the BC Lumber Trade Council. This new trade action is driven by the same protectionist lumber lobby in the U.S. whose sole purpose is to create artificial supply constraints on lumber and drive prices up for their benefit, at the expense of American consumers.”

“The fact is, Canadian lumber imports don’t pose a threat to the U.S. lumber industry. There is enough North American demand to grow the U.S. industry while also allowing Canada to supply its U.S. customers as we have been doing for decades,” Yurkovich said.

The softwood products subject to the countervailing duties include softwood lumber, siding, flooring and “certain other coniferous wood,” according the Department of Commerce.

“We are disappointed that the United States has chosen this course of action,” said Paul Whittaker, co-chair of the Alberta Softwood Lumber Trade Council on Tuesday.

lumber pic“Alberta’s timber pricing practices have repeatedly been found to be fair and competitive by international tribunals. We plan to work closely with the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta to vigorously challenge these tariffs and fight for Alberta jobs that depend on a healthy, sustainable forest sector. All options, including litigation, are on the table. We expect to be fully vindicated,” he said.

Canadian softwood lumber imports were valued at approximately $5.66 billion in 2016.

The results of the Commerce Department’s preliminary anti-dumping duty investigation will be released on June 23, after it was pushed back by the U.S. Lumber Coalition from May 4

"The Government of Canada will vigorously defend the interests of the Canadian softwood lumber industry, including through litigation,” Freeland and Carr said.

"Canada will continue to press their American counterparts to rescind this unfair and unwarranted trade action. We are committed to working with the U.S. Administration to achieve a durable solution. We remain confident that a negotiated settlement is not only possible but in the best interests of both countries."
April 21, 2017 – The 2017 Canadian Woodlands Forum (CWF) Spring Meeting and 98th annual general meeting took place April 12 and 13 at the Delta Beausejour in Moncton, N.B.

The event was a collaboration between the CWF, FPInnovations and the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre.

Editor Andrew Snook was on location. He caught up with Peter Robichaud, executive director of the Canadian Woodlands Forum.

“It’s a very important event for the association. We have unprecedented registration with a strong focus on the harvesting, the trucking and the forest management themes,” Robichaud said.

Total registration for the event reached 385 members of the fibre supply chain from across Canada and the U.S., the CWF calling it a "record attendance."

There were 42 speakers present from the forestry industry.

In addition, a total of $8,500 was raised for the region’s children’s hospital foundations through the Log-A-Load for Kids Canada program, according to the CWF.

“One fundamental thing that we really focused on working with our members is to promote the meeting, promote the opportunity to come together to share practices and new technologies and innovation,” Robichaud added.

The Canadian Woodlands Forum is a membership-based not-for-profit organization focused on improving the efficiency of woodlands operations and supporting sustainable forest management practices.
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