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COFI 2015 kicks off in Prince George

April 8, 2015 - Panel discussions and a federal funding announcement highlighted the first day of the Council of Forest Industries (COFI) annual conference in Prince George, B.C.


April 9, 2015
By Andrew Snook

Approximately 500 people flocked to the Prince George Civic Centre to attend the event, which featured sessions on market outlooks, transportation challenges, First Nations forestry businesses and expanding wood use in Canada.

During the first session, “Global economics and market outlook,” Russ Taylor, president of Wood Markets Group, discussed recent increased competitiveness from Russia’s forestry sector.

“Russia does not have a huge competitive advantage because freight costs are mostly in U.S. dollars,” Taylor told the crowd.

One of the topics tackled in the transportation session, “Products to market – transportation essentials,” was the upcoming shortage of truck drivers in Canada.

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“Canada could experience a shortage of 25,000 to 33,000 for-hire truck drivers by 2020,” said Matthew May, vice-president of BST Transportation Group. “Shippers and carriers need to tackle driver shortages together.”

Mark Thomson, general manager of transportation for West Fraser Timber, added that the average age of a long-haul driver is 55 years old, and that the forestry industry can help the trucking industry by extending loading hours, reducing empty miles, reducing mill wait times and appointment scheduling.

In the session, First Nations – The Changing Landscape, McLeod Lake Indian Band Chief Derek Orr discussed the successes of his band and the partnerships and benefits that can come from working together and sharing the resources.

“We no longer want to be bystanders, we want to work in collaboration with the government on the resources throughout our territory,” he said. “Partnerships we’ve had with the mining and the resource companies have been very beneficial to both them and McLeod Lake.”

In the afternoon session, “Further expanding wood use globally – Are we up for it?,” Guido Wimmers, chair of integrated wood design at UNBC said that the Canada could become a world leader in wood design if enough support and investment is put towards improving designs.

“We are in an interesting time to push the boundaries of wooden construction with new designs and technologies,” he said.

The day’s events also featured more than 40 exhibitors, a CEO panel discussion with Canfor’s Don Kayne and West Fraser’s Ted Saraphim,and an address at the end of the day by Minister of National Revenue Canada, Kerry-Lynne Findlay.

Findlay announced that the federal government would invest $8.9 million for the Expanding Market Opportunities Program, designed to help Canada’s forest industry producers diversify their markets and market segments, build business relationships globally and enhance competitiveness and prosperity for the industry.

“Our government is helping Canada’s forest industry grow through targeted investments in the Expanding Market Opportunities Program,” Findlay told the crowd. “By diversifying markets for our forest products and enhancing competitiveness for Canada’s forest industry, we are helping Canadian producers to prosper and supporting jobs and opportunities for Canadians.”

Sessions held on Thursday, April 9, will tackle topics such as fibre supply constraints and existing and emerging markets for the bio-economy. There will also be a community recognition luncheon and an address by Minister of Forests Steve Thomson.