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Give the environmentalists their due – They have the best drugs. How else to explain the recent announcement by the Ontario government that it plans to buy only FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper? The folks in Toronto have to be smoking something.


November 7, 2011
By Trina Dillon
Give the environmentalists their due – They have the best drugs.

I’ve got nothing against FSC certification. If you’re the Acme Paper Co. and you are willing to restrict yourself to buying only FSC paper, that’s your problem, and that of your customers. The problem is that the Ontario government does more than just buy paper. It also manages forests – lots of them.

 

In its own schizophrenic way, here’s what the McGuinty
government is saying:

 

“Yes, we manage forests. In fact, we have a Forest Sector Prosperity Fund that actively supports industrial forestry, and our very own Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) that makes sure it is done to world-class sustainable standards. We and industry have biologists, foresters, public consultants, geomatic specialists, advisory committees, and more. Still, our own standards are not quite enough. Nor are those of any other similarly rigorous provincial MNR across Canada. Ditto any of the other world-class forest certification standards. None of it is worth the globe-destroying paper it is written on. Only a nod of approval from the FSC matters.”

I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid, so no, I can’t explain this logic. But if it’s true, let’s all save some time and money, sack the whole forestry side of the OMNR, and let the FSC run it all. Ridiculous you say? I agree. But then I don’t have a paper budget. Just what kind of papers are the Ontario bureaucrats buying anyway?

Weighing pros & cons

Someone has to be logical in all this, so let me try to start off with a good old “pros and cons” list on the new standard. It’s a good idea before any change, just to make sure you don’t end up worse than you started. So first the cons:

•    It’s a tad insulting for one government department (procurement) to insinuate that another department (OMNR), or its counterparts in other provinces, can’t be trusted to do their jobs. So how’s this? The folks in procurement can manage the forests, and the folks at the OMNR can buy paper. Me, I’d like to run the bar. No? Then let’s all just do the jobs we’re paid for.

•    I’d like to be a monopoly – The money’s good. Not sure I’d like to buy from one, though, so I’m also not sure what logic is behind creating one among your suppliers. In the meantime, I’ll propose to my boss that we only buy our magazine paper from mills that start with the letter Z, rhyme with my name, and harvest their logs using Koehring feller-forwarders. I’ll let you know how it goes.

•    Is it just me, or is it counter-productive to create a Forest Sector Prosperity Fund with one hand, and refuse to buy the industry’s products with the other? Here’s a better idea. Send me the money, and I’ll promise to buy nothing but Ontario lumber and paper, FSC be damned.

Never one to be negative, here’s a list of the things I like about the new paper procurement policy:

 

•    It makes me, and just about anyone that walks upright, look brilliant by comparison.

•    If all else fails, at least I know I can get a job in government procurement.  So can my dog.

•    It gives me something to write about in a slow market.

•    I need a laugh. Heck, in this market, we all need a laugh. Okay, I’m crying, so you can stop now. Whew, that was funny. So, guys, what is the real paper procurement policy?

If it was all about me, I’d say the pro side wins. Sadly, it’s not. There are thousands of jobs, families, and communities that could be threatened by this scheme, and it sends out completely the wrong message about the Ontario government’s own competence. Which of course means it will likely be official policy for some time to come. Pass me the FSC-certified, Ontario government-approved rolling papers, and maybe I’ll make some sense of this yet…

 

 

Scott Jamieson, Editor
Canadian Forest Industries Magazine
sjamieson@forestcommunications.com 888-457-3155, ext. 24