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Opportunity Knocks

For better or worse, almost every Canadian Wood Products’ reader has only ever known one editor. That’s understandable, since my involvement started just days after the first issue hit the streets early in 1992, and I haven’t taken an issue off yet.

December 1, 2011  By  Scott Jamieson

Bill Tice For better or worse

In 17 change-filled years, I’ve never regretted accepting the challenge of creating and establishing Canada’s only national magazine dedicated exclusively to the solid wood products manufacturing sector, a magazine launched in the depths of the last big industry downturn. I’ve met hundreds of great people in just about every corner of Canada along the way, and learned more about this great business than I would have thought possible since that first stroll through a sawmill back in January 1992 (Bowater Mersey’s old mill in Nova Scotia by the way). And all the way I’ve been blessed by an industry that for the most part is proud enough of its continual advances to let us tell the rest of the industry about them. In some cases I have been back to the same mill three times during those years, as they continue to invest in new technology and new mills to keep pace with this ever-changing industry.

Now I can only hope my successor is blessed with the same cooperation and open doors in the coming years. That’s right – after 17 years and over 240 issues of Canadian Wood Products and Canadian Forest Industries, I’m finally moving on. Well, sort of. The company that has owned the magazines for the past five years – Annex Publishing & Printing – has asked me to move to the head office and give them a hand running a wide selection of publications they own. I will continue to have publishing responsibility for all the forestry publications – including Canadian Wood Products – so you’re not getting rid of me that easily. I also remain the editor of Canadian Biomass for the foreseeable future, as we work to establish it as a household name in this growing sector. But I will also oversee a range of publications that includes the helicopter and aviation world, garden centres, greenhouses, florists, aggregates, roadbuilding, and more, all from a new home near Lake Erie in southwestern Ontario’s “Banana Belt.” I look forward to the challenge, and exploring the new locale with my family.

Fitting the Bill
And I leave you in excellent hands. Taking over the day-to-day role as editor, and responsibility for this page, is Bill Tice. Many will remember Bill as my right hand man in western Canada for almost a decade. Up until a few years ago he was my western editor, and so knows the magazine and industry intimately. He is based in Vancouver, and will bring a refreshing new geographical perspective to our coverage. He also boasts an industry background that includes working at Canfor, and until a few weeks ago at West Fraser Timber. He has more than a decade of forestry journalism experience, and is still the best photographer in the game.

Like me, where Bill calls home will have no impact on the truly national nature of Canadian Wood Products. Bill will be on the road constantly, covering events and operations coast to coast, and overseas as well. And I’ll remain involved in this magazine as editorial director, helping Bill chart his own course, and hitting the road to help him cover the industry as needed.
Maybe he’ll even let me borrow this space from time to time. The editorial page has always been my favouriteresponsibility as editor over all these years. Agree or disagree, I hope I have never made your life easier by reading this page – It’s never been my job, nor will it be Bill’s.  


In the meantime, please welcome Bill to this new position. If he calls to visit your operation, I’d appreciate you taking the time to show him around, just as the majority of you did for me over the years. It’s all part of creating a voice and tech transfer tool for this great industry, and I guarantee you’ll rarely find anyone easier to deal with than Bill. If you have a good story lead or are doing something the industry should know about, don’t hesitate to call Bill at (604) 346-8416 or email him at btice@annexweb.com.

For my part, thanks to so many of you for making mine one of the best jobs around for the past 17 years. Despite current challenges, it’s a great industry, full of change and challenge, but also opportunity. That opportunity is now Bill’s.

Certifiably Mad?
Speaking of opportunity, the DIY retailers at RONA have just given us one on a silver platter, if we are creative and bold enough to seize it. In late November RONA announced its new wood procurement policy, a very aggressive commitment to green sourcing that garnered a lot of attention from environmental groups, and a lot of ink from mainstream media.
The early spin was on RONA’s commitment to FSC certified building products, and how this was going to force major changes across Canada’s forest sector. Yet once you get past the sound bites and hijacked message, it’s clear that the policy is in fact a strong endorsement of Canada’s existing forest management regime, and an offer to help make it even better.
If you haven’t read the actual policy (rather than the press releases), I urge you to. It’s only five pages long, and is an inspiration of thorough research, reasoned thinking, and careful wording. You’ll find a link to it at www.canadianwoodproducts.ca (visit the “Web Archives” section and click on “Sourcing Success”). The policy does indeed come out in support of the FSC standard, but only within the context of an open, competitive market with several third-party certification options. It also leaves the door wide open to any company or certification supplier to improve in the two areas where RONA feels FSC now has the edge – support for indigenous communities and ensuring biodiversity. It all but invites those other systems to wrestle back equal billing in the process. The box on this page shows my take (and my take only) on the key features of this policy.

RONA has made a transparent decision, and remains open for business. It’s up to the industry, and especially those in charge of the SFI, CSA, and PEFC brands, to respond accordingly. And that, as they say, is my last word on this, or any other subject. Be well; stay safe.



FSC if necessary…

But not necessarily FSC. That old bit of doublespeak from Canada’s conscription debate best describes RONA’s new, and overwhelmingly positive wood procurement policy. Announced in November 2008, it says a lot in five short pages. Here’s my take on what it means for the Canadian solid wood products sector.

Big Challenge?
No, not really. Greenpeace spokesman Richard Brooks is right in calling this “the strongest procurement policy for wood products in North America,” but when Greenpeace or others imply that meeting it will somehow involve major improvements in current forest management practices, they miss the mark. After all, RONA says that it already sources 90% of its commodity SPF lumber from third-party certified forests. This whole policy is in many ways about finding the other 10%.

That in fact is a testament to Canada’s leading role in forest certification. Without apparently trying, and without sacrificing quality or price, this large retailer can source 90% of its lumber from certifiably sustainable forests. That’s because such a large volume of certified lumber is available from Canada’s sawmilling sector. And that in turn is possible thanks to the success of the SFI and CSA brands. After all, only two percent of RONA’s lumber now comes from FSC certified forests, implying that the other 88% is CSA, SFI, and maybe PEFC.

These are the real messages that somehow got lost when RONA’s policy was announced. This is not at all a new departure for either RONA or Canada’s solid wood products industry. In many ways, it’s business as usual, albeit with a commitment to continual improvement. But then that won’t grab too many headlines.

FSC Monopoly?
Hell no. Despite the mixed message when RONA announced the policy, the wording and spirit of the actual policy implies anything but carte blanche for FSC suppliers. RONA starts by explicitly supporting open competition in both lumber and certification. “We support an inclusive approach to forest certification and recognize the following existing standards: CSA, FSC, SFI, and PEFC.” Nothing vague here.

RONA then goes on to give the edge to FSC certification, but only because it specifically identifies relationships with indigenous communities and protection of biodiversity as key priorities. So RONA will indeed give preference to FSC certified SPF lumber, and try to boost its percentage from 2% to 4% in 2009 to 25% in 2010. But knowing the limited supply, RONA also added an escape clause. It will favour FSC lumber, but “subject to availability and price competitiveness.” In other words, there will be no FSC premium.

Finally, RONA also stresses that it will continue to “seek improvement to these (two) criteria from all other certifications.” Clearly, it is not interested in creating an artificial monopoly, and has placed the onus on the other standards to help it avoid one. In the end, this policy is as much an invitation for the other standards to work with RONA on regaining a level playing field as it is an endorsement of the FSC.  

Hopefully we’re up to the challenge.

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