The year that proved why forestry matters
January 2, 2024 By Forest Products Association of Canada
The year 2023 is one that will long be remembered for Canada’s worst-ever fire season. It was also the year that Canada’s affordable housing crisis came into full view, with urgency for many policymakers across the country.
These issues impacted millions of Canadians in 2023 – and renewed a critical dialogue about the importance of more actively managing our forests and doing more with Canadian grown resources.
The record-breaking wildfires that ravaged more than 18 million hectares of land showed how our forests are being hit by hotter temperatures and drier conditions. The need for a crisis-level response similar to that being taken in the United States is clear, and more active management such as thinning and prescribed burns will be essential if we want to avoid more devastating fire seasons.
At the same time, the housing and affordability crisis underscored the need to get back to basics so that Canadian families can afford shelter, food, and other necessities. We need an estimated 5.8 million additional housing units by 2030 to restore affordability, and we must do more to support business conditions so we can attract investment to produce and build these homes.
Canada’s forest sector offers practical pathways to lower greenhouse gas emissions, support rural and northern prosperity, and take pressure off the cost of living with Made-in-Canada solutions:
- No industry is better equipped to prevent and mitigate impacts from catastrophic fires and support forest health and resiliency in the process. Canadian foresters are among the best in the world in how we steward our land for multiple values.
- As the largest producers of building materials, we are integral to accelerating new home building, easing construction bottlenecks, and helping solve the housing crisis.
- We provide an outsized contribution to climate Trees and wood are natural carbon sinks — the original carbon capture technology — and wood-based products can be substitutes for more carbon intensive materials.
- We do all this while keeping over 200,000 Canadians employed in rural and northern communities, where family-supporting job prospects are more limited.
That’s a quadruple bottom line.
While there’s much more government can do to leverage Canadian forestry solutions for the environment and the economy, we have seen positive developments in recent months.
For example, the federal government’s plan to introduce a catalogue of pre-approved housing designs to accelerate permitting approvals offers potential for wood products and to get more Canadians into homes they can afford more quickly.
In November, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced green tax credits for biomass-related technologies — encouraging the use of leftover chips, sawdust, and bark for energy production — which will go some way to addressing growing competitiveness gaps with the U.S.
There is plenty more that can be done — from being more proactive about managing forests in fire sheds, to increasing incentives to use more wood in construction, to improving Canada’s national building code, to upskilling worker training, to ensuring the unique realities facing rural and northern communities are factored into major national policy decisions at the front end.
Looking back at 2023, we are certainly reminded that our world is rapidly changing. Our obligation to future generations is to meet our pressing challenges with innovative solutions. To that end, Canada’s forest sector and its workers offer a unique opportunity and a clear path forward.
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