The Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources, delivers remarks at a reception to wrap up the Forest Products Association of Canada’s “Day on the Hill,” on May 17, 2017.
Thank you and good evening everyone.
I’ve given a lot of forestry speeches over the past 18 months, but I think I can safely say I’ve never started one by quoting a rock ‘n roll legend.
Chuck Leavell isn’t just a long-time keyboardist with the Rolling Stones. He’s co-founder of the Mother Nature Network, and he and his wife Rose Lane own and manage about 3,000 acres of forest land in Georgia.
When Leavell took the stage at the Mass Timber Conference in Portland, Oregon this spring, he wasn’t there to perform Jumpin’ Jack Flash or Tumbling Dice; he’d come to sing the praises of wood.
It sounded a lot like your song — particularly when he suggested that “a confluence of technology, good stewardship, and desperate need has opened the door for a nearly unimaginable expansion in the uses of wood and wood products.”
Nor did Leavell stop there. He boldly predicted that we are entering the Age of Wood.
Leavell’s thesis is that just as discoveries and innovations gave us the Iron Age, and the Bronze Age before it, the 21st Century — with its premium on clean-growth — is ushering in the Wood Age.
Our Government couldn’t agree more.
With climate change posing one of the greatest challenges of our generation, we need clean solutions. Global solutions. And none are possible without the forest sector.
I know I don’t have to convince you of that.
The forest sector is unique among our resource industries because trees actually take carbon out of the air and store it for decades. And when that wood is harvested from Canada’s sustainably managed forests, it’s twice as appealing as most traditional building materials
You’ve been making full use of those competitive advantages by transforming your industry into one of the most innovative parts of our economy: investing in research, developing new products, and establishing new offshore markets — all while setting the pace on environmental performance.
Look at some of the things you are doing:
- Tall wood buildings are taking wood to new heights;
- Dissolving pulp is being turned into clothing;
- Wood fibre is strengthening composite car parts and replacing plastics and chemicals made from non-renewable fossil fuels;
- Cellulose from trees is going into everything from the screens on our smart phones to the paint on our walls; and
- Lignin could become the crude oil of the future.
As officials with the Canadian Forest Service like to tell me, “Everything made from a barrel of oil can also be made from a tree.”
Harnessing these opportunities will not only build a cleaner economy, it will maintain a thriving industry at the heart of so many rural and Indigenous communities across our country.
These are exciting times. Opportunities abound, which is why many of us will be travelling to China together next month to pursue new markets for Canadian wood and wood products.
And yet, all of this optimism is repeatedly tempered by intruding realities.
Just ask the several Canadian mills producing super-calendered paper. They’ve spent the past 18 months fighting countervailing duties on their exports to the United States. Fortunately, a NAFTA panel agreed unanimously last month that the U.S. Department of Commerce must reconsider some aspects of its decision and respond by mid-summer.
Of course, that didn’t stop the Commerce Department from imposing similar duties on our softwood lumber last month.
I want to assure you that our Government will vigorously fight these unfair and punitive duties — including through litigation. We have prevailed in the past and we will do so again.
But we understand that past success doesn’t make the uncertain days ahead any easier to bear. Court cases can, and do, drag on. And, while a negotiated settlement remains our preferred option, there are no guarantees one will be reached.
That’s why our Government is taking immediate action to support the industry, its workers and their local communities — starting with a Federal-Provincial Task Force on Softwood Lumber that has been meeting for months to develop a coordinated response.
What I can tell you so far is that we share a unity of purpose. We are remarkably aligned. And we are prepared and well-positioned to do whatever governments can reasonably do to help the industry get through this tough time and emerge stronger on the other side. That includes continuing to invest in research and development, supporting innovative, new wood products and expanding our markets overseas.
The Wood Age is at hand.
Hundreds of thousands of Canadian workers and their local communities are counting on your continued success to support good, middle-class jobs, create new opportunities and ensure sustainable prosperity for generations to come.
Chuck Leavell and the Rolling Stones might argue that you can’t always get what you want, but our Government believes we can — and will — deliver what Canada’s forest industry needs.