The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) is calling on the government to focus funding in the next budget on programs that accelerate the transformation of the forest products sector.
That was the message that Avrim Lazar, the President and CEO of FPAC delivered today at a meeting of the Natural Resources Committee of the House of Commons.
“We need to maintain the industry-government partnership that has so fundamentally helped the Canadian forest products sector re-invent itself as a dynamic player in the global marketplace of the 21st century,” says Lazar. “This is no time to take the foot off the accelerator. We need modest stimulus to build on our momentum.”
For years, the Canadian forest products industry has been facing strong economic headwinds, the stagnant American housing market and a strong dollar. However the sector has also been making great strides to transform itself by penetrating new markets, producing new innovative bio-products and enhancing its reputation as the greenest and most progressive forest sector in the world by signing the landmark Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA).
“We would not be where we are today now without the smart strategic policies introduced by governments in past budgets such as the Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program,” says Lazar. “However other jurisdictions are investing more. We need to keep up with our global competitors to maintain a vibrant Canadian forest industry that will create jobs and help ensure the prosperity of rural communities.”
Lazar is asking the government to continue funding existing programs under the Forest Industry Long Term Competitiveness Strategy. This includes continued support for FPInnovations and for the Leadership for Environmental Advantage in Forestry program (LEAF) broadening it to include support for the implementation of the CBFA. FPAC is also asking the government to replenish the Investment in Forest Industry Transformation program (IFIT).
“To stay ahead of our competition, we must work together to make Canada a great place to do business. There are many ways to do this, but there is a key low cost opportunity now within government’s grasp,” says Lazar. “And that’s by following through on the commitment to fully implement the recommendations of the Rail Freight Service Review on service agreements and a dispute settlement mechanism backed by regulations and legislation. “
FPAC provides a voice for Canada’s wood, pulp, and paper producers nationally and internationally in government, trade, and environmental affairs. The $57-billion-a-year forest products industry represents 2% of Canada’s GDP and is one of Canada’s largest employers operating in hundreds of communities and providing 240,000 direct jobs across the country