Working on policy and advocacy for the forest sector in Canada is an interesting job.  This industry stretches from coast to coast; the issues range from economic to environmental, from international trade to innovation and technology.   There is a long history and, as a renewable resource, a promising future for the forest sector in Canada.

As the newest President of FPAC, I stand on the shoulders of the dedicated advocates who went before me.  And, like the practice of forestry itself, some of what we do today is planting seeds that will be harvested by our successors in the future.

For 200 years, the forests of Canada not only defined our geography and influenced the settlement patterns of the country, they have shaped our economic history. During the Napoleonic wars of the early 1800’s, Canadian timber was critical for the British Navy. Throughout the 19th century Canadian timber continued to be a significant export to Britain.

While the storied history of Canadian forestry stretches back long before Confederation, the creation of a national advocacy association dedicated to the Canadian forest products industry didn’t occur until the beginning of the last century. 

On March 8, 1913, a group of 14 forest company executives gathered at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto.  The meeting was called by the editor of the Pulp and Paper Magazine of Canada.  They talked about the need for co-operative action on such issues as tariffs, rail rates and markets and decided to set up an organization aimed at “the consideration of matters of general interest to the pulp and paper industry, the promotion of its welfare and the social intercourse among the members of the Association”.

The first meeting of the new Canadian Pulp and Paper Association (CPPA) took place less than two weeks later in the Windsor Hotel in Montreal.  So this month marks the 100th anniversary of the association. 

Since that time the forest industry has evolved and changed; we see new forest practices, new markets, new products.  Advocacy for the forest sector has also grown and evolved.  By the end of the 20th century the CPPA transformed into the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) and the offices moved from Montreal to Ottawa.

Over the course of that century the industry continued to grow and evolve.  For much of the 20th century the forest sector was the largest employer, the largest exporter and the largest contributor to the Canadian economy. 

During the First World War, the British government called upon the know-how of Canadian lumberjacks and founded the Canadian Forestry Corps to work in European forests. During the Second World War, the CPPA set up the wartime Machine Shop Board offering up industry facilities to the Canadian government for the war effort. As Canada’s largest industry at the time, it featured a well-respected Pulp and Paper Pavilion at Expo 67. 

Then in the mid 2000’s we hit a perfect storm; U.S. Housing starts took a deep slide, the Canadian dollar rose dramatically against the U.S. dollar,  the drop in newspaper demand and changing writing and reading habits shook the foundation of the paper side of our business. 

The industry became seized with the need for a transformation.  The four drivers behind the transformation agenda included enhancing competitiveness, leveraging the industry’s environmental credentials, producing new innovative products and exploring new markets. 

Out of this transformation strategy the member companies of the Forest Products Association of Canada committed to Vision2020. www.fpac.lo/vision2020. The three pillars of Vision2020 are:

  • People – 60,000 new recruits by 2020
  • Performance – a further 35% improvement in environmental performance
  • Products – an additional $20 billion in new markets and new products

As the industry looks to the year 2020 we are committed to implement this vision.  We will continue to improve our environmental practices.  Working with governments and other partners we are expanding our markets around the world.  In the bio-economy age we are extracting more value from every tree creating new products and new uses for the forest fiber. 

All of this new technology and new production will require a renewal of our workforce. 

In the coming weeks I plan to expand on each of the pillars of Vision2020.  I hope you will visit regularly and participate in this dialogue. 

I’ll tell you what I’m thinking and I hope you will tell me what you’re thinking at: blog@fpac.ca