When I speak with people about what I do at the Forest Products Association of Canada, I tend to get two, almost contradictory, reactions.

First, almost everyone is genuinely interested in the forest sector.  But I also notice another reaction.  People drift away from me at family gatherings and other social functions if I talk about the details of what we actually do to lobby for the forest industry in Ottawa.

People are interested in the forest industry; they just don’t have much interest in the process of lobbying government.

In this week’s blog I want to tell you about one example of what we do on a regular basis in Ottawa on behalf of the forest sector.  But I warn you―it is usually at this point at a party when people say to me that they have to re-fill their glass.

Earlier this month, FPAC was invited to appear before the House of Commons Committee on Natural Resources. 

Our Executive Vice President, Catherine Cobden, made a crisp, fact based presentation and answered detailed questions from the politicians on the Natural Resources Committee on the topic of innovation in energy.

Most media are more interested in the theatre of Question Period and tend not to cover Parliamentary Committees.  Nevertheless, it is often through committee presentations and the background policy work that goes into preparing these appearances that we are able to influence political thinking and advocate for our member companies. 

Because of the good work FPAC has done in Ottawa over the years, we have credibility as an organization and we are regularly invited to make presentations to Parliamentary Committees.  We have developed a track record of substantive policy work and are able to deliver well- researched and informed presentations.

Catherine and the FPAC team did an excellent job pulling together facts and figures and telling a story about innovation in the use of energy in the forest sector.  Here is just one paragraph from the formal presentation to the committee:

“Bioenergy is an incredibly important part of the mix of our transformation agenda to extract maximum jobs and economic opportunity from every sustainably harvested tree in Canada. To give you a sense of scale, the Canadian forest industry generated 47,000 terajoules of electricity in 2011. That is the equivalent of approximately three nuclear reactors. Some 80% of it was bioenergy-based, utilizing residual forest material from our operations, as previously described. We have completely eliminated energy generation from coal at our facilities—no longer do we use it—and we've reduced our reliance on heavy fuel oil by 91%. This has translated to a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of a whopping 73% since 1990. So as we have followed this trajectory, we've continued to reduce our emissions quite substantially.

In this presentation we told the story of transformation in the forest products industry.  We talked about our record of reducing greenhouse gases and we gave credit to the federal government for bold and creative policy thinking on something called the Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program (PPGTP).  I will report in more detail on this billion dollar program in a future blog.

If you would like to read the full Hansard transcript from the committee hearing it is all publicly available on the Parliamentary web site at: 

http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=6025650&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=41&Ses=1

Influencing government policy thinking doesn’t happen with just one speech before a House of Commons committee.  It doesn’t happen with one news release or one meeting with a Minister. 

Telling our story with consistency and credibility to government requires persistence.  Ottawa is a very competitive environment and it isn’t easy to have your message heard and understood among the hundreds of competing interests.

Good analysis with good research is the most powerful way to demonstrate competence and earn credibility for your cause.  Parliamentary committees are one vehicle to present the issues and concerns of our forest companies in an open and transparent way. 

This work might not be sexy―and it doesn’t usually generate much interest at a cocktail party― but it is one of the tools and tactics we use to influence government policy and promote the forest industry.

This is just one of the things I was thinking about this week.  Please tell me what you think at blog@fpac.ca