OTTAWA, June 2 /CNW Telbec/ - Avrim Lazar, President and CEO of the
Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) today called on governments to
look beyond the current economic crisis in preparing Canada for what promises
to be a more competitive, resource-hungry global marketplace of the future.
Speaking at the Public Policy Forum's conference on "Rebooting the
Economy", Lazar underscored the need for governments to be forward-thinking in
their approach to stimulating an economy in need of both immediate and
long-term attention. Key to our success, he said, is the wealth of our natural
resources and the creative, intelligent way in which we manage them.
"Using a good Canadian analogy - the hockey game - one can argue that
simply reacting to the recession is like skating to where the puck was six
months ago. Whereas preparing for future economic growth by dealing with
issues that will really make a difference to our future competitiveness, is
like skating to where the puck is going to be - strategically a much smarter
play," said Lazar.
Lazar laid out some clear actions for governments to take based on the
experience of the forestry industry - an industry while hard hit by the
current recession, boasts a promising future:
- Ensure access to credit: Even healthy businesses can't survive without
it. The federal government needs to act more aggressively on this front
to implement measures announced in the Budget to provide more credit to
- Counter black liquor subsidies - The Canadian government needs to act
quickly to put in place an equivalent measure that will offset the
impact of this US subsidy worth billions of dollars, and level the
playing field for pulp producers in Canada.
- Reward Investment and Help us Get Greener - The industry has invested
heavily in research and development, sustainability and capital renewal
- all critical components of preparing for future growth. But support
from governments in these areas is woefully insufficient. Measures are
needed that reward investment, innovation and R&D, especially during
- Provide for a competitive national rail transportation system: The two
national railways have monopoly power over many rural communities and
are hiking prices during this recession to grow their already record
profit margins. This is another area that hinders Canadian
competitiveness. The federal government needs to end these abusive
- Modernize provincial wood policies - Provinces own most of the wood
used in our mills. For too long they have managed the forest resource
with an eye to short term politics rather than long term economic
growth. (Quebec has among the highest wood costs in the world and
antiquated wood allocation policies). Provincial policies must change
quickly to allow economics, not politics, determine industry structure.
"For the forest industry, upon which 300 communities and close to a
million workers directly and indirectly depend, this latest recession has been
devastating. More than 50,000 workers have lost their jobs, and more than 200
mills have closed in the last two years alone," said Lazar.
He noted that in times such as these there is most definitely a role for
government. But what is needed is savvy government action that recognizes it's
no longer companies competing on the world stage, but entire economies
struggling to shore up their competitive forces while identifying the
lucrative markets of the future.
"Hewing wood and drawing water is once again the road to wealth in
tomorrow's economy. If we do this in an environmentally sound and
technologically advanced way, we will position ourselves well to meet the
post-recessionary demand for sustainably-produced, high-quality products,"
"For Canada this means going back to basics. Governments need to wake up
to the possibilities that Canada's natural resource industries like forestry,
present. And they need to support them in such a way as to ensure they emerge
from this recession intact and producing the most environmentally sustainable,
cost-effective and technologically-advanced product possible," said Lazar.
FPAC is the voice of Canada's forest producers nationally and
internationally in government, trade and environmental affairs. Canada's
forest products industry is a $65-billion dollar a year industry that
represents 11% of Canada's manufacturing GDP. The industry is one of Canada's
largest employers, operating in hundreds of Canadian communities and providing
almost 250,000 direct jobs across the country.
For further information:
For further information: Ottawa: Lori Harrop, Executive Director,
Environmental Reputation, Forest Products Association of Canada, (613)
563-1441 ext: 313, firstname.lastname@example.org