The devil is in the details, and perhaps no one realizes this as well as Canada’s forest industry, as the beleaguer…
The devil is in the details, and perhaps no one realizes this as well as Canada’s forest industry, as the beleaguered sector awaits the official release of the federal budget.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already pledged $1 billion to a fund designed to pay for workers who have lost their jobs in struggling industries to go back to school. An additional $1 billion is earmarked for one-industry towns, including those that make their bread and butter from forestry. Some, however, wonder what direct measures lie behind the spending.
“A billion dollars, what does it mean,” CBC reported Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union as saying, expressing the concern that many in the industry have alluded to as they wait to hear how the money will assist their sector.”They told us last year there was a billion dollars for rural communities. Turned out to be totally negligible for the forestry industry. If it had an impact, no one can tell us where it is. Then there’s this issue of retraining. It`s not just about training forest workers to go to Fort McMurry. It should actually be about training forest workers to be better forest workers.”
CBC further reported the industry is not seeking a bailout, but has requested access to credit and tax relief, measures it expects will stimulate investment and the development of new technology.
President and CEO of FPAC, the Forest Products Association of Canada Avrim Lazar, cautions the industry that too heavy a reliance on budgetary relief will not solve all the industry’s woes.
“While most of us are hoping for a significant stimulus package in the upcoming federal budget, it must be acknowledged that spending by government is at best a blunt instrument with limited impact on our export-dependent economy. At worst, it can support the status quo, delay needed adaptation and make our economy weaker,” Lazar said in an op-ed. “The forest industry has not waited around for government to fix its problems. Its response to bad economic conditions has been to improve productivity and outperform the American industry and other Canadian industrial sectors. It is rapidly diversifying markets and products, becoming a leading Canadian exporter to growing markets such as China, India and South Korea.”
Lazar says what is needed from the government is not a bailout, but rather, bold economic policy shifts, and targeted spending.