Keep the promise to strengthen Ontario's competitive edge PDF

November 1, 2005

Forestry sector key to Ontario
Keep the promise to strengthen Ontario's competitive edge

“So we have done, I would argue, much in order to support the industry in northern Ontario. Is there more to do? Of course there is .”
Premier Dalton McGuinty
October 13, 2005

Toronto -- A coalition of mayors, business and lumber and forest industry leaders converged on Queen's Park today to encourage the provincial and federal governments to take the additional steps needed to restore Ontario as a competitive jurisdiction for forestry jobs and investment.

“Ontario's forestry industry is still in crisis,” Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) President Michael Power says noting that Ontario has lost more forestry jobs that any other jurisdiction in Canada.

Acknowledging the McGuinty government's initial response to the forestry sector crisis was a “step in the right direction,” Mr. Power adds, “My message for the Premier is that between now and the release of the provincial budget finish the job you have started.   Take the rest of the steps necessary to ensure the competitiveness of this essential industry for the benefit of all Ontarians.”

Noting that over 200 communities in which the forestry sector provides jobs and generates prosperity, David Canfield, Mayor of the City of Kenora, says the risks are high if additional government action is not taken.

“If our governments don't do more to restore the competitiveness of Ontario our forest industries the economic effects will be felt from Windsor to Ottawa,” Canfield warns.

Ontario Forestry Industries Association President Jamie Lim said that “made-in-Ontario” problems are making a tough situation even tougher for Ontario's forest industries.

“While a high dollar and the softwood lumber dispute with the USA present enormous challenges for the industry, they represent the tip of the iceberg. Adding to the challenges in Ontario are soaring electricity prices, costly bureaucratic paperwork and the decisions of previous governments to download the high cost of road construction and maintenance that are, literally, killing what could otherwise be a thriving Ontario industry,” Lim points out.

“Despite investing heavily in building some of the most modern and efficient operations in the world, Ontario's forestry sector continues fighting, not only to avoid further lay-offs and mill closures but for its very survival”, Lim adds.

Outlining the additional steps needed to restore the competitiveness of Ontario's forestry industry, the Forestry Crisis Coalition makes the following recommendations.

The Ontario Government:

Based on recommendations in the government's own report and corroborated by the financial industry analysts, the government of Ontario must work with the industry to:

-- lower delivered wood costs – the cost of getting wood from the forest to the mill – by reassuming the actual cost of building a maintaining primary logging roads and half the cost of secondary roads;

-- provide stability for the province's electricity supply and pricing by extending price protection for electricity consumers by renewing the revenue cap on the output from Ontario Power Generation non-prescribed assets for an additional three years, to April 30, 2009.    Ontario's electricity costs that are as much as 40 percent higher than competing jurisdictions and provincial policy must address the issues - not just for the sake of forestry but the manufacturing sector in general;

-- reduce red tape that unnecessarily bogs down the approvals process and erodes the efficiency that industry has been working so hard to build into its operations.

“What is being requested of the Ontario government is financially reasonable, pragmatic and in the best interests of all Ontarians,” states Mr. Power noting that these actions would lower delivered wood costs by $5 per cubic meter.   “We cannot afford to be losing jobs and industry faster than any other province. Forestry is an economic cornerstone of Ontario, and we need to ensure that the companies operating here have reason to invest and remain in this province,” he says.

The Federal Government:

Additionally, the Ontario Forestry Coalition called on the federal government to make good on a promised made six months ago by the Prime Minister to assist the Ontario industry by:

-- providing loan guarantees to assist softwood lumber producers harmed by illegal tariffs and duties imposed by the US government;

-- making investments in green energy projects undertaken by the forestry sector;

-- promoting wood products to expand markets domestically and globally;

-- providing incentives for development of value added wood products;

-- retraining and providing transitional assistance for industry to adapt to changing markets;

-- introducing programs to build capacity among First Nations communities;

Thunder Bay Mayor Lynn Peterson said that members of the Coalition will be on a plane to Ottawa later that today to press the federal government for action.

“Again, we cannot stress enough the need for broad partnership including all levels of government to work together to ensure our industries retain their place as competitors in a changing and aggressive global marketplace,” says Mayor Peterson.

Ms. Lim asserts that the future for Ontario's forest industry could be bright.

“Financial analysts predict global markets will expand by three per cent a year. Canadian and Ontario forest industries have a solid track record as the largest exporters of forest products in the world. The improvements already put in place by the industry in terms of modernization, increased efficiency and a highly trained and skilled work force bode well for a strong future, but only if the critical, core competitive issues are addressed to ensure the province is a jurisdiction in which a competitive, efficient forest industry can thrive,” she concludes.

For more information contact:

Mayor Michael Power

Mayor Lynn Peterson

Dave Milton
OLMA President
(416) 523-9717    

Ms. Jamie Lim
OFIA President/CEO

Mayor Dave Canfield