Forestry needs new markets and new products
The new deputy minister of forestry in Ontario says the old days of the forestry industry are over and the leaders and the workers of that industry have to look for new directions and new ideas if the North is to profit from the vast quantities of wood fibre that remainin our forests.
David Lindsay was the keynote speaker Wednesday at the annual general meeting of the Timmins Chamber of Commerce.
At a time when many Northern communities are deep in trouble because of the failing forest industry, Lindsay said the government of Ontario is looking to move forestry to become a more value-added industry. He suggested there is research now underway to see how wood fibre can be used in the auto industry.
Lindsay recalled the birth of the forestry industry in Ontario can be traced back to the early days of the British Royal Navy which needed tall white pines for the masts and spars of the tall ships. Not long after that demand grew for Ontario pulpwood as the Canadian newspaper industry began to grow he said.
“The history of forest goes back several hundred years in this province and it too has had to face changing markets, changing products. It's had to advance and innovate throughout the decades and indeed throughout the centuries,” said Lindsay.
“The demand for pulp and newsprint products is not what it used to be,” said Lindsay. Lindsay says that is due in part to the advent of the Internet and social communications such as Twitter.
“The average age of a reader of a newspaper in Ontario today, according to recent marketing surveys, is 55,” Lindsay said, indicating that the newsprint industry is “not a growth sector”. “So we have to think about new products, new markets, new uses for the fibre (wood) we have in the forest,” he said.
“The fibres of the trees have some properties in it that are very similar to oil,” said Lindsay, suggesting that research is now underway to find new uses for wood fibre.
“Once we figure out how to take those complex molecules in the trees, we can turn them into a replacement for the oil-base in plastics,” said Lindsay.
Lindsay said the internationally-known Dow Chemical company and the Canadian Magna Corporation is working to find out how to make such things as car bumpers, door panels and car flooring out of forestry fibre.
Lindsay also spoke briefly on the fact that Ontario is looking at the Tenure Reform process. Tenure is the procedure whereby forestry companies are allocated their timber rights for lengthy periods of times, such as five, ten or even twenty years. There is much criticism these days over the fact that many large forestry corporations have shut down their milling operations in Northern Ontario, yet they continue to hold on to local timber rights.
In the meantime, many smaller and less influential lumber contractors are having a difficult time getting their hands on a cheap and accessible wood supply.
“We need to be encouraging new investment, new people to come forward to seek out new markets and new products,” said Lindsay.
“That's the purpose of the Tenure Reform system, to open up to greater competition and greater innovation in the forestry sector, because we are not selling tall ship masts to the British Navy anymore,” he added.
“We've got to come up with markets and new products and one way to do that is to break up the tenure system and bring in more competition.”
Lindsay's comments did not totally satisfy the concerns of some chamber members who voiced disappointment about the recent situation in Smooth Rock Falls where Tembec continues to hold the timber rights, yet local initiatives for forestry have failed because Tembec will not release those timber rights. Another man in the audience complained that too many outsiders come to the North, take away the wood fibre, take away the jobs and leave nothing but stumps.
Issued by: Timmins Time
Author: Len Gillis
Issue date: October 23, 2009
Link to Article: Origin of text