When Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra and his colleagues host a discussion on Canada’s supply chain today, the forest products sector and its workers will be looking for leadership from Ottawa to address a transportation system that is too often fragile and under-performing.
Canada’s forest industry provides more than 225,000 direct jobs across over 600 communities – many of which are hundreds of kilometres from larger cities and key customer markets.
A resilient and reliable transportation system is critical to Canadian forestry’s ability to meet increasing global demand for our products, keep forestry workers working, and improve economic conditions in rural and northern forestry communities.
“There are three main issues we need collective action on – future-ready infrastructure, rail service reliability, and the labour force of tomorrow,” noted Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) President and CEO Derek Nighbor. “For one, bottlenecks in key corridors are repeatedly slowing our supply chain down and hurting our global competitiveness. Getting to the bottom of issues in frequently congested spots like BC’s Lower Mainland must be a top priority of this discussion,” Nighbor said.
The industry will also be raising the issue of rail service reliability. Canada’s railways have an important and difficult job to do. Unfortunately, there is a recurring problem with too many mills simply not getting rail cars when they need them. This can have a negative impact on customer relationships and confidence, especially as more and more customers in Canada and around the world are turning to forest products for their climate benefits. Labour supply challenges are an ongoing concern as well, especially as it relates to truck driver shortages across the country.
“We are a reasonable group in Canadian forestry. We understand there are going to be system delays when the weather is bad or when our transportation partners are dealing with employees off sick because of COVID-19,” Nighbor added. “But over the past few years there have been way too many Groundhog Day moments. There are systemic issues that absolutely require solutions for the long-term and we look forward to working with the federal government and our transportation and labour partners on a plan for action,” he concluded.
FPAC provides a voice for Canada’s wood, pulp, paper, and wood-based bio-products producers nationally and internationally in government, trade, and environmental affairs. As an industry with annual revenues exceeding $75B, Canada’s forest products sector is one of the country’s largest employers operating in over 600 communities, providing 225,000 direct jobs, and over 600,000 indirect jobs across the country.