Forest Products Association of Canada – a lobby group with a clean-cut edge

David Lindsay, CEO, FPAC

Industry People

Lobbying in Canada has become an increasingly difficult racket. The 2008 establishment of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying (an independent Agent of Parliament) was intended to ensure transparency and accountability in the lobbying of public office holders, and to increase public confidence in the integrity of government decision-making.

At the same time, the Lobbying Act and regulations that accompanied it introduced a series of restrictive measures including five-year post-employment prohibitions on all former designated public office holders, requirements to disclose details of communications with former designated public office holders, the banning of payment and benefits resulting from lobbying activity, and penalties that could mean jail time for any lobbyist found guilty of breaching the requirements set out by the Act.

For an organization as well-established as the Forest Products Association of Canada, however, the new regulations and restrictions have not impeded the ability to achieve its mandate in the slightest. FPAC continues to cultivate a strong relationship with the federal government and strives to keep the channels of communication with decision-makers wide open. PaperAdvance recently had the opportunity to discuss the Association's biggest accomplishments, challenges and future endeavors with CEO David Lindsay.

FPAC makes no qualms in referring to itself as the 'voice' of Canada's wood, pulp and paper producers. As the largest representative of Canadian forest products producers, the title is appropriate. The association counts amongst its members the industry's giants, including Weyerhaeuser, Canfor and Kruger to name but a few, and is chaired by Tembec CEO James Lopez. FPAC's members are responsible for a substantive 66% of certified forest lands in the country and membership to the association hinges on third-party certification of forest practices. FPAC is the first association of its kind to insist upon such a condition. It is exactly these kinds of standards that have historically positioned FPAC for success.

“FPAC has set up Vision2020 to articulate where the industry is going to reach its potential. The Vision has ambitious goals in the area of people, performance and products.”

By keeping a finger at all times on the pulse of the industry and where it is heading, the association continually adjusts its programming and initiatives to reflect economic trends. One of the ways FPAC is achieving this mirroring phenomenon is through Vision2020, Lindsay notes. "FPAC has set up Vision2020 to articulate where the industry is going to reach its potential. The Vision has ambitious goals in the area of people, performance and products," he said. "We need to hire at least another 60,000 employees by 2020 and want to find better ways to recruit Aboriginals, women and new Canadians; we are going to improve our economic performance by an additional 35% by the end of the decade. And we want to contribute another $20 billion in economic activity from new products and markets. FPAC has also been a leader in studying the potential of the traditional industry adding on the production of high-value bio-energy, bio-chemicals and bio-materials. The association has also just finished a leadership study on how the industry can better take advantage of the global construction market." Noting the success of the Canadian forest products industry has had in reducing its environmental footprint (it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 70% since 1990 and is home to 40% of the world's independently certified forests - by far the most on the globe) FPAC is seeking to match the industry's achievements. "As part of Vision2020, the Canadian industry is aiming to reduce its environmental footprint by another 35%," Lindsay highlighted.

David Lindsay at PaperWeek Canada 2013. Photo: Guillaume Roy, Paper AdvanceThis isn't all to say there aren't challenges. While Canada's forest products industry may account for a substantial 12% of the country's manufacturing GDP and provide jobs for 230,000 Canadians, there are difficulties to contend with. Because FPAC lobbies for the industry's interests at the federal level, it remains highly susceptible to the impacts of the government's fiscal health. "This is a challenge right now," Lindsay says, "because Ottawa is in deficit reduction mode." The association is also particularly, though inevitably, assailable to the industry's economic challenges. There is a shortage of skilled labour to contend with, as well as an ongoing battle to alter the perception of Canada's forest products sector as being a 'sunset industry' – an image that persists despite the $57 billion annually it contributes to the economy. "We are in a competition for skilled labour with other industries, and we need to assure potential employees that the industry has a dynamic future," Lindsay underscores. "If anything needs to be reshaped, it is the 'industry brand."

“I am joining a leading advocacy association that is well recognized in Ottawa and that will continue to work in partnership with government to help the forest products industry reach its potential.”

The forest products industry employs an older demographic and roughly 40,000 of its employees will be eligible for retirement in the next few years. At the same time, recent graduates are facing unprecedented levels of adversity in securing full-time employment. "The forest products industry definitely needs to reach out to the younger generation," Lindsay says. FPAC recently launched to try to attract new employees. It included an internship contest so that young Canadian could get work experience in the forest product sector. FPAC has also launched an Aboriginal youth skills award."

Partnerships are a linchpin of the association's work as well. Canada's forest products industry has been remarkably successful in its ability to diversify its markets and align with other sectors and manufacturers. This has opened up numerous new arenas for forest products and FPAC has been quick to capitalize on these opportunities. "We are now working with the chemical, plastics, auto, biotech and other sectors who are interested in producing innovative new products from wood fibre," Lindsay explains. "This could include bio-energy, bio-chemicals and other bio-materials – everything from cosmetics to clothing to car parts. Innovative new products require investment and the forest products sector cannot do it alone. We have set up a bio-partnership network and are also leaders in a group called BEN, the bio-economy network." FPAC extends its mindset of open collaboration and reaching out beyond industry, and recognizes the value in partnering with other levels of government and stakeholders as well. "Our mandate is to represent our forest company members in relations with the federal government. However we also work with provincial organizations, other associations, academics, environmentalists and Aboriginal groups," Lindsay notes.

FPAC's previous CEO, Avrim Lazar, was an industry powerhouse and a household name for those affiliated with the sector and beyond. Internationally recognized for his work on improving the industry's environmental footprint, one of Lazar's most significant achievements was spearheading the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. The Agreement secured the commitment of FPAC members to the highest environmental standards of forest management and conservation. In return, environmental organizations commit to global recognition and support for the efforts FPAC members make. It now includes 21 forest companies and nine leading environmental organizations and has led to the suspension of logging activities on close to 29 million hectares of Canadian Boreal Forests.

“The forest products industry definitely needs to reach out to the younger generation.”

Lindsay highlights the organization's pride in having strong leaders and says he hopes to draw on his experience as a former Deputy Minister in the Ontario government to be equally strong at the helm. He points to the good company he is in, saying "I can tell you that all the staff at FPAC are also known for their expertise and leadership – for example in studies on the bio-potential of using wood fibre in innovative ways and in capturing a larger share of the global construction market. FPAC staff also developed the ambitious Vision2020 plan. From my perspective, I am joining a leading advocacy association that is well recognized in Ottawa and that will continue to work in partnership with government to help the forest products industry reach its potential."

David Lindsay
President and CEO

David Lindsay became the President and CEO of FPAC in September 2012. He was most recently a senior Deputy Minister in the Government of Ontario serving in the portfolios of Energy and Infrastructure, Northern Development, Mines and Forestry, Natural Resources, and Tourism and Culture.
Before this, he served as President and CEO of the Association of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology of Ontario. Lindsay was the founding President of the Ontario SuperBuild Corporation and the Ontario Jobs and Investment Board. He also served as Principal Secretary and Chief of Staff to the Premier of Ontario.
He is a Fellow of the Queen’s University School of Policy Studies and past Director of the Ireland Park Foundation, the Ontario Innovation Trust, the World Wildlife Fund, the Canadian Tourism Commission, the Public Policy Forum and the Empire Club of Canada.
A Graduate of Queen’s University School of Business (Commerce ’81), David is married to Charmaine and they have two adult children Tim and Sarah.

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