In one of my July reports I referenced the importance of innovation and cited specific examples where our Government has entered into partnership agreements with many value added wood producers in Western Canada including Okanagan Falls.
Why is trade important to British Columbia and Canada? Rather the engage in a rhetorical answer to this question I believe it is important to provide specific real world examples. Last week the community of Whistler hosted the 10th annual Global Buyers Mission and Wood First Forum. In many respects this forum is like the world series of BC wood products as over 350 buyers representing 23 different countries gathered to do business with BC wood producers. When you consider that over 40 percent of all Canadian wood products are now exported internationally clearly the importance of trade deals and this forum are key to our forest industry and our regional economies. In fact, despite recent challenges within the sector, the Canadian forest industry currently employs roughly 235,000 Canadians and contributes over $20 billion annually to our GDP. The spin off employment and economic impact on other industries as we know locally is also very significant.
Getting back onto the topic of trade and the forest industry while some have questioned trade with countries such as China, South Korea and more recently India, it is also important to recognize that wood product exports have increased significantly to these countries. China is now Canada’s second largest wood export market and South Korea has moved up to number five. In fact Canada now exports significant amounts of wood product to over 20 different countries that also include Japan, Taiwan, Netherlands, Philippines, Belgium, Turkey, Hong Kong, Pakistan and New Zealand to name a few. We are also fortunate that Canada’s Minister of International Trade is the Hon. Ed Fast from Abbotsford, British Columbia and as such has a firm understanding on the importance of trade to the BC Forest industry.
How does trade and wood product exports benefit us locally? In several previous reports and in Parliament I have often shared the success of Penticton based Structurlam Industries, who has now expanded into Okanagan Falls. This innovative value added company provides over 150 well paying jobs. Much of the lumber sourced by Structurlam comes from Kalesnikoff Lumber, a rural mill located in Thrums, B.C. that has taken pride in being a BC specialty wood producer for over 70 years. Each of these operations employs many local workers and utilizes many local industries for support services and supplies. While in Whistler at the Global Wood Buyers forum, over 150 architects participated in a forum to learn more about new innovative building technologies, like the ones at Structurlam. It should be noted that some of these innovative wood products are made possible by investments in innovation created in partnership by companies like Structurlam and our Government. These new and innovative products have created a very promising level of interest and I have also been informed that two international delegations will be visiting Structurlam in the weeks ahead. These types of events seldom receive much media attention however they are indeed very exciting for those in the BC wood sector and show how our Government, working in partnership with industry can create innovations that generate new jobs and support our local economies. Let’s also not overlook the importance of trade deals in opening new markets that help create Canadian prosperity and employment.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.