Alberta forest industry in crisis, spokesman says
Alberta's forest industry is in crisis and the provincial government will have to help producers weather the storm, says the new executive director of the Alberta Forest Products Association.
Brady Whittaker told CBC the strong Canadian dollar, a struggling U.S. economy, and issues with exporting lumber south of the border have left the province's third-largest industry in trouble.
'Challenges, challenges, challenges.'— Brady Whittaker, executive director, Alberta Forest Products Association
"Challenges, challenges, challenges," is the way Whittaker described the job facing him as the chief spokesman for the industry, which contributes about a $1 billion in tax revenues annually to the Alberta government.
The biggest problem, by far, is the soaring loonie, he said.
"Forest products sold at $1,000 [in the U.S.] in 2002 netted Canadian companies about $1,587. Today that $1,000 is $1,000, a 58 per cent decrease in five years."
The provincial government needs to work with the industry to ensure the future of the 47,000 Albertans who work in forestry, and the communities that depend on those jobs, Whittaker said. He wouldn't suggest what kind of help the industry should receive.
Sustainable Resource Development Minister Ted Morton has set up a committee to study the forest industry's problems.
Whittaker expects the issue will be raised by voters in the provincial election expected to be called soon.
"I think Albertans are going to speak for this industry at forums around the province, especially in rural Alberta. I think you are going to hear Albertans talking to the candidates to ask what they will do to sustain this industry, this town, this constituency."