The forest sector is multi-faceted and complex, but what I’ve noted most in my four years as Minister is the commitment to adaptation and innovation. These two factors will ensure that forestry will continue to be a key driver of B.C.’s economy.

B.C. was relatively well-positioned – compared to the rest of Canada – when the U.S. housing market crashed in 2007 – given the work we had done to build a market for softwood lumber markets in China. And while the Chinese economy is slowing from a 29 percent growth rate to a 7 percent growth rate, the appetite for B.C. wood products remains strong.

Impacts on the environment

While initially focused on wood for concrete forms, China’s taste for B.C. wood is becoming more refined. As the second largest economy in the world, China is gradually starting to realize its impact on the environment. As such, Chinese provincial governments and developers are wanting to build community centres and low-rise buildings from wood. They recognize the environmental benefits of building with B.C. wood given its climate-friendly attributes. Building with wood is also cheaper and faster than building with concrete.

“While we’ve been focused on growing markets in Asia, we’ve also been focused on growing markets at home.”

While we’ve been focused on growing markets in Asia, we’ve also been focused on growing markets at home. In 2009, we changed the B.C. Building Code to allow wood-frame construction to increase from four floors to six. The result has been an increase in mid-rise building projects around B.C. – over 200 – of which 58 are complete – are in the works.

But it doesn’t stop there. With the use of cross laminated timber, taller wood buildings are on the horizon. The recently completed Wood Innovation and Design Centre, at 29.5 metres, is North America’s tallest contemporary wood building. But for how long? The University of British Columbia has plans for a tall wood building; and the U.S. just recently completed a design competition for tall wood buildings, with winners to be announced in April.

The innovations in building with wood are good news for B.C.’s forest sector and the men and women whose livelihoods depend on forestry across B.C. But innovation doesn’t stop with solid wood. Because of the mountain pine beetle infestation, B.C.’s wood bioenergy sector has grown so that there are now 12 pellet plants exporting sources of green energy to Europe and Asia.

The future of forestry

And working with FPInnovations, we’ve helped finance the development of new products such as cellulose filaments which has the potential to revolutionize the pulp sector. Cellulose filaments can be used to strengthen a range of packaging and paper products, as well as plastics, adhesives and coatings.

I look forward to the forest sector of the future – whatever challenges may emerge – you can count on the ingenuity of the people employed in the sector to turn those challenges into new opportunities.