yogis on Parliament Hill Early in May 2015, PFLA hopped a plane to Ottawa and joined other landowners from across the country to meet with federal MPs about legislation relevant to the stewardship of private land.

PFLA executive director, Rod Bealing, describes the mission like this: “If we want to educate people about what’s happening on private land to protect endangered species, we have to step out and make the effort. Put our fancy trousers on, wash our faces, comb our hair, find a tie that matches the shirt and knock on doors.”

In the course of three days, we shuffled through security screenings about 700 times—emptied our pockets, lifted our pant legs—rushed past hundreds of yogis practicing sun salutations on the east lawn of Parliament Hill, while hundreds of other brightly clad Canadians gathered on the west lawn to celebrate the upcoming 16th World Falun Dafa Day. Oh, it’s a great country.

Amongst the hustle and bustle of Ottawa, we managed to meet with an impressive number of government staff members and elected officials of all persuasions. Rod Bealing explains, “As an association, we’re a-political. For us, it’s not about the politician; it’s about the policy. We’ll talk to anyone who will listen.”

This wasn’t our first trip to Ottawa. Thanks to Chris Lee, and the organizing efforts of the Canadian Association of Forest Owners, we’ve developed some tried and true strategies for making the most of our time there.

This trip, a team of 12 of us split into groups of 3 to cover as much ground as possible. We had breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, dinner meetings, debrief meetings, debriefs of the debrief meetings, and more meetings.

Our primary goal was to talk about birds and creatures.

We met with:

  • The minister and the deputy minister of Environment Canada
  • The deputy minister of Natural Resources Canada
  • Liberal party critic for Natural Resources Canada
  • MP for Tobique-Mactaquac (New Brunswick)
  • Policy advisors to the Prime Minister’s Office
  • Liberal party critic for Environment Canada
  • Chair of the Conservative Forestry Caucus
  • Chair of the Conservative Hunting and Angling Caucus
  • Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Economic and Regional Development Policy at the Privy Council Office (PCO)
  • CEO of Parks Canada
  • Deputy Leader, Green Party of Canada
  • The office of the leader of the official opposition
  • Chief Government Whip
  • MP for Nanaimo-Cowichan

Meeting topics included:

  • Species at Risk
  • Migratory Bird Convention Act
  • Conservation agreements
  • Incidental take
  • Marbled Murrelet
  • The role of forest management in protecting species and habitat

Our secondary goal this trip to Ottawa was to talk about international trade.

We met with Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade & Development Canada (DFATD) staff to ensure the federal government is fully aware of the significant log surplus on the BC coast and the fact that federal log export restrictions (in the form of Notice 102—the surplus test for federally regulated private land) are being used entirely to suppress domestic log prices and subsidise domestic sawmills.

Despite decades of protest from private landowners, and mounting financial damages to tree growers, Canada’s track record on positive private land log export policy change remains poor. For the purpose of this mission, PFLA advocated administrative changes that won’t impact the policy, but might grant forest owners some relief from red tape, unnecessary delays and redundant process requirements.

Anything new to report from Ottawa?

First of all, a big thanks to everyone who made time to meet with us in Ottawa.

Our main goal, as usual, was to encourage recognition and distinction for private land and promote the CAFO two-step — an approach that distinguishes between private and public land when identifying and protecting critical habitat by first looking to public land (parks and protected areas) to achieve policy objectives.

We’re encouraged to report growing acceptance. People, across parties and politics, accept that recognition, respect and distinction for private property is reasonable, desirable even.

The most interesting thing we learned in Ottawa?

Oddly enough, while PFLA was in Ottawa primarily to talk about birds and creatures, most people we met with assumed we’d come to Ottawa to talk about the Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA).

Because the subject of upcoming softwood lumber negotiations seems to be on the top of people’s minds and agendas, we’ll take a few moments to clarify our position.

If PFLA did go to Ottawa to talk about SLA, here’s what we’d say:

A strong voice from the Canadian sawmilling sector is encouraging government to push hard for a roll over of the present softwood lumber agreement. While that might be good for sawmills (yay sawmills!), it’s not necessarily in the best interest of BC’s private tree growers, or Canadians across the country.

We think the upcoming softwood lumber negotiations could exert external pressure and present an excellent opportunity for both provincial and federal governments to review existing policies, examine practices, generally get their house in order, and minimize tensions with our largest trading partner.

Competition only makes us stronger.

In parts of Canada (including the southern interior of BC) where there is more aggressive competition for available fibre, mills have found ways to get the best value from the resource by investing and specializing in niche products. In these areas there is healthy two-way international log trade across the border. Mills have been forced to reinvent their business models; moving away from a cyclical dependency on cheap logs and commodity lumber markets toward higher value products and markets.

What’s different on the BC coast? When artificial trade barriers don’t exist, and competition thrives, the right log goes to the right mill, and the best use of the resource ensures best value for the log and more value at every step of the supply chain. More value for responsible stewardship, better return on investment, better stumpage revenues for government and forest owners, and more economic activity. Win, win, win. Imagine that?