Today’s all-out assault by the combined forces of Canada’s powerful environmental movement on the so-called dirty oil of the oil sands has its precursor in recent history. The present environmental movement cut its teeth with its incursion into Canadian forestry, once the dominant resource extraction industry in Canada. Environmental activists, NGOs and foundations presented forest certification as the solution to the international campaign launched against the forestry industry in the 1990s. Certify forests, Canada’s foresters were told, and the campaigns will stop.
The campaigns did not stop, and forest certification is proving to be destructive of the resource, the greater economy, the communities where working forests are located and forestry’s once-critical contribution to the public purse. Further, evidence is beginning to show that the environmental model used by forest certification is destructive of the forest biosphere itself. As well, despite forest certification being in effect for almost 20 years, there have been few independent audits1 of the success of forest certification, meaning existing problems have only increased.
This paper will show that the effect on forestry was a drawdown of the value of the resource and its wealthcreating effect of between 40 per cent and 60 per cent. For smaller private forestry operations, it is as much as 400 per cent. Certification, which was forced on a fully modern industry, has set forestry back a generation. Forest certification needs reform in order to restore Canada’s forests to a state of economic and environmental health.
Currently, environmental NGOs are pressing certification onto the aggregate industry in Ontario. Given the campaign against pipelines, the oil sands and fracking, the certification model developed for forestry will be presented as a solution to “public” unrest, as well as to any future exploration and extraction in Canada’s North.
This will occur at a most inconvenient time: when Canada needs to grow its economy in order to meet its debt and unfunded liabilities, particularly those of universal health care and the aging population. Based on a C.D. Howe Institute report by the former president of the Bank of Canada, David Dodge,