Summary: Employment in Quebec's forest industry has shown considerable variation during the
last few decades. Different factors have been suggested to explain the latest crisis in
the forest industry, including: increasing "environmental constraints", the Canada-US
softwood lumber dispute, a strong Canadian dollar, a drop in the rate of new home
building in the US, the low price of lumber, decreased demand and low price for newsprint,
increased fuel and electricity costs, the high cost of acquisition, the low productivity
of Quebec mills and processing facilities, and increasing foreign competition.
Over the past forty years, crises in Quebec's forest industry have mostly been related
to variations in oil price and exchange rate. Timber and newsprint price fluctuations have
also strongly affected employment in the forest sector. Softwood lumber trade disputes
between Canada and the US have been going on since the 1930s, and the most recent
episode has only played a marginal role in the latest crisis in Quebec's forest industry.
The productivity of Quebec mills is not a major factor either. However, instead of only
keeping its head above water and thus remaining vulnerable to market ups and downs,
Quebec's forest industry should have put more emphasis on innovation. Consequently,
emerging countries, rather than being perceived as competitors, would have instead
been major markets for Quebec industry's innovative products.
The widespread assertion that the current forest crisis is partly a result of increasing
"environmental constraints" does not pass the test of evidence. Indeed, the recent
increases in the percentage of protected areas are trivial, the 20% decrease in allowable