Mayor Dave Canfield

If we go back to the days of Sir John A. McDonald, people might say it was a railroad that built a united Canada, but without the forests and natural resources there would have been nothing to unite.
Saw mills popped up across the nation to cut ties for the railroad and build communities across the country.
In the late 1800s, the demand for lumber and more mills grew dramatically. This was how most of our communities in Northern Ontario got started. Kenora is a great example of one of those communities. Nestled on the north shore of Lake of the Woods, Kenora, then known as Rat Portage, became a major centre for saw mills producing ties and lumber for the railroad and to build communities.  This is where the prairies met the Canadian Shield.  As water and horses were the two main modes of transportation, Lake of the Woods with its abundance of accessible timber flourished.
In the 1880s and 1890s Kenora had as many as 7 saw mills running to meet the lumber demands. When you consider the manpower to run these mills and supply them with timber, it was by far the largest employer in our area. With the evolution of the industry into producing paper, from 1920 to 1925, the first paper mill was built in Kenora.
My grandfather rolled the first roll of paper off of the first paper machine in 1926. History is an interesting thing, as when the Kenora mill closed in the fall of 2005, I had the sad task of putting the last bucket of wood into that same mill. I spent 32 years working in the mill as a crane operator and later as the heavy equipment trainer, up until the mill officially closed in January 2006.
Throughout my career, I was involved first in organized labour and then started in municipal politics in 1991 to the present date.  With a tremendous passion for the long term sustainability for the forest industry, I became very involved in committees involving forestry. I have had the privilege of sitting on numerous committees dealing with forestry; Lands for Life, Provincial Forest Technical Committee, Living Legacy, Ministers Council for Forest Sector Competitiveness and Forest Tenure Reform, just to name a few.  Most of these committees were made up of industry, environmental, and government, including municipal representation.  The non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were not necessarily looking out for the long term sustainability of our communities and the industry, but more to implement their idealistic views. In short, most NGOs do not believe in human intervention with nature.
Moving forward, we could be looking at a bright future for the forestry industry.  With 6 storey wood buildings now in the building code, and the opportunity to build even higher (wood frame), the rebound of the American economy, and the need to sequester carbon to help with climate change, the future of the forest industry has not looked this promising since the late 1800s. At the same time we still have many challenges to overcome.
As the president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) in the late 1990s, I had the privilege of being involved in the Lands for Life process with the then Harris government. This was deemed to be the solution to end the “war in the woods”.  Government, industry and the NGOs were going to agree to protect vast areas as parkland and other protected values in order to satisfy demands of environmental groups. I remember stating at one of the roundtable meetings that there would never be an end to the “war in the woods” no matter how much we gave up. Let’s face it, if there was no war, the NGOs would not have a job. Wow, has history proven this statement right. Today we continue to battle demands to exclude vast areas from future harvesting, supposedly to protect endangered species which in most cases are not endangered. Unfortunately the government continues to bow to this ideology as opposed to standing up to real science. Now, more than ever, if we are going to protect the forest industry and our communities we need to stand shoulder to shoulder and fight back with real science and data to expose the misinformation campaigns for what they really are.
Recently, NOMA and the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) have put together a presentation on forestry that explains the real science of the boreal forest. This includes the life cycle of the forest, certification facts for the Province of Ontario, caribou habitat, carbon sequestration and oxygen production of a forest, uses of wood and the economic benefit to government, communities and the environment.  This presentation is called Forestry 101: Trees are the Solution. The presentation is available to anyone who wishes to use it.  Forestry is the only renewable building product, the greenest building product, and most sustainable as trees never stop growing. We also understand that in the battle against climate change – trees are the answer. If we all step up to the plate, we can show government, with proper science, that harvesting mature forest, and replanting, can be the number one answer to mitigate climate change.
I have a favourite saying “that the world is ran by those who show up” – if we want the forest industry in our communities to continue to flourish, we must all show up.
-Dave Canfield, Former Mayor of Kenora