The Independent Contractors & Business Association (ICBA) held their Annual Industry Outlook event at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Monday with keynote speaker, John King of CNN fame, Bob Rennie of the Rennie Group, Byng Giraud, Country Manager & VP for Woodfibre LNG Limited, Robin Sylvester, President & CEO of the Port of Vancouver and Susan Yurkovich, President & CEO of the Council of Forest Industries.
The topics discussed by the panel were of course Donald Trump, Woodfibre LNG, the Port of Vancouver success and expansion plans, the Real Estate market and Softwood Lumber.
To be honest I was a little skeptical about the value of having King as the keynote. Of course, I’ve seen him on CNN…a lot, as I, along with many of you became CNN news junkies during both the US Primary and the subsequent election of Trump s President.
However, I was pleasantly surprised, first by the format used that included Bob Rennie and John King sitting down on some comfortable arm chairs, with Rennie posing questions to King. The questions were very good and John King proved to be entertaining and thoughtful, providing an excellent analysis of the Trump phenom.
My takeaways from King: Trump won the Republican nomination not only because of his brashness, but because he recognized, even from his own gilded tower, that he needed to connect with grassroots people on their level and speak about their issues and, that Hilary Clinton may have in fact lost the election in no small part due to her inability to go out to the masses, if you will, and meet and speak with them in their own environment.
King says that Trump had no intention on cancelling NAFTA and that the huge duties levied on our Softwood lumber is only his opening salvo in negotiating better terms for the US. This is evidenced that after the announcement about NAFTA, both Trudeau and the Mexican President called Trump and lo and behold, he won’t cancel if for now because the other two leaders have convinced him to negotiate. All going according to Trump’s plan I’d say?
Also mentioned was that Trudeau has done OK dealing with Trump, in part because their both celebrities in their respective countries and that they recognize that fact about each other and that provides some sort of kindred spirit between them. Hey, whatever works, eh?
Rennie did a good job and King was engaging, funny and informative.
I thought Byng Girard did a good job as well, providing information about the Woodfibre LNG plant, where they are currently cleaning up and getting the site prepped for construction. And that while they are on the smaller side of some of the other proposed projects, they seem well along to the final decision. It seems there are construction permits to still obtain. etc., but the message was positive.
Robin Sylvester provided an overview of the Port of Vancouver and what the expansion plans are and explained the huge volumes of goods that are shipped from here. However the Port obtained some of that business gain because of Port strikes in the USA and that while some of that business has gone back to the US ports, a portion will continue utilizing the Port of Vancouver because we have less disruption. Good, solid presentation.
Susan Yurkovich described the size of our Forest Industry and of course spoke about the Softwood Lumber agreement and how they are fully engaged, along with the Federal and Provincial Governments to negotiate a new contract. She also spoke about how many times this issue has affected our forestry industry over the years and pointed out that during all these years that the industry has only experienced a very small amount of time (I think the number was 38 months) that has been dispute free. And importantly, that the issues used by the USA in the current dispute are the same ones they have used in previous disputes. Canada, I believe, has won every one of those disputes and the Americans have had to rebate the tariff money to us (although I don’t think we’ve ever got it all back).
However, obtaining a resolution and new agreement takes time, the Americans happily extort money from our foresters and we lose some business, but the US consumer loses big time with increased prices perpetrated by the unfair tariffs. And as I understand, the US needs our lumber, regardless of the dispute…. supply & demand I guess.
Back to Bob Rennie. Rennie, one of the superstars of the Real Estate Industry spoke about the supply and demand, particularly in Vancouver. I heard that land in the lower mainland is scarce and that single-family homes on big lots are a thing of the past. He mentioned that perhaps farmland re-zoning should be re-visited for parcels that for some reason or other are not farmable.
When Rennie spoke about affordability, he pointed out that the many baby boomers are looking to cash out of those high-priced homes they bought many, many years ago, and downsize, using a portion of the money realized from the sale of their property. Then they use another portion of those gains to help their children, whom with out financial help, would be unable to purchase their own palace. And thus, according to Rennie, this is simply how real estate market will continue to grow for the next generation.
And before I forget, I want to mention that it was good to see Dave Turchanski, President of GasLink Industries of Fort St John attending this event as one of the new Directors of the ICBA as part of merger of the Fort St John centred Energy Services BC Association.
The ICBA deserves accolades for putting on a great edition of their Annual Outlook and I look forward to their next event.
Please note these are my recollections of this event. If you have a different take on it, have any comment or even wish to correct my version, please add your comment to the post.
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