Canadian Forest Policy: Adapting to Change


449 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-8020-8175-4
DDC 333.75'0971




Edited by Michael Howlett
Reviewed by Patrick Colgan

Dr. Patrick W. Colgan is Director of Research and Natural Lands at the
Royal Botanical Gardens.


Forest policy receives fresh scrutiny in this latest volume of Studies
in Comparative Political Economy and Public Policy, with contributed
chapters from Canadian academics. Howlett sets the overview and
discussion within the concept of a policy regime with accompanying
processes and outcomes for stakeholders, including industry, government,
labor, environmentalists, and Natives. The elements and dynamics for
Canadian forestry rest on a history of provincial jurisdictions,
fluctuating markets, and evolving technologies. The industry has moved
through phases of exploitation, licensing, conservation, and management
with maximal sustained yield. Large and dynamic companies have
interacted with governmental departments and labor unions within a
context of federal–provincial relations and changing regulations
toward an end of multiple uses for forests.

Several aspects of the dynamics of policy are highlighted.
International trade includes major problem, such as the softwood lumber
dispute with the United States, while concerns over conservation have
led to the development of environmental certification. Laudably, the
need for innovative solutions is stressed. The impact of regarding
forests as entire ecosystems is well analyzed in terms of anthropo-
versus bio-centric stances in governmental initiatives in British
Columbia, such as those with Clayoquot Sound and the northern spotted
owl. Similarly, the volatility due to globalization and technological
change are well examined continentally in terms of cost–price
squeezes, the rigidity of traditional Fordism, and foreign ownership
avoiding investment in research and development. Why IKEA evolved in
Sweden and not Canada is an awkward question. Environmentalism, having
its impact through public opinion, brings yet another force onto the
scene. Model forests are interestingly profiled as approaches for the
resolution of disputes among players.

The final section dwells on case studies of institutional adaptation
and policy change. In Atlantic Canada, private ownership is prominent,
and a long history includes such decisions as not replanting native
species but opting for pulp production. A highly critical chapter
reviews the traditional industrial dominance in Quebec. In a similar
vein, and with much detail, the history of forestry (especially
continued degradation) in Ontario is cast against environmental issues.
The powerful state–corporate policy network of Alberta is well
contrasted with novel approaches in Saskatchewan that draw in
communities and Natives. The Forest Practices Code is understandably the
centre of the presentation on forestry in British Columbia. A review of
federal programs reveals that, unhappily, there has been no real
success. A final chapter draws together the material and makes it clear
why there is a “sense of unease.”

The text is high-level yet clear, and the major topics (e.g.,
globalization and environmentalism) are illustrated with examples such
as strong international competition and “boutique logging.”
Inevitably in such a large, multiauthored work, there is some
redundancy, and minor opacities include “monopsony” and “oriented
strand board.” There is good referencing but regrettably no index or
list of acronyms.


“Canadian Forest Policy: Adapting to Change,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024,