Commentary: Give business a chance

Kerry Knudsen

Kerry Knudsen

As it turned out, 2014 was a very good year for Canada’s secondary wood-products sector. Manu­facturers are amazingly positive following the U.S. housing crash and steep financial slide of the last decade, but stock markets were up, Canadian building permits were at record levels (at least, at press time) and the U.S. housing market was recovering. In fact, just about every indicator you can imagine was trumpeting a full recovery. The secondary wood sector in Canada is riding along. Please see the survey report on pages 26 and 27.

On the marketing side, there is a battle being waged in North American between what the Supreme Courts of both Canada and the U.S. call “commercial speech” and “individual speech.” Magazine editorial is legally considered individual speech, under the assumptions that the media is independent. Following the consolidation of media during the last 30 years, that is not actually a safe assumption.

Both courts have ruled there is a limited right to commercial speech, but several economic and political bodies have run with the idea, prompting smaller, less experienced parties to follow, creating a stampede of followers wanting to be the next Mark Zuckerberg.

However, the issue is commercial control of expression versus independent reporting. If you are interested, you can google “commercial speech Supreme Court Canada” and read some briefs. Wood Industry is a proponent of an independent press, even if we are just a small magazine for the wood sector in the frozen North. Wood Industry’s mission statement is, “to advance the interests of the secondary wood-products industry in Canada.” We have been doing that for 17 years, and we ask only our readers for advice about what to cover. This is the driver behind our November Survey issue.

I thought it was interesting that the American people this month sent a very clear message to Washington, and I think the White House response is concerning. For example, I heard President Obama the day after the election say he heard the one-third of voters that brought in the Republican wave, but that he also heard the two-thirds that did not vote. This is the same guy five years ago that told the Republicans, “Elections have consequences.”

If I can gauge the stated intentions of the current president, he seems to be a champion of the worker and the poor. Great stuff. However, the proof is in the pudding, they say. The Republicans have a litany of issues with Obama’s performance, so we don’t have to list them. Black youth unemployment, for example, appears to have increased.

One of our biggest limitations as an industry of largely family businesses in Canada is that of finding employees. One obvious bar to finding those employees is money. If you could offer a starting wage of $40, you could find employees. But you can’t. You might find a few at $30, and some at $20, but when you get down to a feasible wage for entry level, the pickings are few.

The question that presents itself, then, is how either employees or business are assisted if the government steps in, says you pay too little and you must start all new employees at $40? The fact is, many of you would go out of business. Not as many would close up with a minimum wage of $30, a few would go out of business at $20, and at $14, some start-ups cannot yet afford to hire any workers, even if they can find them.

I am not taking a position, here. I can see both sides. We have a better lifestyle here than in the States, or so the surveys say. On the other hand, I personally worked jobs below minimum wage back in the ‘60s, and believe it helped get me started and they were the only jobs I could get at that time and place.
The point is not pro- or anti-minimum wage. It’s that I agree with Obama on one point: elections have consequences, so politics is an important target every day for discussion, and we did not even mention foreign policy.

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