E-letter: Have and have-not sectors


The art of politics is a powerful art, indeed. I see in the recent kerfuffle in the States over trade that Canada’s dairy sector – a political sticking point – comprises only about 15,000 farmers. That is, there are 15,000 dairy farmers that get price support from the rest of us to ensure that they don’t lose money. Estimates suggest we pay $2.6 billion more than the rest of the world pays for dairy.

Kerry Knudsen

Coincidentally, there are approximately 15,000 manufacturers of secondary wood products in Canada. Do you have any idea how much money you get as a price support? Zip.

Politics. We have noted from time to time the cost we bear as an industry in having ineffectual or non-existent representation. It ought to be a crime. And, while you and I are ready and willing to put our shoulders to the wheel to help out, we can’t do it for them. In fact, we generally hurt by not letting them fly on their own. Nothing has less credibility than a manufacturers’ “association” that is paid for and driven by its associate members. Especially media.

I had lunch recently with one of our industry’s biggest suppliers, and the conversation turned, as it often does, to politics and current affairs. “Are you for capital punishment,” he asked?

I said I am, and he allowed that he is, too. He specified the infamous case of Paul Bernardo, but we both understood that case can stand in for any other. It’s a mess, he said, to think of the families and friends of the victims, never to know when the murderer(s) of their loved ones will be free again to stalk the bars and alleyways of society.

True. But there is more to it than that.

First, in the interests of disclosure, I was not always for capital punishment. I was a hard-left youngster, and, as with so many others, I could not accept the findings of 10 millennia of history and decided instead to be influenced by contemporary writers. Albert Camus, the French existentialist, was one, and his premier essay on the topic was Reflections on the Guillotine. Catchy title, eh? Even better, the Marquis de Sade agreed at the time.

I still think Camus had some good points. For example, he proposed life at hard labour as the alternative, in case of a wrong judgement. Hard labour, of course, is not in our equation, at all. Our worst malefactors get three squares, climate control, counseling and housing in opposite-sex facilities if they play their cards right. No hard labour.

Camus also proposed suicide by a method and at a time acceptable to the convict if he or she got tired of hard labour, and even that was revocable at any time before it was medically irreversible.

What I think today, however, is the matter of its cost to society. Not the price in Canadian dollars to feed, clothe, provide medical and dental care and entertainment, but in social fibre.

Capital punishment adds a seriousness to the Law. It says society means business.

For example, one might ask what did Ethel Rosenberg do that Hillary Clinton did not do? Other than get the electric chair, that is? It’s a shocking question, to be sure, but a grave one. It has to do with survival of society.

Or what about Ali Watkins, the cute little professional that was trading sex for secrets at the New York Times? For her, it was all about hot pants and finances and cost her a suspension. When Mata Hari did it in the First World War, it was the firing squad.

In that context, it appears society has become less serious. Less accountable. Less permanent.


Last month we heard from two of the world’s foremost poster-kids for pot: Justin Trudeau and Peter Fonda. To be accurate, Fonda was not advocating for pot at the time. That was before. Now he’s advocating for the homosexual rape of children. There may be no connection, but it’s clearly open for discussion. That is the nature of politics.

I happen to know of a young man whose family tries to filter current politics, yet still discuss. When this young fellow hooked the Trudeau and Fonda performances together, he had one quick question: “Why is everybody that advocates for pot already using pot,” he asked?

Good question, kid. I doubt there is anybody left in Canada that has not been affected by the mental, moral, physical or financial destruction of somebody close to them by pot. In fact, if you a) can seriously say you have not been so affected, and b) you have not used marijuana or its derivatives in the last six months, I’d like to hear from you.

But here is pot, all dolled up like Chuckie at a warlock consecration. A proffered bride for all of Canada so we can claim our rightful place right behind Uruguay as leaders of social justice. Or the Marquis de Sade. Uruguay, by the way, is a progressive country in South America with approximately half the population of Toronto.

I am not going to argue against pot. It’s too late. It’s a fait accompli, and I am a minority. But I can say this … our industry will suffer. I don’t even need to go into the reasons why. Society has determined that we can afford the costs of weak laws, weaker logic and totally impotent corrections programs. Who, cares, you can hear them chant? Have another hit of the universal que sera sera. Damn the consequences and the costs. There are “rights” to be had.

However, I will be hanging around for another decade or two, God willing, and you can bet next year’s association dues that I will be saying I told you so.

  • A friend forwarded your opinion piece to me as our family have been involved in the dairy industry for decades and everyone was disturbed. At the very least if you are going to disparage an industry you should at least try to present some facts. The much talked about tariffs only kick in after the USA has filled the 10% of our market they have access to. The USA has only given Canada 3% access to their market. We provide direct jobs for about 115,000 Canadians and indirect through 444 Canadian processing plants, another 105,000 + jobs. You pay less for milk in Canada than either the USA OR New Zealand, China, Norway or France. Your taxes do not subsidize our industry. Just as an aside, we and many farms like ours, have been providing high quality maple lumber to Ontario buyers for 30 years and do not appreciate a representative of the wood industry spreading inaccurate facts about the dairy industry.

    • Hi, Sharon,

      I sent out an e-letter yesterday to a different audience, citing a report on the commoditization of the media. In short, they are saying virtually all the media have become no-content, advertiser-focused, manufactured clones that compete against each other based only on price.

      I vowed to myself years ago that I would never copy the work or style of others, that my magazines would present original, business-to-business information and that advertisers would have no say in what we said, where or to whom, but that they would have access to a loyal, energized and responsive market.

      Therefore, if people want to read about what any paying advertiser wants them to read, they should certainly look elsewhere than Wood Industry.

      In our content, we tend more toward costs of compliance, economics and trade, labour and safety, environment and marketing issues. Oh, yes, and one quippy column on today’s news for diversion if you want it.

      As for dairy, I am from a farm background, back when small, diversified farmers used a bucket and stool for milking. I have cut pigs, baled hay, cut corn and hauled oats. Nonetheless, our current trade troubles have a basis in accusations from Trump. To me, any answer to an accusation must first assess whether the accusation is accurate. In this case, we are vulnerable. I happen to think Quebec cheeses stand at the top of the world, and I actually travel occasionally to Quebec, in part, to stock up on durable cheeses and to sample and enjoy the soft cheeses. I particularly like Riopelle de l’Isle. But we do charge a heavy tariff on the States for their dairy products.

      My columns are not designed to preach or sell. I see them more as the next guy over at the airline gate and having two hours to kill. Just talkin’ instead of eating tiny boxes of Pringles or reading canned news releases from poorly trained secretaries for the day’s paying supplier.

      Each has his own tastes. It could be we are acquired.


      Kerry Knudsen