Weekly Commentary  

Life and lemons

So you've heard the saying, “When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade”. Well there's a tough bunch of lumber and saw mill types down in Okanagan Falls who've applied that to those nasty pine beetles who are chewing their way through our constituency.

These folks out in the wood lot at Okanagan Falls looked at the down-graded, blue tainted lumber they were being handed and said 'let's make something good out of that stuff'.

They called me recently to come down and check out what they were up to. I was impressed by what I saw. The heat of the day and the dust in the air hadn't slowed those workers down a bit. Their sprawling operation includes a log de-barker, a system of saws to slice the wood into the exact dimensions they need and a sorting and loading system.

Wait! Before you think 'what's so exciting about this' and turn to the fashion section, you need to keep reading. These guys are true inventors, as well as being dreamers. Facing unemployment and investment loss they've really come up with something.

They sat themselves down facing a grim reality. People weren't ordering blue stained wood product to grace their homes. Nor would engineers approve its structural capabilities. However they carved up a bunch of that timber and realized it was still pretty strong stuff, albeit in the hue of blue. They figured they could buy it cheaper than the high grade stuff and instead of cutting 2x4's there was still demand for another sized product. Pallets. You know, those 4'x4' wood frame platforms found in loading yards and warehouses around the world.

So, late at night in the coffee shops of Okanagan Falls, they got busy sketching on the backs of napkins provided free in those restaurants. They sketched out how to weld and mould and bolt together the iron and steel frames to hold the circular saws and conveyor belts they would need.

They designed the safety standards and the support networks to hold and protect the workers. They've hired and trained young unemployed workers using some of the support funds from our federal re-training program.

I watched as the fresh cut (and cool blue) slats were bundled up to be loaded onto trucks and shipped literally around the world. In this case at least, the beetle's pathway of destruction has lead to the roadway of success for a small group of pioneers who refused to quit.

By the way, talking about Okanagan Falls, there's a similar group of workers down there with an outfit called Structurlam. Along with their operation in Penticton they know how to stick together. Literally. They continue over the years to figure out better and better ways to glue wood strips together.

Does their entrepreneurial spirit pay off? Well, you only have to look at where their laminated beams wind up. You can see them in the breathtaking ceiling of the incredible and brand new Olympic Skating Oval in Richmond or in the new Provincial Museum of Art in Ontario or the world class new International Raleigh Durham Airport in North Carolina, USA.

So what's with all these amazing ideas and work efforts coming out of small places like Okanagan Falls? Many would have different ideas about that but I personally think it's because of those ice cream cones served up at world famous Tickleberry's.

I'm in Ottawa this week as we continue this Session of Parliament. Our agenda is to focus on those policies which have been steering our economy through the worst global recession of the last 80 years and our efforts are paying off.

The International Monetary Fund says that Canada was the best prepared G-7 nation going into this global downturn and will be the best positioned coming out of it. The World Economic Forum has declared that our rules which govern banks have given Canada the most stable financial system in the world and the OECD has praised our low federal tax structure.

With the improvements we will be introducing to the EI structure and ongoing infrastructure funding we believe we can continue to protect our economy and our workers.

It will take focus and determination. I agree with the overwhelming majority of my constituents who strongly maintain that now is not the time for the distraction of yet another federal election.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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