When Manon Pelletier, CPA-CA walked into her new job as the manager of our Maniwaki sawmill in Quebec this past March, it was a kind of home coming. Not because she’s ever lived in the Outaouais region – because she hasn’t – but because she’s coming back to forestry after a six-year period as a general manager in the construction supply sector.
Manon’s accounting background has served her well. Overall, she has more than 20 years of experience in management positions, including 10 years as general manager of the Opitciwan sawmill and woodlands operations and six years as manager of an AbitibiBowater mill in the Roberval and Saint-Thomas-Didyme area. We spoke to her about her new job and about the state of forestry today.
What made you decide to come back to forestry?
Forestry is at an important point in its history. There have been significant changes at Resolute and there are a lot of changes in the industry – as much about health and safety as in terms of environmental, and sustainability practices. Since I’m a person who likes to build and to see things change, I wanted to be part of the action.
As a former GM of the Opitciwan joint-venture sawmill, what do you think contributed to its success as a Resolute and the Atikamekw First Nations partnership?
I think much of its success comes from the Atikamekw First Nation’s willingness to seek out and work with an industry partner to help establish a sawmill in the heart of the community. It was an initiative that allowed the community to bring a new source of income and employment to its residents. Simon Awashish, the chief at the time, was already working in forestry and knew that it would be better to take on an active role in shaping the future of the sector locally than to just be a spectator.
What a rewarding and memorable experience. It was a privilege to contribute to improving the living conditions of this community and to have seen these infrastructure projects flourish to everyone’s benefit.
What do you see as a key responsibility in your work at Maniwaki?
My first responsibility is to health and safety. I ensure that our processes, rules and training are always at a level that allows employees to work in an environment that is both controlled and safe. To do that, we have weekly meetings with employees and every day I walk through the operation – inside and outside – to meet with employees and talk to managers. It’s an ongoing process. For example, when the company issues an incident notice, I take it to my team to learn about any potential risks we may have on site here.
What do you like most about your job?
Seeing transformation. To me, that’s always been fascinating. To see a raw resource transformed into something useful that can have a real, tangible effect on our lives, from toothpaste to lumber for building houses. It’s very motivating, and I think it motivates a lot of people here. They see not only that this is a renewable resource, but that it is one that people need to improve their lives to make houses and build buildings. We’re proud of that and we recognize the importance of the work we do.
What perception of the industry would you like to see change?
I think people who don’t live in these communities can have a superficial understanding of the environmental issues. A picture of a clear cut for example, will make a stronger impression than the realities of responsible tree harvesting or the facts behind the science of it. We’re missing some messaging around the importance of what our industry does – and the value that it brings – especially in Quebec. That’s why I thought the videos Resolute recently released were very timely. It’s important to show that we’re not just a big faceless corporation. We’re people who live in communities that have a deep connection to the forest. We have to do things properly because this is a resource that must remain sustainable. Also because we live here, and we use and love the forest, too.