How a Canadian FIWO with 1 million members and a $40 million annual budget can be formed
WHAT IS THE FORESTRY INDUSTRY WATCHDOG ORGANIZATION (FIWO)?
The Forestry Industry Watchdog Organization (FIWO) is a proposed federally-chartered, non-profit organization designed to represent and educate forestry products consumers, and hold forestry companies accountable.
The FIWO proposal is based upon Citizen Utility Boards (CUBs) which have been established in four states in the U.S. In these states, utilities were required to enclose a one-page pamphlet in their billing envelopes inviting people to join the CUB. About five percent of consumers usually join the CUB at a $10-15 annual membership fee. CUBs are independent, broad-based watchdog groups that are run democratically by their members and represent consumers’ interests in the marketplace. For example, in Illinois the CUB has 150,000 members, a $1.5 million annual budget, and has saved consumers more than $20 billion since 1983 by opposing rate hikes by utilities.
According to a national survey, 64% of Canadians support the creation of the FIWO using the pamphlet method, while only 27% oppose it.
In addition, a national coalition made up of 31 citizen groups with a total membership of 3.5 million Canadians supports the creation of the FIWO.
HOW WILL THE FIWO BE SET UP AND HOW WILL IT WORK?
To set up the FIWO, the Canadian federal and provincial governments must require companies that sell forestry products (lumber, and wood and paper products) to hand out a one-page pamphlet to their individual customers at the cashier stations at each store.
Alternatively, these companies could volunteer to hand out the pamphlet, and as long as enough companies volunteered enough people would receive the pamphlet to make the FIWO viable.
The pamphlet will describe the FIWO and invite individuals to join at an annual membership fee of about $40 (with a lower fee for people with low incomes). The government can either lend or grant to the FIWO the funds needed to print the first pamphlet. After the first pamphlet, however, the FIWO will pay all the costs of the pamphlet. As a result, the FIWO can be set up at little or no cost to government or the companies that sell forestry products.
If only four percent of the 25 million Canadians who buy forestry products join the FIWO, it will have 1 million members and a $40 million annual budget. With these resources and large membership base, the FIWO will be strong enough to hold forestry companies accountable for their activities both in Canada and worldwide.
The federal and provincial governments could (and should) also increase their royalty rate from forestry companies, and give the extra amount of money collected to the FIWO.
The FIWO will be a democratic organization, controlled by its members through the election of regional delegates and the FIWO’s board of directors. The board will hire the FIWO’s professional staff and determine the group’s policies.
WHAT WILL THE FIWO DO?
The FIWO will hire economists, experts, organizers, lobbyists and attorneys to represent forestry product consumers and hold forestry companies accountable.
The FIWO will also educate consumers about forestry issues, especially sustainability and waste reduction.
WHY IS THE FIWO NEEDED IN CANADA?
Large forestry companies cut and process trees owned by the public in remote areas far away from the eyes of the public. These companies have often cut trees in ways that are not legal, or failed to keep commitments to replant trees in sustainable ways.
Canada’s forests reduce pollution that causes climate change, and are a valuable public resource — but many times the public has not had a strong voice in government and forestry industry decisions about the use and conservation of forests.
The FIWO will act as a broad-based, well-resourced umbrella group, giving forestry products consumers an organized voice for their interests.
For more details, go to Democracy Watch’s Citizen Association Campaign