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BlackBerrys accounted for only 3% of smartphones used in Canada at end of 2017

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TORONTO — Somewhat reluctantly, Athar Afzal finally gave up on BlackBerry earlier this year.

He was a longtime fan of the iconic Canadian phone brand but his company forced employees who weren’t already using iPhones to transition over. He was ready to make the change though, having grown fed up with the slowness of his aging BlackBerry Priv.

According to online measurement firm comScore, there aren’t many holdouts left in Canada still using a BlackBerry.

BlackBerrys accounted for only three per cent of the smartphones used in Canada at the end of last year, says comScore.

A decade ago, the BlackBerry brand was at its peak — but about to experience a precipitous decline with the release of the first iPhone and the subsequent unveiling of the Google Android platform. In 2016, after years of failing to stem market share losses, BlackBerry announced a monumental change in strategy. The company’s new focus would be on software and it would no longer make phones, although partnerships with other hardware makers kept the brand alive.

"They never kept up with the times," Afzal lamented. "They just sold it on the keyboard."

Piotr Makuch also gave up on his BlackBerry Priv recently and switched to an iPhone.

"I wouldn’t say I’m an absolute die-hard but I certainly appreciated a lot of the things that they do and I’ve always enjoyed my BlackBerry devices," he said.

"I’d never had an iPhone before and I appreciate that for all the limitations in terms of its customizability, with anything I run everything just works smoothly and nicely. And that’s a nice change from the Priv which would kind of chug when I tried to launch apps sometimes."

Afzal said a lack of operating system updates for his Priv left him frustrated as his device just got slower and slower. And while he appreciated that the device was marketed around data security, he found the software was unreasonably sluggish.

"Every time you had to restart your BlackBerry it would take (up to) five minutes because it would go through all the security settings again. So from a functionality perspective, it would take forever, and it ended up becoming a nuisance actually," Afzal said.

But there are some BlackBerry loyalists who still remain faithful to the brand and hopeful for the future.

Last year, Chinese company TCL released the well-reviewed KeyOne, which had the trademark BlackBerry keyboard, and it’s set to unveil the Key2 next month. A teaser ad promotes the phone with the tagline "an icon reborn." TCL is one of the companies BlackBerry licensed its brand to.

Makuch said he’s still open to getting another BlackBerry down the road, as long as it’s priced reasonably and not competing with a top-of-the-line iPhone.

"I think about that keyboard all the time," he said. "I really wish the phones were priced better."

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Canada's forestry industry pushes back after Trump blames California fires on lumber imports

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A general view of the aftermath from a wildfire in McVicker Canyon, Calif., on Aug. 11, 2018.

SOCIAL MEDIA/X04130

Canada’s forestry industry is pushing back against comments by U.S. President Donald Trump that lumber imports are partially to blame for intense forest fires in California.

Trump said at a cabinet meeting Thursday that the U.S. should harvest fallen trees from the forest floor, which he says are making fires worse, rather than import wood when “Canada is charging us a lot of money to bring their timber down into our country.”

The comments were troubling and a bit ridiculous, said Forest Products Association of Canada CEO Derek Nighbor.

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“At a number of levels the president’s comments are just really off-base yet again.”

Lumber prices are higher in the U.S. because of the tariffs Trump has imposed on Canadian imports, said Nighbor.

“It’s his tariff regime that’s really provided a 20 per cent hike to consumer prices in the U.S. on softwood lumber.”

Susan Yurkovich, president of the BC Lumber Trade Council, said Trump has the option at any time to lower the premium on lumber prices that the U.S. National Association of Home Builders estimates is adding US$7,500 to the cost to build an average home.

“They have an instant remedy available to them, and that’s to rescind the tariffs that we believe were unjustly placed on lumber and that would provide an immediate discount to American consumers.”

Nighbor said there is a conversation to be had about managing dead wood and fire threats, but that harvesting such wood is a complicated affair.

“Even if they would be able to get all that wood, they wouldn’t be able to process it.”

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The U.S. has seen increased investments in milling capacity, but still only supplied about 34 billion of the 48 billion board feet of lumber it consumed in 2017. The country won’t be able to close that gap any time soon, said Yurkovich.

“The gap between domestic demand and domestic supply is between 14- and 15-billion board feet. Putting that much production onin my view, that’s going to take years and years and millions and millions of dollars.”

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NDP pressured by Seattle mayor to stop logging near BC-Washington state border

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Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has written to B.C. Premier John Horgan asking that logging be stopped near the headwaters of the Skagit River, which is supposed to be protected by a more than 30-year-old agreement.

"The proposed logging in the Silverdaisy area is inconsistent with the spirit and intent of the 1984 [United States-Canada High Ross Treaty]," she wrote.

The area where logging is occurring is known as the "donut hole," and is close to the western border of E.C. Manning Provincial Park and eastern border of Skagit Valley Provincial Park.

It was set aside, without protections, more than 30 years ago due to mining claims.

A statement from B.C.'s Ministry of Forests says B.C. Timber Sales [BCTS] — the government agency which awards logging licences for Crown land — approved 39,000 cubic metres of timber to be cut in an area of 67.2 hectares or 0.672 square kilometres in 2015.

Durkan wrote to Horgan in early August saying the logging goes against the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission [SEEC] struck between British Columbia and the City of Seattle in 1984.

Sixteen commissioners, appointed by both countries, manage a $500,000 US budget to conserve and protect wilderness and wildlife habitat and enhance recreational opportunities in the Skagit Valley among other things.

'Jeopardizes Salish Sea'

Durkan says the BCTS needs to consult with the City of Seattle and the SEEC, "before authorizing any activity that would impact the ecological integrity and recreational resource value of the Silverdaisy area."

She said in her letter the area provides more than 30 per cent of  the freshwater flowing into Puget Sound.

Her letter also says the watershed is home to large and diverse fish and wildlife populations such as bull trout, steelhead and chinook salmon. 

"Failure to protect the ecologically and economically valuable fish populations and clean water quality of the Skagit River risks many millions of dollars in ongoing investment in salmon recovery," she wrote.

"And jeopardizes the biodiversity of the Salish Sea on both sides of our shared border."

She also says logging in the area will impact its use as a recreational site.

'B.C. values relationship'

The Ministry of Forests says the timber licence was awarded under the previous B.C. Liberal government and it cannot stop logging once a licence has been issued, but that "B.C. values its relationship with Seattle and Washington State."

The statement says the area being logged does not contain fish-bearing streams and that roads and ditches have been constructed to minimize the impacts of the logging.

Cutting on the licence is expected to finish in the fall and future logging plans are on hold pending consultations with the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission.

The Wilderness Committee has also been critical of the logging, saying it's being done with, "no care for wilderness of wildlife."

The committee wants efforts to buy out the mining tenures in the "donut hole" sped up, so that the area can be protected from logging.

Meanwhile, Durkan asks in her letter that a call be set up between her and Horgan to discuss the issue.

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Forestry industry pushes back on Trump blaming fires on Canadian lumber imports

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Canada's forestry industry is pushing back against comments by U.S. President Trump that lumber imports are partially to blame for intense forest fires in California. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and then on to Southampton, N.Y., for a fundraiser.


Andrew Harnik / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Canada’s forestry industry is pushing back against comments by U.S. President Trump that lumber imports are partially to blame for intense forest fires in California.

Trump said a at cabinet meeting Thursday that the U.S. should harvest fallen trees from the forest floor, which he says are making fires worse, rather than import wood when “Canada is charging us a lot of money to bring their timber down into our country.”

The comments were troubling and a bit ridiculous, said Forest Products Association of Canada CEO Derek Nighbor.

“At a number of levels the president’s comments are just really off-base yet again.”

Lumber prices are higher in the U.S. because of the tariffs Trump has imposed on Canadian imports, said Nighbor.

“It’s his tariff regime that’s really provided a 20 per cent hike to consumer prices in the U.S. on softwood lumber.”

Susan Yurkovich, president of the BC Lumber Trade Council, said Trump has the option at any time to lower the premium on lumber prices that the U.S. National Association of Home Builders estimates is adding US$7,500 to the cost to build an average home.

“They have an instant remedy available to them, and that’s to rescind the tariffs that we believe were unjustly placed on lumber and that would provide an immediate discount to American consumers.”

Nighbor said there is a conversation to be had about managing dead wood and fire threats, but that harvesting such wood is a complicated affair.

“Even if they would be able to get all that wood, they wouldn’t be able to process it.”

The U.S. has seen increased investments in milling capacity, but still only supplied about 34 billion of the 48 billion board feet of lumber it consumed in 2017. The country won’t be able to close that gap any time soon, said Yurkovich.

“The gap between domestic demand and domestic supply is between 14- and 15-billion board feet. Putting that much production on…in my view, that’s going to take years and years and millions and millions of dollars.”

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