Even though it’s more of a federal issue than a provincial one, NDP leader John Horgan is slamming the Liberals for its handling of the softwood lumber dispute between Canada and the U.S.
“Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals have overseen the loss of 30,000 forest jobs,” Horgan said in a release this week. “Forest workers, their families, and their communities have been neglected for too long, and I want them to know I’ll have their back.”
Earlier this month the United States International Trade Commission ruled that it feels “there is a reasonable indication that a U.S. industry is materially injured by reason of imports of softwood lumber products from Canada that are allegedly subsidized and sold in the United States at less than fair value.”
As a result of the commission’s determination, the U.S. Department of Commerce will continue to conduct its antidumping and countervailing duty investigations on softwood lumber imports, with its countervailing duty determination due on or about February 20, 2017, and its preliminary antidumping duty determination due on or about May 4, 2017. When the two countries were last without an agreement, the U.S. slapped a 15 per cent duty on softwood lumber.
B.C. Forests Minister Steve Thomson called the finding “unfounded” and pledged to work with Ottawa to challenge the U.S. assertions.
“These are allegations that, time after time, have been proven to be false before NAFTA and World Trade Organization tribunals,” said Thomson. “B.C.’s forest policies are trade compliant. This issue can be resolved only with a fair, negotiated trade agreement with the United States, not more litigation. Despite numerous discussions during 2016 between Canada and the U.S., attempts to reach an agreement were unsuccessful.
“With forecast for continued increase in U.S. housing starts, the U.S. needs our lumber and penalties only hurt housing affordability for middle-class Americans by raising building costs. It is in the best interest of both sides to quickly come to terms on a deal and get back to focusing on growing our respective economies rather than wasting time, energy and resources in costly litigation.”
Horgan said the last softwood lumber agreement didn’t work, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs and the closure of close to 100 sawmills.
“International courts have ruled that our timber is not subsidized, yet American corporations keep pushing for higher duties that kill B.C. jobs,” said Horgan. “It’s unfair, and it has to stop. B.C. forest communities can’t afford a softwood deal at any cost, and Christy Clark too easily caves to corporate interests.”
Horgan said Premier Christy Clark has been too busy pushing the liquefied natural gas industry to focus on helping the forest sector.
“Christy Clark’s Liberals have given up on our forest jobs and that’s just wrong,” he said. “These are good jobs for future generations, not jobs of the past.”
Horgan said B.C. can’t let any softwood deal punish Canadian lumber and wood products so they can’t compete in the U.S. market, or discourage coastal communities from milling logs here in B.C. rather than shipping them overseas.
Horgan said B.C. needs to fight for a new softwood deal that that works for B.C. workers, their families and their communities.
“Our forests are a quarter-trillion-dollar asset owned by the people of British Columbia. Our forests should benefit people, not just corporations,” he said. “The forest companies can move to the U.S. to keep making their profits, but workers can’t. Getting more jobs from our forest resources is a big part of my plan to put more people to work in lasting jobs across B.C.”