Trudeau Government Failed on Softwood Lumber Duties

May 1, 2017
This week the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed preliminary countervailing duties as high as 24 per cent on Canadian softwood lumber. Justin Trudeau and his Liberals failed to sign a new softwood lumber agreement with the United States, and as a result, they have put almost 400,000 good-paying forestry jobs at risk across the country.

When the Liberals came into power a year and a half ago, they had one year left to negotiate an agreement that would provide stability and predictability for Canada’s forestry sector. But during that time, Justin Trudeau decided not to make it a priority. In lengthy mandate letters to his various Ministers, the softwood lumber agreement was never included as an issue to be resolved, even after his oversight was flagged by Conservative MPs in Ottawa.
When we asked the Liberal government questions in the House of Commons about how the negotiations were proceeding, they would never give a straight answer. It was only from companies privileged enough to be consulted by the Liberals or from U.S. officials, that we have been able to get any insight into how the negotiations progressed.

And what did we find out? This week, President Obama’s former Trade Representative who was in charge of the negotiations from the American side told Canadian reporters that a deal was almost good to be signed around the time of the U.S. election, but that the Trudeau government decided to step away from the table.
The reason that the Liberals gave to the Obama administration was that they thought they could negotiate a better deal with the newly elected President Trump.
 
It was always strange to me that Prime Minister Trudeau made a big splash about making some real progress on the softwood lumber file with President Obama within 100 days during his first trip to Washington in March 2016, only to then run away from any mention of that pledge. When those 100 days were up last June, the Liberals had nothing but meaningless platitudes to offer to the thousands of forestry families whose livelihoods have been hanging in the balance. It was clear that there was no progress being made and now we know why. It seems like there was a deal to be made with President Obama, but Prime Minister Trudeau thought he could do better and decided to gamble with our Canadian forestry jobs.
 
Companies like NorSask Forest Products, one of the largest First Nations-owned sawmills in Canada, barely survived the last dispute, and will be hit hard by retroactive and ongoing countervailing duties as well as future anti-dumping duties, which are expected as early as June.
 
Edgewood Forest Products in Carrot River will also be negatively affected by Justin Trudeau’s inaction on softwood lumber. Edgewood harvests trees in cooperation with Weyerhaeuser under the Pasquia Porcupine Forest Management Area. Hence, a slowdown in the cutting of softwood by Edgewood will hinder Weyerhaeuser’s ability to economically harvest trees as a wood source for its OSB mill in Hudson Bay.
 
For a government that likes to say that its standing up for middle class Canadians, the Liberals clearly have no plan to protect thousands of well-paying forestry jobs that will be lost under their watch. With so many examples already of how out of touch Justin Trudeau is with Canadians who actually have to work hard to make ends meet, perhaps it isn’t surprising that he gambled away the futures of our forestry workers and their families.
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