Lumber war looming?

This week, the U.S. administration announced that Canadian softwood lumber will face new duties ranging  from three per cent up to 24 per cent.

The highest duties will be primarily against producers here in Western Canada. Within hours, many media sources were running headlines reporting a trade war had erupted.

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan accused Premier Christy Clark of failing to resolve the matter even though it is entirely an issue of federal jurisdiction.

I mention these things because this is an issue that for some is easy to play partisan politics with as the B.C. NDP has illustrated.

In reality, forestry is a critically important industry not just in the Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola, but in many ridings in British Columbia and other regions of Canada.

In my riding, the largest private sector employers in West Kelowna, Merritt and Princeton are all lumber mills.

In the riding immediately south, South Okanagan-West Kootenay represented by NDP MP Richard Cannings, this is also the case, and is one of the reasons why Cannings recently introduced a private member's bill promoting the use of wood in government related construction projects.

This issue that should be above partisan politics. Resolving the softwood lumber dispute is an area of federal responsibility and it is unfair and inaccurate to suggest that the B.C. government, or any provincial government, can solve the problem.

It should also be pointed out that this is a long-term dispute and not a full-blown trade war as some are attempting to claim.

It is also important to add that the federal government, and in particular our prime minister, has shown restraint in not getting involved in U.S. domestic politics despite that it would be politically convenient to do so.

I believe most political pundits would agree that our Liberal government has made considerable effort to work proactively with the new United States administration in several areas.

Partisan politics and finger pointing will not constructively assist this situation and our combined focus should be on getting an agreement. If we can work together on a united approach we will increase our odds of success.

Ultimately, this challenge occurs because much of the United States timber is harvested from private land owners who are more successful in driving up revenues then our crown land system used primarily here in Canada. 

This in no way suggests that our Crown land timber is subsidized. In fact, all evidence to date and success at many trade dispute resolution tribunals consistently rule in Canada’s favour.

To further complicate this matter when the Canadian dollar exchange rate is factored in at roughly between 74-76 cents US, this becomes a discount that U.S. lumber producers must compete against.

The U.S. administrations recently added new duty rates that essentially wipe out the currency advantage that works in Canada’s favour. Canadian produced lumber will now arrive in the United States at a similar cost as U.S. produced lumber.

I mention this only to add some perspective from the other side of the border.

There is no question both the federal and many provincial governments will employ many strategies to attempt to help mitigate and resolve this issue as quickly as possible.

From my perspective, I will continue to support all measures that can bring this matter to a resolution as quickly as possible. 


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About the Author

Dan Albas, Conservative member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, is the shadow minister of innovation, science, economic development and internal trade, and sits on the standing committee on finance.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

In British Columbia, Dan has been consistently one of the lowest spending MPs on office and administration related costs despite operating two offices to better serve local constituents.

Dan is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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