Lack of softwood deal a problem

Lumber industry faces lost jobs, billions in duty dollars

The ongoing absence of a softwood lumber agreement with the United States is still causing concerns after the former 10-year deal expired on Oct. 12.

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett says having no new softwood lumber agreement (SLA) “will affect a lot of people.”

“This government has been at the table working as hard as it can with positive information for the softwood lumber agreement [issue] to be resolved.

“Of course, there are an awful lot of players at the table – the federal government, the Americans. I do know from our point of view that we hope, and still have hope, that it will get through the process so we can move on in the very near future.”

In 100 Mile House, Norbord Inc. general manager Rick Takagi says the local Oriented Strand Board (OSB) plant (that produces engineered lumber products) won’t see any change to its production or sales from the lack of a softwood agreement.

“There is no impact to our mill. Our product isn’t covered under the SLA.”

Meanwhile, West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd.-100 Mile Lumber sent the request for comment to a corporate media representative, who replied “no comment from us – we defer to the BC Lumber Trade Council to comment on SLA.”

However, Barnett says it will affect all major mills producing traditional lumber in British Columbia.

“It’s a good thing the province has been out for the past many years finding new markets and, hopefully, we can continue to expand markets elsewhere.”

For many years, the U.S. forest industry has attempted – and failed – to prove B.C. lumber is subsidized by an artificially low price paid for Crown land timber.

Several provincial leaders – including B.C. Premier Christy Clark – wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in July asking him to disprove the “unfair and inaccurate allegations of Canadian lumber subsidies” made by U.S. senators.

Meanwhile, Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod voices her appeal to Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama to get the softwood agreement they’d promised done before President Elect Donald Trump takes over the leadership in January.

(See story headlined MP Cathy McLeod appeals for trade deals on page A5 of the Nov. 17 edition of the 100 Mile House Free Press.)

The local MP maintains in news releases since August it is “very worrisome” that without a lumber agreement, all provinces and territories need to be prepared for a possibility of the industry being forced back into a trade-remedy investigation.

This puts almost 400,000 industry jobs at risk across the country with the renewed potential for trade action against Canadian lumber, McLeod says, adding the last dispute cost the Canadian industry more than $5 billion in duties and more than 15,000 jobs in B.C. alone.