With local mills and families facing significant challenges, demands are growing on Ottawa to tackle a trade dispute.
The U.S. Commerce Department is moving ahead with duties of about 20 per cent on Canadian lumber exports.
“They need to make that a priority and they haven’t done that,” said Mel Arnold, North Okanagan-Shuswap MP, of the federal Liberal government.
In fact, the Conservative MP insists the current situation could have been avoided had Ottawa taken action a year ago and tried to hammer out a deal with the U.S.
“They knew it was coming,” said Arnold.
The U.S. government ruling reviewed submissions from major producers in Canada, three of the largest in B.C. The preliminary decision found rates of subsidization 20.26 per cent for Canfor, 19.5 per cent for Tolko and 24.12 per cent for West Fraser.
Vernon-headquartered Tolko, which has mills in Coldstream, Lumby and Spallumcheen, referred all media questions to the B.C. Lumber Trade Council.
“These duties are unwarranted, and this determination is completely without merit,” said Susan Yurkovich, B.C. Lumber Trade Council president, in a release.
“The allegations made by the U.S. lumber lobby are the same arguments they made in prior rounds of litigation, all of which were rejected and overturned by independent NAFTA panels. This new trade action is driven by the same protectionist lumber lobby in the U.S. whose sole purpose is to create artificial supply constraints on lumber and drive prices up for their benefit, at the expense of American consumers.”
Arnold says the tariffs could negatively hit the U.S. construction sector as that nation’s economy improves.
“U.S. consumers will pay 20 per cent more for the product down there,” he said.
Arnold is working with Conservative colleagues on the softwood issue and he is reaching out to companies like Tolko and Canoe Forest Products.
“There’s the smaller mills and all of their suppliers and employees will suffer,” he said.
— with files from Tom Fletcher, Black Press