Ottawa Sets Up Task Force on Softwood Lumber
Prince George, B.C. – The Federal Minister of Natural Resources has announced the creation of a Federal-Provincial task force on Softwood Lumber.
The task force, announced yesterday by Federal Minister of Natural Resources, Jim Carr, will share information on the possible impacts of the trade actions launched in the United States, and how best to help workers and communities that may be impacted.
The task force is focused on work within Canada’s borders, while the Minister of Foreign Affairs will lead the softwood lumber file with the U.S.
“We really appreciate Minister Carr’s initiative in establishing this task force” says B.C.’s Minister of Forests Steve Thomson. “It will be focused on looking at what steps we can take collectively to respond to workers and communities affected by the U.S. Trade action. So this is focused on how we manage the situation once, and when, preliminary duties may be applied.”
There is a real concern the duties could force some mills to reduce production, causing layoffs, or in a worst case scenario, shut down the operations all together. Minister Thomson says no one knows just how much the duties might be, “What we do know is the we need to be prepared and ready to respond”. Minister Thomson says the federal and provincial governments are expecting the duties will have an impact “Depending on the levels and severity of the duties.”
But the task force will need to be careful in what type of actions it may choose to take, as they don’t want to be seen to be “subsidising” the industry, which is one of the allegations made in the trade dispute “That will be the work of the task force, that will be the purpose. The work will be to examine what options, or what steps, may be, or can be taken that don’t create that situation but that will assist our industry, communities and our workers.”
Many communities in the interior which rely on forestry are already facing a challenge because of the expected reductions in the annual allowable cut, the extra burden of duties could be a tipping point for some forestry companies and that fact is not lost on Minister Thomson “From a Provincial perspective when we look at how we respond to the application of duties , obviously those communities are facing fibre reductions through AAC redeterminations, it will all be part of our discussions.”
It is expected the U.S. will impose tariffs on softwood lumber from Canada by the end of April. The task force is expected to start meeting face to face ” in the not too distant future” says Thomson “Everyone understands the urgency of this work , and given the importance of forestry to B.C.’s economy, a very important initiative for us.”
Softwood lumber exports were valued at $8.6 billion in 2015 nearly 70% of that lumber went to the United States.