Editor, The Times:
Re: MP Cathy McLeod on softwood umber, Oct. 27 issue
MP Cathy McLeod’s claim that preventing a trade war over softwood lumber is top priority for the Conservatives rings hollow. The Conservatives reneged on election promises and rammed through the Softwood Lumber Agreement in 2006.
They had demanded the U.S. play by the rules and abide by NAFTA and WTO rulings in Canada’s favour, and return more than $5 billion in illegal softwood lumber tariffs. Once in power, the Conservatives refused to provide direct help or guarantee any loan to help the industry stay afloat. They bullied through the softwood ratification vote as a motion of confidence in the government.
They agreed to forfeit $1 billion of the disputed funds to U.S. lobby groups. Of this, $500 million ended up with the US Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports. The Conservatives yielded lunch money to the schoolyard bully and handed over a war chest to fund future trade challenges.
Harper threatened to slap Canadian holdouts with 19 per cent charge if they refused to pay their share of the $1 billion being forfeited to the U.S.
Before the ink was dry, some companies were negotiating to use their portion of the refund money to purchase or ramp up production in U.S. mills. Communities that had supplied these companies with resources, including tax concessions, were left high and dry without one word of protest from the federal government or local M.P.’s.
It was under Conservative lax log-export rules that millions of cubic metres of Canadian wood was exported to the U.S. to run those mills. We’ve lost thousands of B.C. jobs with the closure of several mills, much of it due to the softwood deal.
The Softwood Lumber Agreement was a bad deal for Canada and we were bullied and bludgeoned into it by the Conservatives while the M.P. in this riding meekly parroted the party line as hundreds of workers hit the unemployment lines. The Conservatives failed us.