Taking a stand: United action on B.C. softwood lumber

Forestry provides direct jobs to 60,000 workers and their families. Over 140 communities throughout B.C. rely on it

A guest editorial by Christy Clark, premier of British Columbia

There’s an old proverb – “the wind does not break a tree that bends.” In B.C., a province defined by nature and built on the forestry industry, we understand that very well.

These days, the wind is blowing from the south – which means trouble for our founding industry. While we have created a vibrant, diverse economy, forestry still plays a crucial role. Forestry provides direct jobs to 60,000 workers and their families. Over 140 communities throughout B.C. rely on it.

The current softwood lumber dispute with the United States places many of those jobs – and the communities that depend on them – in jeopardy. That’s why we are taking a stand to ensure united action.

Yes, international trade agreements are a federal responsibility, but half of Canada’s softwood lumber exports to the U.S. come from B.C. So we are working closely with Ottawa to ensure that any future agreement considers B.C.’s interests.

Last November, the U.S. industry launched trade action against Canadian softwood lumber producers, alleging Canadian forest companies were subsidized.

I cannot be clear enough: this is not true. But U.S. timber barons and mill owners want to restrict Canadian lumber to raise prices and line their pockets.

By law, the U.S. Department of Commerce is investigating that complaint. Later this month, they will make their preliminary determination. Most likely, this will mean duties levied on B.C. companies.

Unfortunately, we have been down this path before. We learned a lot from the last softwood lumber dispute, which lasted from 2001 to 2006, starting with the importance of diversifying our markets. In 2001, 82 per cent of our softwood lumber exports went to the U.S. That made us vulnerable.

So, in 2003, we opened a lumber marketing office in China. Over the next nine years, we saw a 2,000 per cent increase in exports to China. When the U.S. housing market crashed, it was lumber exports to China that kept many mills open. We’re working on a similar strategy in India, and opened an office there in 2012.

We’re also increasing support for forest dependent communities, through the extension of the $75 million Rural Dividend for another year to $100 million; and through our recent $150 million investment in the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. to plant tens of millions more trees, creating up to 3,000 jobs.

To work to get a fair deal, we’ve appointed David Emerson as our special envoy to the U.S. He has met with our ambassador, senior American leaders and U.S. consumer groups worried about empty lumber yards and rising prices.

We know we’re in for a battle. But in the long term, we will get a fair deal for three reasons:

First, we’re not going away. We will pursue every strategy the law allows.

Second, Americans want the same thing we do: housing that’s affordable and jobs to build those houses. American lumber companies can’t produce enough to keep up with demand; and when the price goes up, U.S. consumers will speak up.

And finally, every time these U.S. industry allegations are tested in an impartial court – they lose. Because the facts are on our side.

In the short term, the U.S. seems determined to levy unfair and illegal duties on B.C. softwood – and that will have an immediate effect on the communities that depend on a healthy forestry industry.

Earlier this week I wrote to the Prime Minister to ask for his government’s support to:

• Continue the diversification of markets and wood products

• Support displaced workers, through financial support and retraining; and

• Support affiliated industries and suppliers that may also be affected by the dispute.

We’ve adopted a three-pronged approach ensuring B.C.’s forest sector is resilient, that we have community supports in place until we’re able to reach a deal on softwood lumber, while we continue to fight to get a fair deal.

British Columbians are resilient. Our forest sector is resilient. Standing together, we will not break – and we will win.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is an independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s 1st vaccine-induced blood clot case detected in Interior Health

Interior Health also recorded 52 new cases of COVID-19

(Kamloops This Week file photo)
Probe into TNRD spending taken over by federal police unit

Financial Integrity Sensitive Investigations Unit is now reviewing the case

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Stolen truck found broken down on Highway 97C, Williams Lake suspect arrested near Ashcroft

A security guard first noticed the truck, and thought it looked suspicious

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
57 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

Thirty people in the region are in hospital, 16 of whom are in intensive care

File photo
Stolen Alberta vehicle found in flames in Blue River

Local RCMP also attended house fire evening of May 2.

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

Most Read