Clark government has failed to prepare for softwood agreement expiry: New Democrats

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forestVICTORIA – The Christy Clark government has failed to properly prepare for Wednesday’s ultimate expiry of the Softwood Lumber Agreement, say the New Democrat Official Oppostion.

“A year after the premier claimed a new agreement was her first priority, talks on an agreement are at an impasse and there don’t appear to be any plans in place to address possible trade action by the U.S.,” said New Democrat Leader John Horgan.

“The premier suggested that it was her intervention that put the agreement on the federal government’s agenda, yet a year has passed and nothing has really been accomplished.”

New Democrat MLA Bruce Ralston, the opposition spokesperson for the softwood lumber agreement, said the impact on the industry could be massive, and it could be almost immediate.

“Beginning as early as Thursday, the U.S. lumber lobby could begin legal action to restrict B.C. lumber moving into the U.S. by filing petitions against the import of softwood lumber from Canada,” said Ralston “They would also likely press for the re-instatement of countervailing and anti-dumping duties against Canadian softwood lumber.

“So failing to plan for this likelihood could have huge consequences for communities across B.C.”

The 2006 agreement ran until October of 2015, when an automatic one-year standstill agreement kicked in, during which time no trade action could be filed. Premier Clark claimed she would personally intervene with the prime minister to get talks started on a new agreement. However, there has been little movement on a new deal.

The forest industry has been hammered since the Liberals took office, with more than 25,000 jobs lost, primarily in manufacturing. Another trade dispute with the U.S. could be devastating for the industry.

“As a province, B.C. has the largest share of exports of softwood to the United States,” said Ralston, “so this is a huge issue to workers and communities across the province. Constrained access to the U.S. market could have profound impacts on our industry. It’s the government’s job to make sure there were plans in place to help those families and communities.

“Empty rhetoric from the premier isn’t enough to prevent the risk to the forest industry, the tens of thousands of workers, and the billions in revenue forestry brings in.”