B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell stepped into the federal election campaign Friday, blasting New Democrat Leader Jack Layton for his promise to axe the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber agreement.
Campbell, who vowed not to get involved in the campaign when the federal Conservatives attacked his government's carbon tax, said Layton's comments about dropping the softwood deal are damaging and poorly informed.
"Mr. Layton has shown a profound ignorance of both the agreement and the impact that his statements will have in British Columbia," Campbell told reporters after delivering a speech to more than 1,000 B.C. municipal leaders in Penticton, B.C.
He said B.C. is the largest single contributor to the softwood lumber agreement.
"For him to suggest that because he thinks he might garner some votes somewhere is to show he hasn't done his homework, and it would be significantly damaging to British Columbians," Campbell said.
Polls have suggested the NDP are running second to the Conservatives in B.C. but Campbell said a threat to scrap the bilateral lumber agreement won't win the party any votes in the westernmost province.
The downturn in the U.S. economy and the high Canadian dollar has crippled many B.C. communities that depend on the forest industry for survival.
Pledge would causes huge job losses: premier
Communities such as Mackenzie in north-central B.C. and Grand Forks in the southeast are suffering through plant shutdowns.
"The New Democrats are saying they're going to get rid of the softwood lumber agreement," Campbell said. "That's going to cause huge job losses at a time when forestry can't afford anymore challenges than they are currently facing."
Layton said earlier this week that the New Democrats would scrap the Canada-U.S. agreement that "sold out" struggling forestry workers, replacing it with a deal that would ensure fair trade.
The deal would then be renegotiated within six months under the framework of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the NDP leader said.
And, he said, the party would take steps to revive an ailing industry where thousands of workers have lost their jobs.
"Canadian jobs come first and there's nothing that workers in other countries do to Canadian lumber that couldn't be done right here," Layton said in Kenora, Ont., on Wednesday.
"It's time to roll up our sleeves. Why do we take such a defeatist attitude?"