British Columbia

Political leaders vow to fight for B.C. forestry workers amid U.S. lumber dispute

The B.C. Lumber Trade Council is responding to the U.S. decision to impose a range of tariffs on imports of Canadian lumber.

B.C. Lumber Trade Council says tariffs will lead to job losses

A lumber mill in Quesnel, B.C. (Christer Waara/CBC)

A day after the U.S. Department of Commerce hit softwood lumber imports with duties ranging from three to 24 per cent, B.C. politicians on the election campaign vowed to fight for forestry workers at risk of losing their jobs.

In a news conference at Partap Forest Products in Maple Ridge, Premier Christy Clark told employees she would be meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau shortly.

"We are here for you and we are going to fight for you," Clark told forestry workers.

"It is our intention to reach a deal."

Clark said if the B.C. Liberals are re-elected on May 9, the government will begin pre-purchasing lumber for housing and immediately begin additional trade missions to countries like India, China and Japan, in order to diversify export markets for B.C. lumber.

Employees at Partap like supervisor CJ Saini said he would like to see the B.C. government fight to reduce or remove the tariffs altogether. 

 "Obviously no one wants to lose the money.... [but] these [employees] are the first ones who get affected and most of them truly live day to day — paycheque to paycheque."

With an election two weeks away, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan accused Clark of failing to protect B.C. jobs.

"The B.C. Liberals under Christy Clark wasted two years and did nothing while the softwood lumber agreement expired...and now here we are today after two and a half years of inaction," said Horgan.

"I am equally disappointed that Christy Clark failed to make getting a deal a priority, and failed to lead British Columbia to a fair resolution on softwood lumber. She has not treated this issue with the urgency it deserves. Because of delay and inaction, thousands of B.C. workers now risk losing their jobs and their livelihoods."

Horgan said if elected, he would travel to Washington within 30 days to make the case for the B.C. lumber industry. 

Lumber trade council warns of job losses 

The U.S. is expected to impose a range of tariffs on imports of Canadian lumber after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Commerce concluded those imports are unfairly subsidized.

The tariffs, which are expected to be in place early next week, are considered a threat to Canada's lumber industry and Canadian trade with the U.S. as a whole.

"These duties are unwarranted, and this determination is completely without merit," said Susan Yurkovich, president of the B.C. Lumber Trade Council.

B.C. sends more than 50 per cent of its lumber to the U.S. and Yurkovich said the dispute could have a major impact on local companies. 

B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark addresses workers and local candidates while standing in front of stacks of western red cedar wood during a campaign stop at CedarLine Industries, a manufacturer of western red cedar products, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday April 24, 2017. A provincial election will be held on May 9. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

"We don't know what the actual impact on the B.C. industry will be — it depends on how long the dispute goes on," said Yurkovich.

But she adds, "this is going to create a constraint for B.C. companies that are operating here." 

Yurkovich said the B.C. Lumber Trade Council (BCLTC) is working with the provincial and federal government to find a solution. 

"This kind of action leads to volatility...we are engaged in a litigation right now....we are putting forward the facts and evidence in this case."

With files from Richard Zussman

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