Ottawa

Businesses, workers hope for return to normal after U.S tariffs lifted

Workers and businesses in the Ottawa area negatively affected by the introduction of steel and aluminum tariffs last year are pleased they've been eliminated — but wonder how long it'll take to see any changes.

In L'Orignal, Ont., some 50 steel workers were laid off

Sean Benson with Campbell Pools in Orléans, says suppliers raised prices because of American tariffs on steel imports. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Workers and businesses in the Ottawa area negatively affected by the introduction of steel and aluminum tariffs last year are pleased they've been eliminated — but wonder how long it'll take to see any changes.

Last June, the United States imposed tariffs of 25 per cent on imports of steel and 10 per cent on aluminum, citing national security, which was followed by Canada imposing retaliatory tariffs on steel, aluminum and other consumer products.

The extra charges disrupted supply chains and added extra costs for businesses whose products contained significant amounts of those two metals — including Campbell Pools in Orléans. 

Senior representative Sean Benson said suppliers' prices rose about eight to 10 per cent after the tariffs were imposed, which forced his business to both charge customers more.

Employees also had to explain to customers the tariffs were behind the price hikes, he said.

"The manufacturers stated very clearly that [they were] raising the prices due to these tariffs, and that was not an insignificant amount," said Benson. 

Customers may not see difference until 2020

Benson said he thinks the new deal is great not only for his industry, but the economy as a whole. 

"We are certainly looking forward to that trickle-down to the pool industry, which uses quite a bit of steel in its products," said Benson.

Both steel and aluminum often travel back and forth during pool manufacturing, Benson said, adding his main supplier has one factory in Canada just outside of Toronto and another in New York state. 

"I was surprised how much these products cross back and forth across the border. I mean with free trade, we kind of take for granted just how much the two economies were integrated," said Benson. 

However, he doesn't expect customers will see a difference until next year.

Campbell Pools has already completed purchasing for the season for above-ground pools, Benson said, while in-ground pool suppliers usually have a fairly deep inventory already.  

The introduction of the tariffs also left craft brewers worried, particularly because of the amount of aluminum that goes into manufacturing beer cans.

In the long run, it's just far better to have the tariffs gone.- Steve Beauchesne

Breweries embarked on a bit of "panic buying" after the tariffs were announced, which led to a brief can shortage, said Steve Beauchesne, co-founder of Beau's All-Natural Brewing Company in Vankleek Hill, Ont.

However, brewers were eventually allowed to apply for an exemption, Beauchesne said, and beer prices mostly ended up staying stable.

"In the long run, it's just far better to have the tariffs gone," he said.

David Lipton is a staff representative with the United Steelworkers in Ottawa. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Steel industry hopes for return of jobs

David Lipton, a staff representative with the United Steelworkers in Ottawa, hopes getting rid of tariffs will mean a return of jobs for workers at the Ivaco Rolling Mills in L'Orignal, Ont., east of the capital.

When the tariffs were imposed Ivaco sold 75 per cent of its product to the U.S. 

Lipton said that led to about 50 people losing their jobs in L'Orignal, with hundreds of other workers laid off at other mills across the country.

A tariff war of this nature is never good.- David Lipton

He said it was "about time" the tariffs were ended.

"This has been going on for almost a year — a year too long, in our view," Lipton said. "But we're glad that the tariffs have finally been lifted.

Lipton said it was difficult to say how quickly workers will see a difference, but he hoped they'd notice a "positive effect rather quickly."

"It's been difficult for the employers, difficult for our members as well who felt their livelihoods were threatened," Lipton said. "A tariff war of this nature is never good."

About the Author

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.

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