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CRR candidates on softwood tariffs

The imposition of softwood lumber duties of up to 20 per cent by the United States this week has turned into a big issue in the provincial election in British Columbia.

In the Columbia River Revelstoke riding, where forestry is a major player, candidates for MLA all have opinions, and some of them seek to blame each other.

BC Liberal candidate Doug Clovechok says that the NDP and local candidate Gerry Taft have “given up” on getting any kind of deal.

“John Horgan and Gerry Taft have been clear they’re giving up on getting a softwood deal,” said Clovechok. “I will stand and fight for workers in Revelstoke, Golden, Radium, and across the region alongside Christy Clark, while Gerry Taft and the BC NDP turn their backs on these workers and their families.”

“In stark contrast, Christy Clark and our team are committed to working with the federal government to get a deal that works for B.C.,” added Clovechok. “That’s the kind of leadership that British Columbia needs, and only Christy Clark can deliver it.”

Clovechok quotes Taft as saying, “I gotta be honest, I’m not holding a lot of faith that until Trump’s impeached, which hopefully happens soon - sooner rather than later, it’s going to be a tough go on any kind of meaningful negotiation because he doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

Taft says he stands by his comments — BC is in a tough situation with the softwood tariffs, and if Premier Clark had been paying attention, she could have been negotiating with the Obama administration, not the Trump.

“There is no question that the tariffs will have an immediate negative impact on BC exports, and Canadian companies and workers will suffer,” Taft said. “But it is important to remember that this situation has come about under the watch of the Christy Clark government. Clark’s handling of the softwood lumber situation has been a disaster, and there are many who see her lack of action on this file as directly the result of corporate donations to the BC Liberal party.

“In November 2016, 13 months after the expiry of the softwood lumber deal, led by major BC Liberal donor Weyerhaeuser, US lumber companies launched a complaint with the US Commerce Department calling for duties to be imposed on Canadian softwood.

“A full year after the deal expired, Christy Clark finally appoints a BC Trade Envoy to the United States. But in March 2017, Christy Clark cashes another cheque from Weyerhaeuser.

“I stand by my comments that we are now in a very, very tough position. Inaction on the part of the Christy Clark government has left us negotiating with the Trump administration rather than the Obama administration. I think we can all agree that this is less than ideal.”

Clovechok said in a press release that John Horgan’s biggest donor, the head of the United Steelworkers of America, stood beside Donald Trump in the Oval Office while the president indicated the upcoming duties.

“It’s clear the BC NDP are putting the interests of their union donors ahead of B.C. workers - just like they did in the 1990s,” added Clovechok.

Candidate Samson Boyer of the Green Party pointed to the official statement of Green leader Andrew Weaver, rather than comment directly. Weaver said the news is devastating for an industry already struggling under the Christy Clark government.

“The provincial government should have ensured that B.C.’s interests were front and centre on softwood lumber. Sadly, we see today that they have failed. We needed leadership from Christy Clark before the tariffs were imposed, not afterwards. For the Premier to now hold a special cabinet meeting frankly serves as political grandstanding and little else.” Weaver said.

Local independent candidate Justin Hooles says that negotiations for softwood agreements are primarily on the federal government, but BC should support them during negotiations. However, he said, BC needs to focus on new markets.

“This could go on for years before we see a resolution and it will likely end in international court. We need to protect jobs here in BC and do all we can to keep British Columbians working. A good place to start would be by ensuring we are using as much of our wood as possible within the province by expanding the use of “Tall Wood Buildings”, maximizing the use of wood in government projects such as hospitals, schools, and other government buildings, and encouraging others in BC to do the same. We can continue to increase our exports to India, and China, but the chances are we are going to temporarily lose jobs. We need to act to protect the British Columbian’s who are effected by this. Since we knew this was coming, It would have been nice to see the budget reflect this issue and show some financial planning. When the updated 2017 budget is made after the election, I would like to see us creating strategies around this issue. We must stay away from subsidizing the industry, that is exactly what we are being accused of.”

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