While campaigning during the last election, John Horgan promised the first thing he would do upon being elected was to head directly to Washington, D.C. to solve the softwood lumber dispute.
That was almost three years ago, and while he did fly to the U.S. capital in 2017 to pick up a cheque from union bosses south of the border, Premier Horgan has since gone AWOL on the forestry file.
Last week the federal government led a delegation to Washington along with the premiers of Ontario, Alberta, Quebec, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick. Horgan was absent.
All of these provinces produce substantial lumber exports, but without B.C. on board, the federal minister responsible for Canada/U.S. trade relations, Chrystia Freeland, would not have the full backing of the whole team.
The fact is B.C. is one of the world’s largest exporters of softwood lumber. As we all know, politicians south of the border are highly protective of their own domestic suppliers. That’s why the U.S. has imposed punishing tariffs on Canadian softwood imports.
Although a preliminary finding by the U.S. Commerce Department would see border duties cut in half, the B.C. Council of Forest Industries is greeting this recent news with a great deal of caution.
We have to wait until August for a final decision, and in a presidential election year, U.S. producers could put the pressure on.
In fact, the U.S. Lumber Coalition is dismissing the preliminary finding claiming that Canada’s “massive subsidies” cause harm to U.S. workers.
For all of these reasons, it would have been a decisive opportunity if all Canadian premiers stood together in Washington and presented a united front.
Unfortunately Premier John Horgan passed his nose at the opportunity, and in doing so, also snubbed out-of-work forest workers.
Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin.