Monday, August 28, 2006

With time running out, a better deal is sought

Nathan Cullen puts himself firmly on the no side of the softwood debate. With the clock ticking on either acceptance of the deal put together with the US, or a decision to fight on in the courts Cullen suggests a better deal is possible. And with that belief may come a chance to take his thoughts to the people in an election campaign.

To refresh our memories on a rather winding road of lumber disputes the issue goes back as far as 1982, the CBC put together a time line for Canadians to follow along with. (provided here)

Since the beginning of this file the debate has raged on across the country, many say that Canadians should hold out for a better deal, Canadian companies have won time and time again in the courts and in world opinion, yet the American side continued to stall with counter suits and challenges.

Canadian governments then of course ignored those rulings that went against their case and before you know it, a twenty four year stalemate was in place. One that went through six Prime Ministers, four Presidents and a parade of bureaucrats and lawyers.

The latest developments in the debate could end up sending Canadians back to the polls sooner than we first tought, below are some links to the latest opinions on where the two sides are at and where they might be going.

Softwood deal a broken election promise
Softwood deal widely panned
Lumber Bill could force an election
Harper: BC's friend or foe
PM's hardball on softwood
Defeat of lumber deal will mean election
The Island softwood test
Softwood deal tears a hole in NAFTA
Simpson calls lack of support a slap in the face
US group lobbies for significant changes in softwood lumber agreement
How a spat with US over lumber might trigger an election

The Daily News had a complete look at the issue from the NDP MP’s point of view in its Friday edition.

Cullen wants a better softwood lumber deal
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, August 25, 2006
Pages One and Three

The federal government’s deal is a sell-out to U. S. interests and does nothing to protect lumber jobs and communities here or elsewhere in Canada, said Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen.

“This agreement is nothing more than political blackmail,” Cullen said. “The prime minister is telling Canadians it’s the best deal we’re going to get so we’d better take it.

“A better deal is possible and it’s Stephen Harper’s job to go after it.”

The Northwest forest industry has been suffering since 2001, when Skeena Cellulose closed down its Terrace and Prince Rupert operations. While a group of businessmen were able to get the Terrace sawmill off the auction block and operating, they’ve had to close, given the ongoing costs associated not only with high cost of harvesting in the region, but also because of costs associated with the softwood lumber dispute.

However, the current proposal is not the answer to anyone’s woes, said Cullen and he has challenged Harper’s assertion that the agreement had received support from “a clear majority of Canadian forestry companies.

“Originally, Ottawa sought 95 per cent approval from industry. That was a non-starter and now the prime minister is side-stepping questions on just how much support he has for the shoddy deal he’ll put before Parliament as a confidence vote next month.”

Cullen pointed out the support of some Canadian companies was clearly reluctant.

“West Fraser, for one, said it had ‘serious reservations’ about the substance of the deal and the process that led up to it.”

Cullen said he is looking forward to the cross-country softwood hearings the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on International Trade will hold before the vote in Parliament.

These hearings, which include one in Vancouver, were announced Monday and are the result of strong pressure from NDP international trade critic Peter Julian.

The NDP have been calling on the Conservatives to hold a vote on the softwood lumber agreement.

The federal government will bring in legislation next month to implement the controversial softwood lumber agreement with the United States after a “clear majority” of lumber producers have shown support for the deal, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Tuesday.

Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson, the NDP’s forestry critic, painted a dire picture for the industry if the deal goes ahead.

“I think we’re going to be forced into looking at ways of putting more logs across the border and less lumber because logs aren’t subject to any tariffs and shifting lumber production, particularly remanufacturing and value-added south of the border and over time I believe more dimensional lumber will also shift south of the border,” he said.

Industry operating in the North Coast, Kalum and Nisga’a Forest Districts already see a significantly larger per cent of raw log exports. The province passed an order in council that allows for 35 per cent of the timber harvested locally to be exported in raw form, while the limit in other areas of the province is five percent.

With files from the Prince George Citizen.

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