As the Member of Parliament for Pontiac, it is my role and responsibility to represent the thousands of good, middle-class forestry industry jobs across communities in Outaouais, Quebec and Canada.
Today, I stand in defence of Canada’s softwood lumber industry, and I denounce the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision to impose “countervailing duties” of up to 24% on Canadian softwood lumber. I align with my federal Liberal colleagues, the Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources, and the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who stated:
“The Government of Canada disagrees strongly with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision to impose an unfair and punitive duty. The accusations are baseless and unfounded.”
I further agree with the Government of Canada’s view that this decision will unnecessarily harm U.S. interests, and I look forward to visiting Washington, DC, in the coming weeks to deliver this view directly and bluntly to U.S. Senators and Congresspeople on behalf of my Pontiac constituents:
“This decision will negatively affect workers on both sides of the border, and will ultimately increase costs for American families who want to build or renovate homes. The U.S. National Association of Home Builders has calculated that a $1,000 increase in the cost of a new house would put home ownership beyond the reach of more than 150,000 American families, and jeopardize thousands of jobs in the American home construction industry.”
I will encourage Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and our Liberal government to vigorously defend the interests of the Canadian softwood lumber industry, including through litigation. In ruling after ruling since 1983, international tribunals have disproved the unfounded subsidy and injury allegations from the U.S. industry. We have prevailed in the past and we will do so again.
Real families, real communities and real jobs are at stake here. I will not sit idly and allow a real disgrace – the loss of Canadian forestry jobs in our small Western Quebec towns – to occur once again in the Pontiac. Pontiac’s forestry workers, especially those of Maniwaki, Bouchette, Grand-Remous and Déléage, are a key component of Canada’s labour force and we will defend them vigourously. Already today, I have been on the ground discussing with local stakeholders, including mayors, employees and entrepreneurs.
The Government of Canada is taking immediate action to help affected companies, workers, and local communities. Now that the U.S. decision to impose preliminary countervailing duties has been confirmed, Minister Carr is re-convening the Federal-Provincial Task Force on Softwood Lumber this week to examine additional measures. The task force was formed to share information and analyze and assess the needs of forest workers and communities. The upcoming meeting will build on the progress that Quebec and the Government of Canada have already achieved through federal-provincial collaboration on the softwood lumber file.
The Government of Canada is taking Immediate action to defend our forestry workers and communities, including by:
- Ensuring companies take full advantage of existing financing initiatives under the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada, which offer a range of financial services to Canadian businesses on commercial terms. These initiatives are available to exporters of all sizes and can assist companies looking to make capital investments, expand market opportunities, and diversify with confidence into new markets.
- Promoting the use of Canadian wood right here at home. Budget 2017 provided $40M for increasing wood use in construction across Canada, allowing Canada to continue its world leadership in tall wood building development, partnering with industry and the provinces.
- Actively working to help the forestry industry to access new markets. International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne is currently with a delegation of Canadian lumber representatives in China, promoting Canadian products. Minister Carr will travel to China in June with forestry leaders, to build on this momentum. Minister Jean-Yves Duclos is currently in the United Kingdom and Europe promoting Canadian wood.
- Employment and Social Development Canada stands ready to provide essential services to support workers who may be negatively affected. This support includes employment insurance and career counselling, as well as retraining and skills development programs that are delivered at the provincial level.
In sum, Canada will continue to press our American counterparts to rescind this unfair and unwarranted trade action. We are committed to working with the U.S. Administration to achieve a durable solution – a good deal for both. Since my election win in 2015 alongside my Liberal colleagues, we have continuously staked out the position that Canada wants a softwood lumber deal. Despite the protectionist climate that exists in the U.S., we remain confident that a negotiated settlement is not only possible but in the best interests of both countries.
MP for Pontiac