OTTAWA—Dr. James Lunney, MP for Nanaimo-Alberni, stood in the House of Commons last night to condemn the federal Liberal government for their lacklustre effort to resolve the softwood lumber dispute.
In the House, Lunney criticized the rash of anti-American comments from Liberals, stating that the outbursts have served to exacerbate divisions on the softwood file. “Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association, noted that Canada does $1 million a minute worth of business. He has better things to do with his time than try to explain to his American customers that the Liberal Party sentiment does not represent the rest of Canada,” said Lunney.
He pointed out that if the government had been taking softwood concerns seriously years ago, they may have been able to stop the latest threat to softwood producers – the controversial Byrd Amendment, which allows Canadian tariffs to be distributed to American companies.
“Under chapter 19 of NAFTA we had the right to confront that Byrd amendment when it came in,” said Lunney. “Those moneys should be coming back to our industry after the rulings we have already had under NAFTA, but because the government failed to act on the Byrd amendment, we are in this position now where they are holding some $4 billion.”
Lunney also raised the issue of raw log exports, which have increased exponentially in recent years. According to BC Stats, exports increased 360% between 1998 and 2002; the softwood dispute has exacerbated the problem. “We have rules about log exports that state that we cannot export logs unless they are surplus. As a result of this dispute, the mills are down, production is down and therefore there is a surplus of logs. This really hurts people in my community,” said Lunney in the debate.
“Both levels of government failed our workers and our resources by not implementing a tariff on log exports,” concluded Lunney.