(Vancouver) The new Canada-US Softwood Lumber Agreement, if it is ratified by the Canadian Parliament, spells bad news for BC's forest-dependent communities. According to a new Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report, the deal will dampen efforts to move BC's forest industry up the value chain, and will lead to more raw log experts, both of which mean fewer jobs in BC's forest sector.
Forestry-dependent communities across BC face a devastating one-two punch from the combination of the Softwood Lumber Agreement and premature forest policy changes that the Province made to appease US trade interests, according to Ben Parfitt, the CCPA's resource policy analyst and the report's author.
"Unless this deal is scrapped and the Province addresses some of the more harmful consequences of its ill-advised forest policy changes, we will see continued economic upheaval in rural communities," Parfitt warns.
The report, Softwood Sellout: How BC Bowed to the US and Got Saddled with the Softwood Lumber Agreement, shows how the BC government made a concerted effort beginning nearly five years ago to fundamentally restructure forest policies in a failed attempt to appease the US softwood lumber lobby. The changes included:
- scrapping laws that obligated forest companies to operate certain mills,
- scrapping public timber auctions specifically for value-added manufacturers,
- scrapping auctions of timber to small, independent mills, and
- scrapping prohibitions on wood waste on logging sites.
"These changes and more were made to address US 'perceptions' that BC subsidized its forest industry," Parfitt says. "None of them were in the public interest. All of them hurt BC communities. Value-added manufacturing is down, raw log exports are up and massive amounts of usable logs are being left on the ground instead of being processed."
The report notes that despite these far-reaching changes, BC's forest industry and forestry-dependent communities are now being asked to accept the SLA -- an agreement that caps BC's access to the US market, after which costly export taxes will apply. But oddly, raw log exports are to be exempt from these quotas and duties. Therefore, the proposed deal creates a built-in incentive to increase log exports.
"For the sake of rural communities, the Province should seek to discourage the ratification of this agreement," Parfitt says. "A complete legal victory in the softwood dispute was imminent, before the federal government pulled the rug out from under forest-dependent communities."
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Softwood Sellout: How BC Bowed to the US and Got Saddled with the Softwood Lumber Agreement is available at www.policyalternatives.ca. To arrange an interview, call Terra Poirier at 604-801-5121 x229.