Softwood lumber agreements between Canada and the United States have come and gone, but one thing should remain the same, says the MP for Cumberland-Colchester.
“The softwood lumber industry in Atlantic Canada is different from the industry in the rest of Canada, and it’s essentially the same as the industry in New England, with which it competes,” said Bill Casey, who raised the issue in the House of Commons on Tuesday. “The border is almost not there, when you consider the Canadian firms that own mills and timberland in Maine and vice versa.”
In some provinces in western and central Canada, much of the timber is harvested from Crown land. It is the stumpage fees, controlled by provincial governments, that have long been scrutinized by U.S. lumber producers, who have claimed these fees are set artificially low.
Atlantic Canada has always been different, and Canada and the United States have recognized this difference for over 25 years. Most timber cut in Atlantic Canada is harvested on private land. The Americans’ concern with stumpage fees has never applied in Atlantic Canada, and it shouldn’t, said Casey.
“Every stick of lumber that’s shipped from Atlantic Canada can be traced back to the woodlot in Atlantic Canada where it was harvested,” added Casey.
That feature was added to ensure that lumber could not be brought to Atlantic Canada from another region of Canada for duty-free export.
The MP said he is keenly aware of the importance of the softwood lumber industry to Atlantic Canada’s economy and rural communities and he has met with International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland to make sure she understands Atlantic Canada’s position.
At a recent caucus briefing on softwood lumber hosted by David Lametti, Casey also made a presentation to MPs from across Canada and offered his advice based on past agreements.
In the House of Commons on Tuesday, Casey called on the Minister of International Trade to ensure that the Atlantic exclusion is maintained.