Premier Christy Clark said her first conversation with Canada’s prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau was about the softwood-lumber agreement.
“We want to see the agreement renewed,” she told the Merritt Herald at one of her stops in Merritt on Friday.
The premier was in Merritt to open the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology trades building.
“Canada gave up some things at the table, America gave up some things at the table, but the softwood-lumber agreement has worked for both countries because it’s given us certainty — and it’s really important for communities in the Interior that we have certainty,” Clark said.
The old agreement, in place since 2006, expired on Oct. 12.
Over the course of the federal-election campaign, Clark said a new agreement would need to be a top priority for whichever party takes the reins in Ottawa.
“We want to see that agreement negotiated as soon as we possibly can, and it can only be negotiated, it can only be concluded, when the prime minister and the president of the United States get together,” Clark said.
“That’s the only way it has worked in the past,” she said. “I told him [Trudeau] that he needs to be the leader who steps up and makes that call to conclude the agreement because it takes real political will.”
Considering how important it is the two leaders get along, Clark said she is optimistic.
“I think that the relationship between Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama could be a good one, and it’s the durability of that relationship that allows those kinds of agreements to get made.”
According to the Ministry of Forests, B.C. produces 55 per cent of Canada’s softwood lumber. Clark said that’s something she impressed upon Trudeau.
“We hope that our federal government will continue to recognize that British Columbia is really the leader on how to renegotiate the agreement and what it needs to look like because we really do have the most important forest industry anywhere in the country,” she said.
Clark said she was surprised by how familiar Trudeau was on the topic.
“For a guy who just got elected the other day, he was surprisingly well informed about the details of the agreement,” she said. “He was very encouraging and he said he was going to get on it as quickly as he can — he really wants to help us settle this. I got the sense he understands how important forestry is for jobs here.”