Softwood deal "a sell-out", NDP says

The NDP ran an effective campaign in British Columbia in the last election, increasing the size of its caucus from that province. The Conservatives, by their own admission, did less well, even though they hold most of the seats from B.C.

I travelled with both NDP leader Jack Layton and Conservative leader Stephen Harper during some swings through B.C. and softwood lumber, as you might expect, was a big deal. Both leaders appealed, with varying degrees of success, to the blue-collar crowd that works in the province’s forests and mills.

And both parties, no doubt, will make the softwood deal announced late last week a key feature of the next federal election campaign in B.C.

Here’s the NDP’s opening shot:

The softwood framework agreement would commit Canada to an export tax on Canadian lumber and varying quotas if and when there is any change in market conditions from their current state.

“I’d like the Prime Minister to tell me what magical industry exists in a state of suspended animation from year to year,” said Layton. “This deal is ideal for the Americans and will prove an ordeal for Canadians.”

The deal completely undermines Canada’s repeated victories through the NAFTA dispute settlement process. Under the terms of the framework the US will keep over $1 billion of illegally collected duties from Canadian lumber companies.


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