Feds launch softwood lumber task force

Tamar Atik, Canadian Forest Industries
February 24, 2017
By Tamar Atik, Canadian Forest Industries
Feb. 24, 2017 - Amidst ongoing negotiations for a new softwood lumber agreement between Canada and the United States, the Canadian government has announced a task force on softwood lumber.

The task force will ensure communication between the federal government and all provinces and territories to ensure needs are being met via information-sharing and analysis.

Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr made the announcement Wednesday.

“Canada’s forest and natural resource sectors are vital to employment in communities across the country,” he said in a statement. “This new task force will work together to strengthen the long-term success of the forest sector through innovation and diversifying markets for Canadian forest products.”

Minister Carr will take charge of the domestic task force while Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland continues talks with the U.S.

The 2006 Canada-U.S. Softwood Lumber Agreement expired on Oct. 12, 2015. Since then, the proverbial flame under Canada and the U.S. regarding softwood lumber was re-ignited in November 2016 after the U.S. Lumber Coalition filed a petition against the Canadian government, citing unfair subsidies are being provided by the Canadian government for Canadian producers. It also called for taxes to be imposed on Canadian producers as a result.

“Softwood lumber is a priority for our government. We are committed to promoting and vigorously defending the interests of workers and producers from across Canada,” Minister Freeland said in a statement. “My colleagues and I will continue to work very closely with the softwood industry, its workers, the provinces and territories.”

According to a statement from Natural Resources Canada the end-goal for the softwood negotiations is to create stability and predictability on both sides of the border for all lumber producers.

“The government will continue to work closely with provinces, territories and the softwood lumber industry to vigorously defend the interests of the middle-class Canadians who depend on the industry. This work will continue outside of the task force,” the statement read.

“The new Federal–Provincial Task Force on Softwood Lumber will assess current federal and provincial programming and ensure coordination of government initiatives to promote innovation, market diversification and transformation of the forest sector.”

According to Natural Resources Canada, the country’s forest industry directly employs more than 200,000 people nationwide. And nearly 70 per cent of Canada’s $8.6 billion worth of softwood lumber exports in 2015 were sent to the U.S.

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