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By Chris Marchand
After 35 years and five iterations of a softwood lumber agreement between Canada and the United States, Kenora MP Bob Nault says $867 million in financial supports for the forest sector and its employees is the beginning of an earnest effort to achieve a long-term solution to a recurring problem.
“It’s intended to assure industry, communities and workers that the government of Canada is with them in this battle,” said Nault. “I mean, this is the fifth time we’ve had to deal with the softwood lumber issue from the perspective of the countervailing duties. This is the government’s first response to the industry and communities, especially small single-industry sawmill communities like Ear Falls.”
The $867 million in measures will help support forest industry workers and communities affected by U.S. measures targeting softwood lumber. This includes federal loans and loan guarantees to complement provincial efforts for viable Canadian companies. Export Development Canada (EDC) will make commercial financing and risk management solutions, including loans and loan guarantees, valued at up to $500 million to assist forestry companies. The Government’s support also includes investments to diversify forest products and markets, to increase the industry’s resilience to the trade actions, and promote its long-term health.
Previous softwood lumber disputes have seen similar funds put in place, but never anything this big, says Nault.
“This is a very large initiative by the Government of Canada with the understanding that this is going to be a tougher fight. We’re not going to give in to an easy agreement that doesn’t give us the long-term viability and assurance of a market access on the terms the we want. We’re expecting this will be a long battle. I think that’s why you’re seeing significantly more investment put forward to help industry through this difficult process.”