With reports emerging that U.S. President Donald Trump will be instituting a 20 per cent tariff on purchases of Canadian softwood lumber, B.C. Premier Christy Clark is speaking out how the province will cope with the plan.
The premier suspended her provincial election campaign for the day to meet with cabinet members, after which she outlined the province’s approach to the changes.
The first step, according to Clark, is to challenge the rationale behind the tariffs.
“Our action plan on softwood starts with fighting the unfounded claims of the U.S. lumber production lobby, and the unwarranted and unfair duties on Canadian lumber products.”
She says another priority for the province is branching out to other trading partners.
“It is our hope that one day our markets will be so diversified that we don’t need another softwood deal with the United States.”
She says exports to China are up more than 2,000 per cent, and there is strong progress in other markets.
When push comes to shove, however, the negotiations will be done on a federal level. Despite that, Clark says B.C. will be playing a role in those.
“The federal government recognizes that British Columbia, as the exporter of 60 per cent of the softwood volume in Canada, is the leader of all the provinces in these negotiations.”
The Premier goes on to say she’ll continue to work with the federal government to support B.C. workers and minimize job losses.
“In the meantime, we are going to work to make sure B.C. mills can stay open despite the impact of U.S. protectionist and punitive measures.”
— Jeremy Lye (@JJLye980) April 25, 2017
This criticism comes after Clark publicly shifted positions several times on Trump in just the last few months.
After his election, she said it wasn’t helpful to criticize him for his sexist comments.
Then she called him “a disgrace” in January.
Just a month after that, she drew parallels between herself and the president when it came to his job creation rhetoric.
But it’s Trump’s latest rhetoric on Canada that had Clark speaking amongst lumber workers, where she expanded on her new “I’m not scared of Donald Trump” line.
The tariffs stand to have a drastic effect on the softwood lumber industry in B.C., which is a $3-billion market for the province.
Challenging the Premier
The B.C. NDP has released a statement challenging Clark’s approach, saying in a statement that her inability to seal a new softwood lumber deal led to the drastic tariffs.
“Christy Clark’s failure to deliver a new agreement has thousands of direct and indirect forestry jobs at risk.”
Meanwhile, B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver is calling news of the tariffs “devastating.”
In a statement, he says the forestry industry has already struggled under Christy Clark’s government.
Weaver also used the statement to criticize Christy Clark’s approach to the reports, saying, “for the Premier to now hold a special cabinet meeting frankly serves as political grandstanding, and little else.”
With files from Ria Renouf