South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings was disappointed with the progres made by the Canadian government in negotiating a new softwood lumber agreement with the US.
During a press conference Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Barack Obama held in the Rose Garden on Thursday, Trudeau briefly addressed the issue, referring to it as an irritant.
“I’m confident that we are on a track to resolving this irritant in the coming weeks and months,” said Trudeau.
Obama also referred to it as an irritant.
“This issue of softwood lumber will get resolved in some fashion,” said Obama. “Our teams are already making progress on it. It’s been a long-standing, bilateral irritant, but hardly defines the nature of the US-Canadian relationship, and we have some very smart people and they’ll find some way to resolve it, undoubtedly to the dissatisfaction of all parties concerned.”
Representatives from both countries have 100 days to look into options for resolving the dispute and report back.
Prior to the meeting between the prime minister and president, Cannings stood up in the House of Commons during Question Period on Monday, March 7 and asked if Trudeau would stand up for Canadians while negotiating the new softwood lumber agreement. His comments were featured on The National that same evening.
“The prime minster’s trip to Washington is about more than cocktail parties and magazine spreads,” he said. “The softwood lumber issue is important to Canadian industry from coast to coast and workers are worried about how the new agreement will affect their livelihoods. Softwood lumber is again open to negotiation and our industry is vulnerable. Will the prime minister stand up for Canadians and refuse to grant concessions on softwood lumber?”
Trudeau was not there to respond, as he was participating in a Huffington Post town hall, but David Lametti, parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade, responded on behalf of the Liberals.
“It is a very important issue for Canadians; it’s an important industry, a very complex industry across this country,” he said. “We are well aware of the complexity; we are going to ensure that we have stable, fair and equitable access to the American market. We will use all means at our disposal, Mr. Speaker, and we will get it done.”
At an open house held at his Castlegar office on Sunday, Cannings expressed that he was disappointed that an agreement hadn’t yet been reached.
“I guess I was surprised how excited they sounded,” he said. “It sounded like they’d solved the problem when in fact they said they were going to talk about it — which is good. I’m glad they’re going to talk about it, but that’s basically all that announcement was.”
Though no one working in the lumber industry in Castlegar has specifically approached Cannings about this issue, he said he’s had feedback from other areas in the riding.
“I haven’t heard it directly from the forest industry in Castlegar; I’ve talked to other mills in the region,” he said.