FOREST INK: Time to change strategies on softwood lumber dispute

FOREST INK: Time to change strategies on softwood lumber dispute

There have been numerous attempts by Canada to have lumber exports be part of NAFTA

The softwood lumber dispute with the United States has been going on since 1982 with at least four agreements, numerous extensions along with many appeals to the World Trade Organization(WTO) to recover penalties imposed by the Americans.

There have been numerous attempts by Canada to have lumber exports be part of NAFTA along with the other exports in the auto and dairy industry but that may be difficult because while the Canadian forest industry generates $14 billion in lumber sales to the United States annually, NAFTA generates $14 billion in sales every two weeks.

Author Tony Kryzanowski writes that we should still try for an alternate approach to give our forestry workers a more stable work environment.

So far the “Canadian strategy is to simply go along with the duties and then file complaints with both NAFTA and the WTO, with the belief that we have a winning hand, and that we have a strong chance of winning all the time. After all, a lot of that duty money ( $5 billion) was returned after the last softwood lumber trade dispute between 2006 and 2015. But what happens if we don’t win, even one time?

READ MORE: Community forests have many advantages for rural communities

This is the big gamble that Canadian negotiators and companies are taking. The question is whether taking this approach is a good and fair bet for Canadian forestry workers looking for long term employment. It’s not, and we are already seeing the consequences of a combination of a U.S. housing downturn and duties with closures and curtailments at sawmills and panel board plants from coast to coast.”

I support some of Mr. Kryzanowski’s observations and think there are a number of other reasons why the time may be right to press for an alternative approach to the one taken over the past four decades.

From a provincial perspective, one of the main reasons will be less lumber exports heading south of the border since there have been a number of mill closures due to a shortage of logs and reduced AACs throughout BC. We may be able to convince the Americans that there will be less pressure from BC lumber exports and explore other options that are fair to both sides.

For the purpose of this article I don’t want to get into the details of why the Americans feel we have been dumping our lumber into their country but one simple observation is the profits that our major licensees have generated to make significant investments in lumber companies in the USA and overseas. i.e. many of the major licensees in B.C. own as many or more mills in the USA than they do in Canada.

From a B.C. perspective we need to look for ways to channel some of the profits back into our forest industry and forest land base because a good portion of the industry profits for the past four decades have come from the first harvest of our most economic forests. That is going to change as we move toward using less profitable forest lands along with forests damaged by insects and wildfires which needs to happen if we want to get these stands back on track to bring our allowable cut back to where it was before the devastations.

READ MORE: The downside of being more efficient

Since B.C. is one of the major exporters we may need an agreement that suits our specific needs with or without NAFTA.

In future articles I will discuss in more detail what kinds of investments I think will need funding to bring thousands of hectares back on track to contribute to healthy productive forests that will ensure a better future for our citizens as well as the tenure holders relying on forest fibre in B.C.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mayor Walt Cobb waves from atop a tractor as he turns onto Oliver Street in the Daybreak Rotary’s annual Stampede Parade. Patrick Davies photo.
Lack of funding, volunteers has Daybreak Rotary bowing out of Williams Lake Stampede parade

Club learned this week it won’t be receiving local government funding, for the second year in a row

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

Williams Lake’s Brock Hoyer films a segment of the newly-released The Way Home in the city of Revelstoke. (Ryen Dunford photo)
Brock Hoyer stars in new snowbike film: The Way Home

The film is completely free and was released on YouTube on Jan. 22, 2021

The body of Kenneth Seymour Michell was discovered Jan. 14, 2021, behind a Williams Lake business a day after he was released by a judge on conditions. (Photo submitted)
Family looks for answers after Indigenous man dies by suicide following release from custody

System does not care about Indigenous peoples, says First Nations Leadership Council

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Interior Health officially declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Creekside Landing in Vernon on Jan. 3, which was followed by the first death from the virus 10 days later. (Kaigo photo)
COVID outbreak over at Vernon care home

Creekside Landing cleared of coronavirus, despite additional death in last day

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

Most Read