VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s Liberal leader says everyone involved in a potential softwood lumber agreement said No when the United States offered a “lousy” deal that would have cost her province 20,000 forestry jobs.
Christy Clark said Thursday that talks with former president Barack Obama ended because of opposition by the prime minister, the international trade minister and lumber employers in B.C.
“Everybody in Canada recognized that the deal of the Obama administration stank. And the only people that seemed to think that it might have been a good deal are the Americans, naturally,” she said.
“They would have cut our exports by one third, they would have cut our jobs in softwood by one third,” Clark said.
“It was a bad deal, and no self-respecting premier or prime minister would have accepted that.”
Clark, who made the comments at a sawmill during a campaign stop before the May 9 provincial election, has said Obama wasn’t interested in getting an agreement and that Canada opted to negotiate when President Donald Trump took office.
Clark said she would have balked had she been the only person involved in negotiations on softwood lumber, an issue that has heated up during the election campaign.
On Wednesday, she called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ban shipments of thermal coal through the province’s ports after the U.S. imposed tariffs of up to 24 per cent on softwood lumber from Canada.
Horgan, who was campaigning in the forestry-dependent community of Prince George, told a town hall that Clark waited too long to deal with the softwood lumber issue.
“My solution is to be aggressive with the United States,” Horgan said, adding Clark didn’t go to Washington to deal with the issue as premier.
“Christy Clark, rather than going and making the case for British Columbia, sent a bureaucrat, a capable one to be sure,” he said of David Emerson, a former federal cabinet minister who is the B.C. government’s trade envoy on softwood lumber.
Horgan said other premiers went to Washington on issues involving their provinces.
“If Brad Wall could go to represent Saskatchewan and Rachel Notley could go to represent Alberta why didn’t B.C. show up?” he asked.
“If Mr. Trump and his officials and the very aggressive forest lobby in the United States want to take us on on forestry then we’ll take them on as well.”
The election is pitting Clark, whose Liberal party has been in power for 16 years, against Horgan and Green party Leader Andrew Weaver.
Federal Green Leader Elizabeth May campaigned in Vancouver, where she echoed Weaver’s sentiments that Clark’s call to ban the shipment of American thermal coal through B.C. ports after softwood lumber duties were imposed is good news, but she added that it came too late.
May said she doesn’t believe Clark will be consistent with other environmental initiatives because of her support for projects such as the Site C dam and the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project.