Small lumber producers bracing for impact

OTTAWA — Some softwood lumber companies could begin issuing layoff notices as early as next week as they begin to feel the impact of punishing new tariffs President Donald Trump’s government has imposed on Canadian softwood, a B.C. MP warns.

Conservative MP Todd Doherty says several small and medium-sized businesses are already considering the steps they might be forced to take as early as next Monday.

Several, Doherty warned, aren’t sure how they will make the immediate cash deposits that will come due next week to pay for the new tariffs.

“It’s a dark day and it’s going to have some very serious impacts and right away,” he said in an interview. “One of the companies we have spoken to says as early as Monday they will be looking at what they need to do.”

The U.S. Department of Commerce said this week it would subject Canadian lumber imports to tariffs ranging from three to 24 per cent. Canada’s wood comes mostly from Crown land, with artificially low prices giving Canadian companies an unfair advantage, the U.S. administration alleges.

Canada and the industry say the U.S. is completely wrong and that the U.S. Lumber Coalition is not using the same types of logs for comparison when arguing Canadian prices are lower.

The vast majority of Canada’s softwood operators — small and medium-sized businesses — will also be forced to pay the duties retroactively on any shipments made to the U.S. since Feb. 1.

Canada’s largest companies are exempt from that retroactive payment for reasons nobody in the industry can yet explain.

“I don’t understand it,” said Doherty. “They know also this will put small-medium producers out of business.”

Bill Kordyban’s family has been in the softwood industry since 1951. His company, Carrier Lumber, has to spend millions of dollars next week on the retroactive tariff.

They expected the tariffs, Kordyban said, but not the decision to exempt big companies from the retroactive charges.

“It puts us at a huge competitive disadvantage,” Kordyban said from his office in Prince George, B.C..

“The fact that Trump is targeting the small and medium-sized companies and basically letting the large multinationals go is a real … kick in the teeth.”

Kordyban said his mill in Big River, Sask., will take a bigger hit because it sends as much as 70 per cent of its production to the U.S., and can’t really ship to other markets in Asia given where it’s located.

He said the larger companies are somewhat insulated from the financial hit, since they have bigger balance sheets and many own U.S. sawmills that could help them diversify their operations if U.S. prices go up.

Canada’s top five forestry companies account for 43 per cent of the softwood production in Canada.

During the last softwood lumber dispute, Canada shed 20,000 forestry jobs between 2000 and 2006, and about 400 sawmills closed entirely between 2004 and 2009.

Derek Nighbor, president of the Forest Products Association of Canada, said it’s true small companies are the least prepared to manage the hit, but even the big operations will be hurt, he warned.

“They are going to have some tough decisions to make and soon,” said Nighbor. “Everyone is going to be in cost-management mode.”

Just Posted

WATCH: Christmas Wish Breakfast toy donations almost double

All toys donated Sunday will be given to the Red Deer Christmas Bureau and Red Deer Salvation Army

VIDEO: ‘Party bus’ goes up in flames in Vancouver

Fire crews responded to the late night blaze

Mothers Against Drunk Driving hold candlelight vigil

Four-and-a-half years ago Marilyn Rinas’ husband was killed in a collision with… Continue reading

Thousands expected at memorial for fallen police officer in Abbotsford, B.C.

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — The streets of Abbotsford, B.C., will be lined with… Continue reading

One person dead, five others injured in early-morning crash in Kingston, Ont.

KINGSTON, Ont. — A man who was checking the damage on his… Continue reading

VIDEO: Replay Red Deer: Nov. 19

Watch news highlights from the week of Nov. 13

CP Holiday train to stop in Ponoka for another year

The popular train will feature entertainment from Colin James and Emma-Lee

Kittens rescued after allegedly being tossed from vehicle

Couple finds abandoned kittens new home through Facebook

VIDEO: ‘Party bus’ goes up in flames in Vancouver

Fire crews responded to the late night blaze

Chicken crosses B.C. road, stops traffic

Rooster makes early morning commuters wait in Maple Ridge

Red Deerian honours her brother who died in a motorcycle collision

Houaida Haddad is encouraging Red Deer residents to donate blood

Red Deer County firefighters to be recognized for Waterton help

RCMP brass will give formal recognition Monday

Ron James tries to lighten humanity’s load through humour

The comedian returns to Red Deer for shows Dec. 1 and 2

100+ Women Red Deer donate to Christmas Bureau

About $14,000 will help with Christmas hampers and toys

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month