Alberta will be among the provinces hurt most by tariffs imposed by the United States on Canadian softwood lumber.
Red Deer-Mountain View MP Earl Dreeshen said tariffs on producers in Western Canada are as high as 24 per cent compared to Eastern Canada where it can be as low as three per cent.
“In the east the lumber comes off of more private lands, whereas in the west in a lot of cases it’s coming from Crown land. The U.S. says that producers get a lot better deal when it’s coming off Crown land,” Dreeshen said.
Alberta Softwood Lumber Trade Council has called American’s accusations about Alberta’s timber pricing practices baseless and unfounded and do not take into account costs for reforestation, land management, road building, environmental monitoring and site reclamation.
Dreeshen said Canada must have a unified response on the new U.S. tariffs, some being imposed retroactively. And any money paid should go to the U.S. government rather than spread among U.S. lumber companies so it will be easier to get it back if Canada wins the dispute.
He said the Liberal government had time to address the timber dispute before Donald Trump became president.
“It could have been avoided. There were lots of opportunities for this to have been dealt with,” Dreeshen said.
Reg Warkentin, policy and advocacy manager with Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce, said while Central Alberta doesn’t have much of a lumber sector, tariffs will be tough on producers elsewhere in Alberta.
“The U.S is our biggest trading partner by far and this really emphasizes to me to go after and flush out trade opportunities with other countries,” Warkentin said.
“We need to do a better job of selling the benefits of trade and just getting people to understand that in reality it does really benefit everybody. Politicians and chambers, really everyone, need to do a better job of selling that message.”
The softwood lumber dispute reminded him of Canada’s country of origin labeling issue with the U.S.
“It became this big, huge headache and resulted in a big disadvantage for Canadian producers wanting to ship their meat to the United States. Thankfully the World Trade Organization ruled in our favour a number of times but the United States just kind of ignored those rulings. They don’t always play nice so we can’t either. We need to be really tough with them.”