By: Cindy Macdonald, editor
NORTH BAY, ON – A package of support measures for Canada’s forest products industry was applauded by industry groups on this side of the border, but labelled a further subsidy by a trade group in the U.S.
On June 1, the Honourable Jim Carr, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of International Trade, announced $867 million in measures to support forest industry workers and communities affected by U.S. duties targeting softwood lumber.
Minister Carr stated: “This action plan delivers on our pledge to take swift and reasonable action to defend our softwood lumber industry and charts a stronger future for the workers, families and communities that depend on it. We are prepared to take further action, including additional loan guarantees, to address changing market conditions.”
The U.S. Lumber Coalition responded: “The new funding adds to existing government subsidies boosting the Canadian softwood lumber industry, creating an uneven playing field with the U.S. lumber industry and putting American jobs at risk.”
Forest Products Association of Canada, Unifor and other organizations representing Canada’s forest sector responded favorably to the announcement.
“We appreciate that the federal government is standing tall for Canadian forestry communities by launching a comprehensive package in the face of trade actions that we believe are without merit,” said Derek Nighbor, CEO of FPAC. “This support will assist our efforts in continuing to transform our sector, diversify our markets, and support our workers.”
The support measures announced on June 1 include federal loans and loan guarantees, and investments to diversify forest products and markets. Other measures include more than $260 million in new funding to:
- support efforts to expand overseas markets and promote the diversification of Canadian wood products;
- help Indigenous communities and organizations improve the performance of their forest sector initiatives;
- provide a temporary extension of the maximum period for Work-Sharing agreements from 38 to 76 weeks in order to reduce layoffs; and
- expand supports to help affected workers upgrade their skills and transition to new opportunities.
The federal government continues to forcefully press its American counterparts to rescind this trade action.
In 2016, the forest industry accounted for $22 billion of Canada’s GDP. More than 170 rural municipalities have a significant portion of their income generated by the forest sector, and there are over 600 mills producing softwood lumber in Canada.