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Softwood lumber woes could lag on for another two years

Dear Editor:

The current softwood lumber trade dispute might take two years to resolve Herb Dhaliwal hinted when unveiling his aid package recently. This industry that contributes nearly 30 billion dollars yearly to the Canadian economy is in need of more than a short term welfare programme.

US demand for lumber far exceeds its own supply. Its construction industry would collapse without Canadian softwood. The US lumber lobby wants to choke the flow of Canadian lumber in order to raise the value of US timber holdings, while at the same time increasing the access to Canadian raw logs which may be refined in idle US mills. The proof of this is that raw logs are not considered under the current tariffs although they grow on the same Crown land and the stumpage is paid in the tree volume, regardless of the end product.

Rather than retraining displaced workers in skills with limited demand in forestry based communities a long term approach is preferable. Encourage forest companies to produce goods beyond the raw lumber: truss systems, pre-fabricated wall panels and other manufactured wood products necessary to both the domestic and export market.

Governments speak of “investing” tax dollars.

Assistance through reduced or deferred tax incentives for companies to re-tool their operations to produce new value added products and train workers in these highly skilled positions would pay dividends for those involved and the economy as a whole. This would be a worthwhile expenditure of some of the $40 billion surplus in the EI fund.

Most assuredly growth for the future rather than short term palliative care is what should be put in place.

Sincerely,

Mike Reilly

Winnipeg, MB