BC measures inflame US timber industry

24 January 2009

Canada and the US look set to clash again over the Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA), after British Columbia (BC) premier Gordon Campbell announced massive cuts to coastal stumpage rates in the province.

This is a “clear violation” of the SLA, according to the US Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, and “appears to fly in the face of Canada’s commitment to the US in the SLA not to change its practices to provide even lower prices for government-owned standing timber”.

Mr Campbell has announced a raft of measures as he looks to safeguard the future of the BC forestry industry and its workers. This includes cutting coastal stumpage rates to below C$5 per m³, a drop of more than 70% in a year, and introducing a Wood-First Policy to expand domestic opportunities for BC lumber.

Coalition chairman Steve Swanson said this would have a devastating effect on the rest of the industry in the US, as well as other parts of Canada, and is the “worst kind of ‘beggar thy neighbour’ policies”.

“If, as it appears, the province has simply lowered its producers’ wood costs again, that is a blatant breach of Canada’s commitment and is unacceptable,” said Mr Swanson.