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 Peace Country jobs at risk

The Liberal Government has failed to strike a new softwood lumber agreement with the United States to replace the one-year interim deal that officially expired this week. This failure leaves thousands employed in the forestry sector across Canada anxious and uneasy.

“There has been an alarming lack of attention to this file by The Prime Minister. The Liberal Government has failed Peace Country forestry workers and their families,” said Chris Warkentin, Member of Parliament for Grande Prairie – Mackenzie. “Without a new softwood lumber agreement in place, Canadian forestry operations are faced with the prospect of costly U.S. duties on lumber that will force producers to shut down,” Warkentin continued. “From the forest to the mill, almost 400,000 well-paying, high-quality forestry jobs are now at risk, thousands of them here in Northwestern Alberta.”

“Negotiating a new softwood lumber agreement has never been a priority for this government,” said Randy Hoback, Official Opposition Critic for Canada-U.S. Relations. “It was not included in the Trade Minister’s mandate letter and now after a year in office they have failed to get it done. Saying that it was a tough deal to negotiate is a poor excuse to offer to the families who will lose their livelihoods.  After promising a deal by one hundred days after the Prime Minister’s trip to Washington in February, the Liberals were unwilling to put in the hard work to actually get the job done.”

“The Liberal Government’s failure to get a new softwood lumber deal across the finish line is just another example of Justin Trudeau’s selfie international trade policy,” said the Hon. Gerry Ritz, Official Opposition Critic for International Trade. “After a year in government the Liberals still refuse to take a decision on the TPP and the CETA with the European Union under threat.  Canadian exporters deserve stability and predictability from their Government.”

Warkentin added that any job losses in the forestry sector due to this dispute would be solely the fault of the Liberal Government’s inaction. “The Liberal Government is failing to create jobs and grow the economy. Over 110,000 full-time jobs were lost in the past two months,” Warkentin said. “Now their failure to secure a softwood lumber agreement could leave even more hardworking Alberta families without work.”

The last softwood lumber dispute cost the Canadian forestry sector $5.3 billion and was settled by the previous Conservative government negotiating an agreement within three months of coming into office in 2006.