Question Period: Canadian paper products – Friday, March 13, 2015

Trade of Canadian paper products



Mr. Coon: My question is for the Minister of Economic Development. The Telegraph-Journal reported today that a coalition of American pulp and paper companies has filed a petition with the United States International Trade Commission applying for countervailing duties to be placed on imports of some Canadian paper products. They claim that federal and provincial governments are providing subsidies, which include preferential loans, tax benefits, grant programs, and cheap access to Crown land trees and energy subsidies, and that this represents unfair competition. Has the Minister of Economic Development reviewed the memorandum of agreement signed with J.D. Irving on February 7 of last year to determine whether any of its provisions could open New Brunswick to any countervail whatsoever?

Hon. Mr. Doucet: It is certainly a pleasure to stand up and answer the question from the member opposite. I appreciate his bringing that to the attention of the House.

The forest industry is a pillar of our economy. It has been around for a long time. It has gone through a lot of very difficult times This is just one of those little hiccups that we are going through at this point in time. We are very well aware of this issue, and we—my staff—have been meeting on it and discussing this issue quite extensively.

Mr. Coon: With the softwood lumber deal set to expire on October 12 of this year, it is a critical time for New Brunswick to be squeaky clean when it comes to any support it might provide to the forestry sector. Will the minister undertake to examine the price we charge for Crown wood, the price NB Power charges its industrial customers, and the price that the Department of Natural Resource charges the mills for biomass fuel to ensure that these prices represent fair market rates?

Hon. Mr. Doucet: I think the question steps over into the other areas. On the first question, with respect to this petition, we are very well aware that the province has been identified in this petition. At this point in time, we are going to continue our discussions on it and get a better understanding of what is taking place. We will do the best we can to defend the interests of the province.

Mr. Coon: Will the minister, once they have looked at this carefully, undertake to report back to this House on his findings?

Hon. Mr. Doucet: As I mentioned just a few seconds ago, we are going to defend the province’s interest in this as best we can. We intend to stand up for New Brunswick’s interest. At the same time, I appreciate the member bringing this forward. I would be very happy to follow up with him at any point in time as this develops.