Forest Strategy for Softwood Lumber Tariffs: Question Period – 3 May 2017
Here is the video and transcript of oral questions today recorded in the language it was originally spoken.
Mr. Coon: I have tabled two bills in this Legislature that would have helped to secure New
Brunswick’s historic exemption from softwood lumber tariffs. In 2015, I introduced a bill that
would have rescinded the former Conservative government’s decision to increase the supply of
softwood from Crown lands—a decision that, at the time, I said could threaten the future of
locally owned, independent sawmills in our province. Just last week, I proposed amendments to
the Crown Lands and Forests Act that would have strengthened the private wood market. Both
bills were voted down. What does the Premier intend to do in his promised new forest strategy
that would help to reinstate New Brunswick’s exemption from softwood lumber duties?
Hon. Mr. Melanson: I want to assure the member opposite that the Premier, this government,
the industry, and the federal government are doing everything possible to retain our status of
being excluded from the countervailing taxes that were imposed on us by the U.S. government.
I think that it has to be looked at that the New Brunswick softwood lumber industry has been
working under conditions where there has been a level playing field, which does not give it an
advantage when it exports lumber into the United States, and where the provincial government is
not subsidizing the industry, as the allegation was made by the American government. I think
that it is quite important that every bit of effort is being made by this government to reassure the
industry that we want to regain exclusion, as we have been benefiting from it over the last 35
Mr. Coon: The President of the New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners said last week
that his group had pleaded its case to successive governments to make sure that private woodlot
owners play a greater role in the industry, saying that the marketing situation of private wood
needed to get sorted out because it could turn around and bite us. One of the ways that the
marketing situation could be improved now would be if government enforced the proportionality
provision of the Crown Lands and Forests Act, as recommended by the Auditor General. Will
the Premier direct the Minister of Energy and Resource Development to enforce proportionality
to strengthen New Brunswick’s hand in the negotiations for a new softwood lumber deal?
Hon. Mr. Doucet: It is certainly a pleasure to answer that question. We are working very hard
and diligently on our exclusion for the softwood lumber, and we are working Maritime-wide. We
feel that we should have an Atlantic exclusion.
I just want to clarify some of the facts of the member opposite. He can get in the media and tell
his story, but the fact of the matter is that wood from private woodlots has more than
doubled—doubled—since the economic downturn. It has doubled since the economic downturn,
from 800 000 m3 in 2008 to 2 million cubic metres in both 2015-16 and 2016-17. It went from
800 000 m3 to 2 million cubic metres. That is from private woodlot owners.
The other part is that the levies that they have been able to . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time, minister.
Mr. Coon: On Friday, it was announced that the government would finally appoint a senior
negotiator to represent New Brunswick’s interests in Ottawa and Washington. This is 18 months
after the Maritime Lumber Bureau ceased to play this role for New Brunswick. Why did it take
18 months and the imposition of unfair duties on the export of softwood lumber from New
Brunswick mills for the Premier finally to appoint a chief negotiator to make the case that New
Brunswick’s historic exemption should be maintained?
Hon. Mr. Melanson: I think that the case is being made. The case is clearly being made by the
Premier, by me, and by the Minister of Energy and Resource Development. The case is also
being made by the industry in New Brunswick. When we got the unfortunate ruling that we
received a couple of weeks ago, we believed, based on the ruling—on the American decision as
a preliminary decision—that they recognize that there is no subsidizing in New Brunswick,
based on the level of tariff that was imposed for New Brunswick.
I want to go back to the point about the private woodlot owners. They are a big and a very
important piece of the supply of wood for the industry. We recognize that, and we actually work
with them, as the industry and the private woodlot owners all are part of the softwood lumber
initiative that we want to retain our exclusion . . .
Mr. Speaker: Time, minister.