Excerpt from debate during Question Period in the House of Commons on Wednesday, June 5, 2019.
Cathy McLeod, Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC (Conservative)
Mr. Speaker, the community of Vavenby received devastating news on Monday when the Canfor sawmill closed and 178 people were out of work. This follows the Tolko Industries closure, where 240 people in Quesnel are out of work. This is the second major shutdown in the last 30 days. We have an industry in crisis.
Why did the government fail to make resolving the softwood lumber issue a priority when it renegotiated NAFTA?
Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Natural Resources (Liberal)
Mr. Speaker, our hearts go out to the people and the workers who are impacted by the closures of the sawmills. We know about the reduction in logging and forestry in that area because of the issues of the wildfire as well as the infestation of the pine beetle that have been caused by climate change.
We are ensuring that proper support is available for the industry and for workers who are impacted by these closures.
Todd Doherty, Cariboo—Prince George, BC (Conservative)
Mr. Speaker, in signing the last softwood lumber agreement, the former Conservative government put an end to the longest and most costly trade dispute with the U.S. We expanded overseas markets, we championed a wood-first initiative.
However, when the deal expired, the Liberals refused to make securing a new softwood lumber agreement a priority. In my province, over 140,000 jobs are forestry-dependent, 140 communities are forestry-dependent. In the past three weeks, seven mill closures have been announced or are imminent.
How many more families have to lose their livelihoods before it becomes a priority for the Prime Minister?
Rob Oliphant, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Liberal)
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives simply do not know what they are talking about. Our government saw the consequences of the horrendous quota deal they accepted on softwood lumber.
Our government will continue to vigorously defend our industry and its workers against protectionist trade measures accepted by the Conservatives. We are continuing our legal challenges against the U.S. duties through NAFTA and through the WTO, where Canadian softwood has always won in the past, and we will win again.
Our government will always defend our workers and this industry.