Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to share some thoughts on a very important issue. It does not matter what side of the House one sits on, we all recognize that Canada leads the world in many different industries. One of those industries is our softwood lumber industry. We have, I believe, an incredible history of providing not only the United States but also other countries a first-class product. That is recognized.
I give a great deal of thought, and express appreciation and thanks, to those who have been there over the years to protect and foster growth within that industry. It employs thousands of people. It contributes billions of dollars to our GDP. It is a major force in our economy. Whether it is its direct jobs or indirect jobs, it should matter to all of us. We as a government, and the himself, have expressed concern, whether it is to the President of the United States or to others. This is an industry that Canada, and in particular our government, will be there to protect.
I believe an appropriate way to start my comments would be to read what the stated the other day on this very important industry. The minister said:
Mr. Speaker, the softwood lumber industry is a source of jobs and pride for Canadians across our country. We are extremely disappointed by the unfair and unwarranted decision of the United States to increase the duties it imposes on softwood lumber. This issue was raised, of course, by the Prime Minister at his meeting with President Biden. I have raised it with Secretary Yellen, as have all of our colleagues, and we have pointed out that these duties are adding to the inflation tax American consumers are paying.
This is not a new issue. We can talk about what we would argue on this side of the House are unfair practices taking place in the United States at times, and they are targeted at one of Canada's most valuable industries. This is not the first time. We have seen it on several occasions in the past. As a government, it is important that we speak as one voice, that we do not capitulate and that we recognize our voice is stronger if we unite in saying what is happening is not right.
In terms of free trade and the U.S., the relationship that Canada has with the U.S., the emphasis that we put on being a good neighbour and the economic ties between provinces and states, one needs to look at groups like our interparliamentary associations. We understand the dynamic. They have industry leaders within the United States, a significant, relatively wealthy group of people who are very effective at lobbying.
Because that is the case, we once again have duties and the U.S. has taken action that not only hurts us here in Canada but hurts Americans too. The U.S., from what I understand, does not have the ability to meet the demands of its market when it comes to softwood production. Canada, over the decades, has supplemented that supply.
As I indicated earlier, we have a first-grade product that is in high demand in the United States. However, the wealthy American mill owners and other stakeholders have been effectively lobbying to get these penalties put into place.
As a government, we have approached the very top political level: the President. We will turn to the free trade agreement that we ratified not that long ago, which includes Mexico. We will take it to the World Trade Organization as a government. I know the minister is on top of this file and recognizes the importance of it. We will do whatever we can to protect that industry, which is well represented in a number of regions including British Columbia, which has been hit very hard recently with rains. The province of Quebec and my home province of Manitoba have important lumber industries also.
Regarding jobs, indigenous communities often take the lead in providing the workforce. This industry supports so many communities in rural Canada. In many ways it is incredible.
The government, the the and the responsible are very much aware of the issue. To individuals who are following the issue, in particular those who are working in the industry and the owners who are trying to ensure that we can maintain our market share, the Government of Canada has their backs. We will continue to work with different stakeholders and appeal to members on all sides of the House to add value to the debate we are having tonight. It should not necessarily be a finger-pointing exercise. It should be recognizing that this has gone on now for many years. It predates this government.
That is why we have trade agreements. That is why we have the World Trade Organization. That is why we build the relationships that we have. There is no doubt in my mind that Canada will ultimately prevail, as we have prevailed in the past, because we are on the right side of this issue. We might not necessarily be able to prevent it from happening, although I sure wish that we could, but we can ensure at the end of the day that the industry not only survives but thrives into the future.
We have seen growth in export markets, whether to China, Europe or others, because it is important. The will tell us that we look at ways in which we can expand our export markets. That is why we have progressive, aggressive trade going on with agreements. We have signed more trade agreements than any other government. We have, that is a fact. It speaks volumes in terms of how this government recognizes the value of our exports because we see that in the actions we take every day.
In particular, workers can rest assured that we will be there to support them in the coming days, weeks or however long it takes to resolve this, and we will prevail on this issue.
Mr. Speaker, I want to start off by saying that I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I would like to provide the counterpoint to what we have just heard from the Liberal side, because we have to distinguish fiction from fact. The truth is, there is a long history to this dispute, going way back to at least 1982. It was a Liberal government under Paul Martin that finally tried to bring peace to the woods. This was called the war of the woods because we had ongoing battles between the United States and Canada on the softwood lumber issue. Unfortunately, Paul Martin failed to get a deal done, to get peace in the woods. His trade minister, Jim Peterson, failed to get an agreement for Canadians.
Then we had an election in 2006. Stephen Harper was elected prime minister of our country and he did something remarkable. He reached across the aisle and asked David Emerson to cross the floor and join his cabinet. He had one main task, and that was to resolve the lumber dispute. David Emerson had deep roots in the softwood lumber industry. He knew it well. Stephen Harper knew that David Emerson could get the deal done, and guess what? He did it successfully.
In fact, he was remarkably successful. He negotiated a seven-year softwood lumber agreement and bought peace for seven years. He also negotiated a potential two-year extension. On top of that, he negotiated a $4.5-billion U.S. repayment to Canada that went back to the softwood lumber producers in Canada. It was a big win for Canada. It was a big win for the Conservative government under Stephen Harper because it brought us that peace we needed in the woods.
That softwood lumber agreement needed to be ratified in the House through a ways and means motion, and guess what? The Liberals voted against it in 2006. Only one Liberal voted in favour of it: Joe Comuzzi. He boldly stood up against the duplicity of the Liberals at the time. We later ended up renewing that agreement, so we had a total of nine years of peace between Canada and the United States.
Today we find ourselves in a situation. For the last six years, the Liberal government, the and the have been continually promising to resolve this dispute.
In fact, I have here a CBC article going back to March 12, 2016. The headline is “[Canada's trade minister] heralds ‘real breakthrough’ on softwood lumber negotiations”. That was six years ago. That trade minister was quoted as saying, “We have now managed to get the Americans to the table, we have managed to raise attention to this issue at the very highest levels.” She went on to say, “I don't want to downplay to anyone the complexity—the fiendish complexity—of the softwood lumber issue [but] this was a real breakthrough.” That was six years ago. What happened to that breakthrough?
Time after time, when we ask questions in the House about how those negotiations are going, we are told we are going to get a deal, yet it has been six years. That, by any definition, is failure, especially when we compare it to the standard the Harper government set in negotiating nine years of peace in the woods. For six years we have had a war in the woods and that war continues. In fact, today we are in a situation where the U.S. has doubled tariffs on softwood lumber exports from Canada.
Shame on the government. Shame on the . Shame on the , who was trade minister when she made those bold statements. I know we can do better and Canadians deserve better.
Mr. Speaker, we are participating in a take-note debate tonight, which is designed to allow members to give their opinion on policy development on a matter of urgency. Today, the government has taken a delegation to Washington, D.C. ostensibly to talk about the softwood lumber dispute. I want to briefly, in the time I have, outline what the problem is and two ways to fix it.
We have to start by laying out the fact. The fact is that the American government has become more protectionist, particularly in its policies with Canada, under the tenure of the current government. My colleague from outlined some of the issues, but it is everything from some of the policies around dairy; the EV tax credits that my colleague from raised in the House during question period today; and the failure of the Americans to really respond to pleas on the Line 5 issue, and I know that the government was silent on KXL but certainly provincial governments were active on that. I could name many issues, but the doubling of the softwood tariffs suggests that something is very wrong with Canada's relationship with the United States. The question is, why? That is a question everybody in this place should ask, in a very sober tone.
The world has changed and it benefits all of us to have a strong relationship with the Americans, some continental economic unity and some continental integrated defence and immigration policies. It makes sense because the world has changed. When we look at supply chains and at trade, we need to be working with partners that are like-minded. Therefore, the question is this: Why has this relationship deteriorated?
I think it is Occam’s razor in this situation. I actually think that the relationship is just left fallow and the Americans do not care. I am sure they do care. I know there is one American who certainly cares about me. He might even be watching right now, and my condolences to him. However, I will say this: The American trade balance of Canada is such a small portion, about 2% of their export value, compared to ours that without the relationships that existed in the past and that do not exist right now, I just do not think the Americans are listening.
It has been very disappointing to watch the government allow infrastructure that was set up around the negotiation of CUSMA, like city-to-city relationships, the first ministers to state-level meetings, the business leader relationships and all that infrastructure that was developed, kind of be dismantled by the current government. I do not know whether that was through malfeasance or just atrophy, but without those relationships the government is not going to care. The first rule of foreign policy is they need to be able to pick up the phone to somebody that they have broken bread with and say, “I understand where there are commonalities and differences; let us work together on this.” I just do not think that has happened. Again, we are a rounding error to the Americans in a lot of ways. We have to make them care. That would be my suggestion for the government, humbly: Rebuild those relationships.
The last thing I will say is this. Knowing one American fairly well, I know that if he does not care about something I can either build the relationship with him or I can make him pay attention. Sometimes we have to make a trading partner pay attention and that, unfortunately, does come through retaliatory measures.
We do have measures to litigate, under CUSMA, that we have raised in the House this week. The government should be expressing plans for that to Canadian industry and should be putting its American partners on notice, but I would like to think that we can actually build that relationship again. There has been a lot of atrophy, but the government cannot say Donald Trump is in office anymore, so there has to be a purposeful building up of a relationship under Global Affairs, which has seen several ministers in a very short period of time.
There needs to be political leadership, a clear direction and an imperative from the government to make that relationship work at every level, not just at the ministerial level but state to province, municipality to municipality and industry leader to industry leader. If we are not talking to each other, really it is other actors around the world that benefit from the fact that we have not integrated our supply chains, that we are not working together and that we are fighting these silly trade wars with each other instead of uniting as a continent on certain values while retaining our sovereignty and our sovereign right to our economy.
That is what I humbly submit, out of respect, in this take-note debate tonight: Build the relationship and make them pay attention.
Mr. Speaker, since I just returned yesterday from an observation mission in Colombia, this is my first speech in the House since the last election—not counting the small point of order that I made earlier, of course.
I would like to take this opportunity to warmly thank the electors of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for their renewed trust. I will do everything in my power to live up to this second term that I had the honour of being entrusted with.
Rather than engage in petty games by passing the buck and throwing accusations at either the Liberals or the Conservatives, I will try to bring the debate to another level, even if I do think that both are to blame. Focusing the debate on something else will only elevate the discussion.
First, let us quickly review the facts. Last week the U.S. administration announced that, starting in 2022, countervailing duties on Canadian softwood lumber will double from 9% to 18%, on average. Of all the companies affected, the primary victim is Quebec’s Resolute Forest Products, which will be slapped with a combined tax of 29.66%. That is why the Bloc Québécois wanted to have this take-note debate tonight, in which I am participating as my party’s international trade critic.
The trade war over softwood lumber is an old and never-ending issue. It has been said before, and it needs to be said again: There have been countless missed opportunities to resolve this problem.
The forestry industry accounts for 11% of Quebec’s exports. Our forests are a source of economic development, jobs, and tax revenue, and they have great ecological value. That must also be said. The forestry industry presents immense carbon sequestration and storage capacity, and it inspires many innovative Quebec SMEs to produce bioenergy and bioproducts. Some issues require international co-operation. The environment, the fight against climate change, and green trade are among them, and our wood can play a key role.
The new tariff war will hurt almost everyone. It will certainly hurt us because it could result in a large increase in the price of lumber and serious consequences for our businesses and the 25,000 direct Canadian jobs tied to the sale of softwood lumber to the United States. Things will not necessarily be any better in the United States either. The cost of housing will increase, which will further restrict Americans' access to housing, even though the Biden administration is claiming that access to housing is one of its priorities. Who will win in the end? The U.S. lumber lobby and a few politicians who see that the mid-term elections are quickly approaching.
Let us review the facts of this matter. Year after year, the United States accuses the Canadian forestry industry of benefiting from public subsidies that hurt the American sector. The American decision is based on what could be called a structural dynamic. This happens a lot. This is not the first softwood lumber crisis. There have been four rounds of trade conflicts: in 1982-83, in 1986, from 1991 to 1996 and from 2001 to 2006. We are now at the start of a fifth conflict.
It makes no sense. Canada has turned to the World Trade Organization and North American Free Trade Agreement dispute resolution bodies for help several times.
Canada has won all of its cases. In May 2020, the WTO even said that Washington had not been objective or fair and that its tariffs were unlawful.
Free trade agreements generally set time limits on disputes to prevent them from dragging on. The Americans knew that they would lose their case, though, so they did what they always do. They used every trick in the book to stall the arbitration tribunal, for example, by filing petitions to take up the tribunal's time or by blocking the appointment of arbitrators. The longer this goes on, the worse things get for our forestry industry.
The Americans’ strategy is therefore clear: Set tariffs that they know will be found to be wrong and take advantage of the years they are in effect to bankrupt, or at least undermine, the Canadian industry. This will allow the United States to further develop their industry in the meantime, modernize it, improve its competitiveness, and therefore get a head start.
That is what is behind the push for a trade war. Is this not precisely what can easily be described as unfair competition? It seems to me that it is. Still, there have been many missed opportunities to address this.
The Canada-United States-Mexico agreement, or CUSMA, passed in the House in March 2020, represents a very large missed opportunity in this regard. CUSMA needs to be amended. The government could have taken the opportunity to close these loopholes when renegotiating North American free trade over the past few years to ensure that the litigation process is much better regulated so that we could avoid overly long delays when time is not on our side.
There is also another item that needs to be amended in CUSMA. It should provide for a permanent softwood lumber advisory board. I tried to introduce a similar amendment in the House in March 2020, but unfortunately it was rejected by the Chair.
This brings me to another urgent matter, that of getting the Quebec system recognized.
Since 2013, Quebec's forestry regime has been fully compliant with the free trade framework and requirements, which should save it from vagaries like the ones we are experiencing right now. The regime is simple to explain. One quarter of the timber from the public forest is sold at auction, where anyone can bid. The price obtained is then applied to all the timber from public forests. This system is very similar to the one used in the United States. The price of timber is set by the market, not by the government. It is not subsidized, which passes the free trade test 100%. It was actually designed specifically for that purpose.
In contrast, that is not how B.C.'s stumpage system works. In that case, it is set by the government. Recognizing the specificity of the Quebec system would save us a lot of trouble.
I will make an aside to talk about one of the reasons I am in politics. When people ask me why I am a sovereignist, I tell them that it is so we can have the power to sign our own agreements and treaties, which sounds a bit abstract and seems quite theoretical. However, here we have the perfect example, and it is a fairly typical case: we want to be able to negotiate on our own behalf, in our own interests, instead of letting a government that does not see us as a priority do it for us.
Of course, in the short term, the government urgently needs to support the industry with a loan and loan guarantee program, to match the amounts being withheld by Washington. It is the only way to get through the crisis.
Ottawa could also argue for an exemption for timber from private forests. Although the vast majority, or 90%, of the timber harvest in Quebec comes from public forests, certain private forests are quite large and have real value in some regions, and therefore deserve our attention. The point to be made is quite simple. The Americans wag their finger at public forests, saying they do not respect the free market system and they benefit from hidden subsidies. Why, then, is timber from private forests, which I would point out is not subject to the Quebec regime, also subject to these new tariffs? This should be a very simple argument for our friends in government. It seems to me that it should be pretty easy to argue that.
Since the new duties do not apply to processed products, as my colleague from Jonquière mentioned earlier, this is a great opportunity to develop a value chain to promote the processing of forestry products. I think this presents a great opportunity for secondary and tertiary processing.
What does the government do? It tells us it is working very hard for all Canadians and that softwood lumber is a priority that it is, and I quote, “vigorously” defending.
Two weeks ago, the Prime Minister took part in the first three amigos trilateral summit in many, many years. Barely one week later, new softwood lumber tariffs were announced. Make of that what you will, but there is still a problem here. Tomorrow, the will be in Washington. Let us hope for better results.
Will the government take a firmer tone? Will it retaliate with measures on U.S. goods?
We will have to wait and see. We have yet to hear any real announcements. Empty buzzwords like “priority” and “vigour” have run their course. Now, a major industry—
Mr. Chair, I thank my colleague for his question and the opportunity to provide some details.
With respect to the benefits of forestry, we have seen some extremely innovative businesses. They are developing derivatives, wood-based bioproducts, rather than relying on yesterday's energy sources. I think that is one way forward along with other energy sources of the future.
We are a nationalist party. We are not against economic nationalism. There are issues we have to deal with on a continental and global basis, and the environment is one of them.
It took centuries for trees to develop. It is almost miraculous. All kinds of studies on trees show that their benefits are legion, ranging from oxygen to well-being. Some studies show that they improve well-being and create cool islands. Trees are all pro, no con. They supply us with extremely high-quality wood.
There is no doubt that the forestry industry has not always been up to snuff. I recall a film that made an impression in Quebec. It was called Forest Alert and was produced by Richard Desjardins, a great Quebec artist who is popular with all my Bloc Québécois colleagues.
Fortunately, things have changed, and this is a sign that social movements must continue to mobilize. Today, we have a great industry. We have a great sector that can always do better, of course, as long as it has the support of the public and a strategy, and political priorities are put in place.
Mr. Chair, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment. I have heard great things about your wisdom, and I look forward to working with you.
I will be sharing my time with the member for .
This is my first speech since being re-elected, and I want to thank the people of Timmins—James Bay. It is very moving to me that, in the first speech I give, I am speaking about an issue that is impacting our communities. I am thinking of the incredible community of Elk Lake and the mill workers there. The EACOM mill in Timmins has been taken over by Interfor. They are people with an open-door policy and they welcome me to the mill. I have visited with the workers and seen the production lines.
One of the things we learned from the long crisis with softwood lumber is that we lost so many mills in the north, along with the collapse of the paper industry: the loss of Smooth Rock Falls, the loss in Kirkland Lake and the huge loss of the Abitibi mill. However, the mills that survived became very efficient. Just this spring I was talking to representatives from EACOM, who said they were finally having a good year. They were finally starting to reinvest, and then they got hit with this. This is an issue that we have to address.
I am not going to attack my good friends over on the Conservative side, but their sense of history is, I find, a little strange. Yes, Stephen Harper signed a softwood lumber agreement, but he came in and threw out every WTO win that we had. We had won at the WTO time and time again, but then the agreement was that we would take a billion dollars' worth of subsidies that our industry had to pay, which should have come back to us, and give $500 million to competitive mills in the United States. Do members not think those mills thought that was a great idea, and that as soon as the softwood lumber agreement ended, they thought they would hit up Canadian companies for more money? The fact that our industries had to subsidize American competition shows how wrong this is. That is the history of this.
In six years, the current government has not negotiated the softwood agreement, and it has an effect. It has been a ticking time bomb. When the Biden administration came in, we knew it was going to take a hard line on job protection, and I do not hold that against it. I do not hold it against Joe Biden that he is standing up and saying he is going to fight for good union jobs. I have never heard the say that. I wish he would.
What worries me about the is that he is like the last of the Davos free traders. He believes that he and the can go to Davos and talk about this great international order where all the trading partners make agreements, but that is not what is happening. Around the world, countries are defending their own financial interests, and we have been left out in the cold. We saw it with the inability of our country to make PPE when we were hit with the pandemic, and our inability to make sure our people were safe with no investments in vaccines. Well, Brian Mulroney sold off our vaccine capacity, but the Prime Minister was going to trust in the international market. The Americans were investing in massive amounts of medical research during the pandemic so they would never be in that situation again. We were hoping for the best, and that is what we have been hoping for with softwood. We are hoping for the best, that everything will work out.
The and the went to Washington on November 17. This was going to be the big hug. The Prime Minister was going to do the schmooze charm. Seven days later, the Americans hammered us. What did the Prime Minister say that pissed them off so badly that within seven days, they doubled the tariffs on us? I am not sure the trade minister even mentioned softwood. We never heard any talk about it, but within seven days of their being there, we got hammered.
We know how the Americans are going to operate. We know where they stand, and we know how they will bend to their lobbyists and their vested interests in Washington. That is not news to us. The question is what we are going to do to stand up for our industry, our workers, the union jobs we need to defend in forestry and the auto sector, and the massive transformation we need to make in the energy markets. We have not heard that from the .
Now the Liberals are telling us it is complex. “Trust us. Trust us,” they say. The workers in Elk Lake, the workers in Timmins, the workers in Cochrane and the workers in Kapuskasing, in my region, are not going to trust. They want to see action.
Mr. Chair, as this is the first time I have been able to rise for a speech, I want to thank the residents of Windsor West, and I could not think of a more appropriate way to start this engagement.
My riding represents 40% of the daily trade that goes to the United States, between 30,000 vehicles and 10,000 trucks pre-COVID. It is returning to that level. As well, we date back to the underground railroad by which slaves escaped to our community of Windsor, across from Detroit. We were there for the War of 1812. We were there for times when Detroit came over to fight fires in Windsor, and during 9/11 we sent our firefighters there, so we are very much ingrained with U.S. culture and the U.S. economy. In fact, during COVID-19, around 2,000 health care professionals have gone over daily as essential workers to the United States, to serve in their hospitals as doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.
At the end of the day, we have a broken relationship with the United States. This is a part of the problems we are facing with softwood right now. Ironically, this June it will be 20 years since I first attended my original lobby as an MP with Pierre Pettigrew, the then minister of international trade. Down at the Canadian embassy we lobbied against softwood lumber tariffs for this country and this nation. Many times I have been down there as part of the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group, in a non-partisan fashion, to continue to push the issue.
However, the reality is that what we have seen over the last several years is a breaking down of that relationship, and it really is at the feet of the current government right now. It is going to take a conscious effort to reverse that course. We look at the situation with the USMCA, the CUSMA, the new NAFTA or whatever we want to call it, and the fact of the matter is that Canada was outnegotiated and outmanoeuvred even by Mexico in signing that agreement. The progressive forces, senators and congresspeople who I am very familiar with in the United States took note that Canada originally wanted an agreement that did not include the environment or labour. It was Mexico and the United States that added that component, and later on Canada had to come back to the table to ratify that change.
I can tell members there is a two-way breakdown here that is very succinct. A good example, though it might seem like a small one, is that Canada is negligent on our fisheries commission contribution, which is around seven to nine million dollars, to fight lampreys in the Great Lakes. We refuse to pay the bill.
We have ourselves wanted to build a nuclear waste facility off the Great Lakes, where the United States did not do it because Canada, under Joe Clark, asked that they not do that on the American side. We have a series of different issues that have emerged, and they were front and centre when, most recently, the government went down to the United States to push on EV vehicles. In fact, when we signed the original NAFTA, it hammered communities like mine, which actually lost the auto industry compared to what it used to have, because in the new NAFTA we lost the auto pact, a favourable trading position that was negotiated by previous governments.
They went down there, and when they came back I had never seen anything like that. As the member for noted, they actually got another repercussion, which previously was not even in their rear-view mirror, from what they could see or what they would admit. This is equivalent to rubbing the dog's nose in it. That is what took place. It is very significant and shows the breakdown we have, which has become more significant.
However, I do not want to stop without saying that with these tariffs we have to remember that they are jobs, families and value-added work that men and women have done. I know my whip just recently lost another plant in her riding, another mill that was closed. As New Democrats we have called for sectorial strategies for auto, the lumber industry, oil and gas and a series of different industries, so we are not dependent upon rip and ship. The negotiation tactics we have to push back against are buy America and other protectionist policies that are in the United States. They are part of their culture, and only if we develop our sectoral strategies will we have weight at the table to push back against this protectionism.
Mr. Chair, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I want to thank all hon. members gathered here this evening to discuss yet another unfair trade action against an industry that deserves much better from our American neighbours.
The softwood lumber industry is one of Canada's largest employers and has been throughout our history. It is woven in the sinews of our nation and a source of pride for Canadians. Many of the thousands of jobs are challenging and involve tough work in remote places, but the work is rewarding and contributes to the strength of Canada's middle class. It is especially vital to indigenous communities, whose relationship with our forests dates back centuries. Therefore, it is disheartening for these workers and their communities to face increased duty rates as part of the continuing, unfair and unwarranted U.S. trade action.
Our government is deeply disappointed and we have expressed our frustration to our American counterparts at the highest levels. I hope all members will work through interparliamentary forums and use any and all contacts we all have, whether through business, family or friendships, to make clear our position across the border. It is imperative that we take a team Canada approach. Our shared message today is that these are unfair duties that are bad for workers on both sides of the border and they have always led to higher U.S. housing construction costs, something that no economy in the world needs right now.
I can assure my colleagues that we have and will continue to vigorously defend our industry and its workers, and we are confident of success. Why? Because over decades, regardless of which party was in power, Canada has fought similar actions. These legal battles are expensive, lengthy and painful for vulnerable communities, yet trade tribunals have ruled consistently in our favour. While we are confident in our legal position, we must also do everything we can to help impacted communities, and our track record is strong.
During the height of the 2017 dispute, our federal government launched a task force with our provincial colleagues right across the country to consult on ways to defend the industry and its workers, and their respective communities as well. We followed that up with the $867 million softwood lumber action plan. It included market and product diversification initiatives and programs to assist affected workers. We have continued to invest in this industry.
In 2019, we renewed the forest sector competitiveness programs, an investment of $251 million over three years. These programs support market access and encourage innovation in order to create new opportunities for the sector. We have had numerous success stories, including many that have also advanced our federal government's robust plan to reach our 2030 and 2050 climate goals.
We are seeing tall buildings go up in B.C. and Quebec, built principally from wood fibre rather than steel and cement. Car part components made of wood are also making vehicles lighter and more fuel efficient. We believe Canada can capitalize on an emerging global bio-economy expected to reach $5 trillion annually by the end of the decade.
We have also made major investments to confront infestations of the mountain pine beetle, the spruce budworm and the emerald ash borer.
There are many other examples to illustrate how our government has defended this industry and its workers, and that should give all members and all Canadians the confidence that we will do so again.
Mr. Chair, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak about the actions that the government has been taking to support Canada's interests in the softwood lumber dispute with the United States.
First, as this is the first time I have risen in this 44th Parliament and, in fact, ever, I would like to start by thanking the constituents of Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill for sending me here and for putting their trust in me.
Despite some accusations to the contrary, I can assure members that we are continuously engaging with the Government of United States to convey the importance of a successful resolution to this dispute. We have been very clear that Canada believes a negotiated agreement with the United States is in both countries' best interests. However, we will only accept a deal that is in the best interests of our softwood lumber industry, our workers and our communities. A deal that protects Canadian jobs is a priority.
The United States has always relied on imports of Canadian lumber to fill the gap between its domestic production capacity and the demand for lumber. Imports from Canada have historically met about one-third of U.S. demand. U.S. consumers need our lumber to build homes and other projects. It is clear that imposing unjustified duties on such a large portion of U.S. consumption is counterproductive in combatting rising inflation and housing costs.
The U.S. National Association of Home Builders has highlighted that duties on Canadian lumber exacerbate already high lumber prices and directly increase costs to consumers. This is in direct contradiction to the United States' goal of increasing housing affordability. The association is able to see a solution to this problem that evidently the United States government has not yet realized.
A negotiated settlement that brings stability and predictability to the softwood lumber industry is the best outcome for everyone involved. Unfortunately, the U.S. lumber industry encourages the U.S. administration to refrain from engaging meaningfully in negotiations, preferring the continued disruption to lumber supply caused by these duties, to the detriment of U.S. consumers and our workers. Nevertheless, our government has been persistent in encouraging the United States to return to the negotiating table to find a mutually acceptable agreement.
The entire government is involved in this effort. The has personally raised Canada's concerns with President Biden on many occasions. The recently raised the issue with U.S. Secretary of State, and senior Canadian officials, including our ambassador to the United States, are in constant contact with our U.S. counterparts.
The has taken a strong lead on these efforts. Earlier this week, she spoke with her counterpart, the U.S. trade representative, to discuss softwood lumber among many other important trade issues. The Minister of International Trade is actually in Washington, D.C., as we speak, where she will again work to advocate for Canadians and build partnerships with like-minded Americans.
As with all Canada-U.S. trade irritants, we fundamentally believe that a win-win solution is possible. It serves neither Canadians nor Americans to put up unjustifiable trade barriers that harm our mutual prosperity. At the same time, the government will continue to vigorously defend Canada's softwood lumber industry and will stand up for our forestry workers and communities in every way possible.
Mr. Chair, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
While I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today, it is unfortunate that we are here late tonight having this take-note debate on softwood lumber as a result of the Liberal government’s continued mismanagement of our relationship with the United States.
Softwood lumber is a critical industry across the country, particularly in my home province of British Columbia and in the Okanagan. Workers in ths sector have been looking for certainty and stability through the finalization of a new softwood lumber agreement. The last softwood agreement, negotiated and signed by a previous Conservative government, expired in October 2015.
Despite the Liberal pledging to negotiate a new agreement after the Liberals formed government, six years, four trade ministers and three different U.S. administrations later we are still waiting. The Liberals also failed to negotiate softwood into CUSMA.
Last February, because of my role at the time as shadow minister for international trade, I led, on behalf of our Conservative caucus, the forming of a special committee on Canada-US economic relations, as there were so many serious issues the Liberals were mismanaging. The softwood lumber sector had seen thousands of people lose their jobs.
Despite the touting his relationship with the U.S. administration and President Biden, that same administration has now formally announced a doubling of tariffs for our softwood lumber sector. Our relationship is strained, and instead of moving softwood lumber issues forward, they have gone backward.
The 's inaction on getting a new softwood agreement with the U.S. is devastating for small businesses and workers in forestry. My community has seen this first-hand. Kelowna-Lake Country used to have a thriving forestry sector, with good jobs and many in the community relying on its success. However, uncertainty and poor market conditions led to over 200 people in my community losing their good jobs at the mill over the course of two years, and the final blow was the mill closure in 2020, a mill which had operated and supported families for over 80 years.
Close to 10,000 businesses, large and small, provide services across the value chain for the forestry sector in British Columbia. They rely on the sector thriving to make their payrolls, employ workers and reinvest in their communities.
Despite the U.S. announcing its plans to increase countervailing duties on softwood lumber last May, we have seen no concrete evidence that the Liberals made any effort in that time to convince the U.S. that these duties are unjust. The Liberals had five months to act, and what we saw in that time is they were prioritizing an unnecessary election instead of acting for Canadian forestry workers this summer. On top of this, our supply chains with the U.S. are integrated, and this uncertainty has led to higher pricing, which ultimately leads to higher construction costs.
The Conservatives have pressed the Liberals to act time and time again. Last spring, when the U.S. announced its intent to double softwood tariffs, my Conservative colleagues and I called an emergency meeting of the international trade committee to hear what actions the had taken and was planning to take to stop these countervailing duties from happening. What we got instead was the trade minister unable to tell us of any action she had taken, not even whether she had met with U.S. counterparts following the countervailing duty announcement or whether she had discussed it with the ambassador to the U.S.
When I asked the last spring why she was not acting on U.S. plans to double softwood duties, she said she was disappointed that the U.S. was doing this. These are comments she has made again. In a readout of a meeting the trade minister had with her U.S. counterpart yesterday, she once again said that she voiced her disappointment.
Being disappointed is not equivalent to taking action. If I were to tell a B.C. forestry worker not to worry as the has expressed her disappointment to the U.S. administration on softwood duties, I highly doubt they would find that overly reassuring. Being disappointed will not magically resolve the softwood dispute.
We need to see concrete action from the and the Liberal government to get a new softwood agreement. Our forestry sector depends on this, and it is time the Liberal government takes this seriously, as it is part of our country’s economic recovery.
Madam Chair, the U.S. and Canada share the world's longest international border and have been allies for more than 150 years. This past year, the has been concerned with cross-border relations. He has been concerned with electric vehicle production and border carbon adjustments. He has been concerned with climate change in his own country, and he has not been very concerned with the softwood timber dispute.
President Biden does not have much respect for our because former prime minister Brian Mulroney got deals done. Liberal prime ministers after him got deals done, and former prime minister Stephen Harper was actually managing to get exemptions for Atlantic Canada. Under the current Liberal government, New Brunswick, Atlantic Canada and all of Canada are facing more than double the tariffs that we were already struggling with.
The Obama administration sent the Department of Commerce into a deep dive to determine how the United States could get something they wanted and how the country of Canada could not get something it wanted. The basic rules of friendship are to respect each other. This is an over 150-year relationship. We are two nations that have always managed to get something that is in the best interests of their nations.
Right now the United States has no respect for our country because our is weak on the international stage. This is part of the problem we are facing right now. The Clintons gave the a nice endorsement at election time knowing how easy it would be for the Americans and their buy America campaign. Everyone worried about President Trump and talked about how bad Republicans were. This started under President Obama, and it has been doubled twice, now again under President Biden. This is actually a liberal agenda stemming from the United States, which our Liberal government here has no impact to counter.
The forestry sector is crucial in New Brunswick, as it employs thousands of New Brunswickers. The government must stand by lumber producers for our communities. It has not been able to do it. The evidence is very clear. I have three or four mills in my constituency and many communities benefit. My father was a logger. My grandfather was a contractor. The forestry industry runs deep in my blood. There are a total of 24,000 jobs and the sawmill sector alone in New Brunswick is the foundation of those jobs.
Tonight, I heard Liberal members across the floor standing up in total hypocrisy talking about how they are going to prevail. Where have they been when right now the evidence is that they have failed not once, but twice. Now we are expected to believe they are going to prevail. They are not going to be able to prevail because the is failing on the intern