MP Report by Jay Hill, M.P.

Canada?s lumber industry has been vindicated! So why is the federal Liberal government of Paul Martin behaving as though we?re the losers?

After years of litigation, job losses and sacrifice by this industry, Canadian workers and their families, the United States lost yet another international trade ruling when the Extraordinary Challenge Committee of the North American Free Trade Agreement ruled Canadian softwood lumber imports did not pose a threat of material injury to the U.S. Softwood Industry.

That ruling proves the $5-billion dollars in duties the U.S. imposed upon Canadian softwood over the past three years were illegal and the money should be returned immediately. Make no mistake ? because I can?t use any stronger language in a family publication, I?ll just say I?m ?ticked-off? at the Americans for ignoring the ruling. By refusing to end the duties and return those collected, Washington has put in jeopardy the entire NAFTA deal and demonstrated an arrogance that must be challenged ? strongly.

Yet, instead of unequivocally demanding the U.S. comply with this international ruling, the Martin government shocked the entire softwood industry by offering to ?negotiate?! What is there to negotiate?! We won. The Americans lost. The U.S. government was likely astounded at their luck ? the Canadian federal government actually helped them to undermine and discredit a decisive legal ruling against them!

By the time the Martin government reversed its position and called-off any negotiations, a monumental victory for the Canadian softwood lumber industry had become shrouded in confusion.

Along with my caucus colleagues, I began calling for the federal Liberals to straighten out this softwood lumber mess with the Americans long before the Canada-U.S. Softwood Lumber Agreement expired at the end of March 2001. The Liberals did nothing. They told an entire industry and the other industries and Canadian workers that depend upon it to wait and to trust a series of international trade bodies to do what?s right for Canada.

In the meantime, the federal Liberals never made the softwood dispute a priority. Never demonstrated to the U.S. that this was a grave matter of utmost importance to Canadians and their government.

I will by no means excuse Washington for blatantly defying this last ruling, but given the careless attitude of the Canadian Liberal government towards this file throughout the past decade and a wave of petty anti-American insults from senior Liberal cabinet ministers, is it any wonder the U.S. isn?t taking this ruling seriously?

It?s not too late however. The Prime Minister has a duty to demonstrate the significance of this ruling now and the importance of the entire Canada-U.S. softwood dispute by immediately calling U.S. President George Bush. Mr. Martin needs to make some waves in Washington. Instead, he?s been silent. No calls to the White House. No fuss. No progress. No plan. Before he took over the reins of power from his predecessor, Jean Chretien; Prime Minister Paul Martin promised to improve Canada?s relationship with the U.S. A. Yet another, promise made?promise broken!