Making threats of trade retaliation during an election campaign is not the way to respond to the latest U.S. import duty on Canadian lumber, NDP leader John Horgan says.
Horgan was responding to B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark’s vow that she is prepared to place a carbon levy on all thermal coal exports from B.C. in response to a 20 per cent preliminary duty on B.C. lumber.
Speaking at a shut-down sawmill in Merritt on Tuesday, Horgan said action against U.S. coal shipments brought up by train to B.C.’s coal port in Delta “is in the range of options” B.C. should consider. He repeated his accusation that Clark’s government didn’t act until the last softwood lumber agreement with the U.S. had expired more than a year ago.
“We also have the Columbia River treaty that’s currently under negotiation, there are agricultural exchanges that we have as well as energy,” Horgan said. “There’s a whole host of issue, but a week before election day, I believe, is not the time to rattle sabres. I believe what the premier is doing is irresponsible.”
Horgan said if he is elected premier May 9, he will go to Washington D.C. within 30 days to make B.C.’s lumber case to U.S. officials.
Clark’s proposed $70-per-tonne levy on thermal coal would also be applied to shipments from Alberta and Saskatchewan, which go to Asia through Prince Rupert port. U.S. thermal coal, barred from export by Washington, Oregon and California, makes up the vast majority of B.C.’s thermal coal export volume.
Speaking in Fort McMurray Wednesday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said she does not believe B.C. has the authority to prevent Alberta commodities from being shipped through federally regulated rail and port facilities.
Horgan repeated his call for logs from the B.C. coast to be shipped to the Interior to make up for the pine beetle damage that led Tolko to close its Merritt sawmill, displacing 200 employees.
Horgan appeared with Fraser-Nicola NDP candidate Harry Lali, who denounced the NDP’s opposition to industrial projects after he lost the seat in the 2013 election.
Horgan reiterated his opposition to the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion through the B.C. Interior to its port in Burnaby, which has put him at odds with Notley’s efforts to see the pipeline completed.