NEWS: NDP'S Julian grills Emerson at Trade Committee hearings on softwood sell-out

OTTAWA – At today's emergency meeting of the Standing Committee on International trade, NDP Trade Critic Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster) held International Trade Minister David Emerson to account on the failings of the contentious US-Canada softwood agreement.

“What we saw today was a display by the Minister of his government’s utter helplessness in the face of US interests," said Julian. "Canada was in the final stages of decisive litigation with the US – cases we were going to win – and this government suspended that litigation for quick political gain and a photo-op with George Bush.

“This deal is bad for the Canadian industry who want the return of the full $5.3 billion in illegal tariffs that have been taken by the US, it’s bad for those lumber communities that have collapsed without help or loan guarantees from this federal government, and it’s bad for Canadian lumber and mill workers for whom it will mean the end to any sort of economic security or growth for their communities because as Minister Emerson himself admits, the Americans can bail on this deal at any time.”

Minister Responsible for the Forestry Secretariat, Eldon Lautermilch from the province of Saskatchewan was the first of several witnesses representing both provinces and industry who came to Ottawa to voice their strong concerns about this deal and the negative impact it will have on their constituents and employees.

“We heard Minister Lautermilch tell us how this deal will mean thousands of jobs lost in his province alone,” said Julian. “Trevor Wakelin of the Alberta Softwood Lumber Trade Council noted that the overwhelming majority of his province’s industry representatives want to see litigation continue, and Quebec’s Carl Grenier of the Free Trade Lumber Council told us that this deal is, ’the worst commercial deal the Government of Canada has ever signed.’ He went on to ask why the government would sign a deal that could ultimately leave us open to endless litigation without the protection of Chapter 19 of NAFTA, which this deal will nullify.

“The testimony we heard today only confirms that this is a bad deal resulting from utterly botched negotiations.”

The committee was recalled again this week after the adoption of an NDP motion, to discuss the Harper-Bush agreement.