Softwood capitulation: Not the final word

One more for the softwood file: a commentary by Gordon Gibson from the Globe last week. Gibson regularly flies the flag of the ultra-right wing Fraser Institute but I generally find him to be an interesting commentator on many issues, even when I disagree with him. Perhaps it is because he has real life experience in politics, unlike the ideological robots who are paid to do the Fraser’s grunt work.

The ‘Softwood Sellout Agreement’ is not the final word

Eat a lot of crow, convince us we should walk away from a billion dollars, or face a dangerous election issue? These are the unattractive choices facing the Harper government after a huge lumber industry victory in the U.S. Court of International Trade (CIT) last Friday.

That court ruled we are entitled to the return of every penny of the $5.3-billion of illegally imposed duties on our softwood exports over the years, as well as free entry of our products. But in the recent “Softwood Sellout Agreement,” Ottawa said it would forgo $1-billion of the total duties owed it and agreed to a new border charge as high as 22.5 per cent.

The vague public impression is that we had to do what amounts to a bad deal because the Yankee bully had us on the ropes and would simply keep changing the rules until we capitulated. That is what our government would like us to believe — but it is not true.

The true story is one of duplicity on both sides of the border. The Americans, naturally, were conspiring against our industry. But in a weird twist, our government has been helping them. To understand this requires looking at two tracks.

There is the legal track, which our industry has been following for five years. As of this spring, we had won near-final victories under NAFTA and in the CIT. By last summer, the duties would have been gone with the money-return order soon to be achieved.

… So now we have those ongoing duties and a gutted NAFTA, plus supervision of much of our forest law by Washington. Kind of makes you proud to be an allegedly sovereign Canadian, doesn’t it?But there are still potholes on this road of shame. The legal situation remains murky and our industry may yet manage to exploit it. And a guaranteed way out lies in the Canadian Senate.

The tax legislation required to implement the Sellout Agreement requires consent of the Liberal-dominated Senate. That body should hold the necessary hearings to reveal the whole rotten story. A Senate defeat of the agreement would force an election on the issue. Good idea. Forestry and sovereign self-respect are so basic it would be a fitting topic.

The Fraser Institute is not cited in Gibson’s byline for this article. Interestingly, the Fraser Institute, which does not think much of the Canadian sovereignty Gibson alludes to, called this week for greater energy integration with the US.

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