Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Harper Shows Decisive Leadership - Softwood Lumber

Edmonton Sun Editorial

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his team pulled off quite the coup by reaching a solution with Washington last week on the decades-long exhausting softwood lumber dispute.

Under the new seven-year agreement, Canadian lumber companies will get back $4 billion of the $5 billion the U.S. imposed on duties on our softwood exports.

It's true that in future, Canadian softwood exports will be limited to 34% of the $10-billion U.S. market, but at least we have a guarantee of that market share without fear of new sanctions.

Over the past decade, hundreds of Canadian workers have lost their jobs and smaller companies have fallen victim to the sanctions and shut down operations.

Now there'll be long-term stability, and the industry will know the rules of the game.

Evidence of just how hard-won a fight this was came at the 11th hour, when Canadian negotiators were still trying to pull the governments of B.C., Ontario and Quebec onside and their U.S. counterparts were still trying to sell it to their special interest groups.

Politically, this is a coup similar to Harper's astonishing visit to shake hands with our men and women in uniform on the front lines in Afghanistan.

Perhaps that's why interim Liberal Leader Bill Graham and NDP Leader Jack Layton feign such outrage.

Graham's arm-waving stance is a charade. For the best part of the 13 year Jean Chretien-Paul Martin era, the Liberals tried to negotiate a solution with Washington and failed.

Layton charged that Harper has settled for 80 cents on the dollar.

Perhaps the NDP leader would rather have 100% of nothing than 80% of $5 billion. If so, he better try explaining that to the working men and women who depend on the softwood lumber industry for their livelihoods.

Another winner is beleaguered International Trade Minister David Emerson, who crossed the floor to join the Conservatives within days of being re-elected as a Liberal MP in Vancouver. Emerson can now ask his constituents whether they prefer a representative at the Harper cabinet table or not.

Harper's growing friendship and influence with President George W. Bush was obviously the final key to bringing this controversy to a close.

The Liberals insulted Bush at every touch and turn. The Conservatives know this is not the way to get results from the Americans. Winning is what it is all about.

Harper has done more in his almost three months in power than Martin did in almost two years.

This lumber deal is what leadership looks like.

My Comment - The liberals did nothing on the softwood countervail issue since it started in 2000, since then dozens of mills closed and the Canadian softwood sector took a huge hit. The liberals did not support the industry with loan guarantees(but they had money for a $2 billion useless gun registry)

Harper is getting the best deal for the softwood industry, and because of the liberals inaction, the industry had to take this deal because they are in desperate economic times. Is this the best outcome possible? No, but its sure better than anything we've seen from the liberals in 6 years.


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