Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Does this mean we get our billion dollars back?

Troubling news on the softwood lumber front. You remember that fantastic deal Steve Harper got us by giving away over $1 billion in illegally collected tariffs to the Americans? Apparently, he did as good a job of “fixing” that one as he did ending the long, tired era of federal/provincial bickering:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States asked for binding arbitration against Canada on Wednesday in the latest flare-up of a two-decade-long dispute over softwood lumber.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said the United States "has no choice but to initiate arbitration proceedings to compel Canada to live up to its SLA (Softwood Lumber Agreement) obligations."

The agreement, reached last fall, was intended to end years of wrangling over Canada's shipment of softwood lumber to U.S. buyers. It also allows binding arbitration under the rules of the London Court of International Arbitration, a commercial mediation body.

The Liberal Party’s international trade critic, Navdeep Bains, weighs-in:

"The Conservatives have repeatedly said that the softwood lumber deal was better than litigation," said Mr. Bains. "Yet we now hear that the U.S. is taking Canada to court."

"Thanks to a bad deal that left $500 million in the hands of the American lumber industry to fund legal and political attacks against the Canadian industry we are facing a situation where Canada's ability to assist its forestry sector could be curtailed by a court in London with no possibility to appeal the decision," said Mr. Bains.

"It is now time for the Conservatives to admit what the Liberal Party has been saying since the deal was first announced last year: that their deal is flawed and that it has solved nothing," said Mr. Bains.

No wonder Harper strategists were planning on a spring election. His carefully doctored image as a straight-shooter that gets results is collapsing like a house of cards, along with CPC polling numbers.

From the start, Harper’s softwood strategy was more about politics, showing we could get a deal, any deal, when the Liberals couldn’t, then it was about getting a good deal for Canadian industry. He and David Emerson (remember him?) signed a bad deal that gave away a over billion dollars in illegally collected tariffs and had to bully and browbeat the industry to drop their legal challenges.

Some value-added manufacturers even saw the U.S. market closed to them by the Harper “deal.”

And now here we are again, back in court with the U.S. and likely in a weaker position.

Bravo, Mr. Harper. Bravo.

P.S. For a quick and informative softwood primer, Rick Mercer has Everything you've always wanted to know about softwood, but were afraid to ask.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers


northwestern_lad said...

Hmmmm... this is the pot calling the kettle black, as it was Liberal MP's, including Liberal MP's from forestry ridings who voted with the Conservatives to avoid a leaderless election. I guess that the deal didn't seem so bad then, right??? If it was so bad then, when didn't the Liberals vote with Opposition to defeat this deal??? That's right, Liberal self-interest.

First Rule of the Liberal Party of Canada: - Look out for Liberals - 2nd rule: Refer back to the first rule.

Monkey Loves to Fight said...

The deal was a lousy one and although considering how the United States likes to flaunt the rules and act like a bully, I think getting a decent deal would be tough, but signing a lousy deal is no solution. And if the Americans would break NAFTA, what made Harper think they would honour this deal. The real solution is to diversify our trade and to even consider possibly forming an alliance with the EU and Japan whereby we agree to support them in retaliation in their trade disputes if they support us in ours. Japan and the EU on our side would make them take notice as these two powers are large enough to have an impact.

Olaf said...


I'm gonna have to go ahead and dispute your portrayal of the deal as "giving away" $1B dollars to the Americans. They already had the money, right? Along with another $4B or so. You can't give someone something they've already taken.

Furthermore, the US lost court case after court case, and shockingly, didn't return a single penny, let alone the full $5B that the brave Liberals were so steadfastly holding out for.

I know it's good spin to call it "giving away" money, but if we're going to use the English language as it was intended, it was quite clearly "getting money back", and $4B more than litigation ever won us. Personally, I think that this was the worst deal possible, except for all the other possibilities.

Now, that said, you can certainly argue that Harper didn't get a good enough deal, or that perhaps if we took them to court again this time they'd listen, or that we should have set up retaliatory tarrifs or whatever. That's fine, and you might have a strong argument (I haven't seen one yet, but you might have one). But just don't completely mangle the English language along the way.

Jeff said...


Since I'm not a Liberal MP, and I have consistently opposed the Harper deal and urged it to be voted down, I'm neither a pot or a kettle.

I'd rather they have voted it down, but I guess they wanted to avoid an election, since Harper made it a confidence measure. In a minority government all parties have had to make these unfortunate decisions on confidence measures, and to single out one party -- well, now the pot and kettle would come back in.


I stand-by the use of the word giveaway. You can argue the odds of the money coming back if you like, and there were other avenues we could explore there but it's a whole other debate, but nevertheless the word still applies.

But while its wordier, if you like I'd agree to substitute giveaway with "sanctioning the illegal collection and non-return of $1 billion now being used to drag our beleaguered industry back before the courts, further jeopardizing thousands of forestry jobs and many forestry-dependent communities."

Olaf said...


I would prefer that phrasing, yes, thank you. :)

A View From The Left said...

NWLad - it was actually the Bloc and not the Liberals who voted with the Conservatives for the deal. The Liberals despite being "leaderless" voted against it.


Jeff said...

Ohh, right you are Miranda, thanks for that. That'll teach me to not double check these things...