There is no rest for the wicked or the parliamentarian. PoliticsWatch reports the international trade committee has been recalled, after calls from the NDP to do so, to discuss the softwood lumber deal with the US. The recall comes amid heavy and prolonged attacks on the deal by both provincial governments and the private sector, neither of which like the 23-month escape clause or the fact that the US industry gets to keep $1 billion dollars in Canadian tariffs paid over the past four years.
For his part, Minister of International Trade David Emerson maintains that the deal guarantees three dispute-free years of trade at a minimum and that $300+ million per year is a fair price to pay for that. (I’m not sure how the three years he referred to equates to the 23 month escape clause, so I’ll just leave off without niggling.) Several of the larger Canadian operations have launched costly court action against the US government to recover their tariff dollars, all of them, and are unwilling to give up on the lost dollars for two or three years of trade “stability”. If the seven-year deal actually was seven years long, there might be less opposition to it, but that’s not the case.
The deal is set to come into effect October 1 and the Conservative government would dearly love to have all
opposition details ironed out of it by then. So much so that Harper has pulled out the hammer and threatened that the issue will be considered one of confidence in Parliament, thus triggering an election should it fail. Why not? Having defended Rona Ambrose’s job using the same tactic in the spring, he has already demonstrated that the Liberals are scared to go to election until their leader is chosen in 2112, so the deal should be as good as done, at least from Parliament’s standpoint.
It remains to be seen what industry will do, but for now it doesn’t look likely that trade peace is going to be the product of a summer of love.