VICTORIA – British Columbia premier-designate John Horgan said he spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday about the softwood trade dispute with the United States and he is planning meetings in Ottawa and Washington, D.C.
Horgan, who will head a minority NDP government, said he expected the meeting with Trudeau will happen before the recall of B.C.’s legislature, now expected shortly after Labour Day.
“We talked about housing,” he said. “We talked about transit. We talked about fentanyl and softwood. Nothing’s more important in a forest-dependent community than getting a deal for softwood lumber. I want to help his team get a positive result for B.C.”
The U.S. Department of Commerce announced in April preliminary countervailing duties against five Canadian companies ranging between three and 24 per cent, with other producers facing a tariff of 19.88 per cent.
Earlier this month, the U.S. announced anti-dumping duties at an average rate of around 10 per cent, which are added on to the previous duties.
Countervailing duties target what the U.S. considers unfair Canadian subsidies, while anti-dumping tariffs go after the alleged selling of softwood below market value. Canadian analysts say the U.S. is talking a tough approach to softwood prior to NAFTA talks set for August
Last year, B.C.’s forest industry accounted for $14 billion in exports, 35 per cent of all B.C. goods exported. Forestry directly employs more than 60,000 people in over 140 communities around the province.
B.C. is Canada’s largest producer of softwood lumber accounting for about half of overall production.
Horgan said he’ll head from that meeting in Ottawa down to Washington, where he also plans to advocate for the province in the softwood dispute. He promised during May’s election campaign to travel to Washington within 30 days of becoming premier.
Horgan said he and Trudeau stuck to their common interests in the conversation and the contentious topic of the federally approved Kinder Morgan pipeline project was avoided in their first conversation.
“We agreed there are going to be issues that emerge we don’t agree on,” said Horgan.
Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who is also a New Democrat, issued statements congratulating Horgan, whose New Democrats and three Green party members toppled B.C.’s Liberal government in a non-confidence vote on Thursday.
Horgan promised during last month’s election campaign to use every tool available to stop the expansion of the Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline, which had been approved by Christy Clark’s government.
The prime minister and Alberta premier avoided the touchy subject of the pipeline in their statements.
“I look forward to working closely with premier-designate Horgan to deliver real results on the issues that matter to British Columbians and to all Canadians,” Trudeau said.
“By coming together in a spirit of co-operation, I am confident that we can grow the industries and sectors at the heart of the province’s prosperity, while promoting clean growth and innovation and investing in public transit and green infrastructure.”
Green Leader Andrew Weaver, who has agreed on a legislative agenda to prop up Horgan’s minority government, said he spoke with the NDP leader on Friday about recalling the legislature in September.
“We’re totally supportive of coming back after Labour Day,” Weaver said
Horgan said he wants to be sworn in as premier and announce his cabinet as soon as possible in the weeks ahead. He said it was unlikely that he would be at a premiers’ conference to be held in Edmonton in mid-July.