B.C. taps former cabinet minister as trade envoy on softwood lumber

Ex-minister is B.C. trade rep on softwood lumber

VICTORIA — A former federal cabinet minister has been appointed the B.C. government’s trade envoy to try and reach a new softwood lumber deal with the United States.

The province says David Emerson will also work with the federal government to get a new agreement.

Emerson served in a number of federal cabinet portfolios for the Liberals and Conservatives including industry, foreign affairs and trade.

As trade minister, Emerson signed the last softwood lumber agreement in 2006, ending the fourth Canada-U.S. lumber dispute.

He also worked as CEO of lumber producer Canfor, which the province says gives him a “broad base of knowledge to defend B.C.’s forest policies” when negotiating with the U.S.

Industry advocates and the provincial government have said they will try to convince American consumers and politicians that a fair softwood lumber deal is necessary to protect the U.S. from import restrictions and higher prices.

Susan Yurkovich, president of the B.C. Lumber Trade Council, has warned that restrictions on Canada’s lumber supply would cause house prices in the U.S. to spike, pushing home ownership out of the reach of some Americans.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark said securing a new agreement matters to people across the province, particularly those who work in the forestry industry.

“Defending those jobs for British Columbians is our absolute priority,” she said at a news conference on Tuesday after the government’s throne speech.

Clark said Emerson will part of a team that is making sure B.C.’s case is “well-known and wisely argued” to the new U.S. administration.

“He is probably the most skillful and knowledgeable person in this area that we could send down to the States on our behalf,” she said.

Emerson said in a statement that he’s excited about his new post.

“I am looking forward to working collaboratively with the B.C. lumber industry and Canadian ambassador to the U.S.A., David MacNaughton, as we defend B.C. companies, workers and communities against the false subsidy allegations made by the U.S. lumber industry,” he said.

The Canadian Press