Alistair asks question about duties and tariffs



Mr. Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, NDP): 

    Madam Speaker, I rise today to follow up on a question I raised in the House of Commons on February 26 of this year. I also had a follow-up question on March 19. The question has to do with the unfair duties and tariffs that have been imposed on the Catalyst Paper Corporation and some pulp and paper operations across Canada. This has affected my particular riding quite severely because of the fact that we have a large mill in the Crofton area, which is a great small community in my riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.

    When I raised this issue on February 26, I noted the fact that earlier in the year, on January 8, the Department of Commerce in the United States had imposed a 6.09% countervailing duty deposit on exports of uncoated groundwood paper products. This was followed up in March by a 22.16% anti-dumping duty deposit on the company's exports of the same product.

     When we add both of those up, Catalyst simply cannot survive with those duties, nor can any company. Indeed, it is putting many American consumers at risk, because the cost of newsprint has now skyrocketed. The U.S. cannot meet its own demand.

     If these duties remain, the Crofton mill stands to lose hundreds of good-paying, union jobs, and the benefits of the resource industry that forms the bedrock of regional economies.

    I will outline a few points on what Catalyst means to my local community of Crofton.

    Catalyst Paper Corporation is BC Hydro's largest consumer. If that company were to fold or have any of its operations shut down, it would be a huge loss to provincial revenues in BC Hydro. Catalyst is also a big consumer of waste fibre from local saw mills. In fact, many saw mills depend on Catalyst for a source of revenue, but also as a place where their “waste” can be turned into a value-added product.

    The Catalyst mill employs about 570 people, and it pays millions of dollars in municipal taxes to the district of North Cowichan.

     This mill that produces about 350,000 tonnes of newsprint each year. It is quite incredible in what it does.

    Both by the company and Premier John Horgan in British Columbia have raised concerns about the softwood lumber action plan. In fact, Premier Horgan wrote to the Prime Minister last month. He noted that there was confusion on how to access the program. There was concern that the nature of the programs did not offer support in time to shield against the impact of tariffs. In fact, when I was speaking directly with the leadership of Catalyst, it told me that the current softwood lumber agreement aid package was of “no value” to it.

    I go back to the question I raised in February and again in March. What specifically is the government doing with these onerous and unfair tariffs? I would like to have specifics that I can take back to not only the company, but also to the many constituents who depend on this mill. We really want to know that Canada is standing up for this mill and is doing everything it can. I hope the parliamentary secretary can spell that out for me tonight.


Mr. Jonathan Wilkinson (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Lib.): 

    Madam Speaker, the Department of Commerce's decision on supercalendered paper did not comply with the NAFTA panel's decision. We have therefore requested that a NAFTA panel review the determination by the Department of Commerce, and we will be challenging this decision on the World Trade Organization rules. We will always defend our industry and its workers against protectionist trade practices.

    I would like to thank the member from Cowichan—Malahat—Langford for raising this issue. Our government was deeply disappointed by the U.S. Department of Commerce's decision to impose preliminary anti-dumping and countervailing duties on imports of Canadian uncoated groundwood paper.

    British Columbia's forestry products industry is vital to the province and to the communities and workers it supports. Is it important that they have a federal government that is willing to stand up and fight for them, and I would like to reassure my colleague, and reassure those workers, that our government is doing exactly that.

     We have repeatedly raised with the United States how unjustified and unfair these punitive duties are. Not only that, but they will have a direct and negative impact on U.S. newspapers, especially those in small cities and towns, and will result in job losses in the American printing sector. These duties are not in the interest of Canadians or Americans.

     These investigations are an unwarranted use of the U.S. trade remedy system by a single company, North Pacific Paper, which operates one mill in Washington State. It is not right that one company should cause economic hardship to the whole forest products industry on both sides of the border.

     We are making this point directly with U.S. interlocutors. We are particularly aware of the fact that Catalyst, the source of 1,200 jobs in small communities such as Crofton, Powell River, and Port Alberni, is facing high preliminary rates. Our government is working closely with the Canadian companies targeted by these investigations, such as Catalyst. We are arguing our points directly with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission as part of the ongoing process.

    Canada's forest industry sustains good, middle-class jobs and provides economic opportunities for rural and indigenous communities across our country. As such, our government is very much committed to helping our forest industry enhance existing trade relationships and diversify trade with new international markets. We are also working with the affected provinces, very much including B.C., to discuss options to assist exporters facing preliminary duties.

     We will continue working to advance the interests of the Canadian forest industry to protect those good, middle-class jobs in so many communities across the country.


Mr. Alistair MacGregor: 

    Madam Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's words. However, I go back to the points I raised in my speech: the fact that Premier Horgan's letter to the Prime Minister mentioned that there is confusion on how to access the softwood lumber action plan and that there is a concern that the nature of the programs will not offer support in time to shield against the impact of tariffs. I also have correspondence saying that the current structure is of no help to Catalyst.

    Again, how is the parliamentary secretary's government going to address these specific concerns so that Catalyst can access these programs while we wait for a final determination in August of this year?


Mr. Jonathan Wilkinson: 

    Madam Speaker, we are working very actively with the relevant provinces, and very much with British Columbia, with Minister Donaldson and Premier Horgan, on a file that is very important to all British Columbians. Both of us are actually members of Parliament from British Columbia.

   The U.S. International Trade Commission will make its final injury determination at the end of the summer, and we are forcefully defending Canada's interests at the ITC. The only right course of action is for the U.S. ITC to make a negative finding and for the U.S. Department of Commerce to revise its final determination and remove fully and entirely these duties.

    I can assure the member that our government will continue to actively participate in the U.S. investigation, working with our forest industry, provinces and territories, and communities across Canada. We are working very actively with provincial governments, including Premier Horgan, to defend this vital sector against unfair and unwarranted U.S. trade measures and practices.