The softwood lumber dispute has all the great elements for a political showdown: clash of Canadian and American values, David vs. Goliath, a resource-rich land vs. a powerful protectionist land.
It feels like a game of chicken, with the president of the United States driving headlong towards Canada’s car and Premier Christy Clark pumping the gas back. Dairy was the first rev of the engine, softwood lumber picked up the speed and now the BC government is shifting into fifth gear with a proposal to ban U.S. thermal coal from B.C.’s ports in retaliation. Clark stated her government has considered the request for some time but did not want to provoke the U.S. president while softwood lumber talks were underway.
Naturally, all the political leaders have jumped in to add their two cents. It is an international affair seemingly custom-made for election time. Each cites their party is the best to handle the mess and that the other is making poor decisions, thereby jeopardizing the softwood lumber industry and the jobs potentially at stake.
This issue magnifies the problem with provincial politics. As it’s election time, the badmouthing seems amped up to full volume. But on any given day in B.C., on any given issue, the major parties spend more time saying what the other one’s doing wrong than focusing on how to fix the problem collectively as a province.
Right now, we have a major industry under attack by the U.S. B.C’s forestry industry accounted for more than $14 billion in exports in 2016, with more than 60,000 people employed in over 140 communities around the province. That is a lot of jobs affected if this game of chicken continues. Wouldn’t it be better to drop the curtain on the political show and, instead, work collectively to come to an agreement?
For the sake of more than 60,000 British Columbians, let’s hope the best and brightest in our province can help achieve a positive softwood lumber deal instead of worrying about what side of the house they sit on or what colour the campaign sign is that sits on their lawn.