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Softwood Lumber’s cut of federal budget a ‘slap in the face;’ MP Doherty

Cariboo — Prince George MP Todd Doherty is livid about the lack of sufficient funding for the forestry industry in the 2017 federal budget.

This year’s budget – Building a Strong Middle Class – the government promises to build on 2016’s, four-year, $1 billion investment to support “clean technology, including in the forestry, fisheries, mining, energy, and agriculture sectors.” This year, the government plans to expand on that by funding innovative companies, supporting research and development, and establishing new ways of measuring success like “increasing the workforce participation of women in this sector.” However, it doesn’t name the forestry sector directly.

Deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition Denis Lebel confronted the government in the legislature Thursday.

“Rural areas and forestry areas have been abandoned by this government. They’re going to have to fight with high technology sectors to get money for the development when all Canadians depend on our agriculture sector every day. The choices made by this government go against the good of our society. Will the Prime Minister support our agriculture sector?”

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Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau rebutted with “we’ve decided that it’s very important to make choices to invest in sectors where Canada has a competitive advantage.” One example he shared was agri-food.

“This is a slap the face for the 400,000 Canadian Center directly or indirectly employed by forestry and the forestry industry in Canada,” says Doherty, “this perhaps gives us a little bit of insight as to why they’ve failed to get a deal done.”

Doherty feels discouraged from both domestic and international points of view. He and other inter-parliamentary politicians just returned from a three-day trip to Washington, DC. Among the many priorities that both Canadian and American representatives shared, his main focus was on softwood lumber.

“We had a Senator say that they’ve felt the last 16 or 17 months was an absolute waste of time, that there was nothing done on softwood. That is a US Senator that actually offered that up, that said it was a failure in the past administration, as well as our current one, to not get a deal done.”

The budget does directly mention a new softwood lumber trade agreement, stating the federal government is still working on one that “will be fair and helpful to consumers and businesses on both sides of the border.”

Doherty hopes that’s true and can be done without heading to litigation. The government has a great track record of winning in courts, but Doherty remembers the over 15,000 BC jobs lost the last time that happened.

“There is collateral damage and what I’m fighting for is to ensure that the residents of Cariboo-Prince George, that the 140 communities that are dependent on forestry in the Province of British Columbia, that the 400,000 workers that are directly or indirectly dependent on forestry, that they know there’s somebody fighting for them.”

Doherty hopes to address Morneau during question period Friday.

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