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Under pressure

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The softwood lumber dispute is hurting, and it is affecting district residents.

With local sawmills curtailing production and larger mills making major cutbacks, all sectors of the forest economy in Northwestern Ontario are hurting. Even the trucking industry delivering the materials to the U.S. lumber retailers are being hurt.

One really has to wonder why there is a 19% duty on lumber entering the United States.

Is this tax being implemented by the United States to protect its own highly inefficient sawmill industry?

If one considers a tree being cut here, the bottom two sections are sent to a sawmill to be cut into dimensional lumber, while the balance is sent to either a paper mill where it is turned into paper or to the OSB mill where it becomes chipped and made into OSB sheets.

The waste from the lumber mill is then forwarded to paper mills. All three product groups then are shipped into the United States.

The U.S. government is complaining that the lumber is subsidized by provincial stumpage fees. Yet they have no complaints about the stumpage fees for paper or OSB. These value added products are created from the same tree.

It is great that International Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew, wants to fast track the process with the World Trade Organization, but the government of Canada and the Province of Ontario must quickly get the attention of George W. Bush to retract his contervailing duty. He understands oil and gas and how upset consumers are as energy prices rise. He obviously does not understand how lumber affects the consumer building industry.

Cutbacks of energy shipments to the U.S. matching the cutbacks in shipments of lumber into the states would be a good start. Prime Minister Chretien has the opportunity to stand up for Canadians and protect our industries.

The prime minister said he suggested to Bush that if Americans want Canadian oil and gas, they must also open their doors to Canadian lumber. ‘‘You want gas, you want oil and you don’t want wood?’’ Chretien said. ‘‘It’s too bad, but if you have free trade, you have free trade. And I explained it very clearly. You know me.’’

It is time for the Prime Minister to deliver that message again to Bush.

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