Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak briefly to Motion No. 397. While I think the motion is very well intended, it definitely has some flaws, which my colleague spoke about earlier.
I will make just a few comments. Coming from British Columbia, I am very familiar with the softwood industry in British Columbia. B.C. exports 50% of the softwood lumber that goes into the U.S. market. That is basically a third of the total U.S. market in terms of consumption down there. It is a very significant industry in British Columbia, as it is in other parts of Canada.
We are very concerned about the effects of the softwood lumber situation. Any move to try to alleviate that or improve the situation and in fact come to a final solution would be welcome. I am not so sure, though, that Motion No. 397 would do that.
There is no doubt in my mind and in the minds of many of my colleagues that the ultimate solution we have to work toward is free and open access to the U.S. market through that border. We have to concentrate on that and make every effort to achieve it, hopefully in the short term but certainly in the mid term to long term.
Any negotiations in the meantime will have to continue at the WTO and NAFTA and we certainly hope that they will conclude as soon as possible with what I think will be positive results for Canada.
One of the members across the way spoke a short time ago about the softwood lumber community adjustment program. That has been a big concern. It was announced a year and a half ago or so with the intent of helping the communities across Canada and of course in British Columbia that were affected by the softwood lumber dispute. That program in British Columbia was worth some $55 million. To date, $5 million has been spent on bureaucracy, which is a heck of a chunk out of that program; almost 10% is already gone without achieving anything to speak of.
I understand that some $30 million has been approved in various projects for communities around British Columbia, but again, not a lot of that money has hit the road yet. The cheques have not been written to any large extent.
Two or three projects in my riding of Skeena have been approved, for which I am very grateful. The timing was late. The intent of the program was to assist some of these communities through the fall and winter months when times are very difficult and opportunities are somewhat limited. Unfortunately that did not happen, but certainly we are grateful for what we did get.
I am just a little bit concerned that the bulk of this money could end up being distributed just prior to an election, which to me appears to be a little cynical. We will take it whenever we can get it, but we have to be a bit cynical about it.