Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with our hon. colleague from Yellowhead.
Today we are talking about the longest trade dispute with our major trading partner, the U.S. While some would say that this trade dispute has gone on for decades, it could be argued that the softwood lumber dispute has been longer, perhaps a century. It has been one of the longest and most costly trade disputes our country and our major trading partner, the U.S., have had.
The actual term used when we are talking about softwood lumber and the trade dispute is “war”. We talk about a trade war. When an agreement is in place, the term “truce” is what we use. We had a truce and came to some sort of agreement. To date we have had four softwood lumber wars.
I want to bring this back to my riding of Cariboo--Prince George and talk about a community just north of Prince George. There is a little town in northern British Columbia called Mackenzie. This town has weathered many storms and should have gone under many times. In 2007, the town's six mills shut down one by one. Fifteen hundred of the five thousand jobs that were available in the town were lost.
Mackenzie is over 100 kilometres from the nearest major centre. Since the devastating job losses in 2007, new forestry operations have once again begun to pop up, and while the job numbers have not returned to pre-2007 numbers, forestry investment has slowly come in over the years thanks to private investment and a secure softwood lumber agreement that our Conservative government secured in 2006.
I use the town of Mackenzie as an example, because when an industry is faced with uncertainty, jobs leave. This leaves residents with nowhere to turn. When jobs go, so do schools and small businesses, and so does critical infrastructure.
Over the course of the last 11 months, we have seen a lot of inaction on this file. I go as far as saying that the Liberal government has completely and utterly left forestry families in the dust.
The Minister of International Trade has come to the House time and again to say that reaching a new deal was a priority for the Liberal government right from the get-go. How much of a priority are the thousands of families who depend on the forestry industry to put food on their tables when in the 219 promises in the Liberals' campaign platform there was not one mention of softwood lumber? There was not one mention of softwood lumber in their platform and not in the Minister of International Trade's mandate letter, either, nor in the Speech from the Throne. As a matter of fact, in one of the very first speeches the Prime Minister gave he said that Canada will become known more for its resourcefulness than its natural resources under his reign. The first time softwood lumber was even mentioned in this Parliament was on this side of the House.
The minister has time and again regurgitated talking points and offered simple platitudes, much the same as what we saw earlier today.
In March, the minister trumpeted a real breakthrough in the softwood lumber talks. She said that the government had the Americans at the table. In an interview, the minister went as far as to reference Canada as the girl next door who has not been noticed, but it was not the case anymore. With the President and the Prime Minister's new relationship, things were great. Things were going to be amazing. As a matter of fact, I think the minister said that the President was giddy about this new relationship, so giddy in fact, that his handlers said they had never seen the President so happy.