Softwood sophistry

The Canadian government’s softwood strategy is simple: (1) reiterate platitudes about a Canadian unity (among forest companies and provinces) that doesn’t exist; (2) rely on a complaisant media that doesn’t investigate or ask tough questions; and (3) hope that repetition of the standard line will make it come true.

The Globe & Mail reports once again that federal Trade Minister Jim Peterson believes Canada is “close” to moving forward with a softwood solution. Since the provinces continue to disagree vehemently about whether to continue litigation (WTO, NAFTA) or renew negotiations, it will be interesting to see what this “common stand” proposal will contain.

Since all Canadian governments continue to exclude everyone except logging corporation officials from the softwood discussions, it’s clear that the proposal will not address the fundamental issues creating conflict in rural communities coast to coast:

  • Corporate welfare (subsidies) that promote unsustainable logging rates;
  • No realistic transition strategy to move from our current over-reliance on low-value, high-volume commodity production to wealth-creating, value-added production;
  • Provincial forestry and federal tax policies that promote corporate consolidation, layoffs from mechanization and deregulation; and
  • Unsustainable logging practices that lead to habitat destruction and species collapse.

There was some hope that the shuffle of Trade Ministers (from industry apologist Pierre Pettigrew to Jim Peterson) might bring transparency and inclusiveness to the softwood file. Apparently not.

Instead of opening up the process to develop modern Canadian forest policies, Peterson’s Ministry is repeating the same old industry-led process.

Instead of breaking down the virtual control a few corporations have over our public forests, instituting policies that ensure the public gets fair value for our public resources, and implementing rules that protect the environment and the future of rural communities, our governments are doing everything in their power to maintain the dysfunctional industry as is.

They will continue to do so until we – civil society – hold them accountable and make them stop.

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