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Lumber production hits the skids

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- The third quarter was a rough one for lumber manufacturers thanks to the ongoing trade war with...

VANCOUVER, B.C. — The third quarter was a rough one for lumber manufacturers thanks to the ongoing trade war with the U.S.

Heavy-handed duties, coupled with the economic slowdown spawned out of the events of Sept.11’s terrorist attacks, and a general decline in residential construction, meant producers had to slow their operations and, in some cases, even shut down mills.

Canadian sawmills only shipped 16,264 thousand cubic metres of lumber in the third quarter, that’s down 6.6 per cent from the second quarter. It also represents a 1.7 per cent decrease in the volume of shipments compared with the third quarter of 2000.

Statistics Canada points out, despite declining mortgage rates, housing starts in Canada were down in the third quarter to an average of 156,100 units compared with 163,400 in the second quarter. Similarly, the average number of housing starts in the U.S. was 1,574,000 units in the third quarter, down 1.8 per cent from the second.

At the same time as shipments declined, Canadian lumber exports dropped 10.3 per cent in the third quarter compared with the second.

Western producers have been the hardest hit by the industry-wide problem, a fact not lost on the National Association of Professional Drivers. The group recently sent a letter to B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, on behalf of its many members dependent on the forestry industry for their survival.

“The B.C. provincial forest industry has been devastated by the 32 per cent duties against Canadian softwood lumber products destined for the United States. This situation has caused a downward economical ripple effect for people employed in various aspects of forestry,” writes the group’s president Darren Liebrecht. “The Americans are in breach of NAFTA’s intended purpose and Canadians are in need of a remedial approach by our provincial and federal governments.”

The NAPD believes the economical downturn in the province of B.C. will surpass the national unemployment level in a few short months. It points to the fact the provincial government is reducing civil service employment by thousands, air travel is reducing its staff, forestry layoffs, as well as numerous mill closures and trucking bankruptcies and charges these, “are threatening the stability of our provincial and national economies.”

“The NAPD is asking that you act on behalf of all Canadians to save jobs and stabilize this trade relationship with the American Government,” concludes Liebrecht. Also sent copies of the letter were Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Minister Responsible for Foreign Trade Pierre Pettigrew, Minister Responsible For Industry Canada Brian Tobin, and several other key provincial and federal politicians.

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