Strong market means little uptake yet in govt softwood aid, minister says

OTTAWA _ Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr says forest producers in Canada have so far been largely unharmed by the import tariffs the United States slapped on their softwood products this past spring.

Carr says that was the consensus around the table from provincial ministers responsible for forestry as they met today in Ottawa to discuss the state of the industry.

Carr says high market prices, the relatively low Canadian dollar and mounting demand for the products continue to help offset the tariffs, which have cost the industry at least $500 million to date.

As a result, there has been very little uptake in the government’s $867-million aid package, which included loans and loan guarantees of up to $605 million and programs to help employers avoid layoffs with work-sharing agreements.

Carr says the Export Development Bank of Canada has written thousands of letters offering help to producers across the country, but not many have applied for assistance to date.

Carr says he won’t speculate on whether the lack of serious harm to Canadian producers is affecting Canada’s push to get the U.S. to sign a new negotiated settlement for softwood.