SURREY, B.C. — Premier Christy Clark wants the federal government to ban the shipment of thermal coal through ports in British Columbia after the United States announced new tariffs on softwood lumber.
Clark said she has written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and asked that Ottawa act by stopping the export of the coal, including from the United States.
The B.C. Liberal leader made the announcement Wednesday at a paper products company in Surrey while campaigning for the May 9 provincial election, saying the impasse over softwood lumber “gives us the freedom to do what I think is unquestionably the right thing.”
“That coal, most of it is American but not all of it that’s shipped through our ports, is dirty. It fouls the air. It fouls the oceans. It’s terrible for the environment.”
Clark said a ban would fit with her goal of developing a liquefied natural gas industry, arguing if China were to shift from coal to LNG it would have “a massive impact” on greenhouse gas emissions.
“So it’s the right thing to do, but I haven’t felt free to be able to do that because I haven’t wanted to upset negotiations that seemed to be going along, granted at a slow pace,” she said.
“But now that they have slapped a duty on Canada and they’re calling us names, we’re free to take an action that’s long overdue.”
The U.S. is imposing duties of up to 24 per cent on lumber imports from Canada. The B.C. Lumber Trade Council says the province exports $4.6 billion in softwood lumber to the U.S. each year.
The leaders of B.C.’s main three parties are scheduled to take part in a televised debate Wednesday night.
Green Leader Andrew Weaver said he was pleased by Clark’s lobbying efforts to ban thermal coal, but he accused the Liberals of waiting too long to take that position.
“Washington, Oregon and California have already moved to ban thermal coal exports. It is high time that British Columbia showed leadership on this issue as well,” he said in a statement.
“I sincerely hope that this move the premier has made is more than just election politics.”
NDP Leader John Horgan said a range of moves could be made to deal with the softwood lumber issue.
He said that if his party wins the election, he would speak with Trudeau about energy, raw log exports, “a whole host of issues that I believe we have to play on this negotiation.”
Horgan campaigned in Burnaby on the soaring price of housing in Metro Vancouver and met people who are struggling to afford homes that meet the needs of their growing families.
He said the Liberal government was slow to react to the skyrocketing price of homes and rental units in the province and that has largely benefited investors and developers.
Horgan linked housing with his continued criticism of the Liberals over political fundraising.
“It’s my view, in this day and age, governments should be working for the people that elect them, not the people that fund their election campaigns.”
Although his party receives corporate and union donations, Horgan said his first action if the party forms a government would be to ban such donations to political parties.
Horgan also promoted his campaign promises to make housing more affordable by closing loopholes in the rental tenancy act and building 114,000 new units.
Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press
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