30 Fairmont Park Lane S
Without a doubt, the softwood lumber dispute is a hard act to follow. An article in the Financial Post on November 25 provides a little insight to the U.S. side of the issue. (“U.S. vows retaliation on lumber”, 05/11/25, FP4)
Steve Swanson, Chairman of the U.S. Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, is quoted as saying “There remains very little that the Canadian taxpayers are not underwriting for their lumber industry”. He goes on to note that Canadian taxpayers are providing subsides for forests, direct support for the forest industry to compensate for US duties, and public relation campaign costs.
Mr. Swanson has overlooked another looming and subtle cost of lumber production Canadian taxpayers will be asked to bear. Canada’s greenhouse gas inventory assumes carbon dioxide is produced from forest sequestered carbon at harvest time. Annual lumber exports to the U.S. thus represent about 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions which contribute to Canada’s Kyoto deficit.
The future price of emission reduction credits is uncertain. Federal government analyses of the cost of Kyoto have been based on a price ranging from $10/tonne to $50/tonne. On that basis taxpayers will be on the hook for another $400 million to $2 billion annual subsidy to compensate carbon dioxide emissions from lumber exported to just the U.S. starting January 1, 2008.
This does not make the lumber dispute any easier to understand. It does provide cause to wonder if exporting our forest products will continue to provide net benefit to Canada. I wonder too if the Kyoto protocol was designed to constrain Canada’s forest industry. The United States, Europe, and environmental organizations were all involved in setting it up.