Bill Graham is beside himself. In fact, he shook his own hand this morning before he left the house.
Over the past few weeks, interim Liberal Party leader Bill Graham has been chanting one thing about the tentative softwood lumber deal that the Conservatives worked out in a matter of weeks while Bill Graham’s party got nowhere for years despite Carolyn Parrish’s use of a George Bush doll. The chant of Mr. Graham, of course, has been and is that the deal worked out between Ottawa and Washington is no good. It should die.
Mr. Graham has described the deal as draconian and believes that it will punish our industry. What does he think is happening right now? What does he think $5 billion of our industry’s money sitting in the American government’s bank account is? Under the Liberal government, the penalties against Canadian lumber producers was like a slowly tightening noose. Under the Liberals, our industry got nowhere. It appears that under a Bill Graham or any other Liberal government, the status quo would simply continue.
Now the Liberals have a bigger problem, and it isn’t with the softwood lumber agreement. It is with their venomous outbursts in regard to it. You see, they have been decrying the agreement from day one, but not everybody agrees with them.
In fact, three provinces directly impacted have now come on board as accepting this deal. That is a profound difference in policy between Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, and the current dysfunctional Liberal Party of Canada. That chasm appears to be wider still when one considers the current governments of those provinces.
Ontario has a Liberal government in place, as do both Quebec and British Columbia. To make matters worse for Mr. Graham, these are not hapless administrations at the beck and call of the opposition. They are all majority governments. So, if the current Liberal leader is at odds with the premiers of the three biggest economies of our nation, all Liberals at that, what does that say about the leadership qualities of this interim leader? What more does it say when a newly minted Conservative prime minister running a minority government can iron out an agreement in a matter of a few weeks that three majority Liberal premiers would embrace, when successive Liberal prime ministers in both minority and majority cabinets where unable to do the same?
Not only were they unable, the simple fact is that they were unwilling to accommodate the Americans. After all, they had built their party’s base upon a foundation of anti-Americanism.
Economic Development Minister for Quebec, Raymond Bachand, described the agreement as “the best deal.” “We’re very happy with this deal. Most of what we wanted, we’ve gained for the first time.”
British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell said that “on balance, it’s a reasonable deal for Canada and a good deal for British Columbia.”
For Ontario, Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay added “Ontario got a critical element – a more reasonable share of softwood exports.”
The only question we should now be asking is why does Bill Graham not see the good in this deal that everyone else does? There are other questions crossing my mind as well. Does Bill Graham’s desire to show up Stephen Harper override his ability to recognize and enact good policy? Does he not understand the agreement? Will the Liberals torpedo good agreements that help Canadians simply to score political points?
The next stop on this road, of course, will be for the industry itself to decide whether this agreement goes to the House for a vote or whether it dies. It is, after all, their livelihood and their money at stake. This is democracy at its best. You can be sure that the last word would never have been placed with the stakeholders under a Liberal or any other government.
Live or die, this agreement is way overdue and so is the ability for those most affected to cast the deciding vote. Should this deal pass, it will be a major coup for Stephen Harper and will be a significant blow to the Liberals. Should it fail, it will be nothing less than a coup again, but this time for the voice of the softwood industry in Canada. Either way, the outcome will have positive effects.
It sure beats year after year of absolutely no progress.