Monday, July 31, 2006

Softwood deal in jeopardy?

"Softwood deal may not get as far as Commons vote." So says David Emerson, the Trade Minister, today:
Mr. Emerson said that if the provinces and lumber businesses don't agree with the deal, it will not be put to MPs for a vote.
More from Reuters:
The trade deal would return $4 billion to Canada, but give $1 billion to the U.S. lumber producers whose complaint in 2001 sparked the five-year trade battle.

Critics of the agreement in Canada have argued that Ottawa has given away too much. The CEO of Canfor, a key supporter and Canada's largest softwood firm, said on Friday he doubted the deal would actually be implemented without some of the changes urged by critics.
So what's going on here? Emerson seems to be having it both ways. He's saying the provinces and lumber producers have to come on board or the deal will die. So if it dies, he blames those parties. And the Conservatives get out from under a potentially damaging election issue, given they've said it's a confidence matter.

Or, he can blame the U.S. for its failure:
Emerson suggested there was room to amend the July 1 accord by consent of both governments but denied there were any talks underway to that effect.
More politically palatable for the Conservatives but not their preferred resolution. If they have to go back to the Americans, what are the chances they'll budge? Can you imagine Bush backing down on anything these days? In the run-up to midterm elections no less? They all back this deal, they negotiated it.

Quite the pickle this is. Seems they've considered Bob Rae's challenge to fight an election on the issue and they don't much like that option.