Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Long before the present financial crisis the Canadian forestry industry had been going from bad to worse. Workers in this sector increasingly see the need to take more and more radical actions as their jobs disappear beneath the. Last Tuesday, June 2, workers from across Canada, represented by the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, Canada's largest forestry union demonstrated in Ottawa, calling on the Conservative government to offer the same sort of 'bridge loans' to forestry as are being offered to the automotive sector. The interesting part about this is that it following the occupations of seven federal Conservative offices across the country the day before. The occupations were arguably more effective in putting pressure on the government than the Ottawa demonstration. See the CEP website for more details. Here's the story of the demonstration from the CBC.
Thousands of forestry workers protest in Ottawa:
CBC News
Thousands of unionized forestry workers from across Canada demonstrated in Ottawa on Tuesday, demanding the government do more to support their industry.

They wanted to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss solutions to the forestry crisis, including protection of workers' pensions and a plan to keep viable mills operating with the help of federal government loan guarantees and other measures.

"The reason we're here is the forestry industry has taken an awful downfall in northern Ontario," Joseph Lefebvre, a pipe-fitter with AbitibiBowater in Iroquois Falls told CBC News.

"We want the Harper government to get off their butts and do something about it."

In the past six years, the industry has lost about 130,000 jobs in Canada.

"Our main demand has always been for the federal government to backstop loans so that viable companies can keep operating, saving jobs and communities," Dave Coles, a spokesman with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, which represents most of the workers, said in a release. "We are not asking for a bailout."

The issue came up in question period, sparking a heated exchange between government ministers and opposition parties.

Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe accused the government of offering "crumbs" to the forestry industry in Quebec while throwing out billions for Ontario's auto industry. He said the government supported GM, because it would cause the loss of thousands of spinoff jobs and crush communities dependent on the automaker, which Duceppe said was exactly the same situation the forestry industry faces.

NDP Leader Jack Layton called on the government to create a strategy for the forestry sector. "What we need is some fair trade for a change. What we need is to stop raw logs from going across the border and creating jobs down there in the states," said Layton.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper replied that the forestry sector is struggling because of changes in the market and a dramatic decline in demand for lumber in the United States.

The government, he said, has taken action by offering assistance to help laid-off workers and communities, as well as increasing financing for the sector through the Business Development Bank of Canada.

He also hit back at opposition parties for refusing to support the 2006 softwood lumber agreement with the U.S.

Workers from as far away as British Columbia and the east coast took part in the protest, which kicked off at Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt's office and wound through the city to the prime minister's office.
1)As pointed out over at the CEP website Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff (Icky Iggie) was conspicuous in his absence from this to and fro of debate. Keeping his slate clean for soliciting corporate donations from American connected companies before the next election I guess.
2)As a point of memory the 2006 Softwood Lumber Deal passed because of the support of the Bloque Quebecois, one of the multitude!!!! of times when Harper's minority government survived only by the sufferance of the BQ. Try to remember this if Sneaky Stevie tries to play 'Captain Canada versus the evil separatists' again as he did last January.

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