Canada Must Not Yield to U.S. Pressure on Lumber Tariffs: There is History!

Thunder Bay - Wednesday, May 1, 2002 - by: Thomas Baxter




Once again it seems that the power brokers have pulled the wool over a gullible Canadian public. Pierre Pettigrew has suggested that going to the World Trade Organisation will help Canada to win its case.




Andrea Mandell-Campbell of the National Post has written an American apologetic, leading the readers on a tangent far away from the real problem or its solution by promoting the idea that more integration of the economies would be necessary. The National Post also gave space to Max Baucus the U.S. senator, who has been allowed the freedom to perpetuate the lie that Canada "subsidises" its lumber producers with cheap land tenure arrangements. Baucus also bandies about that snake-charmer's concept of "free and fair trade" despite the fact that trade agreements have wiped out thousands of Canadian industries, and radically escalated U.S. ownership of Canadian companies.




The Windsor Star falsely props up the U.S. propaganda that somehow our public land system and low stumpage fees are "unfair competition." Let's cut through garbage and get to the bottom of this! More integration is definitely not the answer. We have been down this way before. These "friends" can taste a final takeover, with their puppets nestled in our government and industry, and an ignorant, inactive Canadian public. True friends do not try to steal what belongs to you. Let's examine some facts.




History has shown that the one who controls the land controls the nation and its affairs. Even a cursory reading of any history reveals that any people who constitute or see themselves as a nation will strive to have and maintain a land base on which they live. Without the land on which to build homes, raise crops, and draw resources for personal use and economic growth, the people will have trouble supporting their economic initiatives and sustaining their national identities.




In the 19th and early 20th centuries, we had to rally to save our land. If Canadians knew their own history properly, and if it were taught throughout our schooling the way it should be, then we would be better armed to recognise the guile when politicians, corporate leaders and American spokespersons begin to blether. There is a lot of history that helps us understand the importance of our forested lands to Canada's sovereignty and economic integrity.




Canada's history is strongly linked to securing the land and resources against the covetous attitudes of Americans. Coveting means to desire what belongs to someone else. During the pre-American Revolutionary years (1600s, 1700s) the colonists of New England did not like having to reserve wood for the square timber trade of the British Crown. Certainly the remoteness and disinterest of Britain in the colonists‚ wishes was a problem. The colonists did not wait for negotiation and petition, though. They simply began cutting the wood and selling it to Spanish interests in the Caribbean.




Following the American Revolution land played a big role in the unveiling of American greed. Britain had other concerns on the European continent with Napolean, so military defence of their holdings in parts of North America was severely limited. The Americans saw a chance to move west into the Great Lakes, Ohio and Mississippi basins, squatting and cutting with impunity along the way. In thirty years in the mid-19th century alone a wood supply spreading from New York to Minnesota that was thought should last for three hundred years was cut, buried, left to rot, or burnt in a series of uncontrolled, man-made forest fires, through sheer greed and negligence. Many of those areas are still not producing significant wood today.




By the time Americans started to move further West to the mountains the loggers were gobbling up lands in the Mississippi Valley, and in the Rockies, still part of the British Crown's claim, through mostly dubious, illegal means. Much of the mountain terrain was also left ravaged but some went straight into private company ownership at less than any real market value. Any company in the United States, therefore which decries Canadian public land control, or low costs of fees below market rate, is a case of "the pot calling the kettle black."




It would be kind to describe land acquisition by American logging companies in the 19th century as manipulation of simple good market sense. In fact, the big U. S. forest companies like Weyerhaeuser had their origins during the timber cut-and-run era of the 19th century. Back East in the U. S. most lands that had been decimated were left to waste, or acquired as private holdings by many individuals, breaking up the chance of having large tracts of public land. The U. S. Forest Service came into existence not as a conservation service protecting existing forests, but primarily trying to recover the lands destroyed.




In the 1800s American companies started to move with little restriction into Ontario in pursuit of Canadian wood. In short order deals had been made for some of Ontario‚s mining, forestry and public electric power resources. The way these deals were made, and their effects, can serve as a lesson to us to keep our public resources public today. By the mid-1800s the Province of Ontario was engaged in a practice of surveying northern lands, setting aside timber tracts, and then leasing them to the highest bidder. It wasn't long before the public, business leaders and politicians noticed that one-third of the wood was being consumed by Americans and immediately shipped across the border for sawing into lumber. Ontarians saw that they were "hewers of wood while Americans reaped the profit on the sale of finished lumber."



CP loot

There were Canadian-created versions of the same problem. The federal government had given land grants to the Canadian Pacific Railway, to help its expansion and settlement on the westward trek. Its road allowance was forty miles wide, but it proceeded to loot the best timber stands for miles outside its limits.



and bribes

Efforts to negotiate with Americans brought resistance, and a tale of excuses as to why Ontario was unsuitable for economic development. In all dealings it was noticed that Americans were "always threatening with one hand and offering bribes with the other."



gave away
their own

In 1889 Arthur Hardy became Crown Lands Commissioner in Ontario. On surveying the large number of giveaways and limited benefits for Ontario he commented,
"The government shall not too readily part with the ownership of their public lands without receiving some adequate consideration for the general uses of the Province. ...The Americans have given away their public lands, their pine timber; they have practically given away the richest coal mines known to exist in the world. They have given away their gold and silver mines, yielding to individuals wealth which the fables of the past do not approximate. We may well consider whether that is a system to be followed by a people having large mining interests still in their infancy."



get back
what was

In 1900 the Toronto Globe predicted:

"The twentieth century will be kept busy wrestling with millionaires and billionaires to get back and restore to the people that which the nineteenth century gave away and thanked the plutocrats for accepting."

[by Nelles, The Politics of Development, p.253; quoted in Schull]




Ontarians realised at that time that American interests left to own and control land would do the same thing here that they had done at home, so they made sure that forests were locked up and regulated in Crown Land controlled by Ontarians. Ontario, Québec, and the western provinces all adopted versions of this approach. The Maritimes, however, had already been chopped up into parcels of private land holdings.




Crown Land control over most of Canada has proved to be very successful in terms of maintaining the public interest in forests, and in conservation practices. The cost to maintain these forests has been less overall than is the case with a series of private holdings, and as citizens we still have a say over Crown Land uses. We may not always agree with the decisions made by our resource agencies, but as long as lands are in Crown control we can exert our public pressure to dictate how they should be used and conserved. Decisions can be made or reversed to achieve conservation of land.




The recent declaration by the U.S. that they have no "subsidy" issue with the Maritimes is not surprising since private land holdings costs more to "farm" so a Maritime forestry operation has similar costs to an American one. The wake of the cut-and-run era in the northern states has left many areas unable to produce wood, so intensive forestry, at high cost, on remaining lands is an issue. Rather than praise our past wisdom and proper stewardship of the lands American producers are crying the false claim of "subsidy."




To amplify: the recurring punitive pulpwood tax illustrates the deceit. Americans claim that softwood lumber is subsidized. As compared to what system? Theirs? Hardly! Crown Land ownership by the public was retained after the debacle of the late 1800s, and stumpage fees borne. The first forest reserves were established in Ontario in 1898. Most of the country, except the Maritimes, followed the stumpage-fee course. The practice remains. Our charge for stumpage, and how we implement the rules, are ours alone to determine. We could throw it all away but that is foolish. Nevertheless, what we charge the companies is our business. In fact, keeping the overall costs and charges down is wise to balance conservation against replenishment costs. In reality public land management costs less than private land forestry.




Despite the facts in our favour, and under the guise of "market value," Americans with the aid of disloyal politicians and business people, have continued to pursue their long-standing coveting of Canadian lands. They are getting bolder, by talking openly about demanding "auction of public lands." Perhaps they assume that Canadians don't know their history and are too stupid to realise what is really happening. Auction of public lands is nothing less than wholesale transfer of land tenure from the people of Canada to private, American corporations. We must absolutely prevent this from happening!



to look

Our system of public ownership of land retains control, and presents the opportunity to waste less land since it remains in the public domain where its management can be regulated for public good over the long term. A wisely operated system will also cost less to run if it is run well. There certainly have been numerous cases where our system needs to be improved, but that will come within the Crown land control, not through private ownership. The record of industry, contrary to the popular piffle that they have been disseminating, has been a long history of wasteful practices. Americans are trying to agitate against Canadians because their history of land desecration has left them inadequately prepared to meet their needs and wants. Americans more than ever need to buy Canadian wood. After a pause they will buy it, even at higher price, because it also has high quality.



no export
of raw

We need to protect our own industry by using practices akin to those used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Under the Dingley tariff of 1897 American protectionism virtually shut out sawn lumber from Ontario. It seemed that to proceed with creating sawmills in Ontario would destroy the industry, but in 1898, Hardy, Crown Lands Commissioner, secured passage of his bill in the provincial legislature that required all wood cut in Ontario to be sawn in Ontario, and ultimately all pulpwood to be turned into pulp here. The slogan quickly became the concept of manufactured goods only, "but not one stick of spruce." Canadian courts upheld the bills. An ingenious licensing system was created out of existing rules, so that wood being exported without being sawn was charged a tariff, while wood processed in Ontario had the tariff waived. Within a year American need was great, and they capitulated. Ontario had stood its ground and won.




We need our politicians to have the same spine today. Let's go after Mr. Pettigrew and his colleagues, and get them to stand up for Canada, rather than capitulate. We need to be suspicious of the united effort by the "Canadian" lumber industry since so many of their operators now are American. Regardless, Canadians need to be up in arms about this devious ploy to acquire yet another part of Canada. They need to shout loudly so that all politicians will get the message. Foreigners shall not own our wood, water, minerals or any other natural resources, not by direct purchase of the resource, nor by public auction, nor by establishment of a "Canadian" branch company. Those are all acts of treason. The answer to all such ideas is NO!, NO!, NO!

Thomas Baxter

  Schull, J. 1978. Ontario Since 1867. McClelland and Stewart, Toronto. 400 pp.
  Glazebrook, G. P. de T. 1968. Life in Ontario: A Social History. University of Toronto Press, Toronto. 316 pp.
  Lambert, R.S. and Pross, P. 1967. Renewing Nature‚s Wealth: A Centennial History of the Public Management of Lands, Forests & Wildlife in Ontario, 1763 - 1967. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Ontario, Queen‚s Park, Toronto. 630 pp.