Quebecers protest U.S. softwood lumber tax, hope to send 'strong message'

More than 1500 people gathered in the Lac-Saint-Jean area to denounce the new American tax on softwood lumber, Sunday afternoon.

Citizens and politicians marched in the northern Quebec town of Dolbeau-Mistassini to protest ​the Trump administration's imposed tariffs of up to 24 per cent on Canadian softwood lumber imports.

​Canadian lumber imports are expected to face new duties starting next week, after a U.S. Commerce Department investigation released last Monday concluded that softwood lumber imports are unfairly subsidized.

Roughly 90 per cent of the province's lumber exports head to the U.S. and the forestry sector accounts for 60,000 jobs in Quebec. 

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard attended the march, along with Lac-Saint-Jean Conservative MP Denis Lebel and Dolbeau-Mistassini Mayor Richard Hébert.

Hébert said he hopes to "send a strong message to the concerned authorities."

Dolbeau-Mistassini, home to a sawmill and pulp and paper plant, is one of many communities in Quebec that rely on the lumber industry.

The two countries' dispute over softwood lumber goes back years, but Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr told CBC this week that he's hopeful a long-term deal can be reached.

Carr says reaching a new deal is the best option, even as he repeats his warning that jobs will be lost as a result of the U.S. lumber industry's lobbying for new duties on Canadian imports.

​The president of the Syndicat des Métallos union, Alain Croteau, says he's concerned this move could put local jobs at risk and even lead to layoffs.

Croteau said he'd like to see the federal government step in to help any lumber workers who might be affected going forward by providing immediate unemployment insurance and vocational training.