Scheer ties sawmill troubles to Liberal tail

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer leveled plenty of blame against the federal Liberals for the woes B.C.'s forest industry is suffering as he paid a visit to Prince George on Monday.

"One hundred per cent," he said when asked if there is a connection between the curtailments and layoffs the Interior's lumber producers have recently invoked and Trudeau government policies.

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Companies have pinned the cutbacks in production on a lack of fibre due to the mountain pine beetle, which ate through roughly half of B.C.'s harvestable timber supply.

But Scheer said the federal government has played a role too and link the issue to Canadian-based producers ongoing quest to expand into the United States.

"When I've talked to people who say they've made decisions not to invest in Canada, they've perhaps opened up a second part of their business in the U.S. because our government has been raising taxes and putting in new regulatory burdens," Scheer said.

"And that impact on all communities - small, big, northern B.C., southern B.C., all over Canada. There is absolutely a tie in to Liberal policy."

Canfor said last week it has reached a deal to purchase a sawmill in South Carolina. Once completed, it will raise to 16 the number of operations it owns in the Southern United States. West Fraser has 21 sawmills in the region.

Scheer and local MPs Todd Doherty and Bob Zimmer met with about 40 people at a local hotel.

He said two members of the city's real estate industry told him more and more people are unable to buy a home because of federal government policies around mortgages.

In January, a new stress test invoked by federal Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions came into effect. It requires buyers to afford the greater of two percentage points above the contractual mortgage rate or the five-year benchmark rate published by the Bank of Canada.

"There is absolutely a link between government policy and what people are feeling here today," Scheer said.

While the Liberals made a "great spectacle" about reaching the new trade agreement with the United States and Mexico, "they didn't solve softwood lumber," Scheer also noted.

With another election about a year away, Scheer predicted voters will see through the charisma Trudeau evoked during the last campaign and question whether his policies have actually improved their quality of life.

"I'm getting a lot of people telling me, 'I'm kind of done with the selfies, I'm kind of done with the theatrics,' and they want to see a government that's actually led by people who have real-world experiences," Scheer said.

"I can relate to the challenges that most Canadians face. I grew up in a very modest household with two parents who had to work, and the stress at the end of the month of paying off debt and paying off bills and that's who our party is speaking to."

Scheer said the government's growing deficit has become top of mind among the voters he's talked to and accused the Liberals of squandering a strong fiscal position.

"What happens when that global growth slows down? Canada's not going to be able to respond to that," he said.

And he said there is a real desire to craft a national energy strategy and a lot of frustration about the fact consumers in the east must buy their oil from Saudi Arabia because there is no pipeline to ship oil to that region from western Canada.

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