Jobs and Tariffs: The Drywall Saga Continues

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Jobs and Tariffs: The Drywall Saga Continues

Gypsum boards – or drywall – coming in from the United States is now more expensive to buy in Canada. Sheets that once cost $8 are now being sold at approximately $13 a sheet. For contractors and weekend renovators, that amounts to having to pay double the cost for their drywall needs.

The price surge is a result of the Canadian trade tribunal’s decision to back tariffs on U.S. drywall. The whole drywall saga started after a dumping complaint was filed by CertainTeed Gypsum Canada – a drywall manufacturer that has plants in Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg and also two gypsum quarries; one in B.C. and another in Manitoba.

The tribunal found that U.S. made drywall was being dumped into Western Canada at less than normal prices which ultimately was harming the Canadian gypsum industry.

As a result of the ruling, preliminary duties which were up to 276 per cent and imposed by the CBSA since last September, will now end. Those will be replaced instead by permanent variable duties on any imports that fall below a floor price.

Fort McMurray, which was hit hard enough with raging wildfires, is trying to rebuild itself. As a double wham, low oil prices have resulted in many layoffs within the community and now, the unfortunate that are rebuilding will now need to cough up more dollars in costs related to drywall.

Fort McMurray Mayor Melissa Blake is repeatedly calling on the federal government to offer grants to offset the impact of drywall duties.

The tribunal also recommended that final duties be temporarily eliminated for a six-month period. The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, which represents workers in Canadian drywall factories, are asking Prime Minister Trudeau to reject the tribunal’s recommendation to relax anti-dumping duties imposed on U.S. drywall. The union believes that although the decision might help the construction business, it will most probably cost its members their jobs.

On the other hand, the Western Canada Alliance of Wall and Ceiling Contractors has applauded the tribunal’s decision noting that duties hurt the customer down the line. In fact, the Alliance is asking for a longer than six month temporary elimination of final duties which would allow its members to fulfill their current fixed-price contracts.

The boilermakers’ letter to Prime Minister Trudeau states that although it supports duty relief for Fort McMurray, that no Canadian should lose his or her livelihood over unfairly traded imports.