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British Columbia's Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon, right, greets Premier Christy Clark on the steps of the Legislature Building before the start of the Speech from the Throne on Feb. 14, 2017 in Victoria, B.C.

Canada's former international trade minister David Emerson is heading to Washington as an envoy for British Columbia, hoping to secure a new softwood-lumber agreement.

The appointment was announced Tuesday by the B.C. government at the same time it rolled out an otherwise upbeat Speech from the Throne.

The BC Liberal government used the speech to promise to reward British Columbians for years of financial sacrifices – just three months before the next provincial election. However, Mr. Emerson's new posting underscores the risks to the B.C. economy from rising protectionism in the United States, including the resumption of the softwood lumber war.

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Mr. Emerson is a former chief executive officer of Canfor – one of the province's largest lumber exporters – and held the federal international-trade portfolio when he signed the deal that brought the last Canada-U.S. softwood-lumber dispute to an end in 2006. "He is probably the most skillful and knowledgeable person in this area that we could send to the States on our behalf," Premier Christy Clark told reporters Tuesday.

The federal government will continue to lead the file. Mr. Emerson will be based out of the Canadian embassy, but because British Columbia accounts for half of Canada's softwood-lumber exports to the United States, the province will bear the brunt of the expected countervailing duties expected to be applied in the trade war that erupted after the last deal expired.

Mr. Emerson was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

His first visit to Washington on the softwood file will take place next month, ahead of the imposition of the expected countervailing duties. He said in a statement he looks forward to working with British Columbia's lumber industry and with Canada's ambassador to Washington "as we defend B.C. companies, workers and communities against the false subsidy allegations made by the U.S. lumber industry."

Despite struggles in the province's natural-resources sectors, British Columbia has posted economic growth and job creation that has led the country.

Reading the Throne Speech in the B.C. Legislature, Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon attributed that success to the government's jobs plan. The speech, written by government, broadly set out the themes the BC Liberals hope will stand up at the ballot box on May 9 when the party seeks a fifth term in office.

"After years of sacrifice by all of us in British Columbia through challenging times … your government is now in a position to pay you back, to relieve some financial burdens, and to invest in your household and in your families," the speech said.

The BC Liberal government is expected to table a fifth consecutive surplus budget on Feb. 21, and Ms. Clark said she is confident that now is the time to pay back taxpayers for years of austerity measures. Ms. Clark tolds reporters to wait for the budget for details of the tax relief, but she made no secret that she hopes it will provide a wedge issue in the coming election campaign.

"What you are going to see in the coming weeks in the legislature is the contrast between those who would like to take the surplus and grow government," she said, "and those of us who believe that when we have a surplus, it means we are taking too much money from people in their taxes."

Reducing the provincial sales tax might offer instant gratification that would be felt by the broadest number of voters, but such a measure would be costly to the Treasury: A one-percentage-point reduction in the PST would cost an estimated $900-million in the coming fiscal year. The Premier has broadly hinted that the Medical Services Plan premium is due for an overhaul. However, if the MSP is scrapped outright, it would blow a $2.5-billion hole in revenues.

The province has many other options, however. In addition to setting personal income tax rates, it has the option to tinker with other household costs, such as BC Hydro's electricity rates and vehicle insurance costs from the Crown-owned Insurance Corp. of B.C.