The federal government has asked for an accelerated review of anti-dumping duties on drywall imports, but the new schedule isn't expected to immediately rollback duties blamed for higher prices for consumers.
The Finance Department says it wants to help middle-class families in Western Canada, especially those involved in the reconstruction of Fort McMurray, Alta., following last spring's devastating wildfires.
"With this action, we are putting in place an expedited process to look into the unintended impacts that these duties may be having," Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in a statement.
The Fort McMurray fire destroyed about 1,800 houses as well as buildings containing 600 multifamily housing units, plus two hotels and a 665-room work camp.
The federal move was welcomed by Alberta MLA Brian Jean, whose house was one of those destroyed in the wildfire.
"I am grateful to hear the federal government is responding to our concerns and the concerns of people across Fort McMurray with the recent ruling by Canada Border Services Agency that effectively closed Western Canada from imported drywall," said the leader of the opposition Wildrose Party in a statement.
"We will continue to ask the federal government to suspend the tariff during its review or at the very least use its authority to exempt drywall coming into Fort McMurray from this new tariff."
In September, the CBSA imposed preliminary tariffs of up to 276 per cent on U.S. gypsum board or drywall imported into Canada for use in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
The agency said it was reacting to a complaint filed in April by CertainTeed Gypsum Canada Inc. of Mississauga, Ont., which resulted in a preliminary determination of dumping – meaning the products are being sold in Canada at less than normal prices.
The Finance Department said Monday it has asked the Canadian International Trade Tribunal to hold an inquiry on the duties to hear from stakeholders and the public and to report its findings by early January.
The department says holding the inquiry now will fast-track the process by up to 12 months, while allowing the CBSA and the tribunal to continue their independent investigations.
Doug Skrepnek, CEO of WSB Titan, said last month the surprise decision on tariffs undermines the stability of the industry and could impact rebuilding efforts in Fort McMurray.
"On Sept. 6, we went from understanding there may be a tariff to there is a tariff and that tariff will add between 50 and 60 per cent … price increase to our customers," said Mr. Skrepnek, whose company is Canada's largest independent gypsum supplier and provides one in every six sheets of drywall used in Canada.