The controversial US-Canada softwood lumber deal passed easily in Canada’s House of Commons on Sept. 19, ensuring the survival of the country’s minority Conservative government.

The parliament voted 172-116 in favor of the motion. While the New Democratic Party and most Liberals voted against the deal, the separatist Bloc Quebecois threw its support behind the government, allowing the deal a smooth passage.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had made it a matter of confidence, meaning he would have had to step down if it had failed.

The longstanding softwood dispute had soured relations between the two countries for decades, with the US industry arguing that Canada unfairly subsidized its lumber producers putting them at a disadvantage, an accusation denied by the Canadians.

Reached this April, the agreement would see the Americans pay back about US$4 billion of US$5 billion in punitive duties paid by Canadian lumber producers in the last three years.

Canadian opponents have criticized the deal for not getting back all of the duties, particularly since the World Trade Organization ruled on the side of Canada over the summer, saying the United States had failed to comply with international trade rules in its calculation of tariffs on lumber imports.

But the Canadian government says that the agreement will bring stability to an industry rocked by years of uncertainty. Before going to the parliament, the agreement was endorsed by the premiers of Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario, the three big softwood-producing provinces.

Canada supplies about a third of the softwood lumber used in the US market, mainly in housing construction and renovation. (Xinhua)