"we have sold the stumps, plus a long-term support contract"
In the comments to this post, Deaner lays out the best argument I've yet seen justifying low Canadian stumpage fees. It really deserved its own post:
...there is a given value in standing timber (or oil, gas, gold in the ground, etc). The province, deliberately or otherwise, said: "whoever develops this resource has to do so under these conditions" - and set an industry structure that emphasised continued employment, high levels of unionization and high tax rates. These are all policy choices that governments are free to make - whether we like them or not, I think we agree that they are within the purview of a sovereign government. In respnse, the industry placed a low cash value on the standing timber - the government had already extracted the value in the conditions of development. How is that a subsidy? - the owner of the resource extracts the same value (in their mind) - it just comes in the form of high wage employment and a high tax rate - and the buyer gets no more value; they just write the cheques to different people.
If you quote a customer for a job and don't extract immediate top dollar because you insist on value (for you) in other ways, like relaxed delivery schedules or an extended support contract that you and the customer know is inflated, you have not subsidized the customer - you have just structured the deal in a way that meets your needs, and presumably those of your customer. That's what the Province and the industry have done - we have sold the stumps, plus a long-term support contract, because the Province saw more value in that long-term cash flow (via mill employment) than in a higher stumpage fee. We are free to argue whether that is the right trade-off for the province. The Yankees are not free to argue that the Privince is not entitled to make that trade-off; but that is exactly the Coalition's line of attack.
The Coalition's position (which is common for Americans in trade deals) is that any deal structure that doesn't match the structures used in the USofA is prima facie a "subsidy." After all, the US does things perfectly, so the only reason to deviate would be to cheat somehow. (Babbler's bold)
As regular readers (enough to field two competitive curling teams!) already know, I'm no expert on the softwood lumber file. But the idea that the provinces extract full value from producers for the resource by means other than stumpage fees is the first argument for the Canadian position that makes sense to me.