14 January 2009

A bit late for crying now

Some people – evidently including the governing Provincial Conservatives, the Liberal Opposition and the New Democrats  - thought it would be better to shut the paper mill in Grand Falls-Windsor than to have it open and employing people if there were fewer people working than there were in 2008.

That’s a choice they made.

Union members in the town acknowledged when they twice rejected any restructuring deals from the company that they knew what might happen if they voted down the proposals.

So why exactly would Lorraine Michael, the province’s lone New Democratic Party member in the House of Assembly, be disappointed that less than a month after voting to shut the mill, the provincial government doesn’t have anything better for workers than instructions on how to collect employment insurance or retrain for other jobs?

“We now have a substantial workforce in limbo, people who are understandably anxious about their futures and those of their families,” she said.

Sure they are, Lorraine. 

But they aren’t in limbo.

They are unemployed, or soon will be.  They need to start looking for new jobs.  They need to start thinking about retraining for other work and maybe consider leaving Grand falls-Windsor and the surrounding communities if there isn’t any other work for them.

Maybe Lorraine  - and every other highly paid legislator who voted to ram through the expropriation bill – should have taken a second to think about what they were doing.  Rather than cheering, they might have considered the consequences of their actions.

Just a thought:  maybe Lorraine could have asked to see the government’s plan before she gave them carte blanche to close the mill.

Former mill manager David Kerr put it this way recently:

"You know what's so sad about all of this? A nanosecond after CEO David Paterson was told about the legislated expropriation, let alone what he thinks of the Newfoundland government, he totally wrote off the mill - lock, stock and barrel. That's the way these guys think. If any door was ajar for negotiations to restart the mill (and it always is no matter what anyone says) it's now slammed shut, bolted and bricked up for good.

I don't know who's advising Premier Williams on this but they have to give their head a shake and go back to timing school. Timing is everything in this business and the time to expropriate was not now - good heavens while the mill is running give negotiations a chance. Expropriate on the last day a roll is dispatched on number three winder, not a second before.

"Also the union is insane. They are going around lauding Premier Williams for doing this great thing while at the same time trying to send a veiled olive branch to the company about getting back to the table. What are they smoking? The company reads newspapers, too. I bet Abitibi pulls the plug before March 28.

"Who in their wildest dreams thought this was the right thing to do now? This is a little like peeing in your pants in a snow storm. It feels good when you do it but wait a while and see."

Kerr made a similar comment on a Bond Papers post before Christmas, particularly in his sentiment that before expropriation there was at least a slim chance some agreement could have been reached. Your humble e-scribbler had written the mill off and – in this case like in a number of others – it would have been absolutely wonderful to be as wrong as Mr. Kerr said I was at the time.


Danny and Yvonne and Lorraine and all the others rammed through the expropriation bill without a second of hesitation and even less time for thought.

There’s a bit too much milk splattered over the floor to be crying about it now.



Larry said...


I think you have hit this right on the mark....it's all just quite bizarre to me.

Larry Peckford

Peter L. Whittle said...

Revisionist history! I thought Abitibi had annouced they were closing the mill.

I guess the government should have given them a chance to sell thier hydro assets before they left town.

Dave Kerr's version of events does not stand up to CEO David Paterson's version on the Current today.

Peterson said the union had a chance to keep the mill open, the failed to give what he wanted and the sealed the fate of the mill.

All he talked about was an orderly withdrawal from Grand-Falls not a reconsideration of the closure.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Peter, given your own chequered relationship with facts, you are hardly in a place to criticise anyone for revisionism.

Please explain to us again Star Lake and how it was supplying power to the mill.

Perhaps you'd also like to explain to whom Abitibi was planning to sell its assets that had you and the Premier so scared.

Perhaps you could also tell us why - if the company was interested in what you call an orderly withdrawal - it was necessary to expropriate the assets three full months before the anticipated closure date.

Nancy Crozier said...

Who knows to whom Abitibi was planning to sell its assets?

Abitibi sold its 75% stake in Ontario hydro asset owner ACH Limited for $540 million in late December - shortly after the Ontario NDP expressed concern over rumours of an impending sale, and days after the Newfoundland & Labrador expropriation.

As far as I know, the buyer's identity is still a mystery.