Spendthrift finance minister Tom Marshall is willing to spend your money and mine to keep the Corner Brook paper mill afloat. As CBC tells us, Tom is keeping the options open:
"It can be a loan, it could be cash, it could guarantees but you know that we've made it clear we are not going fund operational losses."
Well, you’ve got to admire a guy who is willing to spend public money to help out a bunch of people going through a hard time.
If this was the first time, Tom had tapped the public purse for the mill, people might take a different view.
But it isn’t.
Between 2005 and 2007, the provincial government gave the mill about $30 million. That’s straight from Kathy Dunderdale’s lips back when she was natural resources minister. That might not have been all the subsidy they paid. That’s just roughly what they acknowledged publicly. The company still closed one paper machine permanently.
There was another $15.4 million in 2010.
In 2011, the provincial government dropped $4.3 million in taxpayer’s cash to help train mill workers.
That’s just the stuff we know about.
One of the things we didn’t know at the time was that the company lost money every single year that the provincial government subsidized the mill’s operations.
“On the verge of bankruptcy” was the way natural resources minister Jerome Kennedy put it.
If Tom “unsustainable” Marshall is so keen to put public money into a company that is so obviously in severe financial difficulty, the public needs to put some kind of cap on Tom’s enthusiasm for spending other people’s money.
Not only does Tom have a lousy track record when it comes to being fiscally responsible, he and his boss are refusing to discuss any aspects of the deal they’ve cut with Kruger to subsidize the mill. Secrecy combined with a record of admittedly poor financial management is not good.
Just to add some extra colour to the discussion, think about public opinion. While it isn’t scientific, a CBC reader survey last year turned up some interesting results. 67% of respondents thought the idea of additional subsidies was “throwing good money after bad.” Of the rest, 14% though the government should make the company pay back any money, while 12% backed the subsidy outright and 6.5% thought subsidies were a fact of life.
Simple thought: if Tom wants to keep subsidizing the Corner Brook mill with public money and keeping it a secret from the people who are footing the bills, he should tie any continued financial aid to his own pension.
Maybe that will smarten him up.