29 March 2006

Province pays multi-nationals to keep locals employed

The upshot of this ministerial statement by provincial natural resources minister Ed Byrne is that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is willing to pay a large international company so that local workers will keep their jobs.
We have reached a short-term agreement with Corner Brook Pulp and Paper that will see them continue to purchase pulpwood from the Northern Peninsula this year. In exchange, the province has agreed to look within its existing budget to see what can be done to mitigate the costs to the industry of the fire suppression, spray, silviculture and access roads programs.
Byrne explains later in the statement that the Kruger mill in Corner was planning to import wood from the Maritimes which is now on the market as a result of mill closures there. Kruger could get the wood brought by barge across the Gulf of St. Lawrence for less than they could get wood cut on the Great Northern Peninsula and brought to the mill by truck.

But now Ed Byrne will write Kruger a cheque to subsidize its operations so the loggers will get paid and, presumably Kruger will still bring in the wood from the Maritimes.

There are 250 seasonal workers affected by the decision, so it's only fair to ask how much money government is putting into Kruger. When about the same number of jobs came on the block in Stephenville, government was willing to drop upwards of $12 million a year to create a situation where basically we'd have been paying the company to take our resources away and make money on them.

So how much cash is involved here?

But more importantly, one must wonder why a couple of hundred part-time workers on the west coast got swift action on their grievance when on the south coast the people of Harbour Breton are in the second year of waiting for Danny Williams to do anything substantive for them.

And, more to the point, Fishery Products International on the Burin peninsula are waiting for the province to come up with an older-worker-adjustment program, commonly known as early retirement.

When can the people of the Burin peninsula expect the same speedy commitment of provincial cash to help them out?