09 August 2006

For sale: one tiny mental box

"If an interested buyer for the mill does come forward, government will do what it can to facilitate a negotiation with Abitibi," said [natural resources minister Kathy] Dunderdale.

"At this point, however, no one has expressed an interest given the state of the pulp and paper industry globally."
That's a section from a CBC news story on reaction to the application by Abitibi Consolidated to tear down the former papermaking mill at Stephenville.

Now a minister might be forgiven for such a statement if it wasn't for the fact that Dunderdale just finished up a tour in a department supposedly devoted to eceonomic development in the province and for the past year or so she has been part of a committee looking to diversify the Stephenville economy in the wake of the mill closure.

For all Dunderdale's love of vapid business-school cliches like "doing the due diligence piece", here's one that isn't meaningless: paradigm shift.

In plain English it means getting your head out of the same rut you've been stuck in. Or, as seems to be the case here, getting one's head out of one's posterior.

The reason the Abitibi mill closed in the first place was because of the very reasons the twenty or so companies government approached gave for not wanting the mill.

So why in the name of merciful heaven, would Dunderdale and her colleagues think they could find a papermaking company interested in taking over the Stephenville mill?

Let's not even mention the business un-friendly climate her boss has created with pointless row after needless racket with people who do nothing other than refuse to bow to his latest demand.

Dunderdale and her colleagues need to show they can see some future for the former Stephenville mill other than papermaking. (They really need to show they actually read and understand the briefing books their long-suffering officials keep handing them.)

Rather than giving permission to demolish the Abitibi mill, maybe Dunderdale can assess the impact of demolishing the exceedingly small mental box in which she and her colleagues apparently keep their collective imagination.

Until Dunderdale starts thinking outside the box, there's precious hope for anything new economically to happen in Stephenville - much less the province as a whole - any time soon .