25 June 2009

It’s not called Answer Period

And sometimes you wonder if the cabinet minister involved doesn’t want to answer or doesn’t know the answer.

Consider this exchange between opposition house leader Kelvin Parsons, natural resources minister Kathy Dunderdale and the future of Corner Brook’s Number 4 machine.

Dunderdale’s been known to be dodgy with the details before.  In late 2006, she actually told the House two completely different stories about the Joan Cleary fiasco all within the space of a week.  She may have just been stumbling at the time but she wound up – in effect – misleading the House about what was on the go with the hand-picked partisan head of the Bull Arm Corporation and the Public Tender Act.

In the case of Corner Brook, one suspects Dunderdale has avoided any potential embarrassment by learning that the session of the House is called Question Period.  No where does it say you have to give an answer.

On May 14, Parsons asked Dunderdale:

What, if any, discussions have been ongoing between government and the company with respect to number four and to ensure that it will re-operate in the future?

Dunderdale’s response:

Mr. Speaker, first of all I have to correct the Opposition House Leader. Thirty people were not laid off. Thirty people were affected. In fact, there has been no job loss. There has been hours of workers on the call-in list affected but there have been no layoffs permanent or temporary as a result of the shutdown of number four.

Now, Mr. Speaker, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper made it quite clear in their announcement yesterday that markets have not improved. In fact, one of their largest customers does not have the need and requires less paper.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS DUNDERDALE: So, because of those circumstances, number four will, from a month-to-month basis, continue to be shut down.

At least one paper machine at Corner Brook has been idled since 2007. Dunderdale said at the time the provincial government was pumping $20 million in subsidies into the Corner Brook mill.

Her predecessor, Ed Byrne, announced subsidies for Kruger in 2006 but didn’t reveal the dollar amount involved.

In the latest round of cuts at Kruger, the provincial government is already offering unspecified additional cash to keep the mill going.