30 June 2010

Mind-boggled Dunderdale continues to blunder

In an interview with CBC, natural resources minister Kathy Dunderdale misrepresented her own earlier comments on talks to re-activate the paper mill at Grand Falls-Windsor.

According to a story at cbc.ca/nl, Dunderdale said:

“We have said very little about it. My response was a reply to a direct question in the house of assembly [sic] when the leader of the Opposition [sic] asked had we received a proposal from this company."

But that’s only partially correct if one limits consideration to a fraction of what she said last week.

Dunderdale first discussed the interest in the mill in response to a question in the House of Assembly on May 25 from New Democratic Party leader Lorraine Michael.  She didn’t name the company but she did make it sound very up-beat and positive:

We are very hopeful about that prospect, Mr. Speaker.

The next day in the House she didn’t issue many notes of caution either.  Rather, Dunderdale was full of bluster about the ability of her party to negotiate with companies compared to the inability of the other crowd.  Then she added this bit:

Mr. Speaker, we have a very good company coming out of Germany that have expressed an interest in that fibre.

Dunderdale also told reporters that she expected to have further contact and that the visit to the mill was a sign of the seriousness with which the company – consistently identified as being a company with paper-making experience – was viewing the mill:

The indication of their seriousness, Mr. Speaker, is they sent somebody from Germany to have a look at this mill. When I asked him what his observations were, he told me quite frankly that it was exactly what he had expected to see. They have gone back to do some work. We expect to have some kind of a submission from them in the next month or so, Mr. Speaker, and based on that we will see where we go.

It’s likely no coincidence that Dunderdale raised the site visit and potential interest at the same time that the opposition was hammering Dunderdale and her cabinet colleagues over revelations about the botched mill expropriation.

Getting her facts wrong is nothing new for Dunderdale on this issue.

As recently as last week, Dunderdale continued to link the company to pulp and paper production, something now known to be wrong.

Dunderdale also indicated in the House of Assembly that the company had submitted a business plan that was being assessed by three government departments.  Outside the legislature, though, she told reporters government had received a detailed letter and expected to have a business plan from the company – identified as Lott – on Monday, June 28. [Report starts at 2:30.]

According to a news release sent to CBC on Tuesday June 29, and quoted online, the company – now identified as Motion Invest was withdrawing its expression of interest in the mill.  And the release also identifies the potential project as being about something other than making newsprint:

“Motion Invest had been in confidential discussions to undertake a feasibility-viability study into creating a new non-newspaper print mill. However, due to recent and wholly incorrect reports and statements that it was close to a deal to purchase, Motion Invest has now decided to withdraw its interest,"

In comments to CBC on Tuesday, Dunderdale also claims that she didn’t miss-speak when she identified the company interested in the mill as Lott, a company that is in bankruptcy protection, rather than Motion Invest.

Dunderdale is confirming the new information which is in the public domain:

"The first contact we had was from Bob Roche on behalf of Lott Paper. The investment was going to be made by Motion Invest," she said. "The principal who was interested in making this investment was a principle with Lott Paper who would be bringing the knowledge and experience from Lott Paper to Grand Falls-Windsor, even though the investment was coming from Motion Invest."

Dunderdale never once mentioned Motion Invest at all until the company issued its own news release to CBC.

- srbp -