Follow this one for a second.
In 2005, Kathy Dunderdale – minister responsible for the Rural Secretariat - announced a raft of appointments to the groups that advise government about rural economic development. One of the appointees is a guy named Ted Lewis from Croque.
In November 2005, Lewis went on a provincial government trade mission to Greenland. he represented a company called Holson Forest Products.
In July 2008, industry minister Trevor Taylor announced $25,000 in provincial money for a company called Quality North to help it expand its markets for manufactured wood panels into places like Greenland and Iceland. Quality North was formed in 2006 by three people, one of whom was Ted Lewis of Holson Forest Products
On August 12, 2009, Tom Hedderson - the provincial fisheries minister - announced that Ted Lewis would take over as chair of the board that approves fish processing licenses.
On August 21, 2009, then-natural resources minister Kathy Dunderdale announced that her department would be giving $10 million to Holson Forest Products to set up a wood pellet plant in Roddickton. The head of the company is a guy named Ted Lewis.
By 2011, a news story turned up in the Telegram saying that the company expected to start production in late March. But, as events unfolded, the company has had trouble shipping pellets because of the cost of routing them through nearby ports.
Liberal member of the House of Assembly Ed Joyce says he has been having trouble finding out what is happening with the provincial money. The Telegram even wrote an editorial about the problem, largely because one company official complained that the political inquiries were hurting the company.
But if you go to the official record of the House of Assembly, you will see that questions came up in the House on May 15. On May 16, natural resources minister Jerome Kennedy added some details on the cash:
There was a $10 million investment which included a $7 million repayable loan, a $2 million non-repayable loan, and $1 million under the Green Fund.
Mr. Speaker, Holson has since come back looking for more money and we have indicated that there is only so far as a government that we can go. Beyond Roddickton, we also put $1 million in 2010 to assist harvesters in the Northern Peninsula, of which $830,000 has been spent as of March 31, 2012.
In response to another question in June, Kennedy added even more information. What’s interesting is that Kennedy used the information to attack the local MHA who had asked a question about something else:
Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, how this Third Party [the NDP] works. About three weeks ago, I got an e-mail from the Member for The Straits – White Bay North asking if I would meet with him and the owner of the Roddickton plant to discuss what was going on in Roddickton. I wrote him back, Mr. Speaker. I said if Mr. Lewis wishes to meet with me, he can contact me directly. I never heard back from Mr. Lewis.
So what the member opposite did, he tried to interject himself into the middle of the situation. He was obviously told to go away out of it, Mr. Speaker. I would suggest to him that if he is going to come forward with suggestions that he make sure that they are real and they are practical. What we are worried about is keeping this industry alive, keeping Kruger open and benefiting the people of this Province, Mr. Speaker.
And on August 13, 2012, Lewis wrote a letter to the Northern Pen explaining the current shutdown. Lewis said that the company needed to find a cheaper way to ship pellets overseas because the price for pellets dropped right after they got the cash commitment from the provincial government. Now that prices are recovering the lowered value of the Euro is causing problems.
The company is still working on the problem, apparently:
Any investment into either of these ports reduces the feasibility of pellet transportation. Roddickton harbour has the depth of water required and the required land base. With the right facility in Roddickton this and other industries can prosper. Thankfully there are plans moving forward to develop the infrastructure – no commitments yet.
Liberal fisheries critic Jim Bennett is only wondering whether or not the fisheries minister thinks that it’s alright to have the processing plant licensing board run by a guy whose company is on the hook to the province government for the better part of $10 million.
Here’s what Bennett told the Western Star:
"Is Lewis in a perceived conflict of interest in his job as chairperson of the Fish Processing Licensing Board, given that his company owes so much money to the government," Bennett questioned in a press release issued Monday.
Via telephone, Bennett said it was not an accusation, but that he would like the minister to review the appointment to determine whether or not there is a conflict.
Doesn’t that seem rather, errmmm, what is the best way to put it?
That’s it, Bennett’s comments are lame-assed, weak, and laughable.