In September 2008, four cabinet ministers went to Harbour Grace to announce that the provincial government was giving the company $8.0 million in public money, interest free.
The provincial government communications people circulated a picture of the four at the time - from left, Jerome Kennedy, Danny Williams, Paul Oram, and Trevor Taylor – as they tried on some of the boots made at the plant. Every one is smiling. The $8.0 million in taxpayers’ cash was supposed to help the company add another 50 full-time jobs on top of the 170 at the plant.
It’s an interesting picture because within 12 months of the announcement, the two on the right – Taylor and Oram – would be gone from politics. Williams left in 2010, the year the provincial government started a “review” of the loan after the company cut the work force to 100. They never did add any jobs. Kennedy hung on the longest of the lot, but five years after his trip to the boot factory, Jerome was gone from politics as well.
Now the plant is gone, too. The company never added to the work force as they were supposed to do. Even four years after the provincial government “review”, the company still had $6.5 million left to repay out of the original cheque they got from Danny, Jerome and the boys.
The money for Kodiak was about half the total amount the provincial government handed out to companies in 2007 and 2008 under a bunch of give-away schemes the Conservatives used to promote private sector economic development. They wound up budgeting about $75 million by 2010, but in the first couple of years they had offered up about $32 million, according to Rob Antle, who was working at the Telegram when he wrote the story of the failed business incentive program in 2008.
Kodiak actually fits neatly with the Conservative track record on economic development. Sure, Kodiak got lots of free cash, but they also failed and that’s what’s really striking: the string of failed companies that got easy cash from the Conservatives is quite striking when you go back and look at it.
Less private sector. Lots more public sector cash. And not surprisingly, the economy is considerably more fragile these days than it has been in quite a long time.