Calls to cut cash to company leaving Perth-Andover

The Opposition Liberals are calling on the Alward government to cut off subsidies to a call centre company that's pulling out of Perth-Andover.

Liberals say Thing5 should lose funding for pulling out after flood

Thing5 says damage to its Perth-Andover call centre was too severe to reopen. (CBC)

The Opposition Liberals are calling on the Alward government to cut off subsidies to a call centre company that’s pulling out of Perth-Andover.

Thing5, the largest private employer in the recently flooded northwestern village, has announced it won't be reopening its office

The hotel reservation centre, which was formerly known as Virtual-Agent, informed the village the damage to its facility from the record March 23 flood was too great for it to rebuild.

The village had offered the company free space, and even a new building, but the company said no.

Thing5 has several call centres across the province - all of which are subsidized by taxpayers.

Liberal MLA Roger Melanson argued Friday the province should turn off the flow of money to the company.

"This government shouldn't offer any financial assistance to this company until they have recreated the 65 jobs in the Perth-Andover area," he said.

Thing5 has received provincial funding for almost a decade to open small call centres in various communities around New Brunswick.

Craig Leonard, who was filling in for the Business New Brunswick minister Friday, said it's disappointing Thing5 is leaving Perth-Andover when the village is reeling from the flood that caused widespread damage.

But he pointed out the company did fulfill the terms of its 2006 funding from the province.

He won't endorse playing hardball with the company's future plans elsewhere, he said.

"We're not going to limit economic development in the province out of spite based on the actions that a company takes," Leonard said.

Previous criticisms

Thing5 has offered the 65 employees at its Virtual-Agent centre in Perth-Andover jobs at other locations. (CBC)

Thing5 has offered the Perth-Andover employees jobs at its call centres in Plaster Rock and Florenceville-Bristol, which are about a 30-minute drive away.

Meanwhile, the village is trying to attract another call centre, said chief administrative officer Dan Dionne.

This is not the first time that Thing5 has faced criticism from a small New Brunswick community.

Thing5 has closed some of its call centres in communities such as Hillsborough, St-Louis-de-Kent, Neguac and Rogersville.

In March, Rogersville Mayor Pierrette Robichaud said many residents in her community were frustrated to see their call centre close, while the government helped start another call centre in Bathurst.

In February, Thing5 received a $275,000 payroll rebate and $77,000 in additional support from the New Brunswick government to open a call centre in Bathurst.

Perth-Andover had offered the company the entire second floor of the civic centre for a call centre, according to municipal officials. It had also offered to construct a new building above the flood zone, officials said.

The flood caused the village of 1,770 people to evacuate about one-third of the community on March 23. The flood level was roughly 1.5 metres higher than the last major flood in 1987.

Several businesses in the flood zone remain closed.

The Hotel-Dieu hospital also remains closed and sections are damaged beyond repair. Meanwhile students from Southern Victoria High have been sent to schools around the region to finish their year because of damage sustained by the high school.