Province mulls substantial bailout for Miramichi construction firm: premier

The New Brunswick government is considering giving a Miramichi construction company a major bailout, less than a year after it received a $13-million loan guarantee.

The New Brunswick government is considering giving a Miramichi construction firm a major bailout, less than a year after providing the company with a $13-million loan guarantee.

Atcon Construction is having trouble borrowing money, Premier Shawn Graham said Wednesday.

Last year's loan guarantee was to help the company create 150 jobs at a steel fabrication facility in Miramichi, allowing Atcon to work on a $135-million bridge contract in the Northwest Territories.

Now, Graham said, the recession is making it hard for Atcon to borrow from banks. So the government is considering a request from the company for more help.

"We're in discussion with a number of companies," Graham said. "We have been in discussion with Atcon. They're seeing some challenges today, similar as to other companies."

Rumours about an Atcon package have been circulating for weeks.

Last month, Progressive Conservative Leader David Alward referred to it in the legislature, saying the money could be better spent elsewhere.  

Atcon CEO Robbie Tozer, a close friend of former Liberal premier Frank McKenna, then requested — and got — a meeting with Alward.

Alward wasn't nearly as skeptical about helping Atcon on Wednesday. He said it's up to the government, although he still voiced concerns about the prospect of a bailout.

"At the same time, I understand they're certainly an important part of economic development in Miramichi," Alward said.

Graham wouldn't put a dollar figure on Atcon's request, but Alward said he's heard it was near $50 million.