Taxpayers to recoup less than 1% of Atcon debt

Taxpayers are getting $341,000 back in the wake of the 2010 collapse of Atcon, after the province had loaned it about $57 million.

More payments could be approved but will not approach value of taxpayer loans

New Brunswick taxpayers are finally getting a little money back in the wake of the 2010 collapse of Atcon, after the province had loaned it about $57 million.

A judge in Miramichi has approved a payment of almost $341,000 to the provincial government on Tuesday.

Justice Thomas Riordon has been overseeing the sale of many Atcon assets and payments to creditors.

The Atcon group of companies filed for bankruptcy in early 2010. In 2009, the Liberal government of Shawn Graham extended three different loan guarantees to Atcon worth a combined $50 million, plus an additional undetermined amount coming from the Deh Cho bridge fallout.

Those were on top of earlier loan guarantees and loans.

The sale of other Atcon assets in the future could see the province recoup more money, but it probably won't come near the total that taxpayers had to write off.

Atcon has been mostly out of the headlines since 2010. An accounting firm and a Miramichi judge have been quietly selling off whatever assets they can.

On Tuesday Riordon approved a total of $9 million in payments to various creditors. Atcon assets were taken over by the bankruptcy court and sold. The money from that sale goes to the creditors. 

The Bank of Nova Scotia, which paid out the taxpayer-guaranteed loan, gets $7.3 million, the largest portion. Other creditors get much smaller amounts, including the province.

In April 2011, Business New Brunswick, the province’s economic development department, refused to turn over documents related to the controversial loans to the public accounts committee of the legislature, saying the information was subject to cabinet confidentiality and exempt from release under the Right to Information Act, which deals with requests from the public.

The public accounts committee wanted to know whether civil servants recommended for or against the loan guarantee given to the Miramichi-based group of companies.

Atcon was placed into receivership in March 2010 after months of legal and financial troubles. Several former contractors and employees had launched legal action, or threatened it, for alleged unpaid bills.

In January 2010, Atcon was removed from the $165-million Deh Cho Bridge contract in the Northwest Territories because it couldn't agree on terms for the second phase of construction with the bridge's developer.