C.B. politicians press NewPage case in Ottawa

A delegation of Cape Breton politicians was in Ottawa Monday to discuss the closing of a major employer.

A delegation of Cape Breton politicians was in Ottawa Monday to discuss the closure of a major employer.

The NewPage Port Hawkesbury Ltd paper mill turned its printers off Sept. 16. That directly put 600 people out of work and removed the main income source of another 400 people who toil in the woods.

The company owes $156 million to unsecured creditors.

Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner is leading the Cape Breton group, which is comprised of three levels of government. Port Hawkesbury Mayor Billy Joe MacLean, MLA Michel Samson and Richmond County Warden John Boudreau are among those on the trip.

They are meeting with Bernard Valcourt, the minister responsible for the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency.

'See the fear and anxiety'

"It's one thing for him to sit down and read a briefing note, but I think when you meet with the people from community, when you meet with the political leaders in these communities and you can see the fear and anxiety in their eyes and know that they are concerned about the people they represent, I think that's telling," Cuzner said.

He said the impact of the mill closure should have the full attention of ACOA, but the group is not looking for a federal subsidy or bailout.

Cuzner said ACOA could help in other ways.

"It's not uncommon to see loans being made to help offset payments during downtimes," he said. "We've seen that they haven't been challenged, so loans are something that could be looked at."

NewPage blamed a weak economy and strong Canadian dollar for putting the plant out of business. The pulp and paper mill has been the major employer in the Port Hawkesbury area since the 1960s. It was sold to NewPage in 2007.

NewPage is the largest glossy paper manufacturer in North America, with $3.6 billion in 2010 sales and plants in six states.