Beyond the Headlines

The cost of doing business?

Posted: Apr 2, 2012 11:40 AM ET Last Updated: Apr 2, 2012 11:40 AM ET
They haven't cut any steel yet, but the cost to taxpayers of the $25 billion dollar ship building contract has already gone up to $25,260,000,000.
The first $25 billion will be shared by taxpayers from coast to coast, but that last quarter-billion will come directly from the pockets of Nova Scotians.
On Friday, the Dexter government committed $304 million to the Irving shipyard. Of that, $260 million is a 'forgiveable' loan. In other words, if the shipyard meets certain employment guidelines which, unless Ottawa pulls the plug on the contract, it most certainly will, the Irvings don't have to pay the money back. It will go from being a "forgiveable' loan to a gift from taxpayers. Or as the government calls it - an investment in our future.
Certainly, the Irvings aren't the only company to benefit from government money. Over the years the province has "invested" hundreds of millions of dollars in industrial and economic development. But in each case the prudent question is always: what would happen if the government didn't come up with the money?
For example, if the province didn't pony up $50 million as part of the package to make the Bowater Mersey paper mill more competitive, would the company have simply walked away from the community, leaving hundreds unemployed? Given the state of the pulp and paper industry the answer is, almost certainly, yes.
If the Dexter government didn't commit $27 million to keep the bankrupt NewPage mill, and its supply chain, intact and in a state of readiness, would the potential buyer pull out of negotiations, leaving the court-appointed monitor no alternative but to dismantle the mill and send its machines offshore? Again, that is a very real possibility.
But if the province didn't give the Irvings $260 million to help modernize its plant, would the Irvings have walked away from the biggest federal government procurement contract since Confederation?
I'll leave you to answer that one on your own.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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