Beyond the Headlines

Is it time to admit it's over?

Posted: Jun 15, 2012 11:46 AM ET Last Updated: Jun 15, 2012 11:46 AM ET

Nova Scotia's relationship with the pulp and paper industry is like a long term marriage that has hit rock bottom. Even though you know in your heart that it's over, that there is no chance of bringing back the good times, it's extremely difficult to walk away.
 
That's why every time a mill threatens to close, the provincial government and the mill workers beg for one last chance.
 
And still it's not enough.
 
It certainly wasn't good enough for the owners of the Bowater Mersey paper mill. Late last year when its parent company announced the mill would close, the province scrambled to put together a massive bailout package.
 
The province put up an astounding $53 million. The local municipalities offered tax breaks, and the mill workers agreed to a lengthy wage freeze as they watched more than 100 co-workers walk out the door.
 
Even that extraordinary effort couldn't save the mill.Friday, Resolute Forest Products announced that on Sunday, Bowater will shut down. It says the mill is no longer competitive.
 
Then there's the NewPage mill in Port Hawkesbury.
 
Since the company shutdown the mill, last September,  the provincial government has pumped closed to $30 million into the operation while the court appointed monitor negotiates a sales agreement with a new owner. The workforce has been cut in half, and those remaining were forced to accept a bucket full of concessions to keep their jobs. Now, Nova Scotia Power customers are facing potential higher power bills while the utility cuts power rates to the new owners.
 
Premier Darrell Dexter says the province had no choice but to step in; it simply couldn't walk away from the workers at both mills. But the reality is the provincial government is powerless to fight the forces that are killing the pulp and paper industry in Canada. The strong Canadian dollar combined with an ever-shrinking market means the mills aren't competitive and government band-aids won't stop the bleeding.
 
As with a failing marriage, sometimes good intentions and best efforts simply aren't enough. Even though you know it will be painful for everyone involved, sometimes you simply have to admit it's over.
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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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