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
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.