Government money no sure thing for Placentia Bay aquaculture project

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador will only invest in a massive aquaculture project proposed for Placentia Bay if it makes economic sense, says Premier Dwight Ball.

Dwight Ball says proposal by Grieg NL must make economic sense

Premier Dwight Ball says his government is not ready to commit millions in public money to a massive aquaculture project proposed for Placentia Bay. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador government will only invest in a massive aquaculture project proposed for Placentia Bay if it makes economic sense, says Premier Dwight Ball.

"Is this good for Newfoundland and Labrador? If that's not the case, if we can't check all those boxes, then it's not something we would enter into," the premier said during a news conference in St. John's Thursday morning.

A company called Grieg NL Seafarms Ltd. wants to create one of the largest farmed salmon operations in Canada, with a project estimated at $250 million.

The project was conditionally released from provincial environmental assessments late last week.

It includes a $75-million hatchery proposed for Marystown that will stock 11 sea cage sites in Placentia Bay.

Peak employment is estimated at 325 direct jobs.

Scoring political points

The project was announced last year in the weeks leading up to the provincial general election by then PC premier Paul Davis.

A memorandum of understanding envisioned the province investing $45 million in return for an equity stake in the project.

The PCs lost the fall election to the Liberals.

Ball blasted the MOU, and the former premier, during his remarks Thursday.

"Paul Davis made a lot of announcements last fall that I can see now there was no money set aside for. This is one of those examples," the premier said.

"I've never seen where they negotiated anything in the past. They came in and — former premier Davis was looking for political points — for some good news for that area. I think he just went out there and said, 'yeah, we're willing to do this.'"

Ball described the Grieg plan as a "significant opportunity," but said his government will only support the project if it makes sense.