Nova Scotia waited 3 weeks to pull plug on Trenton wind tower plant
Province says it is owed $32.8M
The Nova Scotia government was aware three weeks ago that operators of the DSME Trenton wind tower plant intended to shut down, according to court documents released Monday.
The disclosure is contained in the province's application to put DSME Trenton into receivership after it failed to meet a demand to repay $32,874,870.38 in loans to the Nova Scotia government.
"On January 28, 2016, the board of directors of DSME met and based on the lack of orders for the facility made the decision that DSME was not prepared to continue operating the facility in Trenton," Jeannie Clow, a senior strategist with the province, wrote in a court application filed on Feb. 19.
"I was present at this meeting as an observer for the province."
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Obligation to maintain confidentiality, says province
When asked to explain the three-week delay before it acted to protect its investment, the government said the wind tower plant — which received $56 million from provincial taxpayers — was a private company it did not control.
"Government had an obligation as a shareholder to maintain the confidentiality of the board's decisions," Nova Scotia Business spokesperson Tracy Barron said in an emailed response to CBC News.
"Any decision made at the last board meeting is not final until the parent company approves it. DSME in Korea had an obligation to make this decision. Government received official notice Thursday afternoon, Feb. 18, of that decision."
The DSME letter to Nova Scotia Business Minister Mark Furey triggered a loan call and receivership application as the province exercised its rights under the terms of the $59-million funding package offered to the South Korean shipping giant Daewoo in 2010.
"Should the company permanently cease to operate the facility while the loan or any portion thereof remains outstanding at such time shall become immediately due and payable," according to the March 2010 agreement released in the receivership application.
PricewaterhouseCoopers handling receivership
The arrangement also allowed DSME Trenton to deduct five per cent of payroll costs from the principal of the loan. The province said Monday it has not received any repayment on its $56-million investment.
Even after the Jan. 28 decision to shut down, the province says the company tried to find new work and investors.
"We owed it to the employees, suppliers and the community to exhaust every option before this decision became final," Barron said.
Nova Scotia also gave the company $3.8 million to buy the 40-hectare facility and $19.6 million to buy a 49 per cent stake in the company. That stake is likely worthless.
The federal government is still owed $5.6 million from loans given to DSME Trenton by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
The province has selected PricewaterhouseCoopers to handle the receivership. The first court hearing will be held next week to begin the process of liquidating assets, which include land and dozens of pieces of equipment.