Paper mill deal loss 'devastating' to Port Hawkesbury
People in Port Hawkesbury are using words like "devastation" to describe the mood in the community Saturday, one day after the province announced the deal to reopen the shuttered paper mill had fallen apart.
Fonda Wyre's husband worked at the mill until it shut down late last summer.
Wyre said her husband has no choice now but to heat out west for work.
"What else is there?" she asked. "I'm devastated. Now he has to move away and my kids are going to be without a father."
Port Hawkesbury Mayor Billy Joe MacLean said people are in shock, as the deal was within arm's reach. He said they need some answers fast.
"I think our attention right now, this very day and tomorrow is the 100 and some employees that were there the last two weeks. The 100 and some employees who are waiting to be called in," said MacLean.
MacLean said it is the worst news in 50 years for the strait area and his heart goes out to the workers.
"All of those people by the way, their employment is running out. And if it hasn't run out, it will in the next few weeks. How can we work with them as a government? What kind of transition do they need?"
Union leaders said the mill's closure is terrible news. Now, 229 people are out of work. Benefits for members on long term disability will end next week.
Pacific West Commercial Corporation, the mill's new owner had applied to the Canada Revenue Agency for tax breaks using losses incurred by the mill's previous owner, but the ruling went against the company.
"The tax ruling was a key condition to completion of the transaction and a critical factor in ensuring the economic viability of the mill," said Pacific West in a news release.
While the mill was idle, the province spent $16 million dollars keeping it in a state of readiness to reopen. It also invested $21 million to support forestry workers affected by the closure.
The province had committed $125 million as part of a package to reopen the mill, which included money to buy land for production and a $40-million repayable loan.
Opposition feels deal mishandled
Nova Scotia's liberal Opposition party leader Stephen McNeil said the Dexter government put all it's eggs in one basket in it's attempt to revive the mill.
McNeil said the focus should be on diversifying the economy in the strait region.
The province's Liberal energy critic Andrew Younger spoke out about the news.
"For the past week they've been telling people that the deal was fine, that all of the conditions were in place for the mill to keep operating," he said, "When all along they obviously knew there were challenges with this deal and there was a strong likelihood that they wouldn't be able to resolve them."
Nova Scotia's Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie said the province didn't have a backup plan.
"They had no plan B which means they had no negotiating strength," he said.
"They said the plant was too big to fail and that was the same as giving away the store."
Kevin Lacey, of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, asked, "Why we spent so much money trying to keep a mill open that there really seems, now, that there is no future for."
Premier Darrell Dexter has not spoken to the press.