McCain shutdown 'a wake-up call' for P.E.I.

People in Borden-Carleton, P.E.I., say they’re afraid of what a job loss of 121 positions could mean for their community now that the McCain Foods french fry plant is closing.

Loss of 121 jobs sends fear through Borden-Carleton

McCain Foods says production at the Borden-Carleton plant declined by two-thirds over the last decade, making it the company's smallest and least utilized facility in North America. (The Associated Press)

People in Borden-Carleton, P.E.I., say they’re afraid of what a job loss of 121 positions could mean for their community now that the McCain Foods french fry plant is closing.

"I have to pinch myself to believe it," said Ralph MacDonald, a Borden-Carleton resident for 60 years.

MacDonald said he was optimistic the work provided by the plant would help keep the next generation in town, but that’s no longer the case now that the facility will close at the end of October.

"You know the proverbial, 'Go west young man' or young woman and it looks like that'll be the case for a lot of our people and you know, it's sad. It's sad," he said.

The plant is supplied by 23 Island family farms.

McCain said other plants are more efficient and the appetite for french fries is shifting away from North America. They also point to the rise in the value of the Canadian dollar as a factor.

Jamie Fox said that doesn't make it any easier on families here.

"I know one family, in particular, I'm thinking of. They've got three small girls. He works on a farm that provides potatoes directly to that plant, and the wife works there at the plant. They've got to be sitting around the kitchen table tonight doing some awful thinking," he said.

'Balloon has been busted'

According to the last census, there are about 750 people living in Borden-Carleton. Fox said he fears families will soon pack up and leave.

"How good it was going to be for the area and how it energizes people. And well, now that balloon has been busted," he said.

Jamie Fox says he fears the closure could mean more families will have to pick up and leave. (CBC)

Malpeque MP Wayne Easter says federal, provincial and local governments need to work together to support the employees losing their jobs and create a plan for the future.

"It's certainly a very sad day for the employees of McCain's. …Sad day for the community, the potato industry in P.E.I. This is a loss of a large number of well-paying jobs and I think it's a wake up call, as well, to Prince Edward Island in terms of economic development," said the Liberal member of parliament.

Easter says his office is available to assist workers with employment insurance and pension rules.

McCain said it will provide retraining and early retirement options and will spend about $2 million to develop businesses in the area.

"I've heard those kind of promises before and I sure hope they're sincere about it because I think one of the things that is most important on P.E.I. is skills training," said resident Joe Sherren.

About four per cent of the Island’s potatoes go to the McCain plant.

Premier Robert Ghiz said he did try to convince the company to stay, but there was nothing the government could do.

The New Brunswick-based food company said production at its plant in P.E.I. has dropped by two-thirds over the last decade and it's now the smallest factory in the McCain's network.

With files from the Canadian Press


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