CORNER BROOK — Finance Minister Tom Marshall says the provincial government has received some reports from Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, but is awaiting more information before moving ahead with its plan to help the mill.
Government has committed to supporting the mill in some fashion as the company tries to stay operating in the declining newsprint industry.
The exact nature of that assistance has not been specified, but the province has said it would do what it could as long as the company could reach new labour agreements with its unionized employees and the company could show government a long-term viability plan.
The expectancy is that government may invest in infrastructure enhancements in the mill.
Some of the pieces of the puzzle are in place, but the company has still not come to terms on labour contracts with two of the six unions inside the mill. The four others did agree to new collective agreements in June.
Since then, both current and retired employees also accepted relief measures that permitted the company a five-year extension to meet its pension funding obligations.
In terms of the long-term viability plan, financial and engineering audits are being conducted on Corner Brook Pulp and Paper’s books and infrastructure. The engineering audit, which will help determine what sort of physical upgrades should be a priority, also includes the Deer Lake Power plant that feeds the mill’s appetite for electricity.
“Some of the reports have come in and they are with (government) officials for analysis, but we don’t have all of it yet” said Marshall, noting the documents are being examined by representatives from his department, plus the Department of Natural Resources and Nalcor, the province’s energy arm.
“Further meetings are to take place and they will report what they found to (cabinet).”
Marshall, who maintains regular contact with the unions and pensioners while home in Corner Brook every weekend, expects to be briefed further by officials this week. He hopes to have all the reports in government’s hands by the end of the month, though there is no firm deadline set.
As the information flows in, the legislature member for Humber East said the province will challenge the company for elaboration and clarification on any issues that arise.
“Obviously, this is important and it is very important to me,” he said.