Province discredits Byrne’s assertion mill loan won’t happen

Gary Kean
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Corner Brook Pulp and Paper is shown in this April 2013 photo. — Star file photo

CORNER BROOK  Gerry Byrne says his sources are reliable, although two provincial cabinet ministers say the MP’s public statements regarding the loan offer extended to Corner Brook Pulp and Paper are ill-informed.

Byrne, the Liberal Commons member for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, spoke about the $110 million in financial assistance the province is offering the paper company during his address to the Rotary Club of Corner Brook Thursday.

According to Byrne, the province has no intention of ever actually giving the money to the mill.

He claims his sources — from within government circles — have told him the company has actually been trying to access the money since it agreed to new contracts with the last of its eight labour unions in October.

Signing new collective agreements was a stipulation government had placed on the company before the loan would be made available.

Byrne told Rotarians it is “dubious at best” to think the company has not already come looking for the money government has promised. Further, he charged government is deliberately making it difficult for the company to get the money.

“I have heard from my own sources within the government that they have changed the terms of the deal,” Byrne said at the club’s weekly luncheon. “The provincial government has now constantly come back and changed the terms of the deal because there appears there may not have been a generally widely held view that the unions would ever sign those collective agreements.

“I have heard that Corner Brook Pulp and Paper is anxiously wanting to draw down on these funds, but the problem rests in the Confederation Building.”

Byrne is fully supportive of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper receiving help from the province, but questioned whether the government actually is as supportive as it publicly says it is.

“The easiest cheque to write is the one you don’t think will be cashed,” said Byrne. “I can write a cheque today for $110 million and then start to assign conditions to it such that it will never get cashed.”

He called upon the provincial government to explain when and how the money will be spent and what the dividend will be.

“I know (the benefit) is there and I think most people in Corner Brook know it’s there, but until the provincial government does that, I think there is some question about whether or not they intend to do so,” said Byrne.

The MP also noted how the contracts signed by the mill’s labour unions are set to expire at the end of May 2014. If having labour agreements was a stipulation before the money would be given, Byrne wondered if the exact same situation will soon rear its head once again.

“Why are we five months away from having this whole situation repeat itself?” he asked.

Finance Minister Tom Marshall, who is the Tory legislature member for Humber East, said Byrne’s comments were “ridiculous” and would like to know what they are based on.

“I don’t know where this is coming from and I would like to know who Gerry Byrne’s sources are,” said Marshall. “Obviously, I don’t think they are at the level where my sources are and (Byrne’s sources) are incorrect.”

Marshall said an announcement of the deal’s details almost took place before Christmas, but it had to be postponed. He agreed the negotiations have been complex with a lot of back and forth between all of those involved, but flatly denied any notion that government is balking at providing the company this money.

“Anyone who has said the company keeps coming to the government for money and the government says ‘no’ is absolutely incorrect,” said Marshall. “In fact, we’d be very anxious to have the company receive the funds.”

He added that $90 million will be included in this coming year’s budget and the remaining $20 million is in the provincial government’s fiscal forecast. Marshall noted that government has been roundly criticized, particularly by folks from outside the western region, for even contemplating the significant loan.

“And yet we have done it because we believe it is necessary to protect the forest industry and it’s necessary to protect a lot of people in the city of Corner Brook and a lot of other communities in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Marshall. “Why he would make a statement like that and not put out any evidence for it is beyond me.

“I will let the people judge who is telling the truth here.”

Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley also thought Byrne’s statements were ludicrous and not based in the reality of the situation. He expects the deal should be signed, sealed and delivered any day now.

Dalley said he has never been contacted by Byrne to discuss the situation with the mill or government’s priorities with the deal, which he said are focused on the employees, the province’s taxpayers, the west coast economy, the entire forestry industry and the viability of the mill to continue operating.

“Those statements by Mr. Byrne are totally uninformed and they are irresponsible because they are inciting fear and they are speaking to something which he has no information about,” said Dalley.

While he appreciates Byrne’s interest in the mill getting this money and how it will be spent, Dalley said it is more important, from government’s perspective, to ensure the agreement reached is the proper one.

“It will only be done when it’s right and not when it sits well with Gerry Byrne,” said Dalley.

During his address to Rotary, Byrne anticipated his controversial claims would get criticized, but said he would not back down from his comments.

The Western Star asked Kruger Inc., Corner Brook Pulp and Paper’s parent company, to comment on the situation regarding the government loan but the company declined to say anything.

Organizations: Liberal Commons, Rotary Club of Corner Brook Thursday.According, Kruger Inc.

Geographic location: CORNER BROOK, Humber East, Newfoundland and Labrador Western Star

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Recent comments

  • SayWhat
    January 06, 2014 - 10:27

    Now everyone knows where the 110 million dollar is going. The problem appears that the Provincial Government played a game of chicken with Joe Kruger and lost. The reason being is that once Joe covers the unfunded liability in the pension plan, he will be doing something Bowaters wanted to do and that is put padlocks on the mill.

  • concerned
    January 06, 2014 - 09:23

    people are beginng to see Gerry byrnes true colors.hes being their too long,we need newblood in that dist.not some one who shoots is mouth off and does nothing. only kiss old ladies at the seniors home. people smarten UP,////////////

  • Dianne
    January 05, 2014 - 07:27

    Roy, Please explain to the people what did Tom Marshall do for humber east? But you got to leave Infrastructure out off it. Because that just another form of make work project. Once it done its done, for a lease of 30 years or so.

  • Buster Garvick
    January 04, 2014 - 20:14

    Gerry Byrne's shrill attempts to grease Kruger's way to its corporate welfare notwithstanding, prolonging the suffering of that dying newsprint mill by putting it on taxpayer-funded life support is as irresponsible as it is ill-conceived. The $110M would be better spent transitioning affected employees into other economically viable operations, or maybe re-tooling that old newsprint mill to produce something there will always be a market for, like toilet paper.

  • irene butt
    January 04, 2014 - 12:36

    so the govt changed yet another agreement turned on byrne like they turned on the aboriginal agreement guess they can do what they want to no matter who

  • david
    January 04, 2014 - 11:34

    The two bookends of the Corner brook "economy" ...a mill that has long ago become a worthless make-work money pit, and a bald-faced election lie hospital, compete with access road and hole in the ground, but without any blueprints or funding. Look out, Dubai.

  • Harry M.
    January 04, 2014 - 10:30

    Is Kathy Dunderdale and the progressive Conservatives at it again? What is the truth of this? The sooner we get rid of this bunch the better.

  • Roy
    January 04, 2014 - 09:01

    This Gerry fella has proven over and over again what a coward he really is. Make something up and then blame it on "government sources". That's the kind of thing people say when talking to a shrink - "I have this friend". If Gerry's claim is be believed then anyone could make up something about Gerry and blame it on a "source" in Gerry's office. Foolish, isn't it. When you don't have the balls to stand by your accusation (but instead blame it on fictional source) then that's called cowardice. It would be nice if this guy would put as much effort into Federal issues, for which he was elected. Otherwise, grow a pair, and run for provincial government. Oh wait, he's already said he's afraid to go up against Marshall and would rather wait for him to retire. What a coward.

  • Charles
    January 04, 2014 - 07:24

    Mill should not receive this loan, unless they agree to produce the 20 million dollars of paper products we ship in each and every year. creating few more jobs at the plant, and forestry.