CORNER BROOK — Premier Kathy Dunderdale says Corner Brook is moving forward “with confidence and strength” as the hub of the province’s forestry industry.
That sector hinges on the presence of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper as the mill continues to fight its way through the downturn in the global newsprint industry.
The province’s integrated sawmilling industry relies on the mill to purchase pulpwood the sawmills cannot use.
That’s why Dunderdale and her government are ready to roll out a financial assistance package to Corner Brook Pulp and Paper to the tune of a $110-million loan.
Speaking at a Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade luncheon Thursday, the premier said there is a big difference between the situation at Corner Brook Pulp and Paper and the failed paper mills in Stephenville and Grand Falls-Windsor. That difference is the willingness of the mill’s employees, who have agreed to new labour contracts with concessions, to do their part to help reposition the operation in the marketplace.
“Some wondered openly if we, as a government, were doing the right thing by standing with this employer in Corner Brook,” she said. “The workers at the mills in Stephenville and Grand Falls-Windsor made tough decisions to take other paths.”
The Corner Brook mill’s unions have all signed new labour contracts in the last year after a series of often bitter negotiations.
“Our confidence in the future of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper is far stronger today than it was a year ago and that is very good news indeed,” said the premier.
After her address to the business community, the premier said it is up to the paper company to decide when it will drawn down the loan.
“They are functioning fine and, when they need it, they will take it,” Dunderdale told the media.
When the company is ready, more details of how the money will be spent will be made public.
“We will do an announcement on that and the company will disclose that, but there is a plan in place about how this money will be invested,” the premier said.
Dunderdale said government’s plan, with the support of the mill and local residents and municipal government, supports helping the company because it is a benefit for the entire region and the forestry industry as a whole.
“The forestry industry is not dying,” she said. “It is changing. It is not just an industry rooted in the past but very much an industry of the future.”