Opposition Leader Roger Grimes says the Progressive
Conservative governmentís failure to deliver on commitments to enhance the
viability of the Stephenville paper mill is of great concern. Grimes said
that if governmentís hands off approach to the Harbour Breton situation is
any indication, he fears that government will not undertake any initiatives
to ensure the long-term future of the mill and hundreds of jobs.
Grimes was responding to news reports that Abitibi
Consolidated is going to review the Stephenville operation and announce
cost-saving measures to return the company to appropriate levels of
profitability. Abitibi says it wants to achieve $175 million in cost,
productivity and sales mix improvements company-wide.
In the last election campaign, the Progressive
Conservative party ran an aggressive scare campaign in Stephenville on the
issue of the viability of the Abitibi paper mill. The Tories promised to
deliver a secure wood supply for the mill and reduce energy costs. Two years
later, the Danny Williams government has done neither and the company is now
reviewing its operations in Stephenville.
"It is time this government stopped providing lip
service and started solving the problems in Stephenville," said Mr. Grimes.
"During the last election, Danny Williams stated that he had a plan to
secure the long-term viability of the Stephenville mill by ensuring a wood
supply was readily available and energy rates would not increase to make the
operations unprofitable. In fact, the situation concerning the mill has
worsened. Rate increases have already taken effect and no solution has been
delivered regarding the wood supply. Mill workers and the public voted for
their agenda, only to be ignored after the election. People should be
demanding accountability from local MHAs and the government.
"The Abitibi Mill is the most significant economic
engine in Bay St. George. Government has to develop a plan to address
problems affecting the mill. It is imperative that the people of Bay St.
George have the same information that government has regarding Abitibiís
decision. It is not acceptable to discuss the future of an entire region
behind closed doors. There are options available to reduce costs at the mill
and increase its viability. However, it appears this government is not
willing to intervene."