The site of the former Abitibi paper mill in Grand Falls-Windsor.
— Photo by The Advertiser
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael wants a full audit of the botched 2008 Abitibi paper mill expropriation, to see for how much taxpayers are really on the hook.
Michael took her questions to Natural Resources Minister Tom Marshall in the House Tuesday.
“There are serious concerns about how much the people of the province are out of pocket, and how long before they will be out of the red,” Michael said. “Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: will he appoint an independent third-party auditor to assess the deal and report to the House on the merits of this government’s hasty botched expropriation?”
Marshall said there’s no need for an audit, and the hydroelectric dams the government expropriated at the end of 2008 are already paying off for people in the province.
“The hydroelectricity assets from central Newfoundland are going to provide tremendous value to the people of the province,” Marshall said.
“The benefit to the ratepayers of the province from just the cost of oil that has been displaced because this energy asset has now been available — we get electricity replacing oil — has already provided a benefit to ratepayers in this province that exceeds the value of what we paid for those assets,” Marshall said.
Last week, the minister announced the government paid $76 million to settle with one company that had a financial interest in Abitibi-Bowater’s hydro resources.
In 2008, with Abitibi teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, the provincial government rushed legislation through the House of Assembly to seize water and timber rights, along with associated hydroelectric dams.
The provincial government has shelled out around $150 million altogether to settle up with companies that had financial interests in the hydro dams.
The federal government paid out another $130 million to Abitibi to settle a NAFTA challenge out of court.
The province also went to the Supreme Court of Canada fighting to get Abitibi to pay to clean up environmental contamination at the mill site. The court ruled that because the government accidentally expropriated the mill, it’s the government that has to pay of the cleanup.