Call made again for outside review of mill expropriation
The Opposition continues to hammer away at the Dunderdale government over costs associated with the expropriation of the former Abitibi paper mill in Grand Falls-Windsor. — Photo by The Advertiser
Liberal Leader Dwight Ball and NDP Leader Lorraine Michael continue to press for more information on the fallout from the 2008 Abitibi paper mill expropriation.
Raising the issue once again in a statement issued Thursday, the Liberals pointed to an access to information request filed regarding related legal fees.
“We learned in December that the (legal) cost to the Department of Natural Resources was over
$7 million. Now after a second (access) request government has revealed that the Justice department also spent $1.8 million,” Ball said.
“We are still waiting on government to reveal maintenance and security costs associated with maintaining the former Abitibi mill, something which the Minister of Transportation and Works promised but has yet to deliver.”
The response to the Liberal access request — detailing what companies were contracted by Justice, when and for how much — has been posted on the provincial government website.
Ball said six months have passed since he first asked for a tally of the “true costs of the accidental mill expropriation.”
Contacted about the Liberal’s statement, Michael said she also still wants a detailed costing of the expropriation.
She was standing in the House of Assembly, on May 7, when she called for an independent, third-party auditor to assess the expropriation and the fallout.
“In saying that, I want everything to be looked at,” she told The Telegram, explaining that includes notes of any ongoing costs and details of what must be spent for a cleanup of the site.
“We do not have a full picture of the total costs.”
Michael said a detailing of costs is important as a learning experience for the government — a recognition of all of the potential financial impacts if a similar situation is faced in future and a realization of questions to be asked up front.
She said it would also provide a benchmark for understanding when and how the site recovers from being a liability.
“I think it’s a part of accountability. I think people at least have to know how much is going to this,” she said.
In response to Michael’s questions in the House of Assembly, Natural Resources Minister Tom Marshall said the hydroelectricity assets associated with the Abitibi mill have already provided benefits exceeding what was paid for them — $65 million as of March 21.
The day prior, he revealed the costs incurred to that point in settling disputes with Abitibi and with hydro dam owners, including Fortis.
In total, taxpayers have paid about $150 million for the expropriated assets, with the federal government having to pay another $130 million to settle a NAFTA challenge.
No one from the Department of Natural Resources was available to comment Thursday on the call for a detailed costing of the expropriation.