Province settles with Fortis
More than three years after the provincial government seized hydroelectric dams from Abitibi-Bowater, Natural Resources Minister Tom Marshall announced
Tuesday taxpayers are paying roughly $76 million for one of those dams.
In total, Newfoundland and Labrador taxpayers have paid around $150 million for the assets expropriated by the government.
In a separate transaction, the federal government paid Abitibi $130 million to settle a NAFTA challenge.
Marshall announced the $76-million settlement with Fortis in the House of Assembly.
The settlement involves a payment totalling about $22.4 million to Fortis; the government has taken on a $54-million loan associated with the Exploits River hydroelectric assets.
The government has paid other companies for other hydro assets that were taken in 2008, which brings the total for the province to about $150 million.
In 2008, Abitibi was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy and
shut down its Grand Falls-Windsor mill.
The government said that it needed to move quickly on expropriation to keep the assets from being split up and sold in bankruptcy court.
The legislation was passed in a single day with no opposition from either the Liberals or the NDP, but in its rush, then-premier Danny Williams and then-natural resources minister Kathy Dunderdale accidentally expropriated the Grand Falls-Windsor paper mill.
After a lengthy fight in the courts, the Supreme Court of Canada told the provincial government that it couldn’t make Abitibi pay for environmental liabilities on the mill that had been expropriated.
Marshall defended the expropriation, saying even in hindsight, it was a good move.
“It was a great project for the people of the province. These are assets that belong to the people. With the land and the timber and the water rights, these assets, we couldn’t let them go, we couldn’t let them be sold off to somebody else at a bankruptcy sale when the province couldn’t get them,” he said.
“We had to do it, and we had to move quickly, and you know, we’ve protected the assets that were owned by the people of the province.”
New Democrat Leader Lorraine Michael said that Tuesday’s announcement is a reason to rethink the mistakes that were made.
“My mother had an expression, Mr. Speaker, ‘haste makes waste,’ and I suggest that this government reflect on that axiom,” Michael
Liberal Leader Dwight Ball was also unimpressed by the settlement, saying that the environmental issues at the Grand Falls-Windsor mill are a serious concern.