Botwood Mayor Jerry Dean thinks it’s time for someone to make a decision on what is happening to fibre resources in central Newfoundland.
He said he was happy to learn in the Dec. 9 edition of The Advertiser that the province is waiting on a business plan from a fibre proponent.
Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley said in an interview the province had narrowed down several proposals to one.
Dean said, “In the big picture, it’s time now ... to either move forward and let’s do something with it, or if we’re not going to do something with it, then let’s make everyone aware that we’re not going to do anything with it.
“If it’s just to give more shelter to the local wildlife, if that’s how it has to be, then I guess we’ll move forward and in some kind of way accept that outcome.”
Dean noted the mill has been shut down for quite some time and while the economy in the Exploits region isn’t too bad, it could be better.
“I’m of the opinion that as good as they have been since the mill closure, they can be substantially better. And part of making it substantially better is moving forward with some kind of utilization of our fibre.”
Dean is hopeful Botwood will play a part in the possible future of the fibre, which was an AbitibiBowater asset expropriated by the provincial government when the paper mill in Grand Falls-Windsor shut down in 2009.
“Several weeks ago we did have a meeting with whom I believe was one of the ... two or three finalists on proposals for the usage of the fibre,” Dean said. “We met with one of those groups and, I stand to be corrected, but I guess the government will soon be be making some announcements.”
He said if the people they met with are involved in the final proposal to government, then the meetings were good and “as much as everybody else, town council is looking forward to the announcement by government sooner rather than later.”
He said they look forward to working with the successful bidder as well as the provincial government in seeing the fibre resource in the region put to use.
“We intend to hold everyone’s feet to the fire because this goes right back to a couple years ago, if not longer, when we met with at the time the Minister of Natural Resources Shawn Skinner and our cabinet representative Susan Sullivan in Grand Falls-Windsor.”
According to Dean, Sullivan and Skinner “reaffirmed at that time that any utilization of what was historically attached to the operations in Grand Falls-Windsor with regard to the mill and its affiliation with the shipping component of it out in Botwood … that Botwood was and still is the port of choice,” Dean said. “We intend to hold everyone’s feet to the fire on that issue and on that commitment.”
Dean added he hopes others will support the people of the Exploits Valley on the issue, the same as when former Premier Danny Williams argued the adjacency principal and historical attachment with regards to the offshore.
“I’ve always maintained, not only as a mayor but as an ex-Abitibi employee, that if we can justify arguing adjacency principals and historical attachments to offshore and revenues that go along with that in our case against Ottawa at the time … (then) we’ve got a case in terms of historical attachments and the adjacency principal in terms of our fibre, as well as the hydro assets that are associated with the Exploits River,” Dean said.
“All I’m saying, for probably the thousandth time, if it’s good enough for our premier of the day to go and argue with our support then we expect for business and the provincial government to hear our voices here in the Exploits Valley region and central Newfoundland.”
Dean said it’s not a case of the people of central wanting all the fibre for themselves.
“There should be enough fibre and hydro resources to help our fellow Newfoundlanders throughout the province,” he said.
Certainly, however, he said the people in this region expect to get some benefit from the local fibre resource to help replace some of what was lost when the mill shut down.