Liberal leader says number should have been revealed sooner
The province has paid more than $1 million for security at the former Abitibi paper mill in Grand Falls-Windsor since its expropriation in 2008.
© — TC Media file photo
The former Abitibi mill in Grand Falls-Windsor.
According to information made available Dec. 27 by the provincial Department of Transportation and Works, in response to an access to information request from the provincial Liberals, the cost of keeping the mill under wraps quickly added up.
“We haven’t seen the maintenance costs yet,” said Liberal Leader Dwight Ball, when asked about the request for information.
He said the security costs had been promised to the Liberals in a meeting shortly following the release of the last provincial budget, wherein opposition is offered an opportunity to question the budget line by line.
“I think the big thing for us is how we had to go about getting (the numbers),” Ball said in an interview Monday. “And just there’s an extra $1 million now in costs to this whole botched expropriation.”
The bulk of the security spending by the province at the former Abitibi mill site to date was in the fiscal years beginning in 2010 and 2011 — totalling $432,000 and $449,000 respectively.
The cost dropped in the following year, coming in at $188,000, while the total cost for 2013-14 is not yet available.
In the last calendar year, both inside and outside the House of Assembly, provincial Liberal and NDP representatives have called for a detailing of all of the expenses to date — and continuing to be added to the books — in relation to the mill’s expropriation.
On May 7 in the legislature, NDP Leader Lorraine Michael called for a review of the expropriation and fallout by an independent, third-party auditor.
In June, Ball pointed to information released following a separate access to information request on legal fees related to the expropriation, stating a cost to the Department of Natural Resources of more than $7 million and another $1.8 million to the Department of Justice.
“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,” he said at that time.
To the end of March, according to then-Natural Resources minister Tom Marshall, in settling disputes with Abitibi and with owners of the mill’s hydro dams, taxpayers have paid about $150 million for the expropriated assets, with the federal government paying another $130 million to settle a NAFTA challenge.
At the same time, the hydroelectric assets formerly associated with the mill operation have provided benefits to the province, tied to power costs. The province is still considering the future use of these assets, along with the mill property and buildings.