Thursday, October 27, 2005

Abitibi Idle

There was an announcement yesterday of, what the government calls “a significant move”. Abitibi will “idle”, not permanently close, its Stephenville mill. For this move, the province has to cough up 10 million dollars per year for the next three years (maybe longer) and the union is in negotiations as to how much the employees will take in the way of concessions. I know this should be good news and it is, I guess. The details of the deal are not all out in the open yet. Nevertheless, I still feel like Danny Williams just stood with his bowl out to Abitibi, and said “please, sir, I want some more”, long enough for them to dump some extra gruel in the dish. I want the people in Stephenville to have their mill, I really do but when do we say “okay”?

This is the question, the hideously ugly question, but when do we say “okay” to the Abitibis and FPIs and all the other corporations we battle with in order to keep their ventures here in our province, particularly in our rural areas? When is enough enough? The reality, in this multinational corporation world of ours, just may be that these places will eventually close down and part of me wonders if the millions we put into the coffers of these businesses wouldn’t be better served by investing in our own companies, industries right here in Newfoundland and Labrador—started by us, run by us and operated right here in our province.

Danny Williams heads the new Department of Business and has a Business Advisory Board. Maybe it is time to buckle down and figure out ways we can make ourselves more self-sufficient and less dependent on big companies who throw us bones while making us, and more importantly the workers they employ, pay through the nose. I think this may have been the plan of Mr. Williams but I think politically he cannot afford for places like the Stephenville mill to go without a fight. I believe that if he did this radical thing and decided to help out Stephenville with a 150 million dollar investment in some other, home-grown industry, he would hear the cry of how “Danny is letting rural Newfoundland and Labrador die.” Well, maybe it is dying anyway, folks. A sad idea but more true than not. Maybe Danny has to bite the bullet and do it. Maybe we have to put in that experimental transplant that might seem crazy but just might work instead of the pacemaker that is keeping us barely alive, that is merely prolonging the inevitable (how’s that for stretching an analogy?). But then again, we all remember the Sprung Greenhouse. I don’t know but I sure hope Mr. Williams does and that he has the guts not to stick to the status quo in order to save his political hide. The subject is not closed, only idle.

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