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Abitibi hydro sale concern expressed

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Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton and Northern Development critic Gilles Bisson are expressing serious concern over the potential sale of Abitibi-Consolidated Inc.’s hydro dams in Iroquois Falls, Kenora, and Fort Frances.

“Scrambling to raise cash to weather the crisis in our forestry sector, Abitibi is purportedly looking at selling its hydro subsidiaries,” noted Hampton, who also is MPP for Kenora-Rainy River.

“A new owner isn’t likely to provide reasonably-priced hydro to these mills, which would have devastating consequences for workers,” he warned.

One industry insider estimates forcing the Iroquois Falls mill to pay profit-driven hydro rates would add $100-$120 per tonne to paper prices.

“Ultimately, the McGuinty government’s failed hydro-electricity policies are directly responsible for what happens here and for the shutdowns that have already happened elsewhere,” Hampton charged.

“Skyrocketing hydro rates, and the terrible consequences on forestry jobs in Northern Ontario, could have been avoided with a reasonable industrial hydro rate.”

In the legislature last Thursday, both Hampton and Bisson renewed the NDP’s call for an industrial hydro rate and expressed concern about the possible sale of the hydro-generating assets, which are owned by an Abitibi subsidiary.

“When Abitibi transferred its hydro assets to a subsidiary corporation, communities were concerned that ultimately their mills would lose access to reasonably-priced hydro,” said Bisson, who is MPP for Timmins-James Bay.

“The minister at the time dismissed that possibility,” he added. “We hope the McGuinty government moves quickly to work with the community to ensure the hydro assets that support the mill continue to provide reasonably-priced electricity.”

Bisson is calling on the government to act in the event Abitibi proceeds with a sale of its hydro subsidiaries by sitting down with the town representatives and workers to examine the possibility of arranging financing so that towns can purchase the hydro assets to sustain jobs at the mills.

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