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Time to act

Dear editor:

Thousands of direct and indirect jobs have been lost to mill closures across this country due to the crisis in the forest products industry.

AbitibiBowater has not been immune from this process nor have the citizens across this province—and that includes Fort Frances.

With these closures and the corporate cry for profit, companies are laying ownership claims to our natural resources, water and timber rights, and some are placing these public trusts up for sale.

Some already have been sold, yet the Province of Ontario has done nothing to preserve these entities for our future economic needs, thus throwing the sale of Crown assets into a very questionable quandary (not like the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, which elected to stand up to these corporations and tell them these natural resources don’t belong to them and are not for sale).

The selling off of these natural resources, in my opinion, constitutes industrial greed and corporate rape, and speaks loudly to the leadership of AbitibiBowater and their corporate formula for future profitability without regard to any community in this country they are (or were) located in.

Our view is simple: this or any other corporation cannot be allowed to increase corporate profitability by selling off their power dams, and to generate power from these dams, if their mill is shut down or closed. The dam(s) belong to the mills but its water resources (and timber) to the people of Canada.

These companies must be told in no uncertain terms that no mill equals no power equals no timber rights. The message must be driven home to all these corporations, by all levels of authority, mill unions, community citizens, and municipal, provincial, and federal governments, that society, in general, will not accept corporate destruction in and to our economy any more.

Governments must act to protect the interests of all Canadians immediately. A directive ought to be drafted and enacted immediately (by all levels of government) to secure the Canadian interests in our natural resources, and a further directive ensuring that Ontario (and other provinces) order Hydro, by legislation, to refuse to purchase of even one kilowatt of power generated by these corporations.

Without a market, these valuable assets roll back as they should to the people of Canada and can be used for future economic development. The message ought to be very clear: “If you pack up the mill and leave, nothing goes with you.”

This letter is asking our government leaders to enact resolutions and similar legislation to support Newfoundland and Labrador in its quest to ensure valuable natural resources are returned to their rightful owners—the people of that province and, in our case, the people of Ontario.

One benefit we have is our mill is still running, but running with the knowledge that great sacrifices have been made by inner mill unions, who made very significant concessions, and hard-earned Canadian taxpayers’ dollars contributed to the building of the biomass boiler. As well, our municipality (local taxpayers) gave up property and picked up the lion’s share of the corporate taxes which were downloaded onto the residential property tax base.

We gave and gave, and the more we gave, much more was demanded while, at the same time, no major investments were made to ensure mill survivability.

If destiny takes its course, the future viability of a rundown mill will take its toll and the end result will be comparable to that in Grand Falls, Nfld.

The only solution is clear (and the subject of this discussion, because it affects us all, ought not be taboo): a unified request should be made to AbitibiBowater to place the Fort Frances mill up for sale—dam included as a total package.

This sale could be a win, win proposition, helping AbitibiBowater avert a very real and severe financial crisis plus it would go a long way to meet the required mandatory debt repayments coming up shortly (thus helping to ensure the survivability of AbitibiBowater as a corporation).

New owners with money to invest means survivability. It’s that simple. All levels of government should encourage AbitibiBowater to sell off its Fort Frances assets as a combined total package—and demand the buyer invest in this operation (and has the finances in check to make it happen).

This letter expresses personal opinions that will be acted upon. It also was written to generate discussion, and to encourage an open forum, so the community can hear town council’s view on this very important matter.

We believe the time to act is now!

An approach will be made to town council, and our duly elected provincial and federal representatives, as well as union officials plus other interested parties, in the very near future. Critical alliances must be formed now to preserve our future.

We ask for your views, input, and support.

Thank you,

Allan T. Bedard

and Bill Krukoski

Fort Frances, Ont.

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