Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency declines to subsidize shuttered NewPage Port Hawkesbury paper mill, citing possible breach of NAFTA; Nova Scotia officials meet with other federal officials regarding funding

LOS ANGELES , September 28, 2011 () – A delegation of Nova Scotia officials did not come away with any specific support for the shuttered NewPage Port Hawkesbury paper mill after meeting with federal officials in Ottawa on Sept. 26 to discuss funding, The Chronicle Herald reported Sept. 27.

Community and industry leaders from the Port Hawkesbury area met with Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) minister Bernard Valcourt and Defense Minister Peter MacKay.

But they were not granted any assurances that ACOA can offer support for the mill, and were told that any direct subsidy from ACOA could breach the North American Free Trade Agreement. ACOA is also prevented by its own policies from buying an ownership stake in NewPage.

Members of the Port Hawkesbury delegation are Cape Breton MPs Rodger Cuzner and Mark Eyking, Richmond MLA Michel Samson, Port Hawkesbury Mayor Billy Joe MacLean, Richmond County Warden John Boudreau and chief administrative officer Warren Olsen, The Chronical Herald reported. They were scheduled to meet with the parliamentary secretary to natural resources minister David Anderson on Sept. 27.

Samson said he felt Monday's meeting had been constructive, as he wanted to impress upon the impact of the mill closure. He noted that federal funds are available for retraining, but said this offered little hope to NewPage workers.

Trustee Ernst & Young has set a deadline of Sept. 28 at 5 p.m. for bids for the mill, and has indicated that three or four parties have expressed interest in running the plant as a going concern.

The delegation from Nova Scotia acknowledged that saving the mill will be up to a private buyer, but said discussions in Ottawa had touched on avenues for federal assistance to help a possible buyer get the mill running again.

Delegation member Eyking said he had suggested advance payments to local wood suppliers while the mill is not operating to prevent an interruption in the wood supply chain, and that Valcourt had been open to the suggestion.

NewPage was losing C$4 million per month and owes $156 million to more than 550 creditors. The Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruled on Sept. 23 that silviculture operators can apply for outstanding payments from provincial funding of $988,200, while $1.35 million has been isolated from NewPage's assets to pay wood suppliers. The court also approved a $14 million plan to help forestry operators who are owed money, and to keep the shuttered mill ready for resale.

The primary source of this article is The Chronicle Herald, Ottawa Bureau, Ontario, on Sept. 27, 2011.

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