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Hidden debt in Bowater deal: Opposition

The Bowater Mersel paper mill in Brooklyn, N.S.

Taxpayers may be on the hook for millions more than first thought following the Dexter government’s purchase of the assets of a failing South Shore paper mill.

When the Nova Scotia government purchased the former Bowater Mersey paper mill from Resolute Forest Products last month, it assumed all of the mill’s assets and debts. The Opposition parties say details of some of those debts are now coming to light.

“It’s time for the NDP to come clean about the total cost of buying the Bowater company and the total debts,” Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie told the Rick Howe Show Thursday.

Bowater Mersey had a deal with Nova Scotia Power to purchase energy at a preferred rate. The mill was one of the power company’s largest customers, and the agreement was based on 12-months of service.

When the mill shut down last spring, the company began incurring penalties under the agreement with the utility. The provincial deal assumes those debts.

“As a taxpayer myself, I’m as outraged as anybody that that has now become our responsibility and not Bowater’s, or ultimately Resolute Forest Products,” said Baillie.

Baillie estimates the extra cost is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

In a news release, Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said what’s even more troubling is that one of the reasons for not disclosing the penalty was to protect NSP.
“We already knew this government was too comfortable with the monopoly, but to openly admit it was putting NSP’s confidentiality before Nova Scotians’ right to know is a terrible government policy.”
McNeil said he wants the era of secrecy around major instances of government spending to end.