Published sometime in 2006.
The pulp and paper executives are probably having a good laugh over the behaviour of some politicians and political candidates on the subject of job losses in the pulp and paper industry.
Domtar clearly explained the reasons for closing the Cornwall plant: strong Canadian dollar, sagging market demand, lower cost of production in Asian countries, international consolidation in the industry. I read in the Saturday Freeholder that Kruger is shutting down five Quebec paper mills and shedding 1,027 jobs. The reasons are the same. "It is the worst market conditions we have seen in a very long time". There it is; the global market is closing Canada's paper mills, not the lack of government action in Canada, no matter the political party.
But some politicians in opposition like to play silly and hypocritical games. Bob Runciman came to Cornwall to stand in front of the Domtar plant, accusing the current provincial government of failing to keep the plant open. He obviously forgot that he was in government a mere two years before the decision to close the plant, while the industry was adapting to the changing market and struggling with those decisions, and while Domtar was already reducing its Cornwall capacity.
I remember my meeting in Cornwall in early December 2005 with Prime Minister Paul Martin and the Domtar union leadership and local business leaders. Outside, Guy Lauzon was parading with local activists, placards in hand, accusing the government of closing the plant. What was he expecting? Government subsidies? Would citizens be happy if the government nationalized or subsidized the horse and buggy industry for decades just to protect it from dramatic job losses?
At the Cornwall meeting, the union leaders specifically ruled out direct subsidies and government intervention. Business and union leadership know very well that the government does not create nor protect industrial jobs. The requests at the meeting were for typical government services: prompt employment insurance service and benefits, additional re-training programs, job search and placement assistance, and a strong general economy that could absorb these displaced workers. All these were delivered by all tiers of government. The Saturday Freeholder gives ample testimony that things in life and markets change; our challenge is to adapt and move on.
Let us please stop the hypocrisy. Leave job creation, closures, and renewal to markets and businesses. Leave infrastructure, support services, general education and training, and safety nets to government.
By Tom Manley