In 1998, the Abitibibowater paper mill operation in Newfoundland was taken over by the provincial government; so the company lost all its forest land and water rights. And the government took it over just to punish the company. Now, the taxpaers of Canada have to pay compensation to those poor shareholders at Abitibibowarter - just because of that theft by Newfoundland.
That's the story on the editorial page of today's Moncton Times and Transcript. It comes from yet another of the "non-partisan" think-tanks, this one the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. Like most of the other propaganda mills that are regular features of the Moncton TandT, this one is distributed by schlock specialist Troy Media.
Just a few bits of information might be helpful, here.
1. Abitibibowater never owned those timber and water (hydro power) rights in the first place. It was given free use of them so long as it remained in business in Newfoundland. (Close your eyes; think hard; see if you can think of a comany like this in New Brunswick.) This happened way back when Newfoundland was still a colony. But it went out of business in Newfoundland; it closed its mill and sacked its employees; so the land and water rights reverted to the province. It wasn't even a very big deal because all that Abitibibowater left behind is badly damaged forest. Abitibibowater has sucked the province as much as it can. Now, it demands to get paid for the garbage it left behind.
2. Abitibibowater took its case to NAFTA. Normally, it would not have a case at all - except under NAFTA rules which were created to benefit corporations like Abitibibowater. But the Canadian company Abitibibowater has its head office in Detroit (which qualifies it for big tax breaks.). That Detroit head office is what gave Abitibibowater the claim to being a US company so it could make this a NAFTA case.
3. Once it became a NAFTA case, that put Stephen Harper in the decision seat. That's like allowing a cat to decide whether a fish should be swimming in a bowl or chopped up and served on a plate. Harper quickly offered $130 million to Abitibibowater in return for something that never belonged to it in the first place.
This is what Brian Lee Crowley, Managing Director ofThe Macdonald-Laurier Institute (a non-partisan "think-tank"), doesn't tell us.
My goodness, he says, this could do damage to Canadian democracy. Right. Canadian corporations are very concerned about democracy. Just ask the New Brunswick billionaire who recently named himself a member of the New Brunswick government - without bothering to get elected.
And get ready for the day when he doesn't need you any more than Abitibibowater needs the people of Newfoundland.