The following exchange between Timmins-James Bay MPP Gilles Bisson and Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay took place today in the legislature.
The topic of conversation was the Weyerhaeuser Mill, in Sturgeon Falls:
Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay):
My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. As you know, the Weyerhaeuser mill in Sturgeon Falls has been closed for over a year now. While you were in opposition, we in the New Democrats were very frustrated by the refusal of the Conservative government, which took no action in helping that struggling community to find a buyer and force Weyerhaeuser to the table so that the mill would not be sold but would stay open, and assist in saving those jobs. You're the government; you're the local member; you've been in power for six months; what have you done to save those jobs?
Hon David Ramsay (Minister of Natural Resources): I'd like to thank the member, one of my northern colleagues, for the question. I have had several meetings with the officials of the municipality of West Nipissing, where Sturgeon Falls is located. We have been working together in trying to attract proponents to locate in that particular municipality, and looking specifically at value-added industry so that we can create those jobs and replace those jobs that were lost from that unfortunate closing of the Weyerhaeuser plant. I continue that work. I met with the CAO last Thursday evening and spoke to him about our progress on that, and we continue to work with the people in the community and the workers there. I spoke to the workers' rep on Thursday night also, and we'll continue to work on this project.
Mr Bisson: Minister, nobody disagrees that we ought to do some value-added work when it comes to finding jobs in northern Ontario, but that wasn't the question. The question was, while you were in opposition, my leader, Howard Hampton, myself, the local community and you were on the same side, and we said, "Let's force Weyerhaeuser to the table in order to sell that mill to somebody who's prepared to keep it open, to save the jobs at Weyerhaeuser." What I just heard you say is basically that you've given up. Are you prepared today to reverse the position you just stated in this House and work with us to find a buyer, to work with Weyerhaeuser to help them force the sale of that mill?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I think what the member needs to understand is that, unlike the leverage I would normally have with other forestry operations, where the crown controls the timber allocation, as you know, this particular plant did not have a timber allocation at all. It was basically a recycling facility for used cardboard, so there is not that leverage that we would normally have, where we can direct the development to certain communities.
As I said to the member before, I'm continuing to work with the community and various proponents who are interested in locating in that area, and we're going to continue that work.