[HALIFAX, NS] — A long-time government and business leader has been tapped by Premier Darrell Dexter to figure out just what to do about Queen’s County.
Ron Smith, who has worked in senior positions for Emera and Aliant Telecom, has accepted a role as “transition advisor” for the region.
Smith, who currently sits on the board of the Nova Scotia Jobs Fund (formerly the Industrial Expansion Fund) and Nova Scotia Business Inc., will be tasked with supporting Queens County through a time of “adjustment and renewal,” according to the Premier’s Office.
“Today we need to move forward and having Ron share in our effort is an important first step for the people of Queens County to plan their own destiny and look for a better path forward,” Dexter said in statement Sunday.
That “renewal” has yet to be seen, but the “adjustment” is real enough. On Friday, Bowater Mersey owners Resolute Forest Products (formerly AbitibiBowater) announced that the mill will be shut down indefinitely. Approximately 320 people will be affected by the decision.
The Dexter government had attempted to prop up the mill — and their estimate of 2,000 jobs that benefit from its operation — in December. The NDP paid Resolute more than $23 million for a large swath of land owned by the company, and provided money for training and capital upgrades.
While $605,000 of the training money has been spent, Dexter confirmed on Thursday that the capital money has yet to be drawn down.
Dexter defended the bailout package — worth approximately $50 million in total — last week.
“What would you do? You’re going to walk away from the jobs of thousands of people? I think that would just be wrong,” he told reporters.
Workers at the Bowater Mill voted in 2011 to cut 110 jobs in an effort to reduce labour costs for the mill.
With files from The Canadian Press