The province’s relentless bid to see the NewPage plant resurrected by a new owner has never been a sure bet. Still, up until now, critics had to watch what they said: finding fault with an effort to save a substantial number of jobs in rural Nova Scotia would take a lot of heat.
But the whirlwind on the weekend that saw hopes dashed, then turned around a day later, is allowing the cynics their say. The opposition parties didn’t dare vocalize harsh criticism heretofore for fear of upsetting constituents of the Strait area. Now, sensing that public sentiment is growing weary of the drawn-out bargaining, political opponents are complaining about the cost to taxpayers and the risk.
They and the public have good reason. This paper plant, although the product is to be the higher-end super-calendared paper, is still being lumped into the category of “sunset industry.” The feeling is, even if it’s a go this time, how long will it be viable?
Since making the sun stand still would be an accomplishment of biblical proportions, putting so much public investment into a long shot is not advisable for this or any future government.
The NDP have always defended this project, despite the concessions to the buyer, as the right thing to do. It wouldn’t be easy to replace several hundred jobs and a large industrial presence in an area of thin population.
But if, as the most cynical suggest, the plant does not last a great number of years, was the money spent worthwhile in face of the inevitable?
It dredges up the image of the little boy with his finger in the dike trying to hold back the flood waters.
Rather than sitting back and breathing a sigh of relief if this deal is ultimately saved, the government should now be thinking several years ahead about up-and-coming industries, about what would be promising options when the sun does indeed set. Simply reacting and hoping to reinvent the past in answer to a crisis will only buy you time. It’s time to be forward thinking.