Yes, with a provincial election call looming, the timing of the government’s $7.5 million package to the Scotsburn dairy plant in Truro last week was very suspicious.
Just like all the other financial packages and loans that have been promised in recent weeks.
What we have here is a government in serious re-election mode and, like all its predecessors, it is using a good chunk of taxpayers’ money at a very strategic moment in its mandate to help make that happen.
As a general rule, we would like to see governments (regardless of affiliation) use the bulk of any surplus cash at its disposal to help pay down our net provincial debt which has ballooned to a record $14 billion. Our grandchildren will appreciate it.
None will do so, however, because the serious belt-tightening required is not the best way to stay in power.
Thus, the debt receives lip service while wads of money is sprinkled around where politicians and their advisors think it will do the most good.
As financial packages go, however, support for the Scotsburn plant makes more sense than most.
First and foremost, the Scotsburn Dairy Group is Atlantic Canada’s largest locally owned dairy processor and distributer. It employs an estimated 200 workers and has close working ties with more than 100 dairy farms in the region.
In other words, this isn’t one of those here-today, gone-tomorrow operations that governments have loaned money to over the years.
Scotsburn is also reportedly running at capacity and the demand for its ice cream products is expected to increase over time.
The future, then, looks bright. Not only to buy the custom-built equipment needed to produce new products now but eventually to enlarge its 152,000-square foot building in the Truro Business Park and add three more production lines.
Of the initial $10-million expansion, the government is loaning Scotsburn $5.5 million, which is intended to create 40 jobs. Up to $480,000 of the loan is forgivable based on job creation, and the loan is repayable over 15 years.
The government is also chipping in $2 million which is described as a ‘capital equipment incentive.’
Given Scotsburn’s track record as a good corporate citizen and the promise of more private-sector jobs, we think this is one investment that is a prudent use of taxpayers’ money.