N.L. shouldn't pay for $100M mill cleanup, say residents

Grand Falls-Windsor residents aren't happy that AbitibiBowater won't be held responsible for cleaning up the old mill.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Friday that the Newfoundland and Labrador government is responsible for the $100-million cleanup cost of the environmental mess.

The provincial government expropriated the bankrupt company's assets after it closed a pulp and paper mill in central Newfoundland in early 2009.

Former paper mill worker Kevin Whiffen said he's upset that AbitibiBowater doesn't have to foot the bill.

"I think it's shameful that the Supreme Court would let a company get away with this type of situation," he said.

"It's not proper. All the Supreme Court of Canada is telling everybody [is that] all these giant corporations in Canada now that it's OK to relinquish these responsibilities, just declare bankruptcy, and you're safe. It's an environmental disaster as far as I’m concerned."

Mayor Al Hawkins also said he thinks the company should be responsible for its actions.

"I'm disappointed in that decision simply because I still think the polluter who polluted should have paid," he said.

Two proposals have been made for the mill, and another is on the way. Whiffen said it's long overdue.

"It's time for the government, now that the decision is made, now do something. You either find someone to move in and do something with the property, either put another industry in there, somehow related to fibre or whatever. Just do something with it," said Whiffen.

"There's nothing to hold them back."

Hawkins has a vision for the property.

"I want to see something, a project that has a very strong business plan, that has very strong financial backing, and looks at the long-term sustainability and viability of the region, and also viability of the project," he said.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said this situation could have been avoided if government had been more careful during the drafting process of the expropriation bill.

"It was an example of how you can't rush things when you're talking about legislation and decisions of government," she said.

"That's what I regret the most, that I didn't put on the brakes that day."

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said the expropriation was a big mistake.

"We have an environmental liability here now that we didn't want," he said.

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