When it came to the provincial government helping McCain Foods keep its plant in P.E.I., Premier Robert Ghiz said there was nothing the province could do.
Ghiz said he met with the company Tuesday and the company didn’t ask for any help from the government, even when he offered.
“There was nothing I could offer to entice them to stay,” he said.
He made the remarks to the media after the company announced it will close its Borden-Carleton plant on Oct. 31.
McCain Foods employs 121 people at the plant and said it will provide severance packages along with $2 million to help with retraining.
Ghiz said it was disappointing to hear the plant was closing, but its production has been diminishing over the years.
“I guess the writing’s been on the wall for a while,” he said.
With the plant closing, Ghiz said the government will work with McCain Foods to help find a new use for the plant or see it go another industry.
“I’m an optimist. I think whenever a door closes another can open up,” he said.
One thing that won’t happen is the plant being used by another potato processor, with Ghiz saying the company planned to remove all of the equipment in the building, leaving it empty.
“The only thing I can say is that we know that they’re not going to use the $2 million to provide for a competitor of themselves so you won’t see that $2 million being used for potato processing.”
Although he said he wished the company would keep the plant open, Ghiz also said it was McCain Foods’ decision to close.
“We’re gonna do our best to try and make sure that we can replace that within our economy.”
In a news release, Opposition Leader Steven Myers said the loss to the potato industry will be felt across the province and he fears the economic consequences will be worse if Ghiz and Agriculture Minister George Webster don’t take immediate action to fill the void.
“The potato industry is the largest economic driver our province has – no Islander can afford this loss,” Myers said.
Premier Robert Ghiz speaks Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014 at an impromptu press conference concerning the closure of the McCain processing plant in Borden Carleton. Ghiz said he heard about the pending announcement this Tuesday while on vacation with his family. While disappointing, it was not unexpected, said Ghiz. The risk of the other main processor, Cavendish Farms, also shutting down is low, said Ghiz.
©THE GUARDIAN/Nigel Armstrong