Ominous signs for spud future?

Closure of McCain’s french fry plant contains warning on deep-water wells

Published on August 9, 2014

The pending closure of the McCain’s french fry plant in Borden-Carleton is devastating news for more than 120 employees, the town, growers, the potato industry and the province in general. The continuing strong Canadian dollar is making french fry exports expensive and the plant has dropped production by some two-thirds in recent years. It became uneconomical to continue but that is small consolation to those most affected.

Cavendish Farms officials have been in to kick the tires at McCain’s but there is no indication the Irvings are seriously interested in operating or re-tooling the Borden-Carleton plant. It would be the answer to most prayers if that were to happen. Some might dismiss the McCain’s decision as minor since it impacts less than five per cent of P.E.I.’s potato production but the warning signs are there for a much larger catastrophe.

Indications are clear — the same might happen at Cavendish Farms which contracts a majority of the Island potato crop. If McCain’s are having problems marketing and selling fries, then Cavendish is in the same situation. Any move to downsize the New Annan operation would send this province into an economic tailspin.

Cavendish Farms used the current crisis to revive the deep-water wells issue. Dry weather this past month or more displayed the importance of a secure and constant water supply to produce better quality and uniform sized potatoes.

Islanders should be prepared for serious economic repercussions if Cavendish follows McCain’s down the road because it can be assured of better potatoes and make more money elsewhere. It’s not a threat, it’s a fact.


 Weekend thoughts


Of all the conferences and conventions coming to P.E.I. in this 150th anniversary year of the Charlottetown Conference, one event flew under the radar. The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame held its induction ceremonies Thursday night in Mississauga where Charlottetown native Wally Hennessey was inducted. It would have been a thrill to have those prestigious ceremonies in Charlottetown to help kick off the Old Home Week harness racing extravaganza, especially with Mr. Hennessey in the spotlight. Congratulations to Wally, who richly deserved the long-overdue honour for his 8,500 career wins and $58 million in career earnings. Standardbred Canada had hosted its annual O’Brien Awards in Charlottetown in February.


How about this one? Reports indicate that spring lobster landings along the north shore spiked at the extreme ends of LFA 24 near North Cape and East Point. It’s been hypothesized that something is attracting the lobsters to congregate in those two areas. The common denominators are windmill farms. Are lobsters attracted by the humming noise or the electro-magnetic energy associated with the giant wind turbines? If it can be proven that windmills attract lobsters, P.E.I. ports will be looking for DFO to erect wind turbines at every harbour mouth. They could serve a dual purpose – as navigational aids and lobster magnets. Problem solved.


Why not me, asks Lt.-Gov. Frank Lewis. He has met the Queen, the Prime Minister, premiers and so on. But one honour has escaped the Governor. Try as he might, he has failed to win The Onion (Brian McGuire Memorial) golf tourney in support of palliative and hospice care at his favourite course — the Links at Crowbush Cove. The Governor claims there are too many sandbaggers in the field, especially among the APM team captained by Tim Banks. Speaking of the Onion, His Honour’s teammate — Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee — expects to buttonhole golfers in the Biblical sense at the event August 16. He is coming with more than 200 ‘Re-Elect Lee’ buttons for golfers, volunteers and guests. Check your plate carefully — there might be a Lee button among the salad greens.