McCain workers need government help, says Malpeque MP

Mike Carson
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Plant closure a wake-up call for P.E.I.

BORDEN-CARLETON – Implications from the closing of the McCain french fry plant in Borden-Carleton could have far-reaching effects, says Malpeque MP Wayne Easter.

Malpeque MP Wayne Easter

 

He said the first priority is the 121 employees who will lose their jobs when the plant shuts down in the fall.

“There are a lot of things that need to be done,” Easter said. “We’ve got some time. We’ve got to Oct. 31. There needs to be a pulling together of all the parties that could help. There is Rural Development P.E.I. There is the McCain’s development money that they are putting up. There is Human Resources Development Canada.

He said, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency needs to be involved along with both levels of government.

“Anybody that can be involved in security of pensions, in employment insurance, skills development and training to find a new job, the human aspect of family resource planning, given that this is going to be traumatic to employees, and what can be done to insure we still have an economic development core in that particular area,” Easter said. “I’m going to be pushing all of the players to insure that that happens.”

The pending closure has also raised other red flags for the Malpeque MP.

“For us in P.E.I. it’s a big hit,” he said. “There are other implications that need to be looked at from a regional development aspect.”

McCain Foods closure announcement stated that the strong Canadian dollar and the state of the international french fry market were reasons to halt operations at the Island’s plant.

Easter raised other issues that may have led to the decision to close shop.

“Does productivity in the potato industry have anything to do with it (or), the added transportation cost of moving product from Prince Edward Island (or), our energy costs on Prince Edward Island?” he asked. “The Irvings are now using liquefied gas that they’re pulling out of the pipeline at Port Elgin. Given our density of population, shouldn’t we have an off ramp to bring natural gas from the mainland to Prince Edward Island to be competitive?”

“This is a wake up call,” Easter said. “We need to be looking at those aspects. We don’t hear anymore about regional development from ACOA…is anybody home?”

Wayne Thompson, chairman of the Central Development Corporation (CDC) in Bedeque was on holidays when the announcement came down.

“The initial thought would go out to the employees,” he said. “They’re a very significant loss to the area.

“As far as related development activities in the area, any time a major employer moves on it certainly will have a negative effect on surrounding communities and the whole shift from rural to urban areas. It’s unfortunate when you see the rural jobs leaving rural areas.”

Thompson said other business in the area will also be affected with the loss of the McCain Foods employees.

The CDC is a community-focused, not-for-profit organization located in Central Bedeque. Its mandate is to foster a strong economic environment in Rural Central P.E.I which supports businesses, nurtures community growth and encourages new investment in the region.  In 2013, CDC moved to a fee for service model of operations.  Fees for project administration services such as: project planning, development and implementation services, to strategic community and economic development initiatives are tied to project costs similar to professional services.

mcarson@journalpioneer.com

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