BORDEN-CARLETON – Shock was the reaction from Borden-Carleton Mayor Dean Sexton on the announced closure of the McCain’s french fry plant in his community.
“We’re all shocked,” the mayor said after hearing the news Thursday morning. “There had been rumours going around but nobody thought it would materialize.”
Sexton wasn’t certain how many of the employees actually live in Borden-Carleton but any loss of citizens in a community of this size will have an impact.
“We’ve been trying to maintain if not get more businesses here,” he said. “Like any small community on the Island, we can’t take much more decline. The next thing that happens is you lose your school and once your school is gone, your community is gone.”
Town council has been working over the past few years on ways of increasing the population in the port community and to attract more business investment.
“We’ve been trying to get some land for a subdivision and we’re still working on that hoping that something will materialize with some developer,” Sexton said. “Now this has hit us and it doesn’t help our case much right now. We were trying to get a subdivision with affordable, attractive housing so that some of these workers could move into our community and increase our tax base. This doesn’t help at all.”
McCain Foods is providing $2 million in transition funding to identify potential economic development initiatives, but Sexton said that money is going to the province.
“We would love to have seen it come here so that we could buy some land for a subdivision,” the mayor said. “We’ll have to negotiate with the province on that.
We just hope the province doesn’t just take that money to try and pay off their debt and we’d never get a cent of it. I’m not saying that that’s going to be the case.”
It’s still early and Sexton said the community needs time to catch its breath.
He said, “We’re just trying to absorb the shock at this stage and where we might go next.”
Sexton said McCain’s has told him that all of the equipment will be removed but the facility will remain.
“We’re going to have to set up a meeting with the province and the federal government to see what our next move is. I haven’t even had a chance to talk to council yet about this.”
Malpeque MP Wayne Easter said the closure of the plant has been under discussion for some time but the impact to Borden-Carleton remains the same
Easter said, “We’ve been expecting this type of news for a number of years but that certainly doesn’t limit the sadness and the difficulty for those people that are losing their jobs. There are 23 to 27 growers that will be affected as well. It also limits the competition in the potato processing industry. That has an impact.”
Easter said there are training dollars, and retirement packages and an economic develop fund which is being negotiated with the province, being made available by McCain’s.
“Having said that, it doesn’t in any way limit another loss of jobs in rural P.E.I. and the impact on the workers and we’ll have to see what can be done from the federal and provincial governments. Good jobs, reasonable paying job. You just can’t get away from the sadness.”
Growers who have contracts this year with McCain’s can expect those contracts to be honoured, Easter said.
“That’s critical. That leaves next year - these are processing growers with processing contracts and that’s certainly in question Will they still be able to supply McCain’s operation?” he said. “They’re (McCain’s) saying it’s the international french fry market that’s forced them to do this. We’ll have to look at those details. You also have other suppliers who will be impacted as well, even the restaurants and grocery stores in the area and service stations.”