NDP not opposed to subsidy

The New Democrats and Alcan agree on the “what”, it’s the “how” where they diverge.
NDP leader Carole James met with Alcan officials – including Paul Henning – prior to her appearance at the town hall meeting.
Describing the session as a good one, James noted the NDP had said from the start it is important it hears from all sides.
“We talked about the fact we’re not at odds at wanting Alcan to be successful,” she recalled.
Both had agreed Alcan’s success was beneficial to not just Kitimat, but the region and province as a whole.
And they had agreed the smelter should be expanded and modernized.
“Where we disagree is the direction the government took to make that happen,” James explained.
“This is an issue with Gordon Campbell, it’s not an issue with Alcan,” she added.
Pointing out Campbell had tried to shift the burden from the province the BC Hydro ratepayers, James said the government, through LTEPA+, was essentially trying to subsidize Alcan.
“If they want to do that, they should just come right out and do it, be up front with the public.”
Asked if the NDP had any philosophical problems with subsidies, James said the reverse was true.
She pointed to the NDP’s subsidizing of the film industry – which had become very successful and large economic generator – and the incentives provided to the oil and gas industry back in the 1990s.
“As a tool we think targeted subsidies can make sense.
James said the 1997 agreement offered the opportunity for the company to be profitable, the community to benefit from expansion and jobs, and the province to benefit from getting taxes from a very profitable company.
“We think the foundation is there,” she maintained, adding all parties should talk about that and get on with the project rather than the government and BC Hydro appealing the BCUC decision.
Earlier in the day James had a lunch meeting with Terrace mayor Jack Talstra and members of his council.
The subsidy issue came up there as well with agreement that Alcan should be rewarded with some kind of subsidy for its $2 billion rebuild.
James did question the plan by Alcan to sell power it considers surplus once its smelter needs are met.
It proved to be the focal point of a debate in which she and fellow MLAs, Robin Austin and the party’s energy critic John Horgan, echoed the specific suspicion of Kitimat council that Alcan could too easily abandon aluminum smelting in favour of power sales.
But James and Austin also edged away from the Kitimat position that all the energy Alcan produces should be used to smelt aluminum.
Talstra took pains to tell them the Kitimat position of using all of the power only in that community is wrong. “It’s a sticking point,” he said in quoting a statement from mayor Rick Wozney that Terrace couldn’t be part of the area to benefit from Alcan power.
“I have to say, yes, I disagree with that,” replied Austin to the Wozney position.
Saying Alcan is the region’s major economic player and modernization will set the stage for economic growth and stability for decades to come, Talstra described Kitimat as directing “venom” toward Alcan, something he said needed correcting.