More than a month after Ridley Terminals Inc. gave a presentation to Port Edward’s council about adding a second berth, they presented the project to Prince Rupert council on Aug. 20.
But since the presentation in Port Edward, the federal government announced on Aug. 8 that it intends to sell RTI. That news was the focus of the councillors’ questions for RTI president and chief operating officer Marc Dulude and corporate affairs manager Michelle Bryant-Gravelle.
“For us, Ottawa is the current owner potentially selling, and I insist on the term ‘potentially’ because they have just started the process of consulting the stakeholders,” Marc Dulude replied after councillor Wade Neish asked how committed the project is in light of news of a sale.
“It’s business as usual. In our plan, we’re seeing a major opportunity in the coal business. We want to take advantage of it,” Dulude said. “When you run a terminal like this, you run it for like 70 years. You have to think [of the] terminal 70 years ahead. For us, it’s very essential to have this second dock in place.”
He added that it’s important to diversify business with liquid and solid material moving through the terminal, especially with the coal market going up and down.
Councillor Joy Thorkelson raised concerns that a competing coal terminal may want to purchase Ridley Terminals only to shut it down, eliminating the competition. She said the government has sought to sell RTI before, usually when it looks like they’re making a profit.
“We the people of Canada subsidized Ridley Terminals when it was doing poorly by ensuring that it got federal money in order to maintain itself. But now when it’s once again at the cusp of moving forward we are going to sell it off, and the people of Canada don’t get the ongoing profit that the operation is going to be making,” Thorkelson said after RTI’s presentation. “I think that’s a terrible thing. It means that we have less community control and less community input into a foreign corporation.”
She suggested moving to take a stance — as the Prince Rupert council has done in the past — and ask the government not to sell the terminal.
“We should keep it here, keep control over our own port by our own country,” she said.
RTI’s president said he could only suggest the council talk to the Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau.
“There’s a consultation process starting right now, so that doesn’t mean it’s going to come to a conclusion,” Dulude said.
Councillor Barry Cunningham agreed with Thorkelson that council should write a letter to the government.
“That company has been such a boon to the community, giving back more than they take out sometimes it seems. They’ve been here through thick and thin and I think we should support them in any way, because what councillor Thorkelson is talking about is very realistic. They’re a thorn in the side of a couple of coal companies in other countries and it would be very convenient to just shut them down,” he said.
Citing process bylaw, Mayor Lee Brain said a letter would be considered at the next council meeting on Sept. 4.