When I heard that Maritime Iron was putting its $1.5 billion iron processing plant project on hold, I searched the news sites and social media for signs of outrage. After all, it’s not every day someone proposes a $1.5 billion – 30-40 year development project for Belledune. I certainly didn’t cover the waterfront but after 15-20 minutes I found no outrage. Hardly even a whimper.
I decided to write a column expressing my outrage. Not necessarily at the project’s demise but at the apathy across the board about this project. I was going to talk in this column about how communities across the United States were stumbling over for Tesla’s $1.1 billion plant. The winning jurisdiction is likely to offer somewhere close to $1 billion in incentives.
I might have remarked in this column that people have been skeptical of this project since Day 1. Why would anyone want to put $1.5 billion into Belledune? Never mind the area is ideal for the project because of its proximity to the iron ore (Quebec), its need for a good port (Belledune) and its use of coal and that its markets will be North America – displacing product from Asia.
I was going to talk about how the product to be produced in Belledune is critical to the functioning of the economy including the new Tesla plant. Yes. Telsa has decided to use even more steel in its newer models. Imagine a New Brunswick community playing a key role in the North American supply chain for steel products.
Just to convey my annoyance, I would have particularly zoomed in on this little blurb from the CBC story from the environmental impact technical committee report: “It fails to note more than 100 daily truck trips to and from the site will “likely result” in air quality problems beyond Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards.”
Within 10 minutes of my house I can show you a dozen warehouses in Moncton/Dieppe that handle more than 100 daily trucks. We now live in a world where 100 daily truck trips to and from and industrial facility is considered a problem.
I might have remarked that while NB Power is worried about the impact on taxpayers, although it was quite vague on this point, no one over there seems to mind the tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue from the Brunswick Smelter in the coming years. How will that revenue be replaced? How about a pig iron plant? The lost revenue and stranded debt associated with Belledune? Nary a mention.
I would have probably remarked the carbon emissions from this activity will occur. Pig iron needs to be processed. Tesla and thousands of other manufactured goods need the steel. Your life revolves around steel. The carbon emissions from this activity will occur – just not here and neither will the hundreds of good paying jobs in the plant and supply chain.
I’ve heard politicians bragging about New Brunswick’s reduction in carbon emissions. They are less quick to tell people this has come by closing industrial plants and from among the weakest economic growth among the 60 U.S. states and Canadian provinces since 2008. I might have snarkily remarked the best way to reduce your carbon emissions is to shut down your province.
If New Brunswick becomes the nursing home for North America over the next 10-20 years, our carbon footprint will be nice and low.
If I was particularly cranky while writing the column, I might have remarked that instead of Belledune re-emerging as a key player in the North American supply chain for steel products, it will continue to wither away.
Not one for hyperbole, I still would have likely indicated that I hope we are not as cavalier about the 20,000+ jobs in New Brunswick we just figured out – as a result of Covid-19 – that can be done anywhere. The thousands and thousands of New Brunswickers who earn their livelihood supporting people with roadside assistance, insurance claim processing, mortgage applications, IT support, hotel reservations, airline reservations and telehealth now face competition from home-based workers across the world. Our computer programmers, graphic designers and just about every other kind of professional services worker too just realized the exposed brick and beam, high ceiling office with a beer fridge and pool table may not be needed any more.
I would have said I hope New Brunswick government and economic development officials are laying awake at night trying to dream up ways to make this province the ideal location for that type of work. Otherwise it will drain away over the next 5-10 years at a slow drip. I know its a lose connection between Maritime Iron and knowledge workers but I can’t help thinking somewhere in the back of my mind if you won’t stand up for one…..
I might have mentioned my concern that New Brunswick will never see another large industrial or mining project again. We have manufactured a political climate where there is almost no tolerance for it. Imagine, 100 trucks per day.
I fear it will be more like that scene in Casablana where Ugarte is arrested and taken off to be interrogated and then killed. Another anonymous guy in a white linen suit sidles up to Rick and says “when they come for me, I hope you will be more help” to which Rick says “I stick my neck out for nobody”. While other jurisdictions are bending over backwards to develop large industrial projects like the LNG export facility and associated natural gas development in British Columbia – New Brunswick just won’t have the stomach for it.
Everybody talks about Frank McKenna.
It is absolutely incredible – even farcical – that more than 20 years after his exit from New Brunswick politics – I hear his name on a weekly basis. Only now it is young people – hardly born at the time- repeating the McKenna stories with reverence they way someone might talk about Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth.
But, deep down, everyone knows McKenna would have been hustling – even now – to get that project done in Belledune. For those of you old enough to remember, think about who rammed through the Belledune electricity generation facility itself?
Maritime Iron is an industrial process requiring massive amounts of energy but I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t have occurred in New Brunswick with the most up to date environmental protocols and processes. But when we are at the point where 100 trucks coming in and out of the site is stated concern, what else is there to be said?
I guess the 100 cars coming in and out of the nursing homes is not a problem for ambient air quality standards.
But after reading about this project and realizing that no one else is concerned, I guess I decided to follow the crowd.
So I shrugged it off, gave up on writing the column and went back to binge watching NetFlix.
American Factory, to be specific.