Not the answer we hoped to hear

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For all those waiting, we finally have an answer about when DSME Trenton will achieve fulfilment of job promises at the wind tower plant. But it’s not the answer we wanted to hear.

It’s looking like never – the refurbished former TrentonWorks plant won’t hit the 500 jobs within three years, a figure proudly referred to when the former NDP government announced it would invest $60 million in the business in exchange for 49 per cent equity.

Now we find that the government learned not long afterward that, due to a variety of factors, that expectation was unrealistic. The internal government studies on the subject were obtained through freedom of information and reported by The Canadian Press.

Happily, the plant is operating, building wind towers and employs about 150. That’s great, just not the wild success people had been led to expect.

The explanation given has been a less robust wind energy market, along with factors having to do with where the company would be able to deal its product – the often-discussed lack of free trade between Canada’s provinces.

So the government in 2010 might have been unrealistic in its hopes, and perhaps short-sighted in its business acumen. That says a lot about sinking public money into a business – that there’s always an element of risk.

We should, to be fair, consider the alternative – that the former rail car plant might never have attracted a new occupant and thus would have zero employees. Also, to be fair, the pressure for government to do something when the TrentonWorks owner, Greenbrier, pulled out in 2007, was nearing the point of hysteria.

One of the biggest criticisms aimed at the former NDP government was several instances of making public funds available to companies as enticement to locate in the province, or to stay when experiencing difficulties. As a lesson to other governments, granted, this province is desperate for jobs. But don’t let desperation paint you into a corner.

Organizations: TrentonWorks, NDP, Canadian Press

Geographic location: Canada

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