Friday, June 05, 2009

Mr. Veniez turns his attention to the local populace

He’s been best known over the last month as perhaps Prince Rupert’s most published author, as Dan Veniez’s thoughts on the need to privatize Ridley Terminals has been widely recorded across Canada.

From the National Post to the Globe and Mail to the Vancouver Sun, his oped pieces have become the mainstay of the debate over the issue that has jumped to the top of the list for local discussion these days.

Now, with the communities of the Northwest and Northern BC weighing in on the topic, the issue and Mr. Veniez has gone local.

From the CBC to the Northern View and the Daily News, the privatization issue has become one of the leading stories of the moment.

You can listen in to the audio (click here) from the CBC's Daybreak North Report of earlier this week, examining the plans for the privatization vision and the thoughts of both supporters and opponents.

Likewise, the Northern View and Daily News provide their accounting of events, with articles found below.

And for the full review of the developments on the Ridley story, you can follow these links from the blog with a complete archive of our items thus far on the story.

Mr. Veniez gets some back up
Backlash brewing over Ridley privatization plans
Mr Veniez against the world...
Mr Veniez's Prospectus

Veniez responds to opposition
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Pages one and three

Ridley Terminals Inc. Chairman Dan Veniez responded to northern municipal leadership opposition to the idea of privatization of the North coast coal terminal.

He believes that the "wool is being pulled over everyone's eyes" by a consortium of coal producers who want subsidized access to Asian markets.

"Our sole interest is the well-being of RTI, it's people, and the taxpayer. In the past decade, RTI's been run into the ground," wrote Veniez in an email from Asia.

In 2003, Transport Canada officials managed and led a process that lasted more than two years, resulting in its recommendation to sell RTI to a junior coal producer for a total cash consideration of less than $3 million. The terminal had been built in 1982 for $250 million.

The Conservative government put a halt to the idea in 2006 because newly elected Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not believe that a sale represented sound value or the right choice for Canadians.

If this story sounds like a repeat, that's because it is. In January 2006, the Daily News reported that during the last days of the election, a coalition of coal companies were pushing the Prime Minister to follow the lead of then Minister of Industry David Emerson and cancel the sale of Ridley Terminals to a sole company and instead place it in the hands of the port authority or a coalition of shippers.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the companies, most of which had or still have coal interests in Northeast B.C., said they were discouraged with comments by Transport Canada that Emerson's view is "not one shared by the national campaign or by the federal government itself."

The companies included the Northern Energy and Mines, Western Canadian Coal, Cline Mining, Elk Valley Coal, Hillsborough Resources Limited, Sumitomo Canada Ltd., Teck Cominco, ICEC International Commodities Export Corporation and Pine Valley Coal.

At the time the company that was tipped to take over the terminal was Northwest Bulk Terminals Inc., a subsidiary of Toronto mining contingent Fortune Minerals.

But Veniez said privatization is small part of what he considers to be the real story.

"No one is talking about the central problem [of financial troubles]. This discussion isn't about whether to privatize or not. It's about how should that be reversed to secure RII for the future. And who's going to pay for it.”

But RTI did see some increase in traffic during 2008.

According to the annual report, the company had a seven per cent increase in revenues from 2007 numbers.

But numbers are expected to be much less this year because global demand has softened for all kinds of mined products, including coal.

In it's annual report, RTl noted that there was, "deteriorating economic conditions led to a decreased demand for steel, and subsequently, for coal. Economic activity in Asia, the primary driver of coal consumption in the steel sector for the past decade, sharply contracted after August 2008."

It isn't just RTl who expects a decline in shipments, either. Westshore Terminals Inc. a privately owned coal terminal in Vancouver, owned by B.C. Midas man Jim Pattison, forecasts a drop in shipments, also.

For the first quarter of 2009, Westshore anticipated that its tonnage throughput would be approximately 4.5 million tonnes as compared to 5.1 million tonnes for the same period in 2008.

Privatizing Ridley Terminals is not the core issue, says Veniez
Both the City of Prince Rupert and the District of Port Edward oppose the sale of Ridley Terminals.
Shaun Thomas - The Northern View
Published: June 04, 2009 10:00 AM Updated: June 04, 2009 11:14 AM

The day after the North Central Municipalities Association (NCMA) and the Northern Development Initiative Trust outlined their opposition to the proposed sale of Ridley Terminals in Prince Rupert, board chair Dan Veniez reiterated his stance that selling the facility is an important step in ensuring the future of the company and its workers.

“In the past decade, RTI's been run into the ground. That's not acceptable. No one is talking about that central problem. We are. How should that be reversed to secure RTI's place for the future? That's the real issue,” he said, adding that “government has been bad at running RTI” and has invested $400 million into the terminal.

“[The core issue] is not to privatize or not to privatize. The core issues are who is going to take care of RTI, and do it justice as an important part of the gateway? Who is going to pay for it? Should the taxpayer continue to subsidize foreign owned coal producers…

As a board, we are doing this as a public service because we care about Prince Rupert and the region. Our job is to protect RTI. What the government decides to do is entirely within its purview. We don't get a vote on that whatsoever.”
The NCMA opposition, which included the mayors of 25 communities and 20 regional district representatives, said keeping Ridley Terminals public was important for the northern economy.

Ridley Terminals is key to the continued expansion of family by supporting jobs in our mining, forestry and bioenergy industries. Efficient and cost effective export means that Ridley Terminals must remain a public asset to ensure there is growth and diversification in the wealth creating rural regions of British Columbia," said the NCMA.

"This region will be further insulated from a future recession as long as it has a diversified resource base with the most efficient and least congested public port system in western North America. A publicly operated Ridley Terminals is critical to that vision.”

Look for more on this story in the June 10 issue of The Northern View.

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