Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Someone to watch over me, a Dan Veniez lullabye

While Dan Veniez continues on with his very public campaign to bring privatization to Ridley Terminals, over on the other side of the debate Nathan Cullen is getting ready to ask a few questions and dig a bit deeper into that campaign.

Over the last few months on the blog (see archives below) we've been updating our readers on the public relations blitz that Mr. Veniez has launched in order to bring about his goal of delivering Ridley Terminals into a private enterprise situation, moving away from the current Crown corporation model to one where the marketplace will dictate the evolution of the terminals operations.

It's a move that has galvanized a fair bit of opposition over the last month or so, as local politicians across Northern BC make their opinions on the topic known, most of which are highly negative towards the Veniez initiative.

Adding to the opposition chorus is Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, who has decided to launch his own investigation into Mr. Veniez's plans.

Cullen is hoping to slow down that privatization express and instead assess what is best for the interests of the Northwest and for Northern BC when it comes to ownership and operation of the Terminal.

He outlined his thoughts on the issue in a Daily News piece on Tuesday.

For your research we offer up some of our archival material thus far on the privatization issue:
June 5-- Mr. Veniez turns his attention to the local populace
June 5-- Mr. Veniez gets some back up
June 2-- Backlash brewing over Ridley privatization plans
May 29-- Mr Veniez against the world...
May 22-- Mr Veniez's prospectus
May 20-- The battle for Ridley Terminals set to grab the headlines again…

Cullen – the voice versus Veniez
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Page 5

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen thinks there is more to learn about what is happening on Ridley Island.

The Northwest representative said he would be launching an investigation into the troubles over Ridley Terminals Inc. [RTI] which has been professed to privatization by its chairman, Dan Veniez.

Cullen wants to push back the conversation about privatizing the terminal.

"I have a great number of concerns,” said Cullen during his teleconference on Thursday.

Cullen said his aides will be looking into what the government is able to do and not do, or if privatization requires legislation.

Cullen wants to know all the connections between the actors and players: who owns what, what management is paid to manage Ridley, and the where the notion of privatization originates from and who is supporting it.

"I want to ramp up the attentions of this thing and not let it slip under the radar," said Cullen.

"My interest is the public's interest I want to make sure that this thing works for the Northwest and as it stands right now I haven't heard a solid argument as to why the federal would want to privatize or why Veniez thinks that is part of his mandate."

RTI was built in 1983 for $250 million and Veniez has proposed it be sold for well below that price.

Shipping volumes are down on Ridley.

The company has reported that it is shipping 60 per cent less than it was the year before.

Cullen wants to make sure that shipping numbers aren't down because of drive to make selling RTI as cheap as possible but because, in fact, the numbers are reflecting global demand.

That doesn't mean he completely trusts Veniez's intentions.

"He has essentially gone out to the public and floated this [privatization] balloon.

"There has been some conflict within the Conservative party and they obviously know what he is about," said Cullen.

Cullen said he assumes the Conservatives hired him to sell off Ridley but that during his first conversation about RTI, Veniez had comrnitted and promised not to sell the coal terminal.

"We now see that this might not be the case," said Cullen.

Cullen said he plans to meet with Veniez in the next couple of weeks where it is expected he will press the chairman to live up to his alleged commitment.

"It's a public asset and it's there to support mining interests and is finally doing quite well. My concern is that he will drive this thing into the ground to make the case for why it needs to be sold," he said.

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