Why Did This Happen? Who's at the Controls in BC?


... Worthington Properties has been issued a set of orders from the Ministry of the Environment that require Worthington properties to carry out certain functions around spill prevention. "It also give us the ability to step in and ensure those actions are taking place" says Minister of Forests Pat Bell. He adds that Worthington properties has not paid its staff at the mill for some time, "There was an imminent risk of staff leaving and unionized workers leaving the premises and leaving it in a state that would have caused immediate risk to the environment." Bell says the owner of the mill, Dan White, says he still intends to operate the facility but doesn't have the cash flow right now. ... The Mayor of Mackenzie, Stephanie Killam says Worthington Properties has yet to pay the taxes on the property and the amount is in the $2 million dollar range. ...

B.C. unsure who will pay for pulp mill cleanup


The provincial government may have to go to Central Europe to find someone to pay the $50-million price tag for the cleanup of dangerous chemicals inside a northern B.C. pulp mill.

The owner of the company that bought the mill, Dan White of Worthington Properties, is nowhere to be found -- and the only listed director of the company is a man who resides in Slovenia.

"Nobody's happy about the situation," B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal told CTV News.

Last year, it seemed like the town of Mackenzie, B.C., would dwindle after the bankruptcy of Pope and Talbot, which operated a pulp mill near the town.

But when Alberta company Worthington Properties agreed to buy the mill in September, four months ago, it seemed like a chance to revive the town, said B.C.'s Forestry Minister, Pat Bell.

"[White] was certainly an interesting man, he said all of the right things, and made it clear that his intent was to operate the mill," said Bell, who met with White during the sale.

Instead, by January, the mill employees weren't getting receiving their paycheques, and the company had racked up $2-million in back taxes owed to the town of Mackenzie.

And when it appeared that pipes at the mill might freeze in -30 degree temperatures, risking the leak of tons of deadly chlorine dioxide over the 5,000 inhabitants of Mackenzie, the provincial government stepped in Sunday to manage the mill.

The mayor of Mackenzie said that the town had tried to contact White and Worthington, but they never returned the phone calls.

"The owners are not there you can't find them. You can phone them, you don't get any answers," said Stephanie Killam. "We haven't had any contact with them for a number of months, actually."

When CTV News tried to contact White at his listed Worthington address in Edmonton, a secretary told us that White was busy -- and that he would issue a press statement. No statement was issued.

CTV News checked several addresses in Edmonton but we were told that the company had recently left each one.

When we checked the Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench, we found that Worthington Properties had been sued by construction companies and interior designers 77 times since 2002.

White himself was convicted of money laundering in the 1990s, and also was named in court documents as the target of a RCMP undercover investigation.

And the only remaining director of Worthington Properties is now Drago N. Puskaric, who resides in Slovenia.

The leader of B.C.'s opposition says that the government should have done checks on Worthington when it bought the mill.

"Instead he walked away, left a huge environmental liability, and we could all be paying for it," said NDP Leader Carole James. "If that's the government doing its job, we're all in trouble."

But Bell said that there's no reason the government would have checked the sale. The mill's environmental permits were in order, and there were no forest licenses changing hands, he said.

"There was no role for the provincial government to take in the transfer of the asset," he said.

The province has agreed to take on responsibility for the pulp mill for 15 days.

"I don't know how in 15 days they're going to clean up those chemicals," said Carl Bernasky a union representative for the workers in Mackenzie.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Kent Molgat and Jon Woodward

Now if I were the employees at this mill I would be looking at ways have the mill employee owned and operated.

And if I were the Attorney General of BC I would be seeking ways to have White as well as Worthington Properties charged with Reckless Endangerment or possibly attempted Murder, as well as a miriad of environmental charges.

So, now, Mr.Campbell. How is it that your administration never seems to do any Due Diligence when dealing with these white collar criminals? I for one would really like to know?


North Van's Grumps said...

After Expo 86, the plan by the Social Credits was to sell their expropriated False Creek property to the highest bidder.... which eventually turned out to be $50 million. One slight hitch though, that same provincial government had written into a law a new environmental legislation that required the current owner to clean up all environmental damage prior to it being sold.

The industries that created the mess in False Creek, over 92 years, were not the parties responsible, but it was the taxpayers of British Columbia.

How much was the clean-up costs?

$50 million

So, here we have situation whereby taxpayers are on the hook again because of the sloppy work done by the provincial government who didn't go the extra mile to ensure that the environment was protected before it was sold to Dan White courtesy of the financial mortgage genius of Bernie Van Maren who lists on his web site one client (Spectrum Canada Mortgage Services Inc.) who still believes in SUB PRIME MORTGAGES... Van Maren is the same bright boy who partnered up with John Les out there in Chilliwack on converting ALR to residential properties that are still under investigation by the RCMP and the ALC.

North Van's Grumps said...

How about awarding Environment Minister Barry Penner a dunce cap:

In a Journal of Commerce article:

The Mackenzie Green Energy Limited Partnership received an environmental assessment (EA) certificate from the B.C. government on Nov. 6, for the construction and operation of a $230 million new electricity generation facility.

Even though Mackenzie Green Energy Ltd. received the go-ahead from the province to start construction, the future of the project is less certain, because the project relies on partnering with Pope and Talbot’s Mackenzie Pulp Mill.

The company hopes to use wood waste from Pope & Talbot’s pulp mill, which originates from Canfor’s sawmill in Mackenzie.

- December 5, 2007

However, in another Press Release, this time from the Ministry of Environmnet ..... "The Best Place on Earth" to inhale toxic chlorine fumes is MacKenzie.

Whatever happened to the idea of Gordon Campbell's of decreasing the use of natural gas to generate electricity for 50,000 homes by using wood residues?

Gary E said...

Thank you NVG for these incitefull additions to this post.
On Expo 86 I remember Mike Harcourt saying that this Exposition "will not cost Vancouver one dime" and I believe it didn't under his watch as Mayor. I find it very disturbing that laws in this province get changed to aid big business.

On the Mackenzie problem I find it is just another flip flop going on by this government to please the voters. They have yet to followup on approximately 90% of the promises made since 2001. The ones they did followup on were rearranged or canceled at the whim of Premier Photo Op.

You can't run a government of, for and by the people, on Pictures

Northern Gal. said...

The immediate blame for this situation lies with Price Waterhouse Coopers for not doing a better job at assessing Dan White's finances.

I'm no fan of the Campbell government, but the town of Mackenzie did better than most towns under their revised forest mangement plans. Logs were shipped to Mackenzie mills (from around the province) for processing for several years. And when the building industries boom again and the beetle kill wood's been harvested fully, the town of Mackenzie will be the first to boom.

"Now if I were the employees at this mill I would be looking at ways have the mill employee owned and operated."

What a naive sentimental point of view.

At present there is simply no market for pulp. Period. That is beyond dispute. It doesn't matter if the financing for the Worthington-Mackenzie mill comes from a multi-national corporation or a slimy property developer from Alberta or from the savings of private citizens -- NO ONE IS BUYING PULP. Ergo NO SHOULD BE PRODUCING PULP.

Right now though, the government IS doing a good job of protecting the Mackenzie residents even though this whole thing is a P.R. nightmare for Campbell and his freemarket leaning cronies.

And you spelled myriad incorrectly

Gary E said...

Northern Gal

I am always suspicious of people who start comments with "I am no fan of" or "I wouldn't vote for" or nit picking spelling.

You are correct in stating that Price Waterhouse didn't do their DD on Dan White's finances. I might also point out that this company appears to favor some bids over others. Did PW do a good job at Harmac. I think not. A judge had to order the sale to the four groups bidding as a block over a scrap dealer. Why? Because the economic benefits to the surrounding area out weighed a scrapyard profit.
Which brings up the question did you see the article in the TC on the "employee Owned" mill that is able to reduce the cost of producing pulp by $110 per ton? And right now they are sitting prettier than most mills in BC.(including Mackenzie) I suspect that they may even have a better safety record than most as well. So I don't think that my view is either naive nor sentimental. To me an employee owned business is people keeping their jobs and finding innovative ways to do so. Not by worrying about the bottom line to shareholders at any cost.
Having said that, Harmac may or may not survive the "economic downturn" (depression) we are now in. But they are far and away better off than most mills. Witness the 850 jobs lost this week. And I submit that if they do close they will shut down in a proper manner and not expose the surrounding are to deadly chlorine gas.

As for my misspelling here I have said many times before that I am not the worlds best typist. Peck and hunt suits me fine. Did you notice how close the "u" and "y" are on the keyboard. Oh and my spellchecker didn't pick it up either.