Thursday, June 11, 2009

Opinion: ROAD RUMOURS: THE LIBERAL’S FATAL VISION IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR

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Lessons not learned: 1999 Toll Road Mistakes Vs. 2009 Self Sufficient Road Mistakes

Revealing What NB Road Construction May Have In Common With Liberal Political Heavy Machinery

Francis McGuire about Rural De-Population: “We could let it happen or we could accelerate it.”

Before we get to the rumours lets take a look at some brutally factual Liberal words that are about a road that leads to a fantasy destination. A place that is absolutely disgraceful and degrading to the rural people of this province. But what the Self Sufficiency Task Force does not understand – is that it’s never about the destination, it’s about the journey. And in their blind haste to reach their destination the Liberals have left compassion for the people on the side of the road.

Compassion, fairness and public priorities have all been recklessly abandoned for a stubborn, ego-driven conceptual policy that is destructive for the majority of New Brunswickers. If you don’t think so then just think about yet another example – In the March budget our government cut approx. $60 Million on the backs of the people – and now is on the verge of using $50 Million of our money to bail out an ailing road-building company. Why …? So that road builder can be an instrument of acceleration perhaps?

Claiming that de-population of the north and other small communities is a trend that cannot be stemmed, Francis McGuire told the Telegraph Journal editorial board about de-population: “We could let it happen or we could accelerate it. You can make the Mirimichi a commuter town with a good four-lane highway and what’s wrong with that? As long as they are making money and going to spend it at Walmart.”

So now that you’re reminded of the words – ask yourself – are the recent Liberal Government budget cuts the acceleration process that Mr. McGuire so arrogantly referred to? And what Shawn Graham is referring to when he announced the $900 Million road job between the Mirimichi and Moncton just several weeks ago? The road that they think will help you make money to spend at Walmart?

It is often said about rumours: They may not be true – but where there’s smoke, there is fire. But the above quote is not rumour. It was said by Francis McGuire back in early 2007. McGuire is a major player in the Liberal Political Machinery which also includes Frank McKenna, Alan Graham, Doug Young, Robert Tozer and others. At the time of the above remarks he was the spokesperson for Shawn Graham’s Self Sufficiency Taskforce. Currently he is the Chairman of NB Power, which in recent months has become the de-facto cheerleader in the Energy Hub game.

On the first of April The Gristmill asked the question – Is the government going to bail out a contractor just to prop it up long enough so that the Brunway Group road building consortium (which includes Atcon and Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin) can bid on the four-lane project between Waweig (St.Stephen) and LePreau, NB?

Back in April we were reporting on a rumour. But since that time it has persisted and grown within the province’s road building circles, department of transportation circles, political circles and media circles. The buzz has grown so loud that the people in these circles are almost guaranteeing this long-time rumour is now a virtual certainty.

So what is this virtual certainty…? Atcon construction, lead by Mr. Robert Tozer of the Mirimichi will get a $50 million bailout from the Liberal government of New Brunswick.

There are a couple of alleged uses for this funding. Apparently, Atcon, the big construction, bridge component fabrication, and plywood manufacturing concern has fallen on relative hard times. Some big projects in Alberta have slowed or stopped altogether. The Atcon payroll has declined from 1000 to less than 200. The company’s financial position has deteriorated significantly to the point where its ability to qualify for bid bonding has disappeared. Hence its longtime financial backer, the TD Bank, will not play ball anymore. Rumour has it they’re holding in access of $200 Million of Atcon debt. Even the presence of Frank McKenna on the board of directors of the TD Bank can not loosen the purse strings these days. Rumour has it that it’s actually causing the TD bank a lot of grief over the matter.

So it appears that the people of New Brunswick are going to be throwing another $50 Million in the direction of Mr. Tozer and Atcon. This is an outrage to top all outrages. It’s a fact that Mr. Tozer has been a beneficiary of many millions of the NB people’s money in the past for the steel fabrication plant located at the former CFB Chatham air force base and the plywood mill. Word on the street is that none of this has ever been payed back.

What is this, another episode of “Weekend at Bernies” — a dark comedy in which the main characters prop up a dead rich man for an entire weekend so they can have a weekend of fun and leisure and avoid being killed by a hit man themselves? Why would we throw another $50 Million at this situation? It can’t be to save jobs, because the 200 or so remaining workers could go to work for other companies in a heart beat. No … It would be more accurate to just blame it on old fashioned, hard core cronyism.

The bottom line is that this ongoing rumour is turning out to be real. That the civil service paper work is done and the only minor roadblock at this time has to do with a personal guarantee from Mr. Tozer that he is not happy with. But apparently within the next few days or weeks this thing will happen. And the Shawn Graham government is waiting until the last day of the legislative session to announce it.

The truth is in the old adage: where there is smoke, there is fire.

So here are a few more rumours to fan the fire:

* The $50 million bailout may go towards cleaning up some of Atcon debt which includes: TD Bank; Caterpillar Financial so they’ll release the hold they have on his heavy equipment; $3 Million to Alliant; Payment on outstanding cost of an airplane bought from IRVING. Also the lighter debt load may help Atcon to get construction bonding from its bonding company again.

* Frank McKenna, Doug Young and another former transportation player from the 1990’s may own shares in MRDC – the consortium that built and maintains the four-lane between Fredericton and Moncton. And one of only two or three consortiums to bid on the Waweig to Lepreau four lane job.

* Frank McKenna and Alan Graham (Shawn Graham’s father) may be in the process of purchasing Modern Construction. Andrew Graham (Shawn Graham’s brother is a top manager at Modern Construction).

* The Modern Construction purchase could somehow be linked with Atcon to otherwise prop up Atcon. More likely is that the sinking ship would take Modern down with it.

* Alan Graham has been a special consultant with the Irving Group for several months. Alan Graham is also a consultant to Robert Tozer. Alan graham has been appointed to the National Energy Board by MP Greg Thompson. Payback for the Bayside Quarry closure decision?

* Federal dollars have already been allocated to the Waweig to Lepreau project in the form of Atlantic Gateway funding. But since the provincial government is pushing for the project to be a Public Private Partnership no public money will be spent right away – possibly not until project completion which may not be until 2013. Consequently the Federal Gateway money has been diverted by the provincial government to be spent in northern NB. MP Greg Thompson is extremely agitated. Suppose it’s just coincidence that the provincial government recently announced $50 million for the Belldune port players which includes Rayburn Ducette.

* The consortiums that will be the likely finalists to get the chance to bid on the Waweig to Lepreau job include the Brunway Group (Atcon) and MRDC. Dexter Construction out of Nova Scotia has a less likely chance to be in the running.

Rumours ...? Maybe. But they’re all swirling in a big way among a lot of people. And where there’s smoke – as we’ve seen before – there often times is a lot of fire. Now the smoke is beginning to surround a small group of individuals who have had too much influence on public policy in this province for far too long.

In any event the NB people should be seriously concerned at such a concentration of ownership and/or control by the Liberal Heavy Machinery that will be building, maintaining and owning the public transportation system in this province. Perhaps some of these rumours may help the NB public see the ominous web that has entangled the province over the past 20 years or so. The same web that has produced such concepts as The Reality Report, The Self Sufficiency Task Force, The Finn Report, and the Energy Hub.

The things being talked about these days are doing more than begging questions. They are beginning to shine a light far too brightly on a vortex of political power in this province that stretches back 20 years.

And the old adage rings true. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

We just hope that the people of New Brunswick can begin to see things for what they really are – who the players are and where the money is going. There is more money flowing in New Brunswick right now than there ever has, but who are the beneficiaries? Between the Atlantic Gateway funding and the Stimulus spending and the Provincial Government’s multi-million dollar self sufficiency pet priorities – our money is flowing free and easy. Yet the Shawn Graham team felt it necessary to cut government garages, ferries, provincial parks, car registration notices, library assistants, teacher assistants, senior’s drug plans, doctor’s wages, and a whole series of other areas. Why …?

Lets just say – they’re accelerating towards a fatal head-on collision.

Lekhaim from the Gristmill

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