Steelworkers say Commission could defuse ugly tax fight

    BURNABY, BC, May 27 /CNW/ - The United Steelworkers have called for the
establishment of a Community and Jobs Protection Commissioner to deal with
mounting tensions in resource-based communities.
    USW Western Canada Director Stephen Hunt notes that there is an impending
showdown between coastal communities and Catalyst Paper over taxation. The
municipalities of North Cowichan, Port Alberni, Campbell River and Powell
River say they are caught in a squeeze play that would leave them unable to
run their communities if the $22.3 million Catalyst owes them is not in
municipal coffers by early July.
    But Catalyst says it will pay only $6 million and if the towns don't
comply, it will likely shut a mill down in one of the four communities. Such a
threat has injected fear and anger into the tax issue.
    "Perhaps Catalyst has a reasonable argument, although they're making it
in an especially brutal way," says Hunt. "But regardless, the forests remain a
public resource, they're the lifeblood of those communities and they should
provide benefits for the people who live and work there, not just big
    Hunt noted that the current Liberal government eliminated the Jobs
Protection Commissioner in 2002, although over its 10-year lifespan it saved
75,000 jobs. Now, he says, it's time to restore it to bring fairness to
workers, communities and companies.
    Jim Britton, Vice President of the Communications, Energy and
Paperworkers Union also supports the call for a Job Protection Commissioner.
    "With this dramatic downturn in the global economy it has become even
more important that a Commission be established to facilitate creative
solutions for struggling industries," states Britton. "We have been working
constructively with Catalyst to ensure that this company has a future here in
BC. However, there must be a mechanism to get all stakeholders to a common
table when a company finds itself in trouble."
    Says Hunt: "With the forest industry and other resource industries
hitting the wall, we'll see more and more of these sorts of disputes. Instead
of pitting community against community, a jobs commissioner with the power to
hear all the arguments can defuse a lot of ugly fights."
    Hunt adds that it's reasonable for citizens to expect long-term benefits
when they offer companies tax breaks.
    "It's only fair for people take a hit when they are getting something in
return for their generosity," Hunt suggests. "That's the job of a Jobs

For further information:

For further information: Stephen Hunt, (604) 683-1117

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