OUR VIEW: Catalyst fails the test of corporate citizenship

We say: Alarm bells are ringing over the sale of Elk Falls Mill

A few weeks ago the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce held its Awards of Distinction, an opportunity for the community to celebrate and appreciate the high standards of corporate citizenship that define our business community.

It is a pity someone from Catalyst Paper wasn’t in the audience to learn by example. Since August when Catalyst announced the sale of the Elk Falls mill site the company has enveloped itself in a shroud of troubling silence. Campbell River is not even on the radar when it comes to communicating details about the faltering progress of the sale.

It took prodding by the Mirror to discover that the first sale deadline, Sept. 5, had been missed.  When the second deadline Sept. 19 approached, came and went Catalyst’s vice-president of corporate “responsibility” refused to answer repeated calls from the Mirror.

This studied indifference to its duty of accountability is shoddy. And, considering the economic and social pain Catalyst has caused this community since it bailed in 2010, its current behavior simply adds insult to injury. The $8.6 million sale of the Elk Falls site to Edmonton developer Harold Jahn, owner of Pacifica Deep Sea Terminals Inc., was announced with great fanfare Aug. 16. Catalyst CEO Kevin J. Clarke described Jahn as “an experienced developer with the capacity and an industrial concept that will fully utilize the site’s infrastructure and bring new business and jobs to the region.”

This left the impression that Catalyst had done its due diligence when Jahn offered to purchase. But, the company’s bunker mentality for the past month leads us to question just how much corporate elbow grease went into the vetting of Jahn. It only took two hours of phone calling to Alberta by the Mirror to learn that Jahn has been party to two similar development proposals in the Athabasca region that never got off the drawing board.

Huge questions persist about environmental remediation of the contaminated site. Jahn has said he will assume full liability, but that assurance has a hollow ring after a month of silence.

What should be ringing are our alarm bells.