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P.E.I. beef plant funding in limbo

Funding pledged in late 2007 to support the Atlantic Beef Products plant on Prince Edward Island has yet to appear, according to the federal Liberals and those close to the company.

A one-time funding package was announced in mid-December 2007 pledging $12 million to support the money-losing beef plant, which is the only federally-inspected beef slaughter facility in the Maritime provinces.

The package was to include $2 million each from the New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. governments and the remaining $6 million was to flow through the federal government’s Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).

However, ACOA officials “have yet to act” on their pledge, even though two of the three funding provinces have since put up another $140,000 to help fill the funding gap, according to Jean-Claude D’Amours, the federal Liberals’ ACOA critic, in a release Wednesday.

The government “must be accountable for this file and invest the money that was promised in 2007,” said D’Amours, a New Brunswick MP.

Although Peter Mackay, who in late 2007 was the federal minister for ACOA, described the agency’s contribution at that time as a “one-time investment,” CBC on Thursday quoted unnamed P.E.I. government officials as saying they’d been told the ACOA funding has now been converted to a “loan.”

The broadcaster on Thursday also quoted John Thompson, president of Atlantic Beef Products, as saying the terms of the three-year loan were still to be worked out “to ensure that we meet the requirements of the federal government.”

The loan, he said, would come in three disbursements, the first one to be worth $2 million.

The P.E.I. officials quoted in CBC’s report said they’re still lobbying the federal government to restore the grant as it was originally pledged.

The Atlantic Beef plant, which was founded by the Borden Carleton Atlantic Beef Products Society, a regional beef producers’ co-op, started production in 2004. Since then, the plant has reportedly lost well over $10 million.

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