The Nova Scotia government has released information about the $700 million taxpayers invested in or have earmarked for 78 companies through the defunct Nova Scotia Jobs Fund.
But confidentiality clauses or rules, agreed to by previous governments, makes it hard to determine which of those investments are paying off and which are not.
Case in point: the $19.6 million the government of Darrell Dexter agreed to spend on common shares in DSME Trenton Ltd. The province owns 49 per cent of the operation situated on the former TrentonWorks land.
Not only is the government mum on the current value of those shares, it won’t say how many shares were purchased when the deal was announced in March 2010.
All told, the Korean-based company was promised $59.4 million in provincial government aid.
Irving gets more than $300M
Irving Shipbuilding Inc. is the single largest recipient of provincial government help.
The company has amassed $314.2 million in loans, forgivable loans and loan guarantees. The entire package was handed to the shipbuilder by the New Democratic government in July 2011.
Taxpayers have also invested heavily in pulp and paper companies, some long gone.
Although the provincial government is locked in a dispute over emissions and new environmental standards at the paper mill in Abercrombie, taxpayers have committed $111.7 million to the Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corporation and a subsidiary, Great Northern Timber Inc.
There is a loan, a forgivable loan and a development incentive still on the books related to Pacific West Commercial Corporation’s plan torestart the former NewPage paper mill in Port Hawkesbury in the fall of 2012.
There’s also a $30 million loan active for Renova Scotia Bioenergy Inc. According to the province the money is to go to the “wind up of company and purchase and sale of assets.”
Renova was the last operator of the former Bowater Mersey Paper Company Ltd. The province took it over in December 2012. On paper, the province also owns $2 million worth of Renova shares.
Cooke Aquaculture project stalled
The province committed $16.5 million to Chorus Aviation, the operator of Jazz aviation, three years ago.
Around that time, the province also offered a $25 million forgivable loan to Cooke Aquaculture for a major expansion of its operations. The loan is only forgivable if the four projects go ahead and the company meets projected job targets.
Although that project is stalled, the commitment remains.
The Liberal government, which discontinued the fund when they came to office two years ago, is releasing the information as a result of questions raised last month when the province closed to books on the 2014-15 fiscal year.
At the time, Business Minister Mark Furey promised to release as much information as possible about the jobs fund.