Vale Inco saved Sudbury from becoming Valley of Death: Clement – by Carol Mulligan (July 18, 2009)

Carol Mulligan is a reporter for the Sudbury Star, the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

“There was going to be no buyer, there were going to be no jobs, there weren’t going to be any capital investments, there was going to be no employer. That was the Valley of Death that Sudbury faced.”  Tony Clement (July 18, 2009)

Sudbury is better off now than it was two and a half years ago when Vale Inco Ltd. bought the former Inco Ltd., says Canada’s Industry minister.

If the Brazilian-owned Companhia Vale do Rio Doce hadn’t bought it, Inco would “not exist, it would have been closed down, it would have been liquidated if there wasn’t a buyer,” said Tony Clement in a telephone interview late Friday afternoon.

“There was going to be no buyer, there were going to be no jobs, there weren’t going to be any capital investments, there was going to be no employer,” said Clement. “That was the Valley of Death that Sudbury faced.”

Clement was responding to charges by United Steelworkers international president Leo Gerard that the federal government should have forced Vale Inco to live up to commitments made when it purchased Inco.

Gerard is challenging the federal government to give Steelworkers a copy of the contract signed by Vale Inco.

Gerard wants the government of Stephen Harper to make Vale Inco live up to its promise that “they weren’t going to make any changes and there would be a net benefit to Canada.” If that hasn’t been the case — and Gerard says it has not — the federal government should stick up for Canadians and take the company away from them.

Clement said the “net benefit” test used when a foreign company buys a Canadian one is one he takes seriously.

Last month, Clement announced that even after hundreds of Canadian layoffs by Vale Inco, it still employs more people than Inco did.

“I’m constantly monitoring the situation to satisfy myself that Vale Inco is not violating any of the undertakings it may have made with the Government of Canada,” said Clement.

He wouldn’t go into specifics about those undertakings because the agreement “involves confidential, commercially sensitive information the company has the right to keep private. In legislation, if I violate that without them agreeing to my disclosure, I am guilty of a criminal act and can face criminal charges,” he said.

Clement said his government is keeping “an eagle eye” on Vale Inco and expects it to keep its promises. “We will always hold them accountable. That’s the same test I’m using in the Hamilton case,” he said.

Friday, the federal government said it was going to court to force U. S. Steel Corp. to live up to job commitments it made two years ago on capital spending, production and research and development spending in Canada in return for approval to buy the former Stelco Inc. of Hamilton.

U. S. Steel Canada closed most of its Canadian operations this spring, affecting about 1,500 employees.

Gerard said he was “shocked and amazed” at Clement’s confidence that Vale Inco is living up to its commitments and that its purchase of Inco has had a net benefit for Canada.

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