Barrett questions Minister of Finance about US Steel Canada restructuring

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Oct. 23, 2015

QUEEN’S PARK – What is being done to facilitate the restructuring of U.S. Steel Canada, MPP Toby Barrett asked during a requested Queen’s Park ‘Late Show’ on Tuesday night – raising the issue for the second time this week.

“We know that bankruptcy proceedings are complete; the process can begin,” Barrett said in the Legislature. “We understand that some companies could be interested. Again the question: What is this government doing to expedite the process? I refer specifically to the opportunities for restructuring.”
Barrett also reiterated the importance of supporting the 20,000 U.S. Steel Canada pensioners in southern Ontario.
With respect to restructuring US Steel Canada, Barrett explained to the Ontario Legislature that, “Lake Erie Works employees are vigorously pursuing new orders, rooting out waste and inefficiency. The assets are in play: land, plant, equipment in whole or in part for any available investment, for any bidders . . .”

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For more information, contact MPP Toby Barrett at 519-428-0446 or [email protected]

Encl. – Hansard
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ONTARIO LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
OFFICIAL HANSARD
OCT.20, 2015

 

Steel industry

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): The member for Haldimand–Norfolk has given notice of dissatisfaction with an answer to a question given today by the Minister of Finance. The parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance will, in fact, fill in for the minister. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter, and the parliamentary assistant may reply for up to five minutes.
The member from Haldimand–Norfolk.
Mr. Toby Barrett: I appreciate the opportunity to ask some further questions about US Steel Canada’s pensions, the health benefits and, as well, looking forward, the opportunity to restructure the plant and equipment that we have in both Hamilton and Lake Erie at Nanticoke.
Further to my question this morning, we know that, as of October 9, retirees and family members can no longer file claims for health, medical, prescriptions and dental insurance benefits as a result of the court decision.
On October 9, to their credit—and this is a start—the government of Ontario announced it was providing $3 million for a transitional fund. The fund is intended to help ensure that, over the next six months, retirees have support to address critical health needs and to help them transition to available programs, such as the Trillium Drug Program. The fund is administered with the support of both US Steel Canada and representatives of the union and salaried employees.
I’ve also been told that information sessions for retirees and their dependents will be organized to assist those who may qualify for the Trillium Drug Program. I will point out—I was given information—they don’t need to wait for these information sessions. There’s a 1-800 number that I’ve been giving out to a lot of former Stelco-US Steel people I’ve been speaking with. I’ll read it into the record: 1-800-575-5386. If they have more questions, I have also been passing on the email: trillium[email protected]
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Ontario has announced a $3-million transitional health benefit fund. However, across Haldimand-Norfolk, Niagara and the Hamilton area, we have something like 20,000 vulnerable retirees who are struggling with the grim reality that over the years they were asked to take pensions and pension increases in place of wage increases. As we collaborate on how best to support 20,000 US Steel Canada retirees, we can take a look at what this government has done before: Think of the auto industry. As a result of the 2009 recession, we all worked to support the auto industry. The Ontario government provided $4.6 billion to bail out both GM and Chrysler and their pensioners. The federal government contributed $9 billion; the US government contributed $66 billion.
As I asked this morning, apart from supporting US Steel Canada’s restructuring process and apart from the transition fund, what specifically will this government be offering to pensioners at US Steel Canada? And we know that in his answer, Minister Sousa threw blame at the federal government for not releasing details of the agreement.
Speaker, the reason I asked for this late show debate was to facilitate a more fulsome discussion of my supplementary question this morning; namely, just what are the plans and action steps being actively pursued in conjunction with this government’s strategy to support Ontario’s steel industry, more specifically the restructuring of US Steel?
Obviously, much uncertainty remains with respect to future courses of action. As I indicated this morning, Lake Erie Works employees are vigorously pursuing new orders, rooting out waste and inefficiency. The assets are in play: land, plant, equipment, in whole or in part for any available investment, for any bidders—valuable assets. The coke oven, hot strip mill, galvanizing line and large acreages at both Hamilton and Lake Erie Works are all worthy of investment: at US Steel Hamilton, something like 800 acres; there are thousands of acres down at the Lake Erie Works. They’re in an excellent position geographically on the seaway—proximity to Toronto.
We know that bankruptcy proceedings are complete; the process can begin. We understand that some companies could be interested. Again the question: What is this government doing to expedite the process? I refer specifically to the opportunities for restructuring.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I turn it back over now to the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance for her comments.
Mrs. Laura Albanese: I want to, first of all, apologize for my voice. It is not the best it’s ever been. I’m battling a cold so, please, I hope that the member from Haldimand-Norfolk will bear with me, as well as whoever is watching at home, and you, obviously, Mr. Speaker.
I want to thank the member for pursuing this late show and for asking for more information. As he knows, although the court proceedings are still ongoing, our government remains committed to working with all stakeholders. Our goal is to achieve long-term viability of the Canadian operations, but more importantly to ensure the best possible outcome for employees, retirees, suppliers, customers and all interested parties in this matter.
While this effort is still ongoing, our government wants to ensure that over the next six months the retirees that the member from Haldimand-Norfolk spoke about have the support that they need to address critical health needs and to help them transition to available programs such as the Trillium Drug Program. To this end, the Ontario government is providing, as mentioned, $3 million for the establishment of a transitional fund administered with the support of US Steel Canada and representatives of the union and the salaried employees. The fund is intended to help ensure that, over the next six months, the retirees have this critical support, especially towards their health needs.
Details of the fund will be made available shortly. However, the province is working closely with representatives of the union and salaried employees, on behalf of the retirees, the company and the monitor, to develop the program’s parameters. As the restructuring continues, it is important to remember that the company is still operating and retirees are still receiving their pensions.
We are pleased with the developments that have taken place in the Court of Appeal with respect to the decision for the court to hear arguments on unsealing the federal government’s secret agreement with US Steel. Throughout this process, our government has been at the table, working to help ensure the best possible outcome for the community and for all Ontarians. Our government’s top concern—I repeat: top concern—has always been and continues to be for all employees, retirees and families who are affected by this situation.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I’d like to thank the member from Haldimand–Norfolk and the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance for their comments and responses.
It is now time for this House to adjourn until tomorrow morning at 9 o’clock.

YouTube link to debate