This is not the first time that the Horne Foundry has asked for money in order to pollute less. During the Noranda era, both levels of government came to the company's aid and Quebec even wrote off its debt.
We are in 1985. In Quebec, during the meeting between Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan, which has been nicknamed the Summit of the Irish, the Quebec Minister of the Environment at the time, Clifford Lincoln, had succeeded in obtaining a tripartite agreement.
In a context of decreasing acid rain, a hot topic at the end of the 1980s, Quebec City, Ottawa and Noranda had agreed to set up a plant depollution, a huge $125 million project.
Each party was to invest just over $41 million. The Industrial Development Corporation (SDI), now Investissement Québec, provided the loan.
At that time, the Noranda, owned by the Bronfman family and the Caisse de depot et placement du Québec (CDPQ), was the largest source of acid rain in North America with 500,000 tonnes of sulfur dioxide discharged by year.
The interest-free loan was paid to Noranda in 1987, but in 1991, the Bourassa government had decided to wipe the slate clean by means of a secret decree of the Council of Ministers, reported La Presse.
The government's gift to Noranda was more than $36 million while the company had only paid $5 million of the loan.
At the time, Quebec explained that in Because of the investments made by Noranda in its facilities, its debt had simply been cancelled. It was a certain Gérald Tremblay, then Minister of Industry, future mayor of Montreal, who recommended this measure.
Details of the deal were never made public. Le Journal tried to obtain answers from several ministries both in Quebec and Ottawa, but without success. It is also impossible to know if Ottawa had erased Noranda's debt.
Project of nearly $500 million
Once again, the Horne Foundry, now owned by the multinational Glencore, is asking for state aid to reduce its toxic emissions.
Prime Minister François Legault opened the door to financial support, but stressed that the company will have to pay most of the costs of modifying its facilities.
He did not clarified whether it will be a loan or a grant. Glencore values the work at nearly $500 million.
But for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), the company should cover the costs of its projects.
“It is not Quebec taxpayers who are responsible for this situation, so it is not the taxpayers who must pay. They should not be responsible for the companies' bills,” said Franco Terrazzano, Canadian director of the organization.
For its part, Glencore did not wish to comment on the decisions of the former factory owner.
“It is impossible for me to confirm how the reimbursement took place […]. What is certain is that the commissioning of the sulfuric acid plant in 1989 was a milestone. Since the establishment of our plant, SO2 emissions have continued to decrease,” said spokesperson Cindy Caouette.
Other polluting companies have had to close their doors
The Premier of Quebec, François Legault, has opened the door to the closure of the Horne Foundry if it does not meet the emissions standard that will be established by Public Health. In the past, other factories had to close for the same reason.
In 1990, the Ministry of the Environment closed the Norton factory in Cap-de-la-Madeleine which made life miserable for the residents of the neighborhood.
The factory which manufactured silicon carbide and “which polluted as it is not possible”, as employees said at the time, had to clean up its facilities so as not to “poison the neighborhood” any longer.
Norton will decide to close its doors rather than comply with Quebec law, which would have required an investment of $50 million, according to management. A hundred employees will then be laid off.
The Tioxide Case
Pierre Paradis. Former Minister of the Environment
Two years later, the Minister of the Environment at the time, Pierre Paradis, had threatened to close another factory, that of Tioxide Canada in Sorel-Tracy, which produced pigments titanium dioxide paint.
For years, the plant was dumping toxic products into the St. Lawrence River, without any prior treatment; 127 metric tons of sulfuric acid, 8.4 tons of iron and 4.5 tons of suspended solids.
Minister Paradis had cracked down again and the polluting section of the company had closed its doors in 1993.
By then the business was operating at half capacity and the owner, Huntsman Tioxide, finally shut down operations in 2000.
Katrine Johns has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Gal Post, Katrine Johns worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my firstname.lastname@example.org 1-800-268-7128