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Next goal: set a court date, says mayor

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
October 22nd, 2009

Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff (pictured left) said the next step for Castlegar in its $3.6-million taxation conflict with local pulp mill Celgar is to see a court date set, so the whole issue can be dealt with and everyone can move on.

He said the whole situation has been incredibly frustrating, which is why he welcomes a court ruling – particularly after the B.C. Supreme Court. last Thursday, found in favour of the municipality of North Cowichan in a similar case filed by Catalyst Paper.

“We’re still waiting for a reply from Celgar regarding their position on the recent ruling,” he said, adding mill manager Al Hitzroth is currently on holiday and is expected back on Oct. 28.

“Absolutely, if you read the 45-page document (the court ruling), it clearly speaks to municipalities – of which we are one – and sets out the reasons for deciding in favour of North Cowichan,” he said. “I’m not Celgar, but if I was, I’d be looking at that decisions, and at the three more (Catalyst rulings) that are pending.

“At this stage, I think caution is good – we want to Celgar go ahead with their cogen plant and we want to see them thrive, with a healthy relationship between the industry and our city,” he said. “This, to me, has to be a long-term solution – we’re both in this together, and the ramifications of all this don’t just stop at Castlegar.”

He said he feels Celgar has the odds stacked against them, not only at the Supreme Court level, but also in the court of public opinion, as Celgar recently announced it will receive a $57.8-million federal grant (ultimately paid for by taxpayers), but still declines to pay its own $3.6-million in taxes.  He said he’s not convinced taxpayers will the see the two as separate issues, and hopes the new circumstances will alter Celgar’s current course of action.

“We’re still very much open to negotiation and co-operation,” he said. “That way is certainly our preference, but it’s up to Celgar now …if they insist on court, that’s where we’ll go.”

Categories: General

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