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COMMENTARY · 28th March 2010
Rouge Hawk
Headline - Rio Tinto Alcan launches $1 million fund to stimulate aluminium fabrication businesses in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region

Rio Tinto Alcan has been in Kitimat 50 plus years, in fact they built Kitimat to house their workers (a company town). They have gained billions of dollars in profits from the sale of aluminum and now power and I see very little evidence that they put anything back.

The potential to offer incentives to investors to set up symbiotic manufacturing facilities looms large in Kitimat and has since the start. Now with our access to a deep sea harbor, good rail access, adequate road access and even Airline access; it’s a “No Brainer”.

But RTA continues to suck the Billons out and only put wages back, I say shame, shame when will RTA support our community like they do in Quebec.
Oh Danny...
Comment by Adam on 30th March 2010
It's okay, sometimes I agree with Helmut too... Your comments are all valid except for one...

Yes, Methanex and Eurocan are gone... but who's left? Who turned out to be the big greedy power producing wanna be? Who screwed the region for 33 million to produce power elsewhere? Yep... Who's been claiming poor for 40 years when Northwood in PG just ran a few test runs and are making money at it?

I think we should be alot more pissed off at Eurocan...
It's about people
Comment by Gerry Hummel on 30th March 2010
So, what came first, the chicken or the egg, people or Alcan?
If you check the Kitimat museum, talk to some of the old retirees, then you'll know like anything here on earth, they have to be initiated by people. People drew up the plans, people came here to build this dam, powerhouse, smelter and town. People dug and scraped it out of the rough rugged awe inspiring sometimes harsh countryside. Alcan made the deal with the government, but it could have been "Bobcan" who made the deal.

It's the people stories that make this town,look closely at those old museum pictures and see the faces of people who came from all over the world and Canada to make this story unfold.The peoples faces who Alcan can't even identify today, who came to build this place, they had families and each their own unique story, to most it was much more than just making a buck.

Some made money and left, some died, a lot stayed and for some their family legacy, their childern, live on here today, go to the high school look closely at the faces in each years graduation pictures this is what Kitimat is about.

Love, loss, happiness, tragedy all the stories that happen every day in a town, these are people stories.If you've lived here a long time you think of all the people you've met remember their unique stories their loves and losses, not those company buildings you have to drive by on the way to Alcan beach to spend a sunny afternoon with your family.

You don't lovingly stoke pots all day, run home, write about it in yor diary,kiss the Rio Tinto flag, rush to bed and do it all again the next day. If you do your a brown noser and need to get a life! After a day at work you go home and live your life, share experiences with your family. You have babies, teach, learn, plan, play, pray, build, go on vacations and plan to die in this community.

A lot of us came here decided to stay and thought Kitimat had a lot of potential and would grow. More bussinesses would come, the companies that were here would expand or create other industries.There were decent wages and benefits everything looked bright we thought the town would expand. Our childern would have a chance here, would stay and work here. The people worked with the company to make the town work and all was well.

For years the company got all sorts of tax deductions and goodies from us the people the governmet. Well years went by governments got corrupt and power hungry and companies got greedy and wanted to shirk the responsibility of looking after the workers many who had given most of their working lives and their health to the company. Many, their guts rotting inside them with cancers caused by chemicals and unsafe working conditions, thanks Uncle Al! They were aging so the company downsized pushed people harder and harder , went to court to show the people they owned the natural resource and could do with it as they pleased.

They don't care what happens to the town as long as they own the natural resource that they stole from the original inhabitants of the area and the people who live here. Some of the other letter writers here are either looking for that supervisors position or a job because they seem to miss the point that life is all about people not companies that could care less, case in point Westfraser and the Eurocan fiasco.

So they throw a few thousand dollars here and there to keep their name in good standing in the community, always a tax write off by the way. If they really cared with all the profits they make they could easily pay for complete projects to help people and still reap huge profits.

Just to give you an idea who you're dealing with, in Western Australia Rio Tinto is currently trying to develop and operate a mine completely automaticly controlled from a controlroom 500 kilometers away in Perth. No people, and if they could pull it off here they would. They killed Kemano didn't they, there were families living there, real people each with their own story. We should kiss their butt after they've reduced the workforce by more than half over these years. WHEN they complete the modernization they're going to reduce the workforce again by half and we should be grateful. I agree what a crock if they cared at all we wouldn't be in the situation we're in here in Kitimat. Our previous Mayor and council tried to get Rio Tinto Alcan to live up to their responsibility, now we're at their greedy mercy and they obviously don't give a damn about people! Just the almighty buck, Gordon Campbell and a few of their brainwashed supporters.
I cant believe I am saying this
Comment by Danny Nunes on 30th March 2010
But right

This isnt even a question of biting the hand that feeds because that hand hasnt fed anyone or anything for quite some least not in Kitimat.

I gave Alcan the benefit of the doubt much like the commentors here because I couldnt just condemn them outright years ago because yes they have in fact provided the community with employment for over 50 years and yes they also have made all sorts of contributions to local charitys as well....but its time to stop pretending that is still happening.

How many years frankly have we heard promises to modernize in Kitimat....over a decade now and yet we have seen nothing...well thats not true actually....we see a region being completely wiped out and yet people still want to grovel for scraps like a dog at a dinner arent getting can sit there and whimper all you like but your master will just continue to eat and laugh at your despair.

I know all too well the true reality of this dire situation. Kitimat did not bite the hand that fed it...the hand that fed it slapped it in the face and so did all the major industrys that also once called Kitimat home.

Where is Methanex...gone

Where is Eurocan now? gone.....took a very nice subsidy and showed everyone just how little good corporate citizenry extends.

Corporations dont have cant piss them off or make them take there ball and run because in the end...its all about money..and if theres money to be made they will do whatever they please so dont give me this BS that they will walk...if that was the case that would have occured a decade ago.

If anything you should thank people in Kitimat for actually attempting to go to court and trying to get a fair shake for your resources so they wouldnt just be given away for free with no benefit because there has been none...tell me a single new job thats been created in over a decade....not just some money to fund an event that benefits no one but a few upper class citizenry.

But I know all too well how the other side will respond....oh you are so negative blah blah blah...reality is not negativity, fact is not negativity.

And if you want even more proof about the future of Rio Tinto in this region...why dont you have a talk with Paul Henning and ask him how many pots are currently burned out in kitimat at this very moment....If you get an honest answer please tell him to go before Kitimat Council and tell the public live on tv because only one kitimat councillor has the guts to ask that he come before them and tell them the truth.

Oh and pick up copies of the Ingot dating back to last year and keep a close eye on any mention of "emissions" and "fluoride" and see just what the future plan....really is.
50 years ago they knew better.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 30th March 2010
I guess it all depends on how one wants to go through life. Some are more comfortable bent over and if the provincial government is our standard then I guess I understand. I also hope we are not using Trump as the model of a good corporate citizen. Not everything 50 years ago needs to be discarded to make way for cheaper, poorer quality stuff and less employment. Rio Tinto Alcan would still be around even if you gave them the rules to create more jobs. You just need to develop some backbone. Something I have rarely ever found in the chamber of commerce mentality. Theirs is an attitude of give away resources and hope some corporation will be gracious enough to create some jobs. A few crumbs from the table and we'll all be happy. When we run out of stuff to give then let the kids worry about it.
50 years ago...
Comment by Adam Kirkwood on 30th March 2010
If we keep harping on what happened 50 years ago, we'll never advance anywhere... nobody reading this right now can state with any certainty, or wild speculation for that matter, what anyone was thinking or wanting to do 50 years ago... lawyers and politicians and conspiracy theoroists have taken a few words and blown them out of all proportion... would you hold GM or Ford to 50 year old safety standards? What about fuel economy standards? With gas staying over $1/litre, do you want to be driving a car that gets 2 mpg (or whatever it was back then)? Any coporation needs varying revenue streams to be succesful. That's why car dealerships sell cars, parts and service. That's why tire stores sell different types of tires. That's why Trump sells everything from real estate to mattreses... if Alcan hadn't been able to sell power, would they be as profitable and as able to make modernization a reality? Maybe, but probably not. Let's not forget they've announced another 100 million towards the project for this year. Are they building it as fast as some want them too? No, probably not. Are they building it? Yes. Will we have a modern, profitable aluminum smelter in Kitimat despite all the negativity and back handed lawyering? Yes. I believe we will. Talk about the use of resources all you want... but don't fault a company for playing by the rules set forth by government and turning a profit and maintaining strong wages and doing everything else they've been doing...

There's no butt kissing going on... But I do believe Alcan deserves a better time of it given what they've given...

Ah Bryan...
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 30th March 2010
...smaller smelter in requiring less power so there is more for sale as a IPP. Never the intention of the government back in the 50's and only made possible because they got hooked up to the grid and the government turned into a bunch of wusses because they were dealing with their friends.

The best way to deal with powerful corporations is to be firm. Your responsibility is to the people and future generations. Short-term PR doesn't cut it. Trying to suck up always costs you.
Ah, Helmut
Comment by Bryan Notheisz on 29th March 2010
I know that we will not agree, but a couple points. First, it wasn't I that said no Alcan, no Kitimat, but that is pretty much a given.
As for building a "smaller smelter" that is your point of view. Less employees, yes, but smaller no. Is the capacity not to increase?? There isn't an industrial corporation out there that would not want more productivity with less employees when replacing a 50 year old plant!
And I don't believe myself or any onelse that has commented is juvenile or suggesting we kiss Alcan's butt, all I am saying is maybe, just maybe if we all quit knocking them it may be productive for our region. I don't expect Alcan is about to give us more jobs, but we could at least quit scaring away other possibilities.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 29th March 2010
Back when we used to meet with Alcan it was because the freight on the product was greater and it was necessary to have the production close to a very large center. Then if you recall the shut down the extrusion mill in Richmond, I believe it was, and moved it across the border.
All points considered
Comment by Dave Brocklebank on 29th March 2010
I can agree with all the comments - so far -
but I have always wondered (and I did work for Alcan for a period - out of Kemano) why there was no secondary aluminum manufacturing industry in Kitimat with reliable energy.
Move a finished product from the source - maybe my head is in the clouds - kind of like move finished timber products from the source instead of buying them back from somewhere else.
Oh well - hewers of wood and packers of water we will remain.
Except that.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 29th March 2010
When you use the line "without Alcan, Kitimat wouldn't be here" it implies we should kiss Alcan's corporate butt every time they want something. When they want to build a smaller smelter in order to sell power back to us at outrageous profits we hear this argument. It is applied in almost juvenile fashion. I mean, if we were not here, we would be somewhere else. You don't justify a position on the basis of a hypothetical situation that if it didn't happen then we wouldn't exist. Of course we would exist somewhere.

Alcan doesn't deserve special consideration. It is a corporate entity quite powerful on its own and needs to be carefully by government. Pity is the government is asleep where Alcan is concerned. Do you think political donations have something to do with it?
Yes, it is the water
Comment by Bryan Notheisz on 29th March 2010
I agree it is the water. And I am pretty sure most people who are interested enough to comment know where the dam is, where the reservoir is, about the land flooding and movement of first nations peoples that happened in the 1950's etc. Those decisions happened a long time ago by governments who could see a region be developed.
We shouldn't forget the massive amount of money that Alcan has put into the BC economy. All I can say is thank god for the cheap hydro because otherwise they would have packed up years ago.
Maybe if they (RTA) weren't constantly bombarded by negativity we would have seen a second smelter (yes, that would require KCP) and a bunch more jobs in the region, instead of that money going elsewhere.
Unfortunately, many on the left are unable to see the fact that it is big business in an effort to make money that create jobs. Now if we could just find that elusive happy medium.
Sorry but it's the cheap hydro.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 29th March 2010
Without cheap access to the people's hydro resources Alcan would not be here nor would Kitimat. Incidentally those resources are in the region south of Smithers.
I am amazed that Alcan is still here!!
Comment by Kelly Derksen on 29th March 2010
As Adam and Brian have put it in their comments, i too am shocked and getting tired of the ungrateful attitudes of a few people who want everything handed to them and see things from such a negative view. I think Alcan (RTA) is the biggests supporter in our region BAR NONE. I have lived here all my life and seen 1st hand the support from Alcan in the past. My god what more do you want from them?? Why would a BUSINESS operate if not to make as much money as possible? Would you?? Others say they are taking from the community and region with new power sales, etc, i say they are MAKING THEM!
You have got to be kidding me
Comment by Bryan Notheisz on 29th March 2010
My first response when reading your submission was "you have got to be kidding me," a million dollars amonst a larger complex in Quebec is not that much. How many hundred thousand did they put in the Sportsplex in Terrace??
Alcan, now RTA, has supported the northwest for decades, and contributed to hundreds likely thousands of local causes. They have shown they are an excellent corporate citizen. That said, they are a BUSINESS in which you can buy shares if you wish. They are not a government agency responsible for economic development. And seriously, with the very vocal and open vilification of Alcan in the area, often by the very people and community they support (and as Adam said, they built) we are lucky they are still here.
If you had money to invest, and you took a look at the treatment Alcan gets, you would run somewhere else with that money.
I truly believe that for investment money to flow into the area, especially Kitimat, outbursts such as yours needs to end.
Smoke and mirrors
Comment by Rouge Hawk on 29th March 2010
Fluff, it's all fluff, show me anything on the ground after 50 years not one, nothing, not even a smelter that is maintained and running at capacity. RTA needs to look at what they have given to BC. And the People of BC need to look at what RTA has taken. I see no balance.
you said it in your letter
Comment by Adam Kirkwood on 29th March 2010
Alcan built Kitimat. Without Alcan, Kitimat would be wilderness. What about the kids who were born and raised in Kitimat by parents who met in Kitimat? The math is very simple, no Alcan = no Kitimat = parents don't meet = no kids... That's a bit extreme, but it still plays...

Take a look around, you can't swing a dead cat without seeing a sign, or hearing on the radio or TV about how something is sponsored by Rio Tinto Alcan. The Dare to Dream Foundation for music in schools. The Music and Friends Society to name a few... and it's not just in Terrace/Kitimat region, it's global... give your head a shake man. It might make it easier to see when you break through the veil of reality that marks the entrance ,,, Cable Car.