August 24th, 2016
Campbellton Tribune Commentary
Tuesday’s announcement in Atholville of a $4-million loan to allow Zenabis to start immediate work on its medical marijuana facility comes as very good new to the region.
Since the project was first proposed a few years ago, there hasn’t been much information as to where it stood other than it was in the hands of Health Canada. It was announced with great fanfare here, with booths set up at events on how to get jobs and such. And then, it was like it fell off the face of the earth. At one point, the building was even put up for sale. Bernard Valcourt, the former Tory cabinet minister who represented Madawasaka-Restigouche at the time, said that the process was hands-off and non-political.
That is true, but whatever was going on behind the scenes, there wasn’t much movement. Now, there certainly seems to be some serious action. And Zenabis is speaking to the media directly now, rather than through politicians.
Kevin Coft, the CEO of Zenabis, thanked local politicians, particularly Liberal MP René Arseneault, for their help on the matter. Arseneault made the matter an election issue, and according to Coft was the company’s champion. Arseneault is to be commended for his hard work on the file, and so must local politicians Gilles LePage and Donald Arseneault for championing the project on the provincial level. Thank you to all of them, and to the cabinet and Opportunities New Brunswick for seeing the big potential of this.
And big potential it has. The first phase, with about $14-million being spent to get the old Atlantic Yarns building prepared to be a medical marijuana facility, will create several hundred construction jobs. After Health Canada approves the finished facility and grants a licence – and we don’t see why that won’t happen – the first phase will see about 60 jobs created.
That alone is a serious number for an area like ours. Those are 60 people who now can work in Restigouche rather than leave. And that doesn’t count spin-offs, as the company gets established and uses local suppliers. The company’s goal is to have 200 workers in five years time, and as many as 600 down the road if marijuana laws and regulations are favourable.
We have no reason not to be optimistic about the future of this company locally. Hats off to Zenabis for sticking with the project, hats off to those politicians who doggedly pushed the file and found the loan money, and hats off to the citizens of Restigouche who have supported this from the start.