Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will try and slow down. I was trying to hurry so we can get into the more meatier matters on the agenda today.
The plant could process any four-legged animal, wild or domestic.
In 1994, a five-year agreement was signed by a representative of the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. Within the agreement was a clause that the Government of the Northwest Territories would cover all operation and maintenance losses for the first five years of the project. The abattoir went into production in early 1996. Just over one year later, the Government of the Northwest Territories exercised another clause within the five-year agreement and gave notice. Within 18 months of its opening the abattoir facility in Hay River was closed in July of this year.
Mr. Speaker, the residents of Hay River sought clarification of this action by the government. What they see is that they had an agreement with their government to develop a meat processing plant within their community. Millions of dollars were spent to develop and run the facility for just over a year. It takes time for an operation to become self-reliant; the government gave them less than 18 months. The members of the board of directors and the employees for the abattoir had dedicated a full year to the plan ironing out the start-up problems and were prepared to continue to work hard. The community does not feel they were given enough time. Less than two years into the program, with financial viability on the horizon, the Northwest Territories Development Corporation decided to withdraw. In an effort to keep the abattoir operating, the Hay River Metis Development Corporation and the Territorial Farmers' Association formed a corporation for the management of the plant.
The closure of this plant is a loss to Hay River and the region, not only for all the time and money that have already been expended, but for the future development of resources. Ten people lost their jobs. There is an agriculture base in the town with no facility for the stock to be slaughtered and processed.
At this point, I would like to commend the stakeholders in the abattoir for their labour, expertise and input they placed into the venture. I am optimistic the abattoir will not be dormant for long and an alternative plan of action will be arrived at. My hope is that the former board of directors of the Hay River abattoir will continue to be involved, that the government will respect the input of the community stakeholders and take into consideration their views on any future use of this facility. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.