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Atlantic Beef chief quits: CBC

Prince Edward Island’s cash-losing Atlantic Beef Products plant has lost its president after just four months, CBC reported Friday.

John Thompson told the public broadcaster Friday that his decision to return to his former job in Moncton is strictly for personal reasons and not a reflection on the viability of Atlantic Canada’s only federally-inspected beef plant.

“Atlantic Beef Products has a plan in place. The plan is being executed as we speak,” Thompson was quoted as telling CBC reporters in P.E.I.

“There has been a new management team put in here in regards to the new (vice-president) of marketing sales, a new (chief financial officer) and a new operations manager. So, all of those functions are being looked after. You know, it will continue on.”

The Atlantic Beef plant, which was founded by the Borden Carleton Atlantic Beef Products Society, a regional beef producers’ co-op, started production at Albany, P.E.I. in 2004. Since then, the plant has reportedly lost well over $10 million.

A one-time funding package was announced in mid-December 2007 pledging $12 million to support the money-losing beef plant, which is the only federally-inspected beef slaughter facility in the Maritime provinces.

The package was to include $2 million each from the New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. governments and the remaining $6 million was to flow through the federal government’s Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).

Although Peter MacKay, who in late 2007 was the federal minister for ACOA, described the agency’s contribution at that time as a “one-time investment,” CBC on March 12 quoted unnamed P.E.I. government officials as saying they’d been told ACOA’s funding has now been converted to a “loan.”

CBC on March 12 had quoted Thompson as saying the terms of the three-year loan, to come in three disbursements, were still to be worked out “to ensure that we meet the requirements of the federal government.”

Two of the three funding provinces have since put up another $140,000 to help fill the funding gap in the meantime, according to Jean-Claude D’Amours, the federal Liberals’ ACOA critic.

The P.E.I. government, which is already an investor in the plant and built its waste treatment facility, had threatened to cut off funding to the facility in June 2007 unless other provinces and governments also began to chip in.

CBC said Thompson is returning to New Brunswick to resume his former position as executive director of Enterprise Greater Moncton and would be back at work there next week.

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