For the second year in a row, the Doug Bondue Arena won’t be opening.
Port Alice Mayor Kevin Cameron stated that due to the Neucel Specialty Cellulose pulp mill not paying its taxes, the village doesn’t have enough capital to open the rink for the 2019-2020 hockey season.
“We reduced expenditures by quite a bit this year due to Neucel not paying its taxes, and I don’t think it’s right to burden the community with that kind of extra tax dollars,” said Cameron, when asked to comment on the closure.
Port Alice’s Chief Administrative Officer/Chief Financial Officer Bonnie Danyk noted it would cost “Approximately $200,000” to open the rink for a regular season of hockey and curling, and they would need “a minimum of two” staff to operate the arena.
As for whether Port Alice’s annual Oscar Hickes hockey tournament will be running for the 41st year in a row, Danyk noted the village has not yet been “formally approached with a request for Oscar Hickes in 2020” and the cost to run the rink for the Oscar Hickes weekend last year was around $12,000.
Cameron added while he thinks it’s unfortunate that the rink won’t be opening, there is a positive aspect to the closure. “At least our youth are able to go over to Port Hardy and Port McNeill and play against other kids, where they get to build friendships that will last them a lifetime.”
Neucel Specialty Cellulose laid off its last remaining workers back in February.
The pulp mill made up 70 per cent of the community’s tax base and is owned by the Canadian arm of a Chinese company called Fulida. The mill still hasn’t paid its taxes, which were due back in July of 2018, totalling around a million dollars.
Back in February of 2015, Neucel went into a production curtailment following three consecutive years of unfavourable pulp prices, combined with the high cost of oil, energy energy consumption and operating chemicals, as well as an unfavourable low US/CAN$ exchange rate.