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Celgar torpedoes expedited court date in its suit against Castlegar

A request, by the City of Castlegar, for the B.C. Supreme Court to expedite the case filed against the city by Celgar for “unreasonable” tax rates has been refused.

Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff said he found out in a meeting Monday that Celgar said “no” to a January court date and, since Celgar's approval was required, city hopes for a January court appearance have been dashed.

“They (Celgar) didn't give a reason,” he said, adding Monday's meeting with Celgar manager Al Hitzroth and Mercer International (Celgar parent company) vice president Brian Merwin was not particularly productive.

“Nothing's really changed,” he said. “They're still demanding a long term solution (despite the fact) we've shown that we're doing everything we possibly can, talking to the provincial government, lobbying for a major industry task force and a new taxation model.”

He also pointed out that Celgar rejected the city's offer of a five-year tax reduction plan.

Nor, he said, did Celgar officials respond favourably to his hope that a $40 million federal grant for Celgar's green energy project would leave the company more amenable to paying its overdue $3.2-million municipal tax bill.

“They're also eligible for another $17.7 million – that's almost $60 million in tax dollars, so I don't understand how they can continue to refuse to pay their own taxes,” he said, arguing Celgar's contention that the two are separate issues just doesn't wash with him. “The $40 million is coming from the taxpayers of Canada, and the $3.2 million is owed to the taxpayers of Castlegar – in many cases, it's the same taxpayers.

“At this stage of the game, we're still communicating, but as I said to them, to put it on a level playing field, they need to pay the $3.2 million.”

The Source has continually, over the course of months, attempted to reach Mercer International executives David Gandossi and Jimmy Lee, to no avail, and repeated messages to Al Hitzroth have not yet been returned.