I’d bet there aren’t very many people in Grand Falls-Windsor today for which the Gaspesia Sulfite Company would mean anything. Maybe a few more people may have heard of Chandler, Quebec. I doubt there are many still around that had lived there.
At one time there would have been a few people around Grand Falls that had lived and worked in Chandler for the Gaspesia Sulphite Company, including many within the management of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company. This is because the Gaspesia Sulphite Company was a subsidiary of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company. AND owned more than than just the Grand Falls Mill.**
Construction of a pulp mill in what became Chandler started in 1913. The mill produced its first chemical pulp in 1915. Over the next twenty two years this operation at the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula would change hands a number of times. Unlike the Grand Falls Mill, the Chandler Mill did not have a source of hydroelectric power, nor was it located in the middle of a vast timber resource.
In 1937 the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company purchased the mill and formed the Gaspesia Sulphite Company. (The Company and the Town). As most of the previous owners has done, A.N.D bought in its own personnel to run the mill, but they weren’t brought in from Newfoundland. Most of the upper echelon were brought in from Anglo-Canadian in Quebec City. Anglo-Canadian was a large pulp and paper operation that was backed by Lord Rothermere but separate from the Newfoundland operation.
The 1940’s and 50’s many managers and engineers from Gaspesia worked their way up to Grand Falls. As Grand Falls was seen as the flagship of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company a transfer here was seen as and usually was a promotion. The last two Vice President-General Managers of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company T. Ross Moore and Charles Tittemore came to Grand Falls after having held senior positions at Chandler.
The Gaspesia Sulphite Company was acquired along with the rest of AND’s assets in the Price merger of 1961.
Unlike Grand Falls, the Chandler mill operated for many years as a manufacturer of chemical pulp. By the 1950’s the main product of the mill was bleached pulp for export. As this product was more affected by market conditions after the Price it was decided to build a newsprint machine there. By 1968, around the same time Moby Joe was installed at Grand Falls, a second machine installed to increase newsprint capacity at Chandler.
Jump ahead 31 years to 1999 and the plant at Chandler has been mothballed by parent company Abitibi-Consolidated. The newsprint industry is beginning to show signs of the great slow down that is going to come. A scheme is hatched whereby the property comes under new ownership and the mill is converted to produce high quality coated paper for use in the magazines and other publications.
$203 Million comes in to the project from the Quebec Government in the form of grants, loans and funding for training. The conversion, which started in 2002 was slated to cost around $461 million. Backing the development was a convoluted partnership that involved a Quebec labor organization, forest company Tembec and a provincially owned holding company.
Two years later, with costs ballooning as estimates coming in at over $700 million the project collapsed. The project, which was projected to create just over two hundred jobs, just wasn’t worth it. Like Grand Falls, in its heyday, the Gaspesia mill had over 1500 employees.
Ultimately, the project was a failure. The site was sold to the municipality and an eerily familiar scene it, a site that had produced forest products for close to one hundred years was leveled. Not long after, the mill at Grand Falls got its date with the wrecking crew.
Gaspésia mill bailout is a lesson in failure likely to go unheeded
Notes on the Price Merger,
In 1961 an exchange of shares occur ed between Associated Newspapers and Price Brothers Pulp and Paper. 11 shares of the AND Co were exchanged for 2 shares of Price. This sounds more like a take over considering the higher value for the Canadian company. But when one looks closely you will note that when the deal was finished Lord Rothermere owned 30% of the new company and had the right to name 6 of the members of the 15 person board of directors. The Price family on the other had only controlled 20-25% of the shares.
**I have come across references to the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company looking at building a mill at Sioux Lookout in Northwestern Ontario in the 1950’s. I believe a mill was built but I am unsure of AND’s involvement. I do believe the mill was owned by Abitibi-Price later on as well. I have also come across references to the AND Company owning a coal mine near Sydney, Nova Scotia around the time of World War One. Due to coal shortages during the war I know they worked a seam on the west coast of Newfoundland, but the Nova Scotia operation was news to me.