Arctic Canada: over 140 businesses left stranded by shutdown of major trucking companies

Lawyers for Ventures West and Tli Cho Landtran are in court on Friday to ask to extend creditor protection for the two companies to allow them to sell off all of their assets by the end of February. Meanwhile, more than 140 creditors have been left in the lurch. (CBC)
More than 140 businesses have been left in the lurch by the shutdown of two Tlicho-owned trucking companies.

For the past 10 winters, Ventures West Transport LP and Tli Cho Landtran Transport Ltd. have hauled fuel and other supplies up the ice road to the diamond mines. After loaning the two companies money for years, last week their parent organization, the Tlicho Investment Corporation, began the formal process of winding them down and selling off their assets.

The creditors owed the most money are the corporation and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). According to a list posted on the website of the restructuring firm, the corporation is owed $42.7 million. CIBC is claiming $15.7 million from each of the two trucking companies and also from a numbered company associated with them.

But the list of creditors is made up mostly of small businesses, each owed thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

“It hurts everybody. I’m not a very big company,” said Ronald Dickson, owner of Dickson’s Trucking of Yellowknife. He’s owed $26,440 according to the list. Dickson said he had 18 trucks working for the Tlicho companies last year.

“This has been coming for a few years, but everyone was hoping they would not fail,” said Dickson.

He said word of the Tlicho companies failure to pay their bills had been circulating in the northern trucking industry. He said whether his company gets paid or not, he still has to pay his workers.

“I’m not going to short my drivers just because I get shorted,” said Dickson.

‘Most stressful time in my life’: creditor

Truckers from all over Canada come north for the busy mine resupply season in the N.W.T.

Craig Day is a sole owner/driver based in Nipawin, Sask. He has been hauling fuel for Ventures West for three and a half years.

Day said the Tlicho companies’ failure to pay him more than $20,000 for last season has been “devastating on many levels,” and “the most stressful time in my life.”

Day said about 29 owner/operators have been left in the lurch by the failure of the Tlicho companies.

The creditors also include a numbered company owned by Glenn Bauer of Edmonton. He founded Ventures West and built it up over 25 years before selling his share of the company to the Tlicho. According to the list of creditors, he is owed $280,019.

Lawyers for the Tlicho Investment Corporation will be in an Edmonton courtroom on Friday to ask to extend their creditor protection to Feb. 21. The corporation is hoping to sell off all of the companies’ assets, including 250 trucks, tanker trailers and mobile office trailers by Feb. 28.

The companies, which were based in Sherwood Park, Alta., has already let go 38 of its 43 employees. Five are being kept on during the winding down of the companies.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Construction of Tlicho all-season road in Northern Canada begins, CBC News

Greenland: Greenland isn’t for sale, but it is for lease, Blog – Mia Bennett

Finland: Northern Finland’s tourism industry divided over flight tax proposal, Yle News

Norway: Another dry well for Norway’s Equinor in promising Arctic area, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Aging nickel plant in northwest Russia due to close in late 2020, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Business boom follows glacier’s retreat in Portage, southcentral Alaska, Alaska Public Media

Richard Gleeson, CBC News

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