A government agency has forgiven millions in loans to a New Brunswick company owned by billionaire James Irving.

In a memorandum, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) has said it has off the remaining balance of two loans given out to the Atlantic Wallboard of Saint John.

The total loan to Atlantic Wallboard was $7.4 million.

The loans were forgiven in March after ACOA decided that the loans have “not been and likely will never be repaid.”

 “[Atlantic Wallboard] has fulfilled their obligation to repay according to the terms of their contribution agreements,” said ACOA vice-president Kent Estabrooks.

Despite the loans coming from the taxpayer, the amount forgiven has been redacted.

Atlantic Wallboard, also known as Irving Wallboard, is owned by J.D. Irving Limited, a privately-owned conglomerate based out of Saint John.

The company’s owner, James Irving, is worth $5.3 billion according to Forbes.

Among other firms owned by J. D. Irving Ltd. include one of Canada’s largest forestry companies and nearly all print newspapers in New Brunswick.

Irving also owns Irving Shipbuilding based in Halifax, which received $500 million in contracts for the Royal Canadian Navy just weeks ago.

The loans given to Atlantic Wallboard were referred to as “conditionally repayable contribution agreements.” Under these types of deals, the loans are only totally repayable if the firm reaches a certain income goal. In both cases, ACOA believed that Atlantic Wallboard will never reach this goal.

These loans were just part of the $42 million the federal government has loaned to J.D Irving Ltd. to set up the Atlantic Wallboard. Irving is not required to pay back at least $35 million of this.

Why J.D. Irving was not able to fund Atlantic Wallboard itself is not clear.

The Irvings have been tied to both provincial and federal politicians over previous decades. 

ACOA has refused to say how much of the forgiven loans Atlantic Wallboard has paid back.

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