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Parent company defends decision to close Thornloe Cheese as others hope it can be rescued


Operations at Thornloe Cheese needed $10 million in upgrades to keep operating, its parent company said Tuesday in defending the decision to shut down.

Mike Langdon, Gay Lea’s vice-president of cooperate and co-operative affairs, said it was an “incredibly difficult decision” that the company worked hard to avoid.

In total, 35 people are losing their jobs and an 83-year-old business is being shut down after serious equipment failures halted operations in mid-September.

Langdon told CTV News the plant was shut down for a short time in mid-September to allow cheesemakers from one of Gay Lea’s Manitoba facilities to inspect Thornloe Cheese and outline what would be needed to bring it up to modern food safety and quality standards.

They reported back that given the plant’s age, condition and the food safety risk, upgrades would require a minimum investment of $10 million.

At that price, the recommendation was to close the facility because Thornloe wasn’t strong enough financially.

Timiskaming-Cochrane MPP John Vanthof said he isn’t giving up just yet. Vanthof remembers when Thornloe Cheese threatened to close in 2007, community and farmer outrage came to the cheese plant’s rescue.

He’s hoping that will happen again.


“We fought too long and too hard to save Thornloe Cheese then to just let it go,” Vanthof said.

He will be meeting with Langdon and he hopes a potential buyer can negotiate a sale.

“We’re not out to fight Gay Lea,” Vanthof said.

“We need someone to step forward who is willing to re-furbish that facility to keep production in our area.”

He plans to sit down with farmers and other stakeholders to try and save the cheese staple, which was originally built in 1940.

“To discuss whether or not we have the willingness and the support,” Vanthof said.

He will do his best to help Gay Lea or new ownership access any provincial business development funds to restart the business. Top Stories

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