The Bowater Mersey paper mill in Brooklyn in shutting down for three weeks because of a lack of new orders.

Workers were told Thursday that the temporary shutdown would start March 11.

"Weak market conditions continue," mill manager Brad Pelley said in a statement.

However, he added, the sales team is looking for new orders and that could mean a shorter shutdown period.

Resolute Forest Products, which owns the mill, said world paper markets are saturated. It's the second shutdown at the mill since before Christmas, when it was closed for three weeks for the same reasons.

John Leefe, the mayor of the Region of Queens Municipality, said the company had originally considered a five-week-long shutdown.

"A three-week shutdown is certainly an improvement on that," he told CBC News on Friday.

"I am told by management that this is all market-related, that they are endeavouring to spread the pain through the Resolute mills."

Late last year, unionized workers at the mill voted to cut 110 jobs in an effort to reduce labour costs and help save the operation, which used to employ about 300 people. The provincial government also recently announced a $50-million rescue package aimed at saving the mill.

Premier Darrell Dexter, the architect of that rescue package, said the shutdown is a surprise but taxpayers should not worry about their investment.

He said some of the government money was used to buy back forest land and the rest was to buy more efficient equipment that has not yet been installed in the plant.

"All of those, of course, were designed to make the plant more efficient so that it could be more competitive in the marketplace and that means that it wouldn't necessarily be subject to the same kinds of idling time," Dexter said.

Government help questioned

The leaders of Nova Scotia's two opposition parties questioned the government's decision to help the mill.

"Where was the business case that says the paper industry is going to rebound on a global sense," said Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil.

"None of that was put forward. We, like everyone, want to see the people of Queens County and the entire province go to work, but it needs to be in a sustainable plan."

McNeil said it might have been better for the government to have spread the $50 million it spent to save the mill on a wider number of small businesses across Queens and Lunenburg counties.

"The long-term sustainability of those jobs may be greater," he said.

Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said the government should focus on the economy generally.

"The right way for Nova Scotia to proceed for the forestry industry, for all industry, is to focus on getting the basics right," he said.

"Having power rates that are affordable, having a tax structure that's fair, and I think a better way forward is to try and move away from these band-aid bailouts in the future."