Tolko mill in The Pas could have buyer

There could be good news for more than 300 Tolko employees in The Pas, Man. Tolko, the union representing a number of mill employees and a potential buyer met in Winnipeg on Monday to discuss a possible sale that could keep the plant open.

Unifor confirms international company has letter of intent to buy mill in The Pas

A letter of intent from an international company could mean Tolko's plant in The Pas may not close in December. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

There could be a future for the Tolko paper mill in The Pas, Man., and the jobs of more than 300 people who work there.

Tolko and union representatives confirm an international company has put forward a letter of intent to buy the mill.

"I'm cautious at this point. I'm hopeful," said Paul McKie, the national representative for Unifor, the union that represents more than 250 workers and supervisors at the mill in The Pas.

McKie, Tolko representatives and the unnamed company met in Winnipeg on Monday to discuss conditions for the sale.

"The workers in The Pas and families and the entire community in the north, it's been a whirlwind, and I don't want to unduly raise hopes, but there is a strong possibility here if all the pieces line up, but it's a delicate period and any one of those things goes wrong and then there is no deal," McKie said.

Tolko workers hope a deal could keep the mill in The Pas running. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)
The Pas Mayor Jim Scott said people in the town and surrounding area are closely watching talks, hoping the sale goes through.

"There's 7,000 people in this area that would love to see that come true but, you know, we need to let them do what they need to do and we'll see what happens," he said.

McKie said a number of international companies have been "kicking at the tires," looking at the mill.

Unifor representatives was consulting workers in The Pas on Tuesday about the conditions in which the union has a say, but he said there are a number of regulatory and governing issues that need to be addressed before the sale can go through.

The new company is also interested in a tax incentive offered to Tolko by the mayor of The Pas, McKie said.

Scott said while the tax incentive he had offered to Tolko is not transferrable, he hopes something can be worked out with the prospective buyer.

"That original offer was not for anybody who was interested in buying this mill from Tolko. This was offered to Tolko because we didn't think that we could put something together by that Dec. 2 deadline," he said.

Tolko is scheduled to close the mill Dec. 2.

If this particular sale goes through, there would be no closure, McKie said.

Everyone involved knows there is a hard deadline and there are hopes a final agreement can be hammered out soon, he said.

Premier mum om details

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister offered few details on what, if any, assistance his government may provide to aid in the sale of the mill.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon in Winnipeg, Pallister acknowledged his government has both politicians and staff involved in the possible deal.

The premier said he wasn't interested in "patchwork" solutions, but did say recent developments are encouraging.

When asked if his Progressive Conservative government would consider other forms of assistance, such as legislation to help complete the sale, Pallister said it was too early to give any details of what the province might do to help.

With files from Sean Kavanagh