Saskatchewan

Mill deal dominates Wall's first question period as premier

Saskatchewan's new premier, Brad Wall, spent most of his first question period answering questions about the closed pulp mill in Prince Albert.

Saskatchewan's new premier, Brad Wall, spent most of his first question period answering questions about the closed pulp mill in Prince Albert.

The NDP Opposition wants to know who the Saskatchewan Party consultedbefore it ripped up an agreement with Domtar to reopen the mill.

The memorandum of agreement announced by then-premier Lorne Calvert and Domtar in October outlined a process that could see the mill reopening if market conditions were right.

The memorandum also said Saskatchewan taxpayers might have to put $100 million into the plan, prompting the new government to kill the deal after the Nov. 7 election that put them in power.

Wall said he and his party made their intentions very clear by campaigning against the idea of investing public money in private deals.

He referred to the hundreds of millions of dollars the former government lost in the Meadow Lake pulp mill and the $35 million it lost on the Spudco potato-growing venture.

"That kind of practice by a government, whatever its stripe, is no substitute for proper economic development policy," he said.

However, Calvert and other New Democrat MLAs reminded Wall that the local Saskatchewan Party candidate in Prince Albert, Darryl Hickie, campaigned withthe slogan that a vote for him was a vote to reopen the mill.

Wall said what Hickie meant to say was that he'd try hard to do that.

Some 700 direct jobs were lost when the Prince Albert pulp and paper mill formerly owned by Weyerhaeuserclosed last year. The closure triggered losses of thousands of other jobs in Saskatchewan, a government report said.

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