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Tolko says it has potential buyer for mill in The Pas

KRISTIN ANNABLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The Tolko Industries plant in The Pas.</p>


The Tolko Industries plant in The Pas.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/9/2016 (1418 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It's nowhere near a done deal, but at least The Pas has a ray of hope that its pulp and paper mill won't close.

Tolko Industries confirmed on Monday night that it has received a signed letter of intent from a potential buyer for its pulp and paper mill that it announced last month it was closing on Dec. 2.

Jim Baskerville, Tolko's vice-president, emphasized that the letter of intent is not a guarantee of a sale, but "it's an important first step."

"These letters are non-binding, but they lay out the framework for a deal. They come with clearly spelled out conditions. We know what the conditions are and we will work with government, the provincial and municipal, and the union."

Baskerville said he would not divulge the possible purchasing company's name, but he added it wasn't alone.

"There are several parties actively in the mix, but this one is the most advanced in the offer," he said.

Baskerville said he is in Winnipeg where negotiations are ongoing, but there are also talks going on in The Pas.

Last month, the Vernon, B.C.-based Tolko stunned the town of 5,500 when it announced it would close the mill on Dec. 2, throwing more than 300 people out of work.

The plant closure announcement for the northern community came on the heels of news that Omnitrax had closed the Port of Churchill. Omnitrax has since denied the port is closed, saying it had only shut down the grain terminal for this year because it had no contracts for grain to go through there.

Earlier this month, Tolko rejected a three-year municipal and education tax break offered by the mayor of The Pas to stop the closure.

The Pas Mayor Jim Scott said he was "cautiously optimistic" about a possible deal in the works to sell the mill.

"Why shouldn’t it and why couldn’t it? If they can cross their T’s and dot their I’s and get people on this I’m sure we’ll have the mill continue to operate."

As for whether the three-year tax holiday would be offered to a potential new owner, Scott said it was "difficult to say."

"That olive branch was put out there to allow Tolko to continue operations while everyone searched for a new owner."

Paul McKie, national representative of Unifor, the union that represents 235 mill workers and 25 supervisors in separate locals, said union officials met on Monday with both representatives of Tolko and the company that has put forward the letter of intent.

McKie, who would not identify the company, said "issues about a potential sale were discussed."

"There's a series of conditions, some of which it is up to our members to consider and some that are beyond our control."

Bill Henderson, who was recently hired by The Pas Community Development Corporation to lead the response to the possible closure, and is a former employee of both Tolko and previous owners of the mill, said all he has heard is there are "interested parties and negotiations are very active."

"I do know things have been progressing."

Henderson said he hopes the talks conclude with a new owner so the mill doesn't close.

"If it happens, that's what we're trying to do," he said.

"I would be happy going back to what I was doing before."





Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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Updated on Monday, September 26, 2016 at 8:52 PM CDT: minor edit

9:13 PM: added comments by The Pas mayor

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