Gov’t is working with town on mill issue: MP

Ken Kellar

During a stop in Fort Frances last week, Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford gave an update on the progress of talks surrounding the mill property in town, as well as dispelled some rumours surrounding the level of involvement of the provincial government.

“We have been actively involved at every turn in ensuring that Fort Frances has an opportunity for a new market entrant,” Rickford said from his constituency office on Friday.

“I had the Ministry of Natural Resources’ most senior officials and experts in wood rights sit down with the mayor and some councillors and some of their advisors including the Rainy River Economic Development Futures Corporation. That process is moving ahead.”

Rickford also said the establishment of the enhanced Sustainable Forestry License in the spring will also provide a more fair distribution of rights and decision-making to the communities around and in the Crossroute forest, as well as to forestry operators who Rickford said have “historically had to go cap-in-hand to Resolute” for the ability to access certain kids of fibres from the forest.

“I’m working very closely with the Rainy River Economic Development Future Corp. on the potential for a new market entrant, on a potential for expansion on existing forestry operations,” he continued.

“And we stand ready that if an outcome at the old mill site presents itself to have another forestry operation, we will be there to support that.”

The comments followed reports in a Sept. 25 article in the Times in which mayor June Caul charged the province with needing to “step up to the plate” in regards to ensuring the wood rights to the Crossroute forest remained accessible to Fort Frances and any operation that would look to access them in restarting the mill, something Rickford said his government has been doing successfully.”We’ve been very supportive with them in making sure that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the full resources from my offices, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, has been supporting that,” Rickford said.

“Including extra resources for experts to advise them on the important steps that they may need to take to make this a reality, and so far we’re very pleased with how that’s going.”

In September, the town issued a Notice of Seizure for almost $500,000 in unpaid taxes to Riversedge Development, the current owner of the mill property. Riversedge has since begun to pay some of those taxes back.