Province has done its part: Rickford

Sam Odrowski

A non-disclosure agreement between Resolute Forest Products and Repap Resources Group has not yet been signed regarding the potential sale of the idled mill here.
But local MPP Greg Rickford told the Times on Friday that the two parties actively are trying to finalize the agreement, and that progress is being made.
He also said anything preventing the interested party from speaking to the government while negotiating a deal for the mill would be “absurd.”
“Our specific request to both Resolute . . . was that any bidders involved in a process to acquire this asset should and could speak to my ministry and speak to the ministry of natural resources and forests,” Rickford remarked.
“We believe that all parties involved should know and understand what the issues are, and what the opportunities are with respect to fibre and the rights therein,” he added.
If Repap were to sign Resolute’s non-disclosure agreement, Rickford said it was his understanding that there won’t be any issues around communications with the province or the Town of Fort Frances.
“This is an important development because we have now created an opportunity for all parties to understand what access to fibre is about, and have those open and transparent discussions,” he explained.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry released a statement back on Feb. 14 that read: “Negotiations regarding the future of the mill are between Resolute, Repap, and the community of Fort Frances, and we are not commenting further at this time.”
But Rickford said the ministry has been clear in its support for facilitating a transaction.
“That is an incorrect interpretation of what the Ministry of Natural Resources actually said,” he noted.
“What the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry said clearly is that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to understand what the implications would be to allocations of fibre or wood supply in the absence of a business deal to look at.
“In other words, we don’t know precisely what Repap, or any other prospected bidder, would have in terms of the demand on that forest to speculate.”
Rickford said the provincial government currently is involved in a concrete process to get Resolute’s non-disclosure agreement signed so Repap can put together a business plan for the mill’s potential sale.
“We’re focused on getting two business entities into a room so that they can attempt to hammer out a deal,” he stressed.
“My focus is supporting the Town of Fort Frances and the prospect of an economic opportunity that would put people and the mill back to work.
“Obviously, a great deal of that responsibility rests with Resolute and Repap’s ability to do that, and to do it in good faith,” he noted.
“To the extent that the province has been implicated in any and all exercises related to a good faith discussion between the parties–we’ve done our part,” Rickford pledged.
“The pressure now is on Resolute and Repap to go in with a business plan and a business profile that works for the Town of Fort Frances and that works for the province.
“We’re very hopeful that they can get into the room, the non-disclosure agreement can be completed, and business discussions can occur hopefully as early as [this] week,” he added.