Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sask. Party betrayal of P.A. continues; Premier Wall denies promise made; Hickie: “a vote for Darryl is a vote for the mill open and people working”

The Brad Wall-led Saskatchewan Party government spent most of the first question period in the legislature since the Nov. 7 provincial election denying and back-peddling on a promise made by one of its candidate’s regarding the Prince Albert Pulp Mill.

During the election Prince Albert Carlton MLA Darryl Hickie told residents that “a vote for Darryl is a vote for the mill open and people working.”

This sounds pretty straight forward but apparently it’s not.

According to Sask. Party grilled over cancellation (Leader-Post, Dec. 12, 2007) Premier Brad Wall “told reporters it was not a campaign promise or a guarantee the mill would reopen during the four-year term of government.”

However, he acknowledged the new government will be judged if the mill stays shut.

“If the mill is not re-opened in four years, if we were unable to help facilitate a deal, there are going to be a number of factors in play, the markets primarily because again it can’t be an artificial or fictional arrangement, are going to be part of it. People can choose to hold us accountable for that, that’s fair,” said Wall.

“In this case, if they do not believe that we worked hard enough, that we did everything we could do to get the mill open, I expect we'll hear about it on election day.”

In Mill deal dominates Wall’s first question period as premier (CBC News, Dec. 11, 2007) Wall said what Hickie meant to say was that he’d try hard to do that.

The problem is Hickie’s election signs didn’t say that and it’s not what voters were led to believe on the doorstep.

The 2007 provincial election period lasted 28-days (29 if you count the day the writ was dropped).

The official results available at the Elections Saskatchewan website indicate there were 9,602 eligible electors in Prince Albert Carlton of which 80.86% (7,771) voted.

So Premier Wall would have people believe that of the thousands of residents that Hickie likely met during the course of a campaign that was months in the planning, in some miraculous display of absentmindedness, he just plain forgot to say what he really meant. All those elections signs and handouts bearing the slogan were simply an unfortunate oversight. It seems doubtful that the good people of Prince Albert Carlton will be buying this nonsense any time soon.

In Adding millstones to Wall’s knapsack (Leader-Post, Dec. 12, 2007) Leader-Post political columnist Murray Mandryk added: “Whether or not the vast majority of the people of the province agree with the government that P.A. pulp mill MOU should be scrapped may be of less consequence, politically speaking, than what the people of Prince Albert and area think. After all, only P.A. residents will see this issue as a vote determiner.”

“Certainly, the Saskatchewan Party’s eagerness to scrap this deal (even before it could be debated in the assembly) has already raised doubts with some in Prince Albert over whether the new government did its due diligence.

“But even more problematic for Wall is justifying how scrapping the MOU squares with those little cards Prince Albert Carlton Saskatchewan Party MLA Darryl Hickie was handing out on election doorsteps proclaiming: “A vote for Darryl is a vote for the mill open (sic) & people working.”

“On Tuesday, Wall was eventually forced to acknowledge to reporters outsider the chamber that, if the mill isn’t reopened, P.A. voters will be well within their rights to decide that Hickie misled them on this commitment. This isn’t good news in a seat that the Saskatchewan Party won by a mere 61 votes.”

Wall has continually called the memorandum of understanding between the former NDP government and Domtar “fiction”.

Wall said he spoke with Domtar officials this week and that the government has made a commitment to “work very hard on this issue.” It appears though that Wall has done a masterful job in burning this particular bridge.

In P.A. pulp mill dominates first question period (StarPhoenix, Dec. 12, 2007) the StarPhoenix reported that a “Domtar official would not comment on the premier’s characterization of the MOU beyond noting it was the product of a 14-month period of negotiations.”

“While Wall’s contact with the company was appreciated, nothing has changed since the agreement was scrapped and Domtar characterized the chances of the mill reopening as severely diminished, said company vice-president Michel Rathier in an interview from Montreal.

“What was expressed to Premier Wall was that we put in over the last 15 months a lot of effort over this and we looked at many options and examined many approaches and strategies. . . . I guess now what we’d like to do is leave the government time and let the new government time to assess their own room to manoeuver. Then down the road we’ll evaluate together if there’s a chance to restart this or not. But for now nothing has progressed.””

It seems the ball is in Wall’s court. In fact, it never really left and it now seems there’s good chance he might get left holding it.

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