An election tussle has now erupted over the long-dismantled Skeena Cellulose pulp mill on Watson Island, shown here in a 2013 photo. (File photo The Northern View)

An election tussle has now erupted over the long-dismantled Skeena Cellulose pulp mill on Watson Island, shown here in a 2013 photo. (File photo The Northern View)

Wilkinson, Horgan tagged over pulp mill file and legal battle

Case dates back to attempt to re-open closed Skeena Celluose pulp mill

A years-ago abortive attempt to re-open an aging pulp mill on Watson Island has surfaced in these last days of the provincial election campaign with both the NDP and the BC Liberals trying to attach the names of each others leaders to what turned out to be a protracted legal saga.

At issue is the purchase by a Chinese-owned company called Sun Wave in the mid-2000s of the closed Skeena Cellulose pulp mill and its property under a promise to restart operations of what was once a key economic driver in Prince Rupert and in communities east along Hwy16.

That re-opening never happened and after a lengthy legal and expensive battle between the City of Prince Rupert and Sun Wave over unpaid property taxes, the City, in 2018, took complete possession of the property.

The events featured in an Oct. 17 news conference held by Stikine NDP candidate Nathan Cullen and North Coast NDP incumbent Jennifer Rice in which they said BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson worked on the re-opening plan when he was employed by the former BC Liberal government in 2005 and 2006 and then, when in private legal practice, represented Sun Wave in its court case with the City of Prince Rupert.

Part of the re-opening plan agreed to involved a tax holiday granted Sun Wave by the City of Prince Rupert.

“When Sun Wave backed out of the bad deal Wilkinson put together, he cashed in and helped the company sue the taxpayers of Prince Rupert,” Cullen said in a release.

“He looked out for himself and BC Liberal donors, and the people of Prince Rupert paid the price.”

The NDP release was accompanied by supporting documents indicating companies involved with Sun Wave donated $15,000 to the BC Liberals.

It also stated the legal case cost the City of Prince Rupert $3.5 million.

In response, a BC Liberal statement said NDP leader John Horgan worked for the NDP government of 1991-2001. During that period Skeena Celluose slid into bankruptcy and the NDP government of the day, in an effort to keep the mill functioning, “spent $500 million on the mill and drove it into the ground.”

Following the NDP government’s defeat in 2001 by the BC Liberals, the mill was closed, placing the assets and property into a position that Sun Wave made the deal for its purchase.

The BC Liberal statement also defended Wilkinson’s hiring by Sun Wave to be its legal representative.

“Andrew Wilkinson was a practising lawyer when he represented Sun Wave, not a public servant, and they had the right for fair legal representation,” the statement said.

“The NDP is trying to vilify him for doing a job that he was hired to do and it’s quite a stretch to blame him for the Watson Island pulp mill fiasco.

“The BC Liberals also worked to secure an LNG plant for Prince Rupert but that was decisively rejected by Jennifer Rice and the NDP.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Five to six years of log accumulation at Diana Lake Provincial Park is currently being cleaned up by a District of Port Edward and Parks BC partnership. (Photo: Supplied by District of Port Edward)
Diana Lake Provincial Park clean up underway

Port Edward District spearheaded the park clean up securing $80,000 in funds from Ridley Terminal

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital took in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health as part of a provincial agreement. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hospital takes in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health

Royal Jubilee Hospital takes patients as part of provincial transport network

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
52 positive COVID-19 cases now associated with LNG Canada site outbreak

Eight cases still active, 44 considered recovered

Northern Health announced on Dec. 1 holiday changes to the medical travel bus schedule for December and January 2021. (Photo: supplied)
Holiday schedule changes for Northern Health Connections bus

N.H. announces transportation time changes from Prince Rupert to Prince George

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

An RCMP officer confers with military rescuers outside their Cormorant helicopter near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
Good Samaritan helped Kootenay police nab, rescue suspect which drew armed forces response

Midway RCMP said a Good Samaritan helped track the suspect, then brought the arresting officer dry socks

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

(Needpix.com)
Pandemic has ‘exacerbated’ concerns for B.C. children and youth with special needs: report

Pandemic worsened an already patchwork system, representative says

Most Read