Randy Hoback’s Pulp Fiction

Last week, Conservative MP Randy Hoback had another letter in The Prince Albert Daily Herald blaming the NDP for the pulp-mill closure in 2006. He still has not addressed my main point about resource royalties. I have the following response on page 4 of today’s Herald:

Pulp mill saga proves Mulcair’s point

Notwithstanding MP Randy Hoback’s repeated use of the word ‘FACT’ in block-capital letters, his June 28 letter is largely pulp fiction.

He does not identify a single policy of the previous NDP government that caused the Prince Albert Pulp Mill’s closure. The only New Democrat policy Mr. Hoback mentions was the agreement with Domtar to reopen the mill, which the Sask. Party ripped up when it took power.

He blames the provincial NDP simply because it was in office when the mill closed in 2006. By that logic, one could just as easily blame his federal Conservatives, who were also in government then.

Mr. Hoback touts the mill’s recent acquisition by Paper Excellence. This company indicates that it will employ “approximately 250 people” in Prince Albert. When Weyerhaeuser closed the mill, it laid off about 700 workers.

The Paper Excellence investment is welcome. But if the Conservatives and Sask. Party want to claim credit for taking half a decade to replace one-third of the lost jobs, they should not pat themselves on the back too hard.

A major factor pushing the Prince Albert Pulp Mill out of business was Canada’s overvalued dollar, which artificially inflates the price of Canadian-made pulp and paper relative to foreign pulp and paper.

Since 2006, Canadian manufacturers of pulp, paper and other goods have been hurt by an exchange rate that typically exceeds 90 American cents. By comparison, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) calculates that the loonie’s actual purchasing power in Canada is equivalent to only 80 American cents in the U.S.

Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is right to recognize and address this problem. The OECD’s latest Economic Survey of Canada similarly notes that commodity-fuelled currency appreciation has undermined our international competitiveness.

The Sask. Party government is aggravating the problem by giving away our province’s non-renewable resources at ultra-low royalty rates. This giveaway of public assets attracts foreign takeovers of Canadian resource companies, which drive up the Canadian dollar.

Collecting more royalty revenue would provide Saskatchewan people with a better return on our resources and also help to moderate the national exchange rate. Unfortunately, Mr. Hoback seeks to deny the problem rather than discuss solutions.

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