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A $1 million apology

A $1 million apology
Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne speaks during Thursday’s State of the City address, sponsored by the Prince Albert Chamber of Commerce. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Infrastructure project updates, diamond mine operations and a tribute to departing Prince Albert police chief Troy Cooper dominated Mayor Greg Dionne’s State of the City address on Thursday.

However, it was his update on the 2016 oil spill cleanup that could have the biggest impact down the road.

During Thursday’s speech, Dionne revealed his plans to ask Husky Energy for an apology in the form of a $1 million payout. The money would go towards finishing the Prince Albert Rotary Trail, replacing the paddling pool at Kinsmen Park and improving other water parks throughout the city.

Although Dionne said a similar proposal from the City of North Battleford was turned down, he remained confident Prince Albert’s request was a reasonable one.

“We’re different than North Battleford,” the mayor explained. “North Battleford continued to have water. They didn’t have to pump like we did and they didn’t have to lay off all their summer staff and close all their water facilities. I think we were totally affected different.”

Dionne said he plans to sweeten the deal for Husky with a promise to rename Kinsmen Park as Husky Park. However, if that isn’t enough, he said the city would not shy away from legal action.

The city views expenses generated by the spill in three layers: direct costs, incidental costs and community costs. Direct costs include pipes and water, while incidental costs cover lost salaries, like those that would have been paid to summer students working at the water park. The $1 million apology would fall under community costs.

Dionne said he told Husky representatives from the outset that this would happen. The request will be sent out early next week.

“I wanted to announce it to the community first, so when the community heard about it they wouldn’t be surprised,” he explained.

Husky Energy has already made all other required payments for damage caused by the 2016 spill. If agreed to, the $1 million apology would be the final one.

Dionne praised Husky Energy for their response to past requests, and said they worked well with the city. Still, he’s prepared to dig his heels in if this final request is not met.

“As everyone knows, I’m bull-headed,” he said. “How far can you push bull-headed? That’s worse than stubborn. You can convince stubborn to move, but I don’t move.”

Diamonds in the rough

The City of Prince Albert is set to take on a pivotal role as Rio Tinto and Saskatoon-based Shore Gold Inc. move forward with diamond exploration plans at the Star-Orion South Diamond Project, located roughly 60 km east of Prince Albert.

During Thursday’s State of the City address, Mayor Greg Dionne revealed that Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody would chair a committee that would serve as a liaison between the provincial government and Rio Tinto.

Cody was chosen after attending a 30-community consulting forum recently held in Melfort.

Dionne said he was excited to see some movement on the file, which will see drilling and testing conducted over the next couple of years.

“They are going to try to move the project forward, and I think it is important that we be there now and get involved,” he explained. “That’s why we’re very pleased that they agreed to appoint Don Cody as chair.”

As part of the initial stage of drilling, Dionne said Rio Tinto plans to bring a specialized drill over from Europe that will create holes without damaging any diamonds.

According to a CBC report filed in June 2017, it could be up to 10 years before the diamond mine becomes fully operational.