Nova Scotia

Group steps up pressure on politicians to close Boat Harbour on time

The environmental group Friends of the Northumberland Strait is spending $10,000 on a campaign to ensure the Nova Scotia government closes the Boat Harbour effluent treatment plant by the promised deadline.

Friends of the Northumberland Strait paid for billboards, lawn signs and e-postcard campaign

The environmental group Friends of the Northumberland Strait have sponsored four billboards demanding the Nova Scotia government live up to the Boat Harbour closure deadline. (Submitted by Friends of the Northumberland Strait)

It's not just the federal parties and their candidates putting up lawn signs or leasing billboards these days.

The environmental group Friends of the Northumberland Strait has paid $10,000 for a campaign aimed at the McNeil government as well as the 51 members of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly.

The group wants the Nova Scotia government to respect the Jan, 31, 2020, deadline for the closure of the Boat Harbour effluent treatment plant, which serves the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County. The campaign includes four billboards and hundreds of lawn signs.

"We're quite confident that once the premier and the MLAs understand that there is broad public support, that they will honour the Boat Harbour Act closure as scheduled," said the group's president, Jill Graham-Scanlan.

"We have to remember that all three political parties supported the act when it was passed in 2015 and they must continue to honour it."

Once Boat Harbour is closed, the plan is to dredge up to a million cubic metres of contaminated, watery sediment and pipe it to a pad where water will be removed for treatment. (Nova Scotia Government)

Friends of the Northumberland Strait are opposed to Northern Pulp's plan to pipe waste water into the waters between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and the company's request to continue treating its effluent at Boat Harbour beyond the legal deadline.

McNeil has so far refused to change the law to extend the deadline, and has said he would only contemplate doing so if all parties involved, including adjacent Pictou Landing First Nation, agreed to it.

The billboard campaign is designed to remind politicians of their pledge, ahead of the start of the fall sitting of the Nova Scotia Legislature.

"We know that there is a lot of pressure from the forestry industry on the premier and the MLAs to extend the Boat Harbour Act," said Graham-Scanlan.

"Northern Pulp has stated many time that they require an extension to the closure of Boat Harbour, and we want to make sure that the Boat Harbour Act is honoured and that Boat Harbour is closed on schedule."

The Northern Pulp mill manufactures 280,000 tonnes of Kraft pulp annually, which is used in household products such as tissue, towel and toilet paper, and writing and photocopy paper. (The Canadian Press)

Four Halifax-area billboards drive home the point in three-by-six-metre panels. One of them reads, "53 years, pulp pollution, broken promises. It has to end now. Honour the Boat Harbour Act."

The group has also asked Nova Scotians to send pre-written letters to McNeil's office and claim 1,200 Nova Scotians have already done so. 

The campaign coincides with the Atlantic Film Festival, which is screening two documentaries critical of Northern Pulp and the Nova Scotia government for having broken previous promises to close the facility, located next to the Mi'kmaw community of Pictou Landing.

Graham-Scanlan took in a screening of There's Something in the Water, produced by Nova Scotia-born Hollywood actor Ellen Page.

"I think the fact that there were three theatres sold out showed how much interest there is in this topic."

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