'It puts food on my table': Truckers call for Northern Pulp extension
'It's an important part of the economy and there's nothing to replace it,' says union official Ben Chisholm
About 70 truckers parked their rigs in protest along the Trans-Canada Highway near Truro, N.S., on Thursday and called for the province to extend its deadline for closing Northern Pulp's waste effluent treatment plant.
The Boat Harbour treatment facility must close by January 2020 and Northern Pulp has asked multiple times for an extension, saying the mill would be forced to shut down without one.
The lagoons contain nearly 50 years worth of toxic waste, and it has been called one of the worst cases of environmental racism in Canada.
Premier Stephen McNeil has said an extension would not be considered without full support from the community and members of the Pictou Landing First Nation say they do not support an extension.
Truckers say the closure will hurt the economy.
"It puts food on my table and supports my kids and my family," said Matthew MacGillivray, a contractor of Northern Pulp who was at the protest.
He said without the pulp mill, his business will be ruined.
"It was said in the industry, 'If Northern Pulp closed, 60 seconds later there'd be sawmills closing.' We as contractors are the same," he said.
"We can't sit idle for very long."
Ricky Slocum is the owner and operator of a trucking company. He said the closure would be devastating.
"I don't know really what I would do. It's all I've ever done, ever since I left school I've trucked wood," he said.
"So as far as the mill going down, it would definitely be a change for me, that's for sure."
While the protest was made up primarily of truckers who haul wood for Northern Pulp, there were also people with an interest in servicing these trucks and union officials who represent people working at the mill.
'These are real jobs'
The message of protesters was to give Northern Pulp more time to design a new effluent treatment facility.
"It's an important part of the economy and there's nothing to replace it," said Ben Chisholm, a union representative for plumbers, pipefitters and welders with UA Local 244 in Antigonish, N.S.
"Some of the opposition people are talking about [how] tourism will replace it. Tourism is two, three months of minimum-wage jobs at part-time. These are real jobs."
With files from Jean Laroche