Northern Pulp prepares to shut down amid protests on both sides
Company says without an extension to Boat Harbour Act, it has no choice but to shut down
Hundreds of protesters rallied Thursday in support of Northern Pulp, as others urged the Nova Scotia government to make good on its promise to close the mill's effluent treatment plant at Boat Harbour by the end of January.
Northern Pulp said Thursday it is preparing to shut down as the government remains silent on whether it will amend the Boat Harbour Act, which legislates the closure of the treatment facility by Jan. 31.
An amendment to the act would be required to change that date, however the province has yet to say whether it would consider that amendment. Premier Stephen McNeil is expected to speak publicly about the future of Boat Harbour on Friday.
Northern Pulp officials have requested an extension to the deadline and have said the Pictou County-based mill cannot keep operating without one, something forestry officials have predicted would result in about 2,700 jobs lost within the industry.
"Without such decision from the Government of Nova Scotia, our stakeholders need to be ready for the worst-case scenario," the company said in a news release Thursday.
"We continue to believe that Pictou County deserves to have both a clean environment and a prosperous economy, and that Boat Harbour needs to be closed and remediated."
On Tuesday, Environment Minister Gordon Wilson said the company's environmental focus report lacked enough science-based information for him to make a decision on the mill's proposal to build a new effluent treatment plant, which would replace the current facility at Boat Harbour.
Members of Pictou Landing First Nation, which is located next to Boat Harbour and has suffered decades of pollution as a result, have urged the premier to keep his promise and uphold the closure date in the act.
Protests on both sides of the issue were staged on Thursday.
In Pictou County, more than 200 supporters and members of Pictou Landing First Nation gathered in a gymnasium to urge the government to stick to its word and maintain the Jan. 31 deadline.
"You don't get to 42 days [before Jan. 31] and decide that is not going to be the date," Pictou Landing Chief Andrea Paul said during the rally.
"We have children watching this unfold. We have children that are relying on us to make this right."
In Halifax, hundreds of people from the forestry sector descended upon Province House on Thursday morning to rally against a shut down.
Richard Freeman, co-owner of Freeman Sustained Forests, said people in the industry want to see Boat Harbour cleaned up, but the Jan. 31 timeline is no longer achievable.
"It's going to be done right and it's going to take longer than we all had hoped," said Freeman, whose company is one of the largest employers in Queens County.
"But there's no sense in gutting rural Nova Scotia because a date on a piece of paper turned out to be unrealistic."
Meanwhile along Highway 118, about 300 logging trucks were lined up end-to-end for 20 kilometres from Dartmouth to Fall River on Thursday morning to protest the potential shut down of the mill.
Many of those trucks then made their way toward Province House, causing traffic to snarl as they drove into downtown Halifax.
With files from Brooklyn Currie, Kassandra Nadeau-Lamarche, Craig Paisley, Paul Withers