Nova Scotia

Inverness County backs Northern Pulp's bid to extend deadline

Inverness County council will be urging Premier Stephen McNeil to accept Northern Pulp's request for a one-year extension to construct its new treatment facility. 

'We are concerned about the economy surrounding the mill,' says warden

Boat Harbour currently receives the effluent from the Northern Pulp mill. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Inverness County council is urging Premier Stephen McNeil to accept Northern Pulp's request for a one-year extension to construct its new treatment facility.

The Pictou County mill must close its current treatment facility by Jan. 31, 2020. The company employs 300 people at its operation in Abercrombie Point.

"We all agreed that we should write a letter because we are concerned about the economy surrounding the mill and the devastating effect it would have if it was closed," said Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie of the Municipality of the County of Inverness.

"It's the economy, it's jobs, it's spinoff jobs, it's sawmills, it's the whole pulp operation. And we're standing by what we've heard from them."

Northern Pulp has stated it needs a one-year extension in order to work through environmental assessments and for the construction of the treatment facility.

Plans for the facility, which include a pipe to carry the treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait, have been bitterly opposed by the fishing industry in the region.

The owners of Northern Pulp mill want a year extension to build a new treatment facility, saying they can't meet the Jan. 31, 2020 deadline. (David Gutnick/CBC)

The future of the mill is uncertain if the extension is not granted. The premier has vowed not to agree to any extension, even it means the mill closes.

MacQuarrie noted that Pictou County is not that far from Inverness. 

"We have people who are in the forestry business in all of Inverness County, and there are some of these producers that do take wood to Northern Pulp. It has a major effect in Pictou, but it does affect us here as well."

A 2016 economic impact study found 6,100 direct forestry jobs in the province are connected to wood that eventually finds its way to Northern Pulp in one form or another. That's up to 40 per cent of the pulpwood harvested in Nova Scotia.

Inverness council wants to ensure that all environmental regulations are in place and followed, MacQuarrie added.

'It saddens me'

Council's position has its opponents.

Paul Strome of Chéticamp, which is in the municipality, opposes any extension. He said it is just giving in to the mill's demands. 

Strome sits on the board of the Council of Canadians, an environmental advocacy group.

"It saddens me, it really does," Strome said of council's plans to support Northern Pulp. "I thought that, environmentally, our local political leaders would have done their homework, so I'm really disappointed."

Taxpayers need to take a hard look at the how much the mill is costing the province, he said.

"We're on the hook already for the cleanup of Boat Harbour to the tune of about $257 million at my last reading. That is one heck of a lot of money," Strome said.

There needs to be a complete shift from the jobs-only focus to a long-term environmental strategy, he said.

"There will be no jobs on a dead planet."

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