Premier rejects call for all-party committee to deal with Northern Pulp closure
'The last thing we need is to politicize this issue,' says Stephen McNeil
Premier Stephen McNeil has dismissed a call by the Official Opposition to create an all-party committee of the Nova Scotia Legislature to tour the province so that elected officials could hear directly from those who will be most affected by the impending shutdown of Northern Pulp.
"The last thing we need is to politicize this issue," McNeil told reporters in North Sydney, N.S., on Thursday following a government announcement.
McNeil said he specifically chose not to put politicians on the forestry transition team, which is made up of senior bureaucrats and industry representatives. They've been tasked with finding ways to cushion the blow for those who work at the mill or rely on the forest sector for all of part of their livelihood.
McNeil said government officials have been working diligently with the transition team, investments have been announced and there will be more to come.
Earlier Thursday, PC Leader Tim Houston characterized the Liberal government's response to the Pictou County, N.S., company's shutdown as "failed," "ill-prepared" and "confused."
He said the provincial government can't answer basic questions about the $50-million transition fund that will help those in need.
"Who would qualify for transition funding? How they would qualify for transition funding?" said Houston at Province House. "We've seen a lot of confusion, a lot of mixed messages."
Although the PC leader said he was ready to work with the governing Liberals to find solutions, he spent as much time criticizing McNeil and his cabinet for what he claims they have failed to do.
McNeil said the forestry transition team is getting input from MLAs, including at least one member from the PC ranks: Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin.
McNeil said McCrossin is "holding meetings and sending in constructive ideas that the committee is looking at and using. That's where elected officials can play a role."
McNeil also made mention of a loan program for small and medium-size contractors that he said was announced Wednesday. In fact, the program is expected to be announced Friday.
This isn't the first time someone has called for a special committee of the legislature to be created to look at forestry in Nova Scotia.
In 1985, the government of John Buchanan created a select committee to examine "the use of wood chips, wood residue and other forest biomass from Nova Scotia forests, as an energy source for domestic industrial commercial, agricultural and industrial energy needs in Nova Scotia."
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