Copies of Joan Baxter’s new book about the history of the pulp mill in Pictou County were all sold out at Water Street Studio before a book-signing event on Saturday was even finished.
The journalist and author of The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest was at the retail outlet to sign copies after a planned appearance at the local Coles bookstore was cancelled reportedly because of concerns for staff safety.
“Freedom of speech for me is important,” co-operative member Anne McDonald said of why Water Street Studio hosted a signing, listing “the impact of the whole issue on our health and our tourism” as another reason.
McDonald hadn’t been expecting it to be as busy as it was, with line-ups nearly out the door multiple times. When they started selling the book last week, they had approximately 75 copies and are planning on ordering more after going through their stock on Saturday.
“Everybody that’s been in has been very appreciative and saying that to us, that they appreciate the fact that we’re having a signing here, that somebody local stepped up. I’ve had very positive feedback. I’ve had absolutely no negative feedback and that’s been the way all week,” said McDonald.
Terry Dunbrack was among the group of people there to get books signed. When asked why he was there, he expressed concern about Northern Pulp’s plans for a new treatment facility that would see treated effluent in the Northumberland Strait.
“Joan, of course, has written a wonderful work of investigative journalism that outlines everything that’s gone on with whoever’s owned it, but mainly focused on the government allowing them to do everything they’ve done, so of course, I just wanted to support that.”
He listed several other concerns, including emissions, a lack of “real regulations, real monitoring and real penalties” from the government, and communication with the community from mill officials.
“I feel bad for the people that work there. They work hard and they deserve better. But the county deserves better and you can’t put all these other things at risk. Who knows how good the area would be if we weren’t under the thumbnail of being known for the stench and higher cancer rates and everything else we are?”
After having his book signed, Eldon MacDonald expressed similar thoughts, speaking about the mill’s smell and impact on the environment.
“It’s time to do something about it and the fact that they are going to put the effluent in the strait … is not something we want to see around here.”
Anna Pereda echoed concerns about the proposed new treatment facility and said she wanted to support the fisheries industry and a healthy Nova Scotia.
“I believe that there are ways to have a healthy place that have healthy jobs, too. I have every confidence that can be a reality for Pictou here.”
Baxter said the turnout Saturday was a bit overwhelming and gratifying.
“I’ve been a little worried about Pictou County and the division and I realize there’s still a lot of emotion running really high, but I see a really positive spirit in here today and I see people who really care about the environment and Pictou. “
She thanked Water Street Studio for hosting and “showing it’s perfectly harmless” to hold a local book-signing.
“Of course, they didn’t get subject to harassment or a threat of a boycott, but I really admire them for inviting me and I really am grateful that they did. And I love this street and I hope one day to see this street thriving with lots and lots of little businesses and not for rent signs on the houses.”
Joan Baxter signs a copy of her book, The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest, for Bonny McTague on Saturday. (Jess photo)