Time for action, not politics, on NP

Opinion

To the Editor:

Several weeks ago our local municipal leaders, MLAs and MP gave us food for thought with their lofty goals for 2019 and reflections on 2018. As a reader, I was rather excited to peruse their comments since I was certain they would, as an elected official, have something profound to share about the controversy surrounding Northern Pulp.

Once I concluded reading their in-depth responses I thought, well, the topic after all was the third most significant news story in 2018, according to a CTV Halifax poll of its viewers, yet only three of the aforementioned politicians gave it any credence.

That being said, MLA Karla MacFarlane, on many occasions, has been adamant in her opposition to any pipe entering the strait. So too, has Mayor Jim Ryan, through council, declared his concern for a pipe being placed along the Trans Canada, in the watershed area. However, this would have been another opportunity to reinforce their stance, even one line to remind the public that this remains a high priority for them.

All 10 politicians should be concerned, no matter where they live in the county since jobs, the environment and the economy, in general, are in jeopardy. There is a tendency for political leaders to sit on the fence, but if they are worth their salt they would demonstrate their true colours on this subject, mainly because of its magnitude.

Let’s examine those who did respond to determine if there is something we need to question or be reactionary regarding their observations:

MLA Pat Dunn expressed concern about whether the environmental assessment would be unbiased. He is right to have reservations since in many ways, the government and NP appear to be closely aligned. I can agree with him regarding his biased theory but not with his next statement suggesting that management plant supports a Class 2 assessment. That bold announcement is definitely a news flash! Not once have I heard the hierarchy of NP advocating such an assessment. And certainly, that same management, from what I have garnered, wants nothing to do with Friends of Northumberland Strait and Fisherman’s Association and their legitimate plea for what should really happen, that is, a true federal assessment.

Tim Houston, the newly chosen opposition leader, stated he is gravely concerned about what the future holds on this subject. He intimates there needs to be a solution and to that, we can all agree. Maybe Mr. Houston should have provided a viable solution instead of simply hoping for one. What a breath of fresh air from, perhaps our next premier, if he had actually gone out on a limb, not ‘straddled the pipeline’ and stated unequivocally, there is only one solution, the mill must close! He could have proffered the following rationale: there are innovative green economies that could be pursued; the mess and costs to remedy Boat Harbour cannot be repeated; Michelin Tire has job opportunities; other businesses have closed their doors and life has moved forward and it is paramount to protect our environment at all costs, for our children, grandchildren and beyond.

What about MP Sean Fraser? Could he be our white knight, our saviour, our tour de force and that sunny ways promoter, to make everything right and mitigate our concerns about the infamous “pipe”? Does it not seem only logical as Parliamentary Secretary to our Federal Minister of Environment, that he seize the moment and make this an integral part of his legacy for Central Nova.

For sure, he refers to the remediation project, that is, cleaning up the environmental disaster of Boat Harbour and offers the feds could be of assistance. The amount of money being bantered about is in excess of $200 million so yes we expect nothing less of our government then to pay for it with our tax dollars. However, heaven forbid, we do not expect those who operated the mill over the past 50 years, including the present owner from Indonesia, to foot the bill. It is obvious that we, those who endured the putrid odour, were possibly stricken with some disease/illness over those years, or contributed hundreds of millions of tax dollars to the mill, would have to pony up, again!

I apologize for sounding somewhat despondent, that my forecast may appear dismal or that our politicians need to demonstrate more courage, because, in fact, all is not lost. You see, Mr. Fraser and our present Liberal government in Ottawa will save us as is evident by his statement and I quote, “ I will continue to push for enhanced protection of our natural environment.”

Although vague, that proclamation does offer encouragement, a much better forecast than mine and lifts our spirits suggesting there is no need to be quite as despondent as I anticipated. To me, it clearly indicates he and his colleagues will PROTECT our fishery (oceans), forestry (woods) and the air we breathe, with better (enhanced) protection. Certainly this is not such a lofty goal for Mr. Fraser but rather a common sense approach since he is obviously thinking about his child, future generations and paying it forward.

Folks, this is not fake news, he actually made the statement, it is in black and white and we, the taxpayers, can feel confident, and as a result, hold him to his word. He is, no doubt, not just offering his own opinion on this contentious subject, but rather promoting the Liberal government’s policy. That is correct, following, as a loyal servant does, the party line!

Bring on January 2020, a time to celebrate, a new beginning and yes, that breath of fresh air we not only long for, but deserve. Because by then, surely we will know specifically what “enhanced protection of our natural environment” entails. And perhaps more importantly, what action our federal government has taken to avoid the impending environmental and economic disaster proposed by Northern Pulp.

Ken Johnston

Pictou