Still hope for a solution

Opinion

To the Editor:

Premier McNeil has announced that there will be no extension of the Boat Harbour Act and Northern Pulp (NP) has announced that the Mill will shut down if there is no extension.

How did we get to this point and what are some of the consequences for all Nova Scotians?

Seven years ago overtures were made by the Pictou Landing First Nation (PL) to the Government of Nova Scotia (PNS) and NP seeking assistance in financing badly needed sewage infrastructure in the Reserve but neither were interested. For years they had patiently dealt with the abuse and neglect bestowed on them as a result of the effluent flowing into Boat Harbour. When the effluent pipe burst a year later PL set up a blockade and wrung the Boat Harbour Act out of the PNS with an expiry date of January 31, 2020. Now both the Government and NP are paying the price because they are being held to the original agreement. Who can blame PL for their actions?

The Mill has proposed a new treatment plant which will take 85 per cnt of the particulates out of the effluent prior to discharge by way of pipe to Caribou. The fishermen, environmentalists and the Town of Pictou have objected to this plan.

The fishermen want no pipe flowing into the Strait but in reality the existing partially treated effluent outflow into the Strait has had minimal or no impact on lobster catches with some of the largest catches being in the area of the outflow.

PNS started with nine studies needed for approval of the new treatment facility. Over the last five years the number of studies has increased to 52 and now more are wanted. How in the world do you give correct and complete answers when the bureaucrats can’t figure out what they want?

The Feds are not interested in doing anything. This is a Nova Scotia problem.

NP is part of the problem by picking a fight with fishermen and the Town of Pictou when there are alternate solutions. One such solution would be to build cells in the Hwy 106 triangle and then pipe the residue to the East River by the power plant outflow.

NP picked fights with environmentalists when effluent is to be treated by and particulates reduced by 85 per cent and cells would improve things by another 50 per cent at least. NP made little public rebuttal to refute their claims of environmental disaster.

What are the major costs to the economy and the taxpayers of Nova Scotia? These include:

PNS will set aside $50 million to retrain the forestry and Mill workers affected. (If the premier had negotiated to use part of these proceeds to provide benefits to PL would we be now in this situation?)

PNS will pay millions to NP for lost profits for the 10 years left in the contract for Boat Harbour which expires in 2030.

PNS stands to lose millions in the current loans outstanding to NP.

PNS will lose millions in annual corporate  income taxes from NP as will the Federal Government.

PNS has indemnified the Mill for cleanup once it shuts down. The $220 million to be spent on Boat Harbour will be a drop in the bucket to what it will cost to clean up the Mill site, particularly the old Canso Chemicals site. Some estimates go as high as $1 BILLION!

The Municipality of Pictou County will lose its second largest commercial taxpayer. Therefore property taxes for every taxpayer in the county will increase going forward.

Businesses in Pictou County and all over Nova Scotia, especially rural Nova Scotia, will see a drop in business. Especially hard hit will be the Mill and forestry service providers.

The Mill is the largest Atlantic Provinces user of the Port of Halifax. This will directly impact the Port volumes.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, over 3,000 people, including 300 at the Mill, will lose their jobs, It is estimated that up to 8,000 additional jobs could be impacted, primarily in rural Nova Scotia.

It is everyone’s sincere hope that the two groups that are able to solve this debacle, namely Premier McNeil and his Cabinet and Chief Andrea Paul and her Council, will sit down ASAP and negotiate an agreement between themselves and NP with strict guidelines that will allow the Mill to stay open and allow it to achieve an environmentally sustainable operation going forward.

Ira MacInnis

Halifax