Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia premier believes Northern Pulp plant will never reopen

Premier Tim Houston says he believes the Northern Pulp plant, shuttered by the company in January 2020, will never reopen.

Houston made his comments while campaigning for the PCs in Pictou West in advance of the May 21 byelection.

“I don’t even know how that mill could be reopened after just sitting there for that amount of time,” Houston said Tuesday. “It’s not on my radar, it’s not something that, as a province, we would be in favour of.”

Houston said traditional industries such as forestry, fishing and farming have their place, but not just anywhere.

“These are important industries to our province, but they all have to be at the right place,” said Houston. “They all have to be in the right communities.”

Houston suggested his party’s political opponents were “trying to scare people” by suggesting the plant might resume operations some day.

The plant has long been a polarizing issue in the region, pitting those who supported its operations because of its well-paying jobs and substantial economic impact against those who saw the pulp mill as a polluter and environmental threat to the province.

Houston says people not talking about mill reopening

Houston said bringing up the issue during the byelection is “the worst type of politics,” calling Northern Pulp a non-issue in the Pictou West campaign.

“It’s just not something that people are talking about,” Houston said during a swing through a Pictou neighbourhood with PC candidate Marco MacLeod.

Although the company ceased operations, formally terminated its unionized workforce and told those 110 former employees they no longer belonged to the company’s pension plan, Northern Pulp has never said it is walking away from its Nova Scotia operation.

The Northern Pulp mill in Abercrombie Point, N.S., is shown in 2015. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

In fact, the company has until next spring to submit an environmental assessment application to the provincial Environment Department for a proposed new effluent treatment facility. It requested and was granted a deadline extension last March.

The provincial government and the company are also embroiled in a legal battle over the company’s claim it was forced to shut down operations when the provincial government cut off its access to a treatment facility that allowed it to dump effluent into Boat Harbour.

In December 2021, the mill owners filed a suit against the province seeking $450 million in damages and losses. In April 2022, the two sides entered a court-ordered, non-binding mediation process and agreed to pause any legal actions. 

A previous Liberal government passed the Boat Harbour Act with unanimous support in 2015, legislation that set a deadline for when effluent had to stop flowing into the former tidal estuary located next to the Pictou Landing First Nation.

Paper Excellence Canada, the company that owns the mill, said it is focused on the mediation process with the province and that would inform what it does next.

Forestry’s place in Nova Scotia

Forest Nova Scotia, an industry lobby group, wasn’t taken aback by Houston’s comments.

“We’re not surprised by what the premier had to say,” said Stephen Moore, the organization’s executive director. “The writing seems to have been on the wall for awhile here about the future of Northern Pulp.” 

But Moore seized on Houston’s characterization of forestry as an important traditional industry in the province.

Upcoming byelection

“We do also hear in the premier’s comments that there’s an openness to a potential mill somewhere else in the province and that remains a hope of the sector,” said Moore. “You know, we would like to see a pulp mill in Nova Scotia.”

Houston called the byelection just over two weeks ago after the sudden resignation of Karla MacFarlane, the PC MLA who represented the area for a decade.

Along with MacLeod, candidates include Mary Wooldridge Elliott (Liberal Party), Melinda MacKenzie (NDP) and Clare Breet (Green Party).

See also  NDP wants auditor general to review Nova Scotia health app

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button