HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's premier says he has no intention of changing a legislated deadline to close the Northern Pulp mill's wastewater treatment plant in Boat Harbour -- but he is open to debating proposed changes in the legislature.

Stephen McNeil said any changes to the January 2020 deadline would have to evolve out of a community consensus in Pictou County, and would have to be brought to the floor of the legislature by the area's Opposition members.

In the meantime, McNeil said the government will keep its word to stick to the deadline.

"What I've said is if the community could come together and find some resolution and they want an adjustment, they need to put that on the floor. Other than that we're moving forward," he said following a cabinet meeting Thursday.

The heavily polluted treatment lagoon is on the edge of the Pictou Landing First Nation, and Chief Andrea Paul is on the record as being opposed to changing the date, something McNeil acknowledges.

"She's been very clear and we've been clear, said McNeil. "All I'm saying is, if people have changed their mind about what they voted on ... let's have a conversation about it. I haven't changed mine."

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston said he believes the government is looking for political cover after creating a "jam" it doesn't know how to get out of.

"The government realizes that they have created a mess and they are trying to spread it around," said Houston, who added the company has also played a role in what's "become a mess."

McNeil maintains the company has had plenty of time to deal with legislation that was passed in May 2015.

Houston, who is MLA for Pictou East, said while there may be a scenario where he would bring forward an amendment to the deadline, he doesn't know what that could be at this point. He said he is willing to look at any new information that comes forward.

"As we stand here today I don't have any information that suggests the deadline should be moved."

The province is still waiting for an environmental assessment application from the mill on its plan to pump millions of litres of effluent through a system of pipe into the Northumberland Strait.

Mill officials have said in the past that no pipe would mean no mill.

In an interview earlier this week, Kathy Cloutier, a spokeswoman for Northern Pulp's parent company, Paper Excellence Canada, said it plans to submit its application with the provincial Environment Department either on or before Jan. 31.

Cloutier said the application won't include seismic testing of the proposed outfall area because ice in the Strait has likely delayed the survey work until early in the spring.

"The seismic goes more with the constructability aspect," said Cloutier. "So the environmental assessment will be filed as a complete document and then if there is some follow-up it would be around that construction aspect. The science is there for the actual location."

Environment Minister Margaret Miller said Thursday the mill's application documents will be made public within a week of being received.

A 30-day public consultation process would then kick in, to be followed by a 20-day review period by the department.

"We're going to look at the submission as it is," said Miller. "At the end of the process I have the opportunity to either deny the application, to approve it with conditions, or to send it back and ask for more information."