N.S. considering appeal of ruling on duty to consult Mi'kmaq in mill case
The Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corporation mill is seen in Abercrombie, N.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)
HALIFAX -- Premier Stephen McNeil is hinting his government may appeal a court ruling that says the province must consult with a Mi'kmaq community about how public money is provided to the Northern Pulp mill's effluent treatment plant.
McNeil told reporters Tuesday his government is examining the Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruling and would "have more to say" on the matter.
He was asked whether he accepted whether the province does have a duty to consult in this case.
"No," McNeil said.
"We take the duty to consult very seriously. What we are talking about here is an agreement about a liability that the province has associated with closing Boat Harbour early. We believe that is our responsibility and we negotiate with the proponent."
He said the government has 30 days to file an appeal of a ruling it received Friday.
Justice Timothy Gabriel ruled that if the province becomes a financial backer of the effluent treatment plant, that raises questions on whether the level of funding will mean "upgraded safeguards" in light of what the people of Pictou Landing First Nation have endured.
Gabriel said if the government consults on environmental aspects of the plant's construction, it should take a "holistic" approach and also consult on the financing it is willing to provide.
"We consulted with Pictou First Nation when it came to closing Boat Harbour ... and we'll be dealing with them when it comes to cleaning it up, but when it comes to dealing with the liability associated with that mill, that is the responsibility of government," McNeil said.
Under provincial legislation, the deadline for the closure of effluent flowing to a facility at the heavily polluted Boat Harbour lagoon is Jan. 31, 2020.
McNeil's Liberal government made the commitment in 2015 to the Pictou Landing First Nation after five decades of the waste water flowing into the estuary on the edge of the reserve.
The province has also indicated it is in discussions with Northern Pulp regarding Crown funding for the treatment facility.
"We are in that process," said McNeil. "If there is a requirement for us to pay out we'll let people know that."
McNeil said there is also an outstanding loan that's part of the funding process, although he couldn't say Tuesday how much it's worth.
"It wasn't one that we negotiated, it was one that was there," he said.