N.S. government responds to union representing Northern Pulp workers
Questions concerning the future of Northern Pulp and its employees continued on Thursday as the N.S. government responded to the union representing the mill’s workers.
On Wednesday, Unifor released an independent study which indicated nearly 2,700 jobs, both direct and indirect, would be lost in the mill were to close. However, the province says the mill’s effluent treatment project still needs environmental approval.
"There's no question that 90 percent of the forestry industry in Nova Scotia depends on Northern Pulp, and if Northern Pulp goes down, so does the industry,” says the national president of Unifor, Jerry Dias.
Under the Boat Harbour Act, Northern Pulp must close its current effluent treatment facility by the end of January. The company has proposed treating the effluent and then pumping it into the Northumberland Strait through an underwater pipe.
Despite the company’s proposal, the N.S. government hasn’t granted environmental approved for the project; instead it is requesting additional information before proceeding.
"We're waiting for the information we've asked for to be received so that we can evaluate that and make a decision at that point," said Nova Scotia environment minister, Gordon Wilson.
Northern Pulp says the company has completed 90 percent of the work the government requires from the mill – adding it will meet the September deadline to file the remaining information. In the meantime, Unifor has been demanding the province to move forward with the project.
“As far as the project going forward, the project needs an environmental assessment," says Wilson.
Progressive Conservative MLA, Tim Halman, believes Northern Pulp is important to the economy but says the company must meet its deadline.
"I think it's on them, and they need to comply and follow-through,” says Halman. “Again, the environment is of great importance to Nova Scotians, and it's always finding that right balance between the economy and the environment. Nova Scotians definitely, I think, want to see compliance."
Meanwhile, Northern Pulp released a statement saying:
"Regardless of next steps, we believe it is clear an extension to the Boat Harbour Act is necessary in order to provide the time required to complete the environmental assessment, construction and commissioning of the new facility, which will see only treated wastewater leave the Northern Pulp site."
The federal government has previously agreed it would spend $100M to clean up Boat Harbour effluent lagoons.
As of Thursday, the parent company of Northern Pulp, Paper Excellence, says it believes a solution, in which Northern Pulp’s operations could continue throughout the environmental assessment; construction; and commissioning of a new state of the art treatment facility, can be made.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Natasha Pace