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Northern Pulp holds consultations, author of book about Pictou County mill to hold signing after all

Zennifer Whytelight, left, Stewart Hill and Carrie Stewart, with the Art of Divination in Stellarton. Stewart, the owner and manager of the business, plans to host a book signing for Joan Baxter’s The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest.
Zennifer Whytelight, left, Stewart Hill and Carrie Stewart, with the Art of Divination in Stellarton. Stewart, the owner and manager of the business, plans to host a book signing for Joan Baxter’s The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest.

STELLARTON - After the cancellation of a book signing for Joan Baxter's “The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest,” local store owner Carrie Stewart was disappointed and wanted to do something.

In light of the cancellation Saturday at the Coles in Highland Square Mall, Stewart decided to host a book-signing at her business, The Art of Divination, in Stellarton on Dec. 16.

"I'm against bullying. What came across with the cancellation felt like bullying. I wanted to give (Baxter) a venue to share her opinion. Everyone is entitled to their opinion," said Stewart.

Although she was disappointed in what happened with Coles, Stewart said she isn't against Northern Pulp, and doesn't want to see anyone's jobs jeopardized.

She added, "My biggest ideal is that (Northern Pulp) would meet provincial environmental guidelines in cleaning up their effluent."

Kathy Cloutier, communications director for Northern Pulp, said the company and its employees responded to the planned book signing at Coles with a letter-writing campaign.

Employees and retirees associated with Northern Pulp signed an emailed letter that objected to the event, threatening to no longer patronize the business if Coles carried through with the book signing.

"I understand there have been comments that there has been some aggression potentially toward the Coles staff locally, and that is something that Northern Pulp's management would not condone, and certainly not encourage," said Cloutier. "We have a lot of employees who frequent the mall and who were offended over this book."

The email from Northern Pulp described Baxter's book as "one person profiting off negativity toward Northern Pulp and its past and present workforce that have raised families, put children through university and continues as a generational employer."

The letter ended with "should management (local or headquarters) follow through with this book signing promotion, I will NO longer be a patron of Coles in New Glasgow or any other Coles/Chapters locations."

"Our employees and retirees are going to shop, with Christmas right around the corner. It would be hard for an employee or retiree to walk through the mall with the children or grandchildren, and see a book demeaning their work," said Cloutier.

Staff from the Coles store at the Highland Square Mall offered no comment, suggesting The News could contact Indigo for further information.

Kate Gregory, senior manager of public relations with Indigo, the company that owns Coles, stated that "a number of events leading up to the signing in New Glasgow" led the company to its decision to cancel the event.

"Our commitment to this experience may have been compromised. This was not due to pressure from the mill," she wrote.

Indigo has been in touch with Baxter, and has proposed a larger off-site event at a later date with Indigo as the bookseller. Gregory noted that Indigo has hosted two signings for the book, in Dartmouth and Truro.

In a call from The News, Const. Ken MacDonald with the New Glasgow Regional Police said they received no calls in reference to any incident at Coles.

Mixed reaction at public consultations

With Northern Pulp's proposed plans to construct a new effluent treatment system near its mill, the company has conducted a series of public consultations over the course of this week, seeking the input from the business community, provincial and municipal politicians and the public.

Cloutier stated that the consultations had upwards of 700 people in attendance, with about 350 residents of communities "from Thorburn to Lyons Brook."

Northern Pulp held the consultations with staff from Dillon Consultants and Guy Martin, an engineer from KSH Solutions, who Northern Pulp consulted in their creation of plans for the new system, on hand to help answer questions.

The consultations' presentations included the general plans relating to the system, along with the relevant science and some history on past methods of treatment.

Separate sessions were held for media, fishermen, the business community and the general public at separate times throughout the week at various locations.

Cloutier said the consultations are part of the question-gathering stage.

"We presented the design and science available so far, and that's part of a process we're in now," said Cloutier. "Once this session is over, in the coming weeks we're going to obtain answers for the questions posed, and will be back in March with sessions similar to those that are being run now."

Reactions, Cloutier noted, were varied. She said there was a lot of curiosity. Many who attended the consultations showed enthusiasm, while others showed a great deal of environmental concern about the new effluent treatment system, and what it meant for the ecosystems and wildlife of Northumberland Strait.

Fishermen from Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and New Brunswick who attended a consultation held on Monday were unanimously negative. Ron Heighton, president of the Northumberland Fishermen's Association, said, "they are not putting a pipe into our fishing territory – no way, it's not going to happen."

Fishermen have also expressed their opposition to the new system before Pictou council.

Cloutier said one of the most recurrent criticisms was a comparison between the proposed project and the situation in Boat Harbour. She noted the effluent released into Boat Harbour from the late 1960s to the 1990s is far different from the effluent that has been released from the mid 1990s until today.

"It's our responsibility to ensure we educate, and get that out to the public, so they know we are not creating a new Boat Harbour," she said.

Cloutier noted that it's understandable that people are critical of Northern Pulp's plans, and "that's one of the reasons we welcome the opportunity to hear from them, so we can address those exact concerns."

– With files from the Chronicle Herald

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