Stirling MacLean has three daughters. One lives in Ottawa, another in P.E.I. and the third is preparing to move to Alberta.
For health reasons alone he didn’t discourage them from leaving.
“I don’t want to ask them to move back home,” he said. “They don’t want to.”
A primary reason is the pollution coming from Northern Pulp that spreads over his Little Harbour home and other parts of the county.
As a business owner he also sees the impact of people who have to take sick days because their asthma is acting up or other air quality-related issues.
He’s thankful that three of the province’s ministers took some time on Wednesday to listen to concerns from businesspeople and residents like him who are bothered by the mill’s emissions. The meeting was held at Braeside Inn. Attending were Economic and Rural Development and Minister Michel Samson, Environment Minister Randy Delorey and Health Minister Leo Glavine.
“It was very productive and there was a lot of good energy in the room,” MacLean said.
“The message was told loud and clear that the mill needs to be cleaned up and there’s a sense of urgency to it because there’s so many businesses affected by it.”
Minister Samson said it was a great opportunity to hear from tourist operators and other businesses in the community about the effects of Northern Pulp.
“This is information that is good for us to hear directly from the individuals concerned,” Samson said. “We can go back as a government and review the concerns raised and see what are the best means for dealing with those concerns.”
Business owners told him about their fears of closing and losing their businesses as a result of the impact of the pollution on tourism.
“It’s important to hear both sides and I think that’s what we got today,” Samson said. “Today was an opportunity to hear from other businesses that feel like they’re negatively impacted.
“Having three ministers show up in the middle of July with senior staff hopefully sends a sign of our interest and our desire to not only hear the concerns but to work towards finding some solutions.”
Health Minister Glavine said there are health concerns particularly surrounding some potentially carcinogenic particulate matter emissions that have been brought up to him and that his department will be looking into.
“It’s an issue that the Department of Health must take a look at,” Glavine said. “What that will involve in the coming weeks and months is a decision yet to be made. But the World Health Organization is an important guide that as minister I look to.”
Environment Minister Delorey said the next steps will include working together as government departments to discuss how to address concerns. While it was clear that the Pictou group wanted it addressed immediately, he said they’ll have to look at what can be done in both the short and long term.
Matt Gunning, who owns a car dealership in Pictou and is also an active member of the Facebook group that brought concerns about the mill and Boat Harbour, said it was good to see the ministers were willing to take it seriously.
“Did we hear the magic words we’d love to hear that all our concerns are going to be addressed by tomorrow?” he said. “Unfortunately we didn’t get that confirmation.”
But he’s happy to see everyone engaged.
“Now the big thing is they know what our concerns are and they can start taking those into consideration moving forward.”