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Northern Pulp employees putting their faith in science and company owners

Some of the province’s bigger natural gas customers, like Northern Pulp in Pictou County, shown in this August 2014 file photo, sign their own contracts for supply and are hit harder by the high spot prices in New England.
Northern Pulp – FILE

ABERCROMBIE POINT, N.S.  - A person’s work tends to have a ripple effect on their life as a whole.

Don MacKenzie has had 25 years of reliable employment at Northern Pulp and, like others who have worked at one place for a long time, it has become more than a job for him.

“It’s was a good career choice for myself and my family,” he said. “We raised two children in Pictou County and made a good living.”

And he’s not alone.

“There’s been a number of people that reached the 35-year milestone,” he says. Now a younger wave of employees are coming in who are just starting out with young families and a desire to stay in Pictou County.

Perhaps it’s only natural that he feels frustrated this weekend over plans to rally against his employer’s plans to put a pipe carrying treated effluent to the Northumberland Strait.

MacKenzie doesn’t fear the protests. He’s confident that the science will support the plan and that the company will be able to continue providing jobs for people like himself in the future. But there is a sense of exasperation for him and other employees when they hear people speaking out against the mill.

“A lot of the comments are not factual and then the comments that are factual are stuff that happened 35 or 40 years ago,” he said. “The folks that are against the mill seem to disregard the continual improvements that have been made since the mill first opened.”

Often the talk surrounding Boat Harbour is from the days when untreated effluent was just allowed to pour out into the Harbour. That’s not the effluent of today, he maintains.

The protestors seem to only want the mill to close and not really understand the science behind the process, he said.

As president of the union at the mill Unifor Local 440, MacKenzie has a sense of the general feelings of the workforce.

Right now, those workers are putting their faith in science and the regulations that are in place. They’re confident that the plan the company has come up with will work and will meet the requirements. They’re also putting their faith in Paper Excellence which owns the mill.

“They believe the owner is committed to running the mill long term,” he said.

That’s not always been the case. Not all the companies that owned the mill in the past had as deep of pockets, he said. Since Paper Excellence took over he said they’ve seen continual upgrades “They’re improvements that are not bringing out a quick return to the investment in the mill,” he said. “They’re nevertheless important improvements.”

MacKenzie says understands that people have concerns, but he believes if they’d take the time to listen to the facts, they’d be more comfortable.

Watch online Friday for #No Pipe rally coverage

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