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P.E.I. senator questions federal minister over pulp effluent

Stratford Councillor Dianne Griffin, checks her notes during the annual meeting of council Wednesday night.
FILE PHOTO: Dianne Griffin. ©THE GUARDIAN

P.E.I. Senator Diane Griffin is keeping the heat on the federal minister of fisheries over the proposed new effluent plant in Pictou County, N.S.

As part of the senate’s modernization efforts, ongoing for the past two years, the senate regularly invites one minister for a special 40-minute question period where senators can ask the minister any questions related to their departmental responsibilities.

On Tuesday, federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc appeared before the senate where Griffin asked him about the Northern Pulp mill.

Griffin referred Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s letter to the federal minister in January expressing concerns that an outflow pipe placed in the Northumberland Strait could have unintended consequences for P.E.I.’s commercial fishery and aquaculture industries.

RELATED: P.E.I. premier raises alarm over Nova Scotia's Northern Pulp effluent treatment plant

ALSO RELATED: P.E.I. will have input into Nova Scotia mill's effluent plan: N.S. Environment minister

Grffin said addressing this issue should be a high priority for the federal minister.

“What is the government doing to address the situation of effluent discharge from the Pictou pulp mill?’’ Griffin asked. “Have you and the minister of environment and climate change heard the concerns of the P.E.I. government and fishermen?’’

LeBlanc said he and MacLauchlan talked about the issue and that the P.E.I. premier has also written the Nova Scotia government. The federal minister said he has also had conversations with his colleague from Pictou County over the matter.

“This issue, I think, speaks to the importance of strengthening the Fisheries Act regarding elements that can threaten fish and fish habitat so important to the harvesters in your province and mine, the economy of Prince Edward Island, of New Brunswick, of Atlantic Canada,’’ LeBlanc told Griffin. “We can go around the country and find examples where there is an economic dependence. These communities often don’t have many other economic opportunities. Something that would threaten something as important as their economic livelihood is obviously of huge concern to our government.’’

LeBlanc noted that the Nova Scotia government is conducting an environmental review of the issue, adding that the federal environment and climate change department, under the Fisheries Act, has legislative authority with respect to these effluents.

“The government of Nova Scotia has indicated to us that they may want us to assist them with scientific work. I have said both to Premier (Stephen) McNeil and to Premier MacLauchlan, whom I frankly thanked for bringing up this issue and for raising public attention, if we can offer any support as the government of Canada to that process or bring greater transparency and reassurance to the fish harvesters that I know you speak to, it would be a privilege for me to do so.’’

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