One thing is certain: the collective voice urging improvements at Northern Pulp has grown so strong, there’s no going back short of resolution – and a prompt one.
Criticism has persisted over the decades, but successive governments have pussyfooted around this issue. The public and local businesses have made it plain that can’t continue.
The mill has responded to the calls for cleaner air saying it will be installing new equipment to cut down on the smell. That’s cause for optimism, but is barely appeasing a seriously desperate public.
Most, even the most vocal, stress that they don’t want to see the mill shut down – everyone realizes its economic contribution.
Mill spokespersons have said following the most recent discussions that a shutdown waiting for the new precipitator would ultimately mean closing the operation for good.
What are we to take from such a statement regarding long-term viability? Discussion about pulp and paper operations in the Maritimes – and a number have gone by the wayside – often includes the term “sunset industry” thrown into the conversation.
We won’t venture into that territory, as to whether it’s a fair assessment.
But clearly now the prospect of economic loss is not limited to the mill. As tourism operators have made plain, they are losing business as visitors pack up and leave: they can’t take the smell. No point weighing one against the other. In that regard, it would be good to drop the threats.
As for turning this into a political game, that’s hypocritical, yet we’re still seeing instances of it. In the time the pulp mill has been in place, we’ve had all three main parties leading governments. Constructive criticism is always welcome. But opposition politicians casting blame is simply the pot calling the kettle black.
The current Liberal government has to understand that stalling won’t work anymore. They need to be on top of progress in the planned upgrades and stay on top of it with strict monitoring policies.