John Lohr doesn’t want Prince Edward Island politicians dictating how his province does business.
But he also doesn't like how his province’s own premier does business.
The Kings North MLA, who is also running for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party, said Friday following a tour of Northern Pulp that he feels Premier Stephen McNeil is putting the forestry industry at risk by allowing P.E.I. to have say on environment issues concerning Northern Pulp’s plans for a new effluent treatment facility.
“I don’t think we are going to have a say on what environmental things are happening in P.E.I., so there is no reason that P.E.I. should have a say here,” he said in response to P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s concerns that a Class 1 environmental assessment is not enough and the province should be considering a longer, more detailed, Class 2 assessment.
- Pulp is currently in the process of registering for an environmental assessment it hopes to have this summer. After it is registered, the province has 30 days to conduct its own work that will include public consultations.
Nova Scotia Environment Minister Iain Rankin said in response to MacLauchlan’s protest that there will be a 30-day period for public submissions that includes anyone who lives on the Island.
“I don’t know what P.E.I. input will be other than the MacNeil government saying it will have input,” he said. “The mill has to meet federal and provincial regulations but does that mean they have to meet P.E.I. regulations too? We have people who fish in the water and P.E.I. has nitrates and other environmental issues, so it cuts both ways.”
Lohr said a Class 1 environmental assessment is the only option if the mill is going to meet the 2020 closure deadline for Boat Harbour that was imposed with the “stroke of a pen in the legislature” in 2015 by the Liberal government.
Considering there was a lease in place until 2030 for Boat Harbour to keep operating, he said the McNeil government should have taken more time to figure out its plans on how it was going to close that treatment facility and open another before any deadlines were set.
“There is a deadline on Boat Harbour and if that deadline is not met on a new treatment facility then the MacNeil government is going to have to extend that deadline or the plant can’t operate,” he said.
Lohr said the McNeil government hasn't stated it will consider a longer Class 2 assessment, but P.E.I. and the public have called it.
“They (Liberal government) are saying nothing has changed. Others have called for Class 2 environmental review and if there is a Class 2 it can’t possibly be done in time,” Lohr said.
He said the tour of the mill was very informative and was impressed by the machine, technology as well as the mill’s workers.
“I was hoping to get a better understanding of what was going on with the treatment facility and Boat Harbour. I think I did get that and I have been impressed with the plans the plant has and I wanted to communicate with forestry workers around this province my support for this forestry industry.”
Lohr is not the first Progressive Conservative leadership candidate to form an opinion on the right environmental assessment for Northern Pulp’s new effluent treatment plant.
Pictou East MLA Tim Houston sent a letter to the province asking it to consider a Class 2 assessment.
“I respect Tim Houston as a person but completely disagree with him on this. I think that by saying that, and the McNeil government said it won’t extend this arbitrary closure deadline, by saying that he is saying that he is OK with the mill closing because the Class 2 will take too long so the deadline for closing Boat Harbour won’t be met, so I totally disagree with him.”
- said even the threat of a closure has had a ripple effect on the forestry industry already.
“I don’t want to send a message of fear,” he said. “I was clear from the beginning that a Class 2 review would mean that the deadline that the MacNeil government arbitrarily put on Boat Barbour would not be met. In 2015, that wasn't clear but it is clear now because the too much time has gone by. If the McNeil government is not willing to extend that deadline and decides to go with a Class 2 review, the mill can’t use Boat Harbour and the mill cannot operate.”