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UNIFOR: 2,700 jobs could be lost should Northern Pulp close its doors


The Northern Pulp mill is seen in Abercrombie Point in 2014, with the Town of Pictou in the background. - Christian Laforce
The Northern Pulp mill is seen in Abercrombie Point in 2014, with the Town of Pictou in the background. - Christian Laforce - Christian Laforce
PICTOU, N.S. —

Unifor president Jerry Dias sounded the alarm bells should the Northern Pulp Mill close its doors.

“When you talk about the integrated forestry sector, one closure impacts the entire food chain,” said Dias who, citing the findings of a Unifor funded study into the impacts of Northern Pulp’s closure, said that the impact would be the loss of 2,700 full-time jobs in Nova Scotia.

Dias made his remarks during a press conference in Halifax on Aug. 7.

In order to prevent that outcome, Dias appealed to premier Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and the provincial government to “get shovels in the ground immediately and to start to build the water treatment centre.”

The new water treatment centre being proposed by Northern Pulp would send treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait rather than beneath Pictou Harbour and into Boat Harbour, where it is currently being treated before getting released into the strait.

The treatment centre would treat wastewater from the Northern Pulp Mill and put it through what is called a bio-activated sludge treatment process, before sending it into the Strait.

Upon reviewing Northern Pulp’s proposal, former Environment Minister Margaret Miller highlighted 19 key deficiencies in the company’s plan.

“There is not enough information in this submission to properly assess the impacts on the environment of Nova Scotia,” said Miller in issuing the decision in March, 2019.

In his remarks, Dias made clear Unifor’s position, which is that environment and economy are not mutually exclusive.

“I never did buy the argument that it’s either the environment or jobs,” he said during the press conference. “We have to be environmentally responsible, but we have to understand the impact of losing these incredible jobs in this most important sector of the economy.”

Consultants on the study also spoke at the press conference. Bob Fraser, with the firm Gardner Pinfold Consulting, pointed to the impact that the mill’s closure would have on sawmills throughout the province.

Their study also estimated that the mill spends $279 million in areas of Nova Scotia where unemployment is high and that there are 1,379 other companies that would be negatively impacted by a closure.

The 2015 Boat Harbour Act states that the mill’s current effluent treatment facility must shut down by Jan. 31, 2020. Without a replacement for Boat Harbour, the mill cannot operate, and with an estimated construction time of 18 months it seems unlikely that the company will be able to meet that deadline.

McNeil has consistently maintained that Northern Pulp has had sufficient time to meet the requirements of the Boat Harbour Act.

Unifor is a private-sector union representing 315,000 nation-wide.

With files from Francis Campbell

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