Nova Scotia is trapped in a political mistake by making a commitment impossible to keep to Pictou Landing First Nations to clean and restore Boat Harbour. There is a solution.
But with all good intentions by the province and political parties to make the abuse of PLFN go away, the Boat Harbour Act has piled more of the majority’s abuse on the community.
Chief Andrea Paul wanted to stop Northern Pulp’s effluent from entering Boat Harbour within four years. The province said six; the compromise was five – actually four years and eight months.
There was no consultation other than with Chief Paul. The forest industry learned of Bill No. 89 – Boat Harbour Act after it passed through the Queen’s Printer on the way to the legislature.
Among last to get the word was Pedro Chang, who knows a thing or two of regulatory and environmental timelines as owner of Northern Pulp and five other Canadian mills.
A project of similar size and complexity could take seven to eight years. The province mailed further environmental assessment requirements May 7 to Northern Pulp.
The province says it won’t extend the Act. Chief Paul says she is holding the province to it. That means closure of the mill, lynchpin of the province’s forest industry, layoff slips in October.
The fastest way to meet Pictou Landing demands is to amend the bill to allow the work to be done – breaking another promise – or Chief Paul surrendering her solemn pledge to her community.
The issue is relationships. One truth, culture or community shouldn’t come at the expense of another. Northern Pulp is committing $200 million for a safer environment.
To ease our provincial treasury, Ottawa has committed $100 million for the clean-up. The province had already committed $20 million and brought it up to $50 million.
The money is there. Northern Pulp says it needs two more years to build a new system to the highest public safety and environmental standards.
Making it right by First Nations, to keep the mill open, will take more than the parish-pump politics that made this shameful imbroglio: a one-page bill without a plan.
Legislators were near-rapturous during the bill’s second reading, with some foreboding about lack of consultation and sufficient time to meet the Jan. 31, 2020 deadline.
Boat Harbour, the province’s existential environmental and economic issue, is everyone’s business, requiring a shared vision of responsibility and justice, an innovative model of citizenship.
An all-sector forest industry conference last month made restoring Boat Harbour its No.1 priority – first item on the blackboard – within an ethic of reciprocity and spirit of reconciliation.
Our association, a world leader in sustainable forestry derived from peerless consultation, believes a social comity or all-party agreement embracing the same principle be enshrined in the mill solution.
That’s only a step up from Nova Scotia’s landmark Environmental and Sustainable Prosperity Act of 2007. Publics generally favour working together to taking sides.
President, Nova Scotia Landowners and Forest Fibre Producers Association