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Premier McNeil responds to MLAs' letter about Northern Pulp controversy

To the editor,

I am writing in response to how the Pictou County MLAs characterized the provincial government in their recent letter under the headline ‘Respect and compassion in uncertain times.’

To portray an issue this serious as being about politics is disrespectful to the many Nova Scotians directly affected and is a disservice to the community. I am deeply concerned about the path forward for everyone involved in this issue.

Let’s remember some context around this situation. The community of Pictou Landing has lived with the waste flow into Boat Harbour for decades. Such a facility would never be acceptable today. That’s why my government is closing Boat Harbour early.

As well, the mill has had five years to bring forward its plan for a new effluent treatment facility. When the environmental assessment is submitted to the Environment Department, it will undergo a rigorous review that includes public input. The Minister has the ability to accept the plan, accept it with conditions, seek additional information from experts, or reject it.

I am aware of the importance of the mill to the economy and the jobs it supports. I am also aware of the strong feelings on all sides of this issue. This is not an all-or-nothing choice between the environment and the economy – the two need to co-exist.

I have met with groups from the community – Pictou Landing First Nation, senior mill officials, fishermen, forestry workers and municipal officials – to hear first-hand their views on the Boat Harbour Act and the future of the mill.

I also thank the three local MLAs for accepting my invitation to meet and discuss the situation in their community. As MLAs, they are leaders in their communities and part of that role is bringing people together to talk about what they want for the future.

I have been clear that the deadline in the Boat Harbour Act is the deadline. I have also been clear that if the citizens of Pictou County and Pictou Landing First Nation come together and request the Act be amended with an extension, that could be considered in the legislature.

In their letter, the MLAs suggested the government is taking a “divide and conquer” approach. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have given the company and the community five years.

I care about the people of Pictou County, their economic well-being and the environment they live in. I would encourage the MLAs, as all MLAs should, to bring their citizens together with respect and compassion to find solutions in uncertain times. I look forward to hearing their ideas when the legislature opens. 

Stephen McNeil, Premier of Nova Scotia 

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