A county di­vided

Coun­cil­lors line up on op­pos­ing sides of North­ern Pulp de­bate

The News (New Glasgow) - - PICTOU COUNTY - BY ADAM MACIN­NIS

The fu­ture of the Boat Har­bour treat­ment fa­cil­ity is, as one Pic­tou County coun­cil­lor put it, out­side the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s baili­wick.

And yet coun­cil­lors found them­selves de­bat­ing the is­sue Mon­day night and even­tu­ally vot­ing in sup­port of the Boat Har­bour Act, which gives North­ern Pulp a Jan­uary 2020 dead­line to close the Boat Har­bour fa­cil­ity, and have a new ef­flu­ent treat­ment process in place.

These coun­cil­lors may have no say in the de­ci­sion-mak­ing on whether to grant North­ern Pulp an ex­ten­sion, but they also have no es­cape from the con­tro­versy that has pit­ted two of ru­ral Pic­tou County’s pri­mary in­dus­tries against each other. Fish­ing and forestry touch ev­ery dis­trict.

The mo­tion for the res­o­lu­tion was first made by Wayne Mur­ray and sec­onded by Darla MacKeil. Mur­ray de­scribed Boat Har­bour as one of the worst en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ters in Canada and said the five-year win­dow that North­ern Pulp was given to build a new treat­ment fa­cil­ity should have been more than enough. Three of the coun­cil­lors op­posed the res­o­lu­tion.

Coun. Randy Palmer said he com­pletely agrees that Boat Har­bour should be closed but ex­pressed con­cern about hold­ing a hard line on the dead­line. He said he has friends and con­stituents who are em­ployed in both the fish­ing and forestry in­dus­tries.

“In the county we can’t af­ford to lose ei­ther in­dus­try,” he said.

While the res­o­lu­tion didn’t say any­thing about the pro­posed ef­flu­ent pipe go­ing in the Northum­ber­land Strait or the fu­ture treat­ment plant, Palmer said they’re con­nected.

“If the pipe doesn’t go out there in a cer­tain time and the mill can’t get up and run­ning and has to shut down for a pe­riod of time, we could lose all those jobs,” he said.

Coun. Andy Thomp­son also voted against the res­o­lu­tion. Like Palmer, he agreed that the con­tam­i­na­tion of Boat Har­bour “should never have hap­pened,” but said he was con­cerned about the im­pact that los­ing the mill would have on Pic­tou County.

“My ob­jec­tion to the mo­tion is not with the in­tent to close Boat Har­bour. My con­cern is about ... the econ­omy of our county.”

Coun. Darla MacKeil said a doc­u­men­tary about Boat Har­bour by an Aus­tralian film­maker left a last­ing im­pres­sion on her about the ef­fects of the treat­ment fa­cil­ity and is part of the rea­son why she be­lieves the prov­ince must stick to the dead­line man­dated in the Boat Har­bour Act.

“It re­ally blew my mind of the dev­as­ta­tion and de­struc­tion it has caused,” she said.

She said that she be­lieves that “when you know bet­ter, you do bet­ter” and that’s why she said she was in favour of the mo­tion.

“I be­lieve that Pic­tou Land­ing First Na­tion com­mu­nity has lived with that for far too long and I be­lieve that res­i­dents of our com­mu­nity have lived with that for far too long ... We have to have a voice for the en­vi­ron­ment. Who is go­ing to speak for it?”

War­den Robert Parker said it’s sad to see how the con­tro­versy has di­vided the com­mu­nity.

“We know we need the jobs, but we also want a de­cent place to live whether it be water or air or what­ever,” he said.

He said he would sup­port the res­o­lu­tion.

“We can­not lose those jobs, but we can­not con­tinue to pun­ish the peo­ple of Pic­tou Land­ing,” he said. “This has gone on for far too long.”

FILE PHOTO

North­ern Pulp has been both a source of con­tro­versy and eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in Pic­tou County.

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