The CEO of the company that owns Northern Pulp says the mill will be forced to shut down unless the Nova Scotia government extends the Boat Harbour deadline.
In a statement, Paper Excellence Canada CEO Brian Baarda said the company’s stakeholders are preparing for the worst-case scenario.
“We urge the Premier of Nova Scotia to extend the Boat Harbour Act deadline and ensure a continued future for a sustainable and prosperous forestry sector in the province,” Baarda said in the statement.
READ MORE: Nova Scotia’s premier holds off commenting on future of Northern Pulp mill
According to Baarda, not extending the deadline would lead to the termination of more than 300 employees at the mill and the cancellation of contracts with suppliers, contractors and woodlot operators throughout Nova Scotia, which the company says will have an impact on more than 11,000 jobs.
“We continue to believe that Pictou County deserves to have both a clean environment and a prosperous economy, and that Boat Harbour needs to be closed and remediated,” Baarda continued. “An extension to the Boat Harbour Act deadline while a new world-class wastewater treatment facility at Northern Pulp is constructed is vital to achieving this.
“Once complete, the new treatment facility would allow operations in Boat Harbour to cease, enabling federal and provincial remediation of the former estuarine lagoon.”
The statement comes two days after Environment Minister Gordon Wilson said he would withhold approval of the Northern Pulp mill’s proposal to build a new effluent treatment plant and run a pipeline into the Northumberland Strait.
The pipeline would replace the Boat Harbour wastewater site that is set to close on Jan. 31.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil was supposed to make a decision on the future of Northern Pulp on Wednesday but delayed his decision until Friday.
In a statement, McNeil said he needed more time to reflect on whether to give the company an extension to complete an environmental assessment or let the legislated deadline stand.
READ MORE: Nova Scotia withholds approval, seeks more information on pulp mill plan
Hundreds of forestry workers and industry partners from across the Maritimes gathered in front of the Nova Scotia legislature on Thursday, urging McNeil to save their jobs.
Rally speakers include union representative, wood lot owners along with lumber and forestry workers.
Elmsdale Lumber owner Robin Wilbur says the future of Northern Pulp has a huge influence on his industry.
“(McNeil) should extend Boat Harbour because the four years, eight months that he gave Northern Pulp to do this project was an unrealistic timeline in the first place,” Wilbur said. “If he doesn’t, he’s going to lose the entire forest industry of Nova Scotia.”
Jane Harnish, who works at Northern Pulp and attended Thursday’s rally, says employees are feeling stressed about their futures.
“We’ve been working diligently since we were given the five-year deadline. People think we’re not, but we are,” she said.
“But when people keep moving the goalposts and changing the rules, it’s hard to keep up.”
Dozens of convoy trucks held a protest of their own by lining up along Highway 118 Thursday morning.
The pipeline proposal project has drawn strong opposition from the fisheries sector, environmentalists and Pictou Landing First Nation.
In response to the rally in Halifax, over a hundred people attended a rally in Pictou Landing First Nation to show their continued support for the Boat Harbour Act and to call on the premier to stand by hims promise.
“We just want to reiterate that for us, Jan. 31, 2020 is the date,” Chief Andrea Paul told the crowd. “Premier Stephen McNeil, you do not get to 42 days and decide this is not the date.”
Paul says they held the rally because this week has been a difficult time and they wanted to give community members hope.
Despite not speaking with the Premier personally since last November, Paul says she remains confident he won’t go back on his word.
“I feel like he would have come to talk to us, I really do,” said Paul. “I just think that’s the kind of man he is. I have a lot of respect for Stephen McNeil, and he knows I have a lot of respect for him and I really believe that tomorrow he is going to stick to his word.”
Many who attended the rally echoed Paul’s sentiments, saying they too believe the government will stay to the course.
Supporter Mary Gorman says it’s been frustrating to see how this has all unraveled, but she says the government isn’t to blame.
“I’m fed up frankly with the pulp company dividing our community,” she said. “The sole blame for the uncertainty and fear that those pulp mill workers are going through now rests on Northern Pulp.”
WATCH BELOW: People gathered in Pictou Landing First Nation to show their support for the Boat Harbour Act and its deadline. Alicia Draus has more.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Alicia Draus