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Nova Scotia dumps forestry transition team member after comments on Northern Pulp’s future

Click to play video 'Member of newly-formed forestry transition team fired' Member of newly-formed forestry transition team fired
WATCH: Robin Wilbur spoke with Global News yesterday about what he thinks the future should hold for Northern Pulp, and the team leader says that’s not what their focus should be. Jesse Thomas has more. – Jan 7, 2020

Less than a week after creating a foresty transition team, the Nova Scotia government has made the decision to drop a member of the group after he discussed a proposal from the Northern Pulp mill to remain operational.

Robin Wilber, president of the Elmsdale Lumber Company, told Global News he received a call on Monday evening notifying him that he was being removed from the team.

The eight-person panel was created to advise the government on how it should invest a $50-million transition fund for forestry workers announced last month after Premier Stephen McNeil confirmed that the Northern Pulp mill near Pictou, N.S., must stop pumping wastewater into lagoons near an Indigenous community by Jan. 31.

READ MORE: Northern Pulp examining ‘hot idle’, says Nova Scotia forestry transition team member

The fund is meant to assist those affected by the mill’s shutdown, including the more than 300 people who work at the mill.

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Wilber’s removal comes after he told media organizations on Monday that management at Northern Pulp is considering putting the factory into a hot idle process, which would run hot water through the boiler system in order to keep the piping from freezing during the cold winter.

“They will shut down at the end of January, and they would like to put it on hot idle,” Wilber told Global News.

“So maybe in the future, they could continue its work with the environmental assessment and eventually maybe restart.”

Click to play video 'N.S. woodlots feeling impact of impending Northern Pulp closure' N.S. woodlots feeling impact of impending Northern Pulp closure
N.S. woodlots feeling impact of impending Northern Pulp closure – Jan 3, 2020

Although Wilber said it would just be hot water running through the system and into the Boat Harbour basin, critics disagree.

Jill Graham-Scanlan, president of advocacy group Friends of the Northumberland Strait, said the hot water running through the boiler system is still effluent.

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From a legal perspective, she says, Northern Pulp wouldn’t be allowed to put the factory into a hot idle, as per the Boat Harbour Act.

“If Northern Pulp wished to go into a hot idle process and continue to have effluent, which indeed it would through the process, then an application would have to be made to the province to deal with that effluent,” she said.

READ MORE: N.S. government schedules open houses for Northern Pulp mill workers

The province has appeared to agree, implying that a hot idle process is not an option.

Kelliann Dean, deputy minister of intergovernmental affairs and trade, said the transition team “is not a table to discuss the future of Northern Pulp. That is the company’s issue.”

“Robin Wilber is focused on options for Northern Pulp,” said Dean.

“That is not part of the transition team’s mandate, therefore he is no longer part of the transition team.”

Jeff Bishop, the executive director of Forest Nova Scotia and another member of the foresty transition team, told Global News on Tuesday that the team does not yet have a mandate and that it was supposed to be set at their first meeting on Thursday.

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Bishop said that the members had not been told to discuss certain topics until they were informed of Wilber’s removal.

“[The future of Northern Pulp] hadn’t been identified as a no-go-zone if you will, and so at that point, and you know having heard that Mr. Wilber was no longer on the team, my hope is that those discussions are perhaps being held at another table by other folks,” Bishop said.

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