HALIFAX, N.S. —
Northern Pulp and Unifor, the national union that represents 240 of its Pictou County mill workers, voiced deep disappointment with Premier Stephen McNeil’s decision not to extend the Boat Harbour closure deadline.
“Today is a very tough day for those of us at Northern Pulp,” Brian Baarda, chief executive of Paper Excellence Canada, Northern Pulp’s parent company, said at a late-morning news conference Friday at a downtown Halifax hotel.
He said the company would start implementing plans Friday to close the Abercrombie Point mill.
“This decision ensures the closure of Northern Pulp, the devastation of Nova Scotia’s forest industry, the loss of 2,700 rural jobs and a significant impact to another 8,300 forestry jobs across Nova Scotia,” Baarda said.
The premier made the government’s position clear at an earlier news conference.
“There will be no extension,” MacNeil said.
“The company has had five years to get out of Boat Harbour and it is not even close, now it’s decision time.”
Baarda said the company will meet with government early in the new year to talk about what the plant closure will look like. During that conversation, the concept of idling the mill will likely come up, Baarda said, “but we don’t believe that it is possible without continuing to use Boat Harbour.”
‘Five days before Christmas’
“Our thoughts are with our employees, five days before Christmas, we’re going to focus on that,” Baarda said when asked if the company would pursue a lost-earnings claim against the government.
“At this time, for our workforce, we are offering on-site support and counselling to our employees and their families through our employee assistance program,” Baarda said. “Today, we will start the process of delivering layoff and contract-cancellation notices and start implementing plans to close Northern Pulp.”
Baarda cut questions short at the news conference because he was heading to the mill to meet with employees.
Baarda said Northern Pulp had put together an excellent plan based on sound science that showed no meaningful environmental impact from the proposed effluent treatment plant, a plan that represented operational improvement and insured that thousands of forestry workers could remain a vital part of the Nova Scotia economy.
“It also enabled timely closure and remediation of Boat Harbour,” Baarda said. “The premier chose to disregard those facts.”
Baarda blamed the company’s delay in getting its replacement effluent treatment facility plans together on the government.
“It is apparent that Nova Scotia Environment has been unable to provide a definitive process over the last four-and-half years. We have continued to respond to each and every additional request for further science. Our initial investigatory work changed dramatically from seven reports to 68 current individual areas of study. Had Nova Scotia Environment wanted a full environmental assessment from the outset, we would have been prepared to deliver it.”
Baarda said he has great respect for the professionalism and dignity shown by the mill’s workforce throughout the ordeal.
“The people at Northern Pulp have continued to remain focused on the things that matter, delivering on the best safety performance in Paper Excellence, meeting production targets while continuing to protect the environment.”
‘He just decimated rural Nova Scotia’
Linda MacNeil, director of Unifor Atlantic, said it is a sad day for the mill employees and all forestry sector workers in the province.
MacNeil said the premier’s announced $50-million transition fund is not a consolation.
“Let’s put that in perspective,” an angry MacNeil said. “The mill in an annual salary pays out $40 million for 300 employees, $40 million a year. The transition fund, $50 million. That doesn’t include the rest of the forestry sector that is going to be impacted by this irresponsible decision.
“That transition money is basically going to buy bus tickets for employees at the mill to move to another province because, guess what, obviously the premier doesn’t respect those employees or anything to do with rural Nova Scotia because he just decimated rural Nova Scotia.
“If that is the legacy that he wants, he is certainly going to get it.”
MacNeil also took the premier to task for laying blame on the company for not getting its new wastewater treatment facility approved and built in the five years since the Boat Harbour closure was announced.
“The Nova Scotia environment minister and the department have to take some responsibility because there was no clear path going forward,” MacNeil said. “If there had been, it would have been willingly done, that I can ensure, from the company.”
MacNeil said the government decision will not serve the province well in the long term.
“What company is going to look to invest as they see this unfold. Disappointment does not do this justice. Anger, sad, heart-broken and five days before Christmas …”
Baarda offered no comment on the premier’s claim that the company will be on the hook for the $85 million in outstanding loans it owes the province. The Chronicle Herald reported last month that Northern Pulp and an associated company owe the province $85,478,537 in three outstanding loans.
COVID-19: Ontario case total dips below 2,500; Big-box blitz finds compliance wanting – Ottawa Citizen
Ontario reported 2,578 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the lowest this daily total has been since Jan. 1.
The seven-day average for new cases in Ontario is now 3,035, and has declined every day in the last week from the record-high average of 3,555 reported Jan. 11.
There are 1,571 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario (an increase of one from the previous day), including 394 people in ICU (down one), with 303 on ventilators.
Twenty-four additional COVID-19 deaths were reported by the province.
Monday’s new case total includes 92 in Ottawa, according to Public Health Ontario. The confirmed case total rose by 36 in Eastern Ontario, four in Hastings Prince Edward, two in Renfrew County and District and one in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark. There was no change to the pandemic case total in Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington.
In terms of active cases, Peel Region is currently the hardest-hit Ontario health unit with 416 cases per 100,000 people. It’s followed by Windsor-Essex (399), Niagara Region (328), Toronto (319) and Middlesex-London (234).
Unifor approves $1 billion General Motors deal to build electric vans in Ontario – Yahoo Canada Finance
The New Brunswick Teachers’ Federation says it does not support keeping schools open during red phase, a change that took both teachers and district officials by surprise. The federation, which represents both anglophone and francophone teachers, said the province did not consult them before changing the rules. “This government’s decision was communicated to us only a few minutes before today’s press conference,” said the federation in a letter released yesterday. Minister of Education Dominic Cardy and Dr, Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, announced Sunday 36 new cases of COVID-19, a new single-day record. The cases include 24 in the Edmundston and Grand Falls region, or Zone 4, which is moving to the red phase. At the same news conference, Cardy said schools in Zone 4 will stay open under new phase-red guidelines. The guidelines previously said if a zone moved to the red phase, all non-essential businesses and schools must close. Cardy said students will be safe at school, even during phase red. The federation said it plans to address its concerns with Cardy, including asking how suddenly changing the rules could help “foster a climate of stability,” and how students, teachers and staff will be kept safe. Francophone North-West School District superintendent Luc Caron held a media conference Monday afternoon supporting the government’s decision. “[If] schools are open that means schools are safe and that is Public Health’s message that they’re sending out,” he said. “We will continue to do our best to give the kids the best education, best quality of service possible.” Caron said the new rules came as a surprise to the district as well. He said staff have been working on red-phase plans for months, but had to pivot when they learned that they will remain open in red. Caron said if parents want to keep their kids at home because they don’t feel safe, they are free to do that. But if they do, “they become the teacher.” He said he hopes parents will understand the district is keeping the students and staff safe by following Public Health guidelines of cleaning and masking. He said the district will step up active screening of school personnel, and screen employees on a daily basis. Extracurricular activities will be cancelled, and if employees or students experience only one symptom they are asked to stay home and get tested, he said. “We encourage our parents to take a look on our health measures in place and I hope they realize that means we are strict and our measures are safe,” he said. “We would invite them to bring back their kids to school.”
GM investing $800M to build BrightDrop electric van in Canada plant – Fox Business
General Motors has earmarked approximately $800 million to convert its CAMI Assembly plant in Ontario, Canada, into an electric vehicle manufacturing facility.
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The factory, which currently produces the Chevrolet Equinox, will begin building electric vans for GM’s new BrightDrop division by the end of 2021, with the full transformation to electric vehicles scheduled for completion within two years.
GM also builds the Equinox in Mexico for U.S. sale, but has not announced its plans for making up for the lost Canadian production capacity.
GM last week announced the formation of the BrightDrop brand during a CES presentation when it revealed the purpose-built EV600 commercial van. The EV600 will use the automaker’s new Ultium electric vehicle platform and be followed by other models.
FedEx was announced as the first customer for the EV600, which will have a range of 250 miles per charge and become widely available in 2022 at a yet to be announced price.
CAMI is the fourth factory being converted electric vehicle production that GM has announced in recent weeks, following its Spring Hill. Tenn., Orion Township, Mich., and Detroit-Hamtramck facilities, the last of which has been renamed Factory ZERO.
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COVID-19: Ontario case total dips below 2,500; Big-box blitz finds compliance wanting – Ottawa Citizen
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