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Northern Pulp to mothball mill as it continues with environmental assessment process –



Just weeks before the mill is scheduled to shut down, officials with Northern Pulp have informed the Nova Scotia government they plan to continue with the environmental assessment process for a proposed new effluent treatment facility.

Environment Minister Gordon Wilson said last month the company’s most recent attempt to get approval for the project, which would include treatment on the mill’s property in Pictou County and treated effluent sent to the Northumberland Strait via a pipeline, lacked sufficient scientific information. At the time, Wilson said the project would require an environmental assessment report.

Just days later, Premier Stephen McNeil said he would not extend the deadline in the Boat Harbour Act, legislation that says the mill must stop using the former tidal estuary to treat its effluent as of the end of this month.

The decision effectively spelled the end of the mill and officials have begun the shutdown process. The operation is no longer buying pulpwood, a move that’s had a drastic effect on the forestry sector and value of woodlots, and layoff notices for the mill’s 350 workers are imminent.

Still, according to the 37-page draft terms of reference released by the Environment Department on Wednesday, the company told the government on Jan. 2 it intended to continue with the environmental assessment process, a decision that required the department to release the draft. The public has until Feb. 7 to comment on the document, exactly a week after Boat Harbour is scheduled to stop receiving effluent.

A final terms of reference will be provided to the company in April, at which point it will have two years to complete the environmental assessment report.

Company winterizing mill

In a statement Thursday, the company said it remains committed to the province and wants to operate in Nova Scotia “for the long-term.”

“We intend to complete an environmental assessment for our proposed effluent treatment facility and are in the process of reviewing the terms of reference,” the statement said.

“Our team is currently focused on supporting our employees, developing plans for a safe and environmentally responsible hibernation, and working with the Government of Nova Scotia and stakeholders to determine next steps.”

Mill officials have previously dismissed the idea the mill could be shut down for an extended period without damage to the equipment.

In the first public comments from anyone from government since McNeil’s ruling last month, the premier said Thursday it’s fine for the company to remain in the province, but if it’s going to operate it must be with “the right approval with an environmental assessment and with the right treatment facility and it has to meet all the standards of today.”

Premier Stephen McNeil says the province is preparing to clean and disconnect the pipe that runs from the Northern Pulp mill to Boat Harbour. (Robert Short/CBC)

McNeil said it’s not uncommon for a mill to be mothballed.

“It’s in essence winterizing the facility so that it can be dormant for however long,” he told reporters.

The province will not pay for any part of the winterizing process, the company’s environmental assessment process or maintaining the plant while it’s dormant, said McNeil.

The only thing that could pass through the plant after its shutdown at the end of the month would be something to clean the pipe that runs from the mill to Boat Harbour, for which the province is responsible, said the premier.

“We can’t immediately go in and shut that pipe off until we actually deal with what’s in it,” he said. Once the pipe is cleared and cleaned, it will be disconnected.

Transition team meeting

McNeil said all of these steps are happening in consultation with Pictou Landing First Nation and the cleanup of Boat Harbour would go ahead as scheduled. He expects that work can fully begin in about 18 months, when a federal environmental assessment process is complete.

The mill’s plans are a separate issue from the government’s focus on transitioning the forestry industry to a reality that doesn’t include the mill, said McNeil.

He will join Kelliann Dean, the deputy minister in charge of the province’s forestry transition team, when she addresses reporters later Thursday for the first time following the transition team’s initial meeting.

Some people who work in the forestry industry have expressed concern that the lack of information to this point is an indication the government still isn’t sure how to respond to the pending loss of the single largest player in the forestry industry, or how to cope with the economic fallout.

Last month, McNeil announced a $50-million transition fund, which the transition team will determine how to administer to people affected by the shutdown of Northern Pulp.

More recently, the government established phone lines people can call for emotional support (1-866-885-6540) or with questions related to employment (1-888-315-0110). Employment fairs are also scheduled around the province later this month.


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Goldman Sachs moves to full ownership of China securities JV



Goldman Sachs said on Sunday it received approval from China’s securities regulator to take full control of its mainland securities business.

The U.S. bank said it would buy the remainder of Goldman Sachs Gao Hua Securities Company Ltd (GSGH), and rename it as Goldman Sachs (China) Securities Company Ltd.

The migration of its onshore business units to GSGH from Beijing Gao Hua Securities was underway, it added.

“This marks the start of a new chapter for our China business following a successful 17-year joint venture,” Goldman Sachs said in a statement.

It becomes the second Wall Street firm to be granted approval to shift to full ownership of its securities business after JPMorgan Chase & Co moved to 100% in August

Securities businesses in China typically house investment banking, research, equities and fixed income businesses.

Unlike most of the other China JVs, Goldman had day-to-day operational control of its business even with its minority ownership.

Lucrative underwriting fees on equity and bond transactions – especially initial public offerings (IPOs) – in China’s expanding capital markets has been the driving force for Western banks to increase stakes in their mainland business.

Full ownership could allow foreign banks to expand their operations in the multi-trillion-dollar Chinese financial sector, and better integrate them with their global businesses.

Morgan Stanley currently owns 90% of its securities joint venture with partner Shanghai Chinafortune Co Ltd after increasing its stake in May.

China’s regulators had examined Goldman Sach’s application to move to full ownership since the bank flagged its intention to buy out its partner in December.

(Reporting by Scott Murdoch in Hong Kong and Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V and Stephen Coates)

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From Canada? Want to go to the U.S.A.? Better have the right vaccine – Boing Boing



The last couple of years have been hard on Canadian Snowbirds. Many of us, myself included, are used to heading south in the fall, to escape the icy bullshit of a Canadian winter. Unfortunately, thanks to COVID-19, a lot of us have been trapped, north of the wall, since March 2020. 

I’ve been fine with this. 

When the land border was closed down to everyone but essential travellers, my mindset was that if I was going to get sick, I’d just as soon do it in my own nation where healthcare is free (yeah, we pay our taxes, but still.) Then, last winter, the vaccines started to roll out. By early spring, both my wife and I had been injected with two doses of Pfizer’s version of the brew. We breathed a sigh of relief and began to hope that we might, one day soon, be able to start our travels again. I’m sure that lots of other folks did too. Unfortunately, depending on where in Canada they live, it wasn’t a sure bet that they’d wind up with two doses of the same vaccine. In the rush to get as many Canadians vaccinated against the plague as possible, many provinces started mixing and matching whichever vaccines that they had on hand.

So, you could wind up with Pfizer for your first jab and Moderna for your second. It’s cool, they told us. Mixing vaccines affords tons of protection, we were assured. Why, we’d all be able to get back to our lives in no time… provided said life doesn’t include travelling to one of many countries where vaccine mixing is considered to be a dangerous load of bullshit. You may have guessed by now, that America is one of those countries.  

From The CBC:

…at the same time the U.S. reopens the land border, it will start requiring that foreign land and air travellers entering the country be fully vaccinated.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently doesn’t recognize mixed COVID-19 vaccines — such as one dose of AstraZeneca, and one dose of Pfizer or Moderna — and hasn’t yet said if travellers with two different doses will be blocked from entry when the vaccine requirement kicks in.

So that sucks. 

According to the CBC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention might soon consider changing their stance on mixed vaccines. I’d like to think that a crap load of data on the effectiveness of mixed vaccine dosing will play into such a decision. No matter how badly folks might want to head south for the winter, Americans deserve to be as safe as they can be. 

In the meantime, I suspect that, just like last fall, many snowbirds will wind up on Vancouver Island, where I hang my hat, these days. It’s warm enough here that living in an RV is both possible and comfortable.

But I’ll tell ya, it’s a far cry from kicking back in the trade winds on the cusp of Texas’ southern border.

Image via Wikipedia Commons

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Travel industry, health experts applaud U.S. decision to allow travellers with mixed doses – CTV News



The organization representing Canada’s tourism industry is applauding the U.S. government’s decision to allow Canadian travellers with mixed vaccine doses once the border opens in November.

On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that travellers with “any combination” of two doses of vaccines approved by the World Health Organization or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “are considered fully vaccinated.”

Beth Potter, who is president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, says the announcement is “really good news.”

“What it does is it provides a little bit more clarity, and this is something that we’ve talked about a lot. We know now that if you’ve got that mixed dose, as of November you’re going to be able to enter into the United States,” she told CTV News Channel on Saturday.

Infectious disease expert Isaac Bogoch of the University Health Network in Toronto says allowing mixed dosed travellers is “a smart and data driven approach.”

“This will be a huge relief to many Canadians who did the right thing and got vaccinated and even took those mixed and matched vaccine approaches. It’s safe, it’s effective, and now there’s a recognition of this,” Bogoch said in an interview with CTV News Channel on Saturday.

“I’m really happy to hear this. It’s about time.”

This announcement came after the White House confirmed that the U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico would be open to fully vaccinated tourists by Nov. 8.

On the American side, the U.S. Travel Association also applauded the Biden Administration’s plans to reopen the border.

“Reopening to international visitors will provide a jolt to the economy and accelerate the return of travel-related jobs that were lost due to travel restrictions,” said association president and CEO Roger Dow in a statement on Friday.

“We applaud the administration for recognizing the value of international travel to our economy and our country, and for working to safely reopen our borders and reconnect America to the world.”

But while the U.S. won’t require Canadians to show proof of vaccination to cross, returning to Canada requires a negative PCR test conducted at most 72 hours before crossing the border.

PCR tests can cost upwards of $200. The Canadian government does not accept rapid antigen tests, which can be had for only $40.

Brian Higgins, a New York congressman whose district includes the border cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, wants to see Canada drop the COVID-19 PCR test requirement.

“I think that the U.S. decision to allow Canadians coming into the United States without a test again underscores the potency of the vaccine,” Higgins told The Canadian Press on Friday. “I would like to see that reciprocated by our Canadian neighbours.”

However, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said that Canada will continue to require PCR tests so long as the Public Health Agency of Canada advocates for it.

“We’ve seen throughout the pandemic that advice has evolved as new evidence and new data is available. We’ll continue to follow the advice in the Public Health Agency Canada​,” he said in an ​interview with CTV’s Question Period on Sunday.

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