Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has sided against a pulp mill’s plea for a lifeline in a move that has bitterly split his province, earning praise from environmental, fisheries and Indigenous groups, but angering many in the province’s forestry sector.
The Northern Pulp mill in Pictou had been asking for an extension on a provincially imposed deadline to stop dumping contaminated wastewater in Boat Harbour, next to the Pictou Landing First Nation, in what many have called one of the province’s worst examples of pollution linked to racism.
As a result, the mill – one of the largest operators in the province – is now set to close at the end of January. The company’s owners say that will mean the elimination of 300 jobs at the mill and an estimated 2,400 more in the forestry sector.
Mr. McNeill, who also pledged $50-million to help affected forestry workers make that transition to new jobs, said his hand was forced by a company that appeared to be unwilling to modernize the mill’s effluent-treatment facility. Concerns about the mill’s wastewater, contaminated with toxic heavy metals, were first raised in the 1960s.
The Premier told the company in 2015 that it had five years to fix the problem. The mill’s owners have showed that they did not take that deadline seriously, he said.
“The company has had five years and any number of opportunities to get out of Boat Harbour, and at this point, we’re nowhere close to that,” the Premier said Friday. “Northern Pulp has had a number of chances to get this right. And yet, here we are.”
The decision was applauded by the Pictou Landing First Nation, which for years has been calling for an end to the mill’s effluent dumping into Boat Harbour, a heavily polluted lagoon that is adjacent to the reserve. First Nation leaders say the pollution in Boat Harbour – historically used for fishing, clam digging and hunting – was causing chronic illness and compromised their access to traditional food sources.
“Premier Stephen McNeil had a very difficult decision to make today, a decision that will affect many people in our region, but I feel he made the correct decision,“ Pictou Landing Chief Andrea Paul said. “I am grateful that he has decided to put an end to the pollution and providing an opportunity for us to heal.”
“Cleaning up Boat Harbour is all my people have ever wanted and Premier Stephen McNeil kept his promise and, on behalf of my community, we are thankful.”
However, not everyone was celebrating the Premier’s announcement. Those in the province’s forestry sector said it was a dark day that would hurt family-run sawmills, kill thousands of jobs and scare off investment in Nova Scotia.
“We’re very disappointed,” said Jeff Bishop, executive director of Forest Nova Scotia, an industry association. “This is a decision that will be felt across the province, from one end to the other, but most predominantly in rural Nova Scotia, where people are already suffering. It’s yet another blow to one of the few remaining areas where people can work in rural communities.”
The $50-million for laid-off forestry workers pledged by the Premier is a “drop in the bucket” compared with the $20-billion in economic activity the sector brings to Nova Scotia, Mr. Bishop said. Northern Pulp bought woodchips from nearly every sawmill in the province, so there are few in the industry who will not be affected, he said.
Environmental groups, meanwhile, said Northern Pulp had multiple chances to deal with the effluent issue in a way that met government requirements.
“Premier McNeil made a courageous decision,” said James Gunvaldsen Klaassen of Ecojustice. “He did the right thing for Pictou Landing First Nation, for the vulnerable environment of the Northumberland Strait and those who make their living from it.”
Jill Graham-Scanlan, president of Friends of the Northumberland Strait, said the Premier was correcting an “injustice” that had dragged on against the people of Pictou Landing First Nation for five decades, and said the job losses lie at the feet of Northern Pulp’s owners.
“While we rejoice at this decision, our sympathy is with those who face job loss and unknown changes in their industry,” she said.
A spokesperson for the federal Employment Ministry said that the government has already reached out to the province to offer assistance to displaced workers.
”We know that today’s decision by the Government of Nova Scotia and the closure of this mill will have a very real impact on workers in Nova Scotia and the Atlantic region, especially during this holiday season – and we are thinking of them and their families at this difficult time,” Ashley Michnowski said.
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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