In Nova Scotia, extremes of elation and despair in wake of N.S. mill closure

NEW GLASGOW, N.S. — There was despair and elation in northeastern Nova Scotia Saturday as the fallout of a pulp mill’s coming closure is rippling through the homes and lives of families in the region.

Premier Stephen McNeil announced on Friday he would keep a pledge he made five years ago that Northern Pulp wouldn’t be permitted to continue piping its effluent into Boat Harbour, near Pictou Landing First Nation, after Jan. 31.

The company then announced the closure of the pulp mill in Abercrombie, N.S., and predicted the loss of thousands of forestry jobs.

In Pictou Landing First Nation, Warren Francis, a lobster fisherman, says he’s saddened by job losses, but excited and pleased his community can expect the flow of effluent will stop after 52 years.

However, in nearby New Glasgow, Northern Pulp co-workers Kim MacLaughlin and Wanda Skinner say they are fearful for their families’ well being.

MacLaughlin and her husband, Derek — who is a harvester — both are facing layoffs because of the closure, while Skinner, who id a single mother and wonders how she’ll support her daughter.

McNeil has acknowledged his decision not to grant Northern Pulp an extension would cause pain to families dependent on the pulp mill.

However, he has announced a $50 million forest industry fund that will be used for retraining, education and emergency funding for workers in immediate need of help.

On Friday he said the Liberal government “will help and support” workers in their transition.

Don MacKenzie, the president of the Unifor union local that represents more than 300 Northern Pulp workers, said this will be only a fraction of what’s needed to help the rural economy recover.

McNeil has said the company has had five years under 2015 legislation to come up with a way to cease putting its waste into Boat Harbour, yet is still far from a solution.

The mill, in operation since 1967 under various owners, has faced consistent criticism for its poor environmental record.

It has been dumping treated effluent into lagoons near Pictou Landing for decades, and successive provincial governments have reneged on promises to clean up the once-pristine estuary.

A former Nova Scotia environment minister once referred to the toxic mess at Boat Harbour as one of the worst cases of environmental racism in Canada.

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