KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – If you were to believe Jerry Dias, president of Unifor Canada, you’d conclude the Northern Pulp issue is easily resolved.
350 direct jobs will be lost if the Northern Pulp plant in Pictou County closes, and 2,700 full time spinoff jobs will also be gone. That was the message Dias delivered at a press conference in Halifax today. (I didn’t attend, but it was live streamed).
Unifor hired Gardner Pinfold Consulting to run the numbers, and to nobody’s surprise, the loss of Northern Pulp will be a big hit for rural Nova Scotia. Workers at the mill and in spinoff jobs earn some $128 million per year, and tax revenues generated amount to almost $40 million. Some 1500 companies in rural Nova Scotia depend on Northern Pulp.
Unifor’s solution is to demand that Northern Pulp be allowed to start work on the treatment plant now, even though the environmental assessment of its proposal, which includes a highly controversial discharge into the Northumberland Strait, is still pending and many questions remain.
There you have it. Problem solved.
Except, of course it isn’t. This plan only works when you forget about the long suffering residents of Pictou Landing First Nation, victims of the most egregious environmental racism for over 50 years, who would be expected to absorb yet another extension.
The plan also ignores the fishermen and environmentalists worried about what the toxic fallout of the pipe into the Cumberland Strait will do to the fish and lobster in the area.
Neither these fishermen nor the Mi’kmaq were mentioned even once in the Unifor presentation. (And no journalists asked).
Joan Baxter in her excellent book about the history of the Mill documents the betrayals, the lies, the greed, and the corporate capture that brought us to where we are today. Time and again the mill and a complicit government would use jobs as their justification, and job loss as their threat.
The Northern Pulp workers are the victims in this history, just as much as the residents of Pictou, the fishers and the residents of Pictou Landing First Nation.
Unifor, with its deep roots in the community, could be a force for a solution. But will remain ineffective if it aligns itself unconditionally with Paper Excellence, the owners of Northern Pulp.
You can’t get to a solution by pretending these pesky fishers, environmentalists and Mi’kmaq simply don’t exist. That’s not how compromise works.
With a special thanks to our generous donors who make publication of the Nova Scotia Advocate possible.
Subscribe to the Nova Scotia Advocate weekly digest and never miss an article again. It’s free!