Professor McNeil’s Class is in Session
Nova Scotia has just received another force feed lesson from Premier Professor McNeil. Where decisions are made devoid of facts, uninhibited by the advice from those who are experts in the area of study, and of course ending up at the destination that does not actually help Nova Scotians (which I thought was the purpose of the Professor, I mean Premier) but instead serves the political agenda of the Liberals. For those of us paying attention, let me just quickly recap some of the past lessons Nova Scotia was “taught” by our illustrious Professor before I delve into that latest. Recall the Teachers Labour dispute. I recollect all levels of the education system calling for more help with special needs, programs that don’t lend to children being left behind because the teachers are so overwhelmed with the amount of lesson planning and time required to address current classroom conditions. I recall that is was pretty much unanimous in what the experts in the field stated need to be done. But our Professor knew better, well, better for him of course. He needed to look strong and not be pushed around. After all, he needs to get re-elected. All else is secondary, like our economy, or education and our healthcare. So he laid down his “lesson” which placed blame on the educators and deflected from himself and in the end taught us all that somehow the teachers were greedy and he was a strong leader. We all know the truth right? The same could be said with the health care system. The same narrative played out and continues to this day. The Professor knows best.
So now let’s move on to Professor McNeil’s latest lesson for Nova Scotian’s to swallow. How he will not stand for polluting in Nova Scotia. Sure Northern Pulp was currently meeting or exceeding all pulp effluent environmental requirements federally and provincially by a factor of 5x, sure it was HIS government that owns and leases the existing effluent treatment plant to Northern Pulp, and sure, he had a lease with Northern Pulp until 2030 to run that facility. Those are facts, of course conveniently left out of the lesson plan. So when the Professor, without any consultation with Northern Pulp, broke his lease contract and legislated an environmental approval process, design, and the construction of a new waste water treatment plant to occur within a 4 year 8 month timeline we shouldn’t have been surprised. But hey, he said he gave Northern Pulp every opportunity for success, and it was Northern Pulp who were the vilified. An interesting point of reference for those interested in some extra-curricular points is that it took the city of Halifax 7 years to attain an environmental approval for a sewage waste water treatment system. This system was to upgrade the current system, a system that essentially just dumped raw, untreated sewage into the Halifax Harbour. This took 7 years folks. 7 years to get an approval to build a waste water treatment plant that was going to replace a system with NO TREATMENT. But hey, Professor McNeil in his infinite wisdom with no consultation with anyone arbitrarily sets a date of 4 years 8 months. Seems achievable right?
So here is the “Surprise Exam” our Honorable Professor McNeil bestowed upon Northern Pulp, the Forestry Sector, and Rural Nova Scotia.
Northern Pulp’s Exam
• Surprise! We are having a must pass surprise exam today.
• You will have 4 hours and 40 minutes to complete and there are 7 essay questions.
• The clock starts now. Oh wait, Professor McNeil actually does not have the right exam at the moment, Northern Pulp will have to wait for the Nova Scotia Supreme Court to rule against The Professors initial essay questions (this is because since the Professor didn’t consult with anyone, on renewal of an Industrial Approval Permit which actually requested a standard that no system in existence could deliver).
o This took 14 months to work out in the Nova Scotia Supreme court, which ruled in Northern Pulps favour during which time Northern Pulp was unable to do any work towards the waste water treatment facility
• Ok, so an hour and 10 minutes has passed and here is the exam, you now have 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete the exam. Better not delay class, there will be no extension
o As you can see, there are 7 essay questions (these 7 essay questions are the 7 environmental studies the Professor is asking Northern Pulp to answer with the timeline now being 3.5 years, not the 5 years the Professor keeps touting as the truth)
• An hour passes
• The Professor interrupts the exam. Alright, I now have added 30 more essay questions for you to answer (that’s right folks, just because McNeil keeps telling you Northern Pulp had 5 years over and over again that is not the truth. 30 more essays added with only 2.5 years left)
• You now have 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete the exam
o You had better hurry. No extension is warranted according to the Man that keeps changing the rules.
• Another hour passes
• Class, I have just added another 27 essay questions to the exam. You now have 1 hour 30 minutes to complete this must pass exam
• No extension. Better get to work
o Oh, the power just went out (this is the illegal blockade of the survey vessel needed to completed many of the essay questions on the exam, it puts the ability to answer key question on the exam back by at least 50 minutes). But guess what, no extension.
• The exam is nearing its end, there is now only 11 minutes to go
• Professor McNeil says that you now have to write an additional essay that will take 2 hours to complete (The request for a 2 year Environmental Assessment, which for those of you doing your homework was a report that Northern Pulp publically stated that they would be happy to complete when the Boat Harbour Act was first enacted, but Professor McNeil said wasn’t necessary)
• Professor McNeil informs Northern Pulp they have failed his exam even though they have completed all the extra essay questions and the proposed project would deliver the most up to date wastewater treatment facility not only in Nova Scotia but most likely North America.
• Professor McNeil stands before the camera and berates you in front of all of Nova Scotia blaming you for not being prepared, for being a bad student. At the same time repeatedly states that He, the Professor, has given you every opportunity to pass this course.
Northern Pulp has an owner that wants to stay in Nova Scotia and is willing to invest over $130 million on the state-of-the-art treatment system, in addition to the over $200 million already invested in Nova Scotia since taking ownership in 2011.
The current waste water treatment system is better than over half of the 89 other pulp mills in Canada and is better than almost all of the treatment plants operated by most towns and cities in Nova Scotia who treat their sewer and waste water (remember there are still some towns that don’t have treatment systems and still dump raw sewer into our water ways) . The proposed new system would move it to a world class treatment system. This was not jobs vs environment. This was not a binary choice. We had and could still HAVE both. Boat Harbour is going to be cleaned up and every stakeholder in the province agrees with and supports this. The clean up however, has been delayed due to a federal environmental assessment. Currently the clean up is not even scheduled to begin for at least another 2 years. The pollution in Boat Harbour occurred in the early years of the pulp mills operation when it was operated and run by the government and there was little to no treatment done not unlike most towns and cities who put their raw sewer into our water ways at that time. Today even with the current system there is no pollution and the lobster fishery is better than it has ever been. We have and can continue co-exist. In fact the story should have always been Nova Scotia was going to have most up to date cleanest pulp mill in North America. We should have all championed around that cause and celebrated it. Strides were being made towards rectifying and healing the egregious wrong done to the people of PLFN. We have a company that was trying to invest in the sustainable and renewable resource of Nova Scotia forests and leading the way environmentally. This outcome was laid at the feet of the Professor, but his lack of leadership, abdication of responsibility, and his desire to advance his political ambitions prevented this from occurring. For Shame on you Premier McNeil. For Shame.