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Editorial: On the road to economic ruin?

A key part of the Cumberland County economy could face a tough future if the provincial government enforces a decision requiring one of northern Nova Scotia’s largest employers, Paper Excellence in Pictou County, to come up with an alternative method for processing its waste by early next year.

At this point, the provincial government is adamant it will not extend the Jan. 31 deadline and a plan by the company to pipe the effluent into the Northumberland Strait has been rebuked by almost everyone.

It’s not surprising those could be impacted are becoming vocal with their concerns. Dozens of truckers parked their rigs on both sides of the Trans-Canada Highway near Truro on May 9 while on May 1 forestry workers in Cumberland County took their concerns to municipal council.

During that meeting, professional forester Mac Davis and Ian Ripley of the Athol Forestry Co-op said the county’s $30-million forestry industry could be ruined if Northern Pulp were to close.

Ripley said as many as 500 jobs in Cumberland County are connected to the forestry industry, including contractors, truckers, parts suppliers and more. This activity represents as much as $35 million revenue for the sale of wood – money he says goes back into the county as stumpage and is paid to landowners and everyone else associated with the harvest of that wood.

On the flip side, the status quo is not acceptable. For decades effluent has been dumped into Boat Harbour and the government is right to tell the company to find an alternative sooner rather than later. However, enforcing a 2020 deadline to get that done, considering the widespread opposition to what the company feels is the most realistic approach, may be impossible to meet.

It’s a recipe for economic disaster for northern Nova Scotia.

Saying that, we also cannot ignore that climate change is a reality and continued pollution, either via the air or the sea, is only making that change occur faster and with greater impact.

A UN Biodiversity Report released in Paris two weeks ago is suggesting one million animal and plant species are at imminent risk of extinction due to humanity’s relentless pursuit of economic growth.

This report echoes one from last October from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that said, “profound economic and social changes would be needed to curb greenhouse gases quickly enough to avert the most devastating consequences of a warming world.”

We need to change the way we do things. That, everyone can agree on. However it needs to be done in a responsible way that doesn’t threaten the livelihoods of thousands of Nova Scotia. There is a solution, to find it requires leadership from our elected officials and those impacted, It can be done, there just has to be a will to make it happen.

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