Over the past few weeks I have been hearing a great deal from local fishing communities regarding the importance of the fishery and the protection of the Northumberland Strait.
As a starting point, I want to communicate that I will not support any initiative that science demonstrates would jeopardize our local fishery. This industry has, for generations, provided and continues to provide a good living for many here at home and helps sustain the kinds of rural communities I grew up in and represent today.
I have made it a priority to advocate for growth in this industry of strategic importance in my time as a Member of Parliament because I appreciate the impact it has on our region.
I was honoured to see my efforts come to fruition when our government announced serious investments in the local fishery, including major improvements to the Caribou wharf. In our first two years, we have already invested nearly $11 Million in our federal riding alone to help build and repair small craft harbours that support our local communities. I will continue to advocate for additional investments like this that create jobs in the short term and enable long term growth in the fishery.
I have been pushing the federal Minister to legislate protection of the owner-operator model in the Fisheries Act to help ensure the benefits of our local industry support people from our area.
In addition, I have aggressively supported new trade opportunities for Canadian fishers, and have spoken in the House of Commons in support of CETA, a new trade deal with Europe, in large part because of the positive impact it will have on the price of our local seafood products, which will add growth to our local economy. I have also advocated to the Minister to fund spill response technology as part of our Oceans Protection Plan to protect against the risk of offshore oil and gas spills.
Finally, I was proud to join the Fisheries Minister to announce a new $325 Million investment toward the Atlantic Fisheries Fund, which is designed specifically to grow the industry in Atlantic Canada.
I will remain a strong advocate for the Nova Scotia fishery in Ottawa as long as I have the privilege to serve in this capacity.
The issue surrounding Northern Pulp’s effluent treatment facility arises as a result of the provincial government’s commitment to end the use of Boat Harbour to treat the mill’s effluent. I fully support this legislation, which will see the use of Boat Harbour ended by January of 2020. I look forward to the transition away from the use of Boat Harbour, which has a disproportionately negative environmental impact on the Pictou Landing First Nation community, and allows effluent to escape into the Northumberland Strait today.
At the end of Boat Harbour’s use as an effluent treatment facility, a proper cleanup of this contaminated site will begin. The Boat Harbour legislation necessitates the construction of a new effluent treatment facility because Northern Pulp currently has a lease to operate the mill until 2030 and cannot be permitted to operate without some way of treating effluent.
The next step in the process toward the construction of a new treatment facility requires that a proposal be put forward by Northern Pulp. Currently, no such proposal has been tabled.
After a proposal is tabled, the Provincial Government will be conducting an environmental assessment, to determine whether the proposal will be approved for construction. Although the Province is responsible for conducting this process, officials from two federal departments (Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans and the Dept. of Environment and Climate Change) are being included. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans will be reviewing the potential physical impacts on fish or fish habitat by the construction of any new project in the Strait. The Department of Environment and Climate Change is responsible for enforcing regulations to the Fisheries Act that deal specifically with effluent from pulp and paper mills that impacts federally-regulated waterways.
I have spoken with both Ministers responsible for these federal departments about the developments at Northern Pulp’s effluent treatment facility and will insist that the Fisheries Act is complied with, and that steps are taken to ensure that any new effluent treatment facility that is proposed does not have a negative impact on fish health or fish habitat. This assessment cannot be properly made until the proposal is officially tabled.
During the last election campaign, I frequently discussed the need to base policy decisions on the best science, facts, and evidence available. I believe in and remain committed to that approach. I have spoken with many fishers, as well as forestry industry participants (including employees of the mill). The vast majority of people with an interest in this issue have expressed that they do not wish to impact our fishery, nor do they wish to see our forestry workers impacted. I remain hopeful that a solution will be found that achieves this end.
I take the need to protect our marine environment seriously. Once a proposal for the new treatment facility is tabled for review by the provincial government, I will work to have the federal government use whatever science, facts, and evidence are available to ensure that neither our fishery nor the marine environment is jeopardized by any proposal regarding a new effluent treatment facility on the Northumberland Strait.
I recently learned that Northern Pulp will be leading two public consultations regarding the upcoming provincial environmental assessment and construction of a new effluent treatment facility at the time and locations listed below. Although these consultations do not relate to a federal process, I encourage anyone that is interested in attending to drop into the Open House sessions.
The details are as follows:
Tuesday December 5th, 2017
155 Riverside Parkway, New Glasgow
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Wednesday December 6th, 2017
Abercrombie Fire Hall
2030 Granton Abercrombie Road, Abercrombie
5:00 pm-7:00 pm