Hon. Michael Duffy: Today, as we worry about the loss of jobs in Oshawa and we contemplate the possibility of back-to-work legislation, I am rising to alert Canadians to a looming environmental crisis in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, most particularly in the Northumberland Strait, and the need for the federal government to exercise its constitutional responsibilities to protect the environment.
The Province of Nova Scotia and a company called Paper Excellence plan to upgrade the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou. Everyone wants to see jobs in the Maritimes, but not at the cost of a potential environmental disaster.
Our colleagues Senator Francis and Senator Christmas have been watching developments closely and they share the concerns of Pictou Landing First Nations Chief Andrea Paul. Last week, Senators Christmas and Francis, along with Senator Griffin and I, met with representatives of fisheries groups from all three Maritime provinces. Today, effluent from that plant is dumped into Boat Harbour, but that option ends next year.
The proposed answer is to run a pipe on the seabed to carry millions of litres of caustic waste into the Northumberland Strait. If this scheme is allowed to proceed it could damage the fishery in the three Maritime provinces, Quebec’s Magdalen Islands and beyond. What about the thousands of tourists who flock to the clean warm water and pure sandy beaches?
This is a project that pits jobs in the woods for those who cut and haul pulp and who process the pulp at the paper plant against the environment, tourism and the fishery.
Colleagues, the solution to pollution is no longer dilution. Better ways to solve these problems are available, and only those clean solutions should be considered.
Nova Scotia believes their provincial environmental assessment is sufficient, but frankly that doesn’t cut it with the public. They see the Nova Scotia government in a conflict of interest. They are simultaneously promoting the project while at the same time claiming they are committed to protecting the environment. Given the Crown’s constitutional responsibilities to our Native people, given their national responsibility for the fishery and for the environment, Ottawa has no choice but to step in immediately and do a complete environmental impact study.
This is an election year both federally and provincially. The people of our region do not want electoral politics to taint what should be a rigorous, independent and trustworthy process. Colleagues, I invite you to join Senators Christmas, Francis, Griffin and me in signing our joint letter to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, and to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Jonathan Wilkinson, asking them to take immediate action. We’re asking them for a full-fledged federal environmental assessment of this dangerous project, and we invite you to join us in making that demand. The people of maritime Canada deserve nothing less.
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