Next Steps

There are a number of actions we envision as next steps for this group – both for the short and long term.  Figure 4.1 provides an overview of the expected outcomes from the actions of this group and details of each are subsequently discussed.

 

Figure 4.1. Overview of Expected Short and Long Term Outcomes

1.       Force as an election issue

Our group is well positioned to force the issue of cleaning up the mill as an election issue. A provincial election is imminent; we have more than 3,000 supporters on our Facebook group and more than 1,600 signatures on an online petition through Change.org. Therefore, we can and have demonstrated to political hopefuls that this issue is important to the electorate.  However, in this age of click-tivism, we have to ensure that group members remain engaged and continue to apply intense pressure to candidates and we have to reach and inspire interested parties that are not on Facebook to do the same.

Therefore, we envision the following activities to do so:

– Maintain media coverage momentum.  There has been a good deal of media coverage to date.  In the coming days, there will be coverage in the Globe and Mail and on ECFM Sunday Report.  We must continue to stay relevant and newsworthy over the five weeks of the election campaign to remain top of mind.  Erin Brockovich’s intended visit will attract some attention, the Group’s separate meeting with the mill will be of some local interest, but we need to continue to work in this area all the while pacing the coverage for the duration of the election.

– Launch ad campaign.  Resource constraints are an issue in this regard, but traditional newspapers are a good outlet to reach those not on Facebook.  Therefore, ads in the Chronicle Herald, The News, and the Advocate are a priority.  With the right expertise, a YouTube ad could be helpful.

– Launch web site.  Work is well underway for this initiative.  A domain has been secured and two skilled developers are actively working on the project.  This is viewed as a valuable tool to clearly illuminate the group’s concerns via evidenced-based arguments and to ensure that interested individuals have access to all available information so that they can apply educated pressure to political candidates.

– Doorknob hangers.  A group member has made doorknob hangers for individuals to hang at their own homes in order to demonstrate the centrality of this issue for them to political candidates as they engage in the campaign door knocking process.  Mass uptake of doorknob hangers will reinforce for politicians the widespread interest in this issue.  A newspaper insert with the hanger would be the most efficient distribution mechanism.

– Letter writing campaign.  This is viewed as an important part of the strategy to maintain engagement of the wider group and further reinforce the importance of the issue to politicians.

 

2.       Secure public commitments

We have attracted political attention to the issue, but thus far, most of the attention can be described as electioneering.  Although we can expect more of the same throughout the campaign, it is important to secure public commitments from each political party throughout the campaign so that elected officials can be held to public account.  We are seeking public commitments that demonstrate government accountability.  More specifically, given the problems the group has identified with standards and compliance, we are seeking public commitments to do the following:

– Set stringent standards for air emissions consistent with US EPA standards
– Give the NS DOE the resources and power it needs to effectively monitor the mill.  For example, additional staff, training, monitoring equipment and/or authority to conduct unannounced inspections will potentially be required to effectively monitor the facility.  Therefore, we expect that any public commitments to ‘do better’ will be specifically articulated to ensure success.
– Give the NS DOE the resources and power it needs to ensure compliance.  Examples include: NS DOE employee to oversee mill self-reports, take steps to ensure that the direct measurement conducted by independent third party is truly independent (i.e.,  third party company arranges approval and scheduling of test dates directly with NS DOE, is accompanied by NS DOE to site, and submits report directly to NS DOE), and implement punitive financial fines for non-compliance.

3.       Secure conditions on future investments of taxpayer money

Bringing the mill to the standards we are seeking and the standards NS DOE admits would be desirable for a facility like Northern Pulp is expensive.  The mill has received in excess of $130 million of taxpayer money (loans and grants) since 2009 and the NDP most recently indicated they would offer future financial assistance to the facility (The News, August 27, 2013).  We are wary of these kinds of promises issued at election time and thus expect that commitments to clean up the mill be transparent in the amount and intent of taxpayer dollars that will be directed at the initiative(s).  Thus, satisfactory commitments to clean up the mill that are premised upon injection of tax dollars must also ensure that :

– An evidenced-based  full cost account of the facility’s economic impact be undertaken in advance
– Public statements be made on the status of loan re-payment to date
– Guarantees be delivered by the company that employee pensions have been protected
– Any additional funds provided directly to the mill must also be matched by contribution to a Boat Harbour site remediation fund

4.       Pursue Class Action

In conjunction with efforts to ensure this becomes an election issue with reasonable outcomes for future protection of human and environmental health, issues about damages incurred over several decades of mill operation still remain. We have met with an environmental lawyer experienced in class action suits and will maintain our relationship with Erin Brockovich to this potential end.  This is an expensive and time consuming endeavor, but will continue to be explored.

5.       Boat Harbour closure

The provincial commitment to close Boat Harbour must be honoured.  As such, we expect that the Province will provide details of the closure plan and a realistic action plan to realize the closure that makes provisions for a new treatment facility that utilizes the Best Available Techniques (BAT) in the industry.  The Pictou Landing First Nation community has a vested interest in this outcome, thus we will consult with the community, support their initiatives and follow their lead on any action in attempting to reach this outcome.

6.       Boat Harbour site remediation

This is the obvious end goal, but this is an outcome that will realistically not be achievable in one governmental term.  However, while this is a long term objective, the province is responsible to remediate the site.  Thus, plans should begin immediately to isolate the appropriate technology for clean-up and create a financial plan to deliver the outcome.