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Paper Excellence CEO releases statement on Northern Pulp, ‘setting the record straight’

January 13, 2020
By Maria Church
Northern Pulp. Photo: © Murdo Ferguson/Paper Excellence

The CEO of Paper Excellence Canada, the company that owns the soon-to-be-mothballed Northern Pulp in Nova Scotia, has released a statement claiming to set the record straight on the company’s involvement with the provincial government since purchasing the mill in 2011.

Brian Baarda released the statement titled “An unrealistic timeline, an undefined process” on the company’s website on Jan. 11.

The full statement is below:

“Since 1967, a kraft pulp mill has been an economic driver for Pictou County, N.S. Over the decades, hard-working men and women have depended on the mill and put down roots to raise their families and contribute to the region.


In 2011, Paper Excellence was proud to carry on this tradition when we purchased Northern Pulp Nova Scotia. We operate pulp mills throughout Canada and globally and recognized that the core fundamentals of a successful kraft mill were in place. We also recognized that investments would be needed to bring the mill to the environmental standards expected today.

Paper Excellence purchased the mill with the assurance that all existing contracts would be honoured. Since that time, we have invested more than $70 million in people, technology, and processes, with more investments planned, that would continue to improve our production and reduce our environmental impact.

While we made these financial investments in good faith, we also understood the need to address the social and community impacts that were the result of the sad legacy of Boat Harbour and a history of poor relations between the Pictou Landing First Nation (PLNF), the community and previous mill operators.

In the regions where Paper Excellence operates, we strive to be contributing members of the community. Developing meaningful relationships takes time, and we have worked hard to be good neighbours and members of the community. We have always said that Boat Harbour needs to close, and we continue to believe this.

In June 2014, a faulty pipe resulted in an effluent leak at our facility. We took full responsibility for this very unfortunate incident and undertook immediate actions to fix it.

What is often forgotten is that our initial response efforts were delayed due to a protestor blockade. The blockade was only ended, and the mill restarted, when the Government of Nova Scotia agreed with PLFN to introduce legislation to have a Boat Harbour closure plan within a year.

Subsequently, the Boat Harbour Act effectively revised the closure date of Boat Harbour from 15 years to 4 years and 8 months. Northern Pulp was not consulted in setting this new date and we made it clear the timeline was not realistic.

In addition to shortening the timeline by more than 10 years, the government also changed the requirements of our Industrial Approval, the permit that allows us to operate. These changes presented a major threat to continued mill operations by requiring major capital investments without certainty that the January 31, 2020 Boat Harbour Act deadline could be met.

It took a Supreme Court challenge and several decisions from the Minister of Environment to provide the certainty that Northern Pulp could continue to operate and that we could invest in needed upgrades. Our team worked diligently and in partnership with the government starting in 2016 to design a new wastewater treatment facility. We also started to conduct the necessary and growing list of studies required by the government.

By December 2017, with a proposed new $130 million state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility designed, we engaged in meaningful consultation with stakeholders.

It became apparent through our studies that our initial pipe outfall proposal wasn’t preferred or feasible given ocean ice. We proposed an alternate location in the Caribou Channel and immediately began to carry out surveying and environmental studies.

Unfortunately, the survey boat was blocked by local fishers who refused to allow the work to proceed. The blockade lasted until late December 2018 and was only ended after successful legal action. Unfortunately, this cost us time as we could not resume marine surveys until the spring 2019 ice break up.

At this point, we had less than two years to complete more than two years of required environmental study and analysis. Only then would we get a decision from the Minister of Environment. The actual construction of a new wastewater treatment facility and pipe would take at least another two years.

But we continued to push forward. Some 11,000 families and 30,000 woodlot owners across Nova Scotia expected nothing less of us and we believe it was the right thing to do.

Over the course of the process, seven studies required by the Department of Environment became 68. Despite an already unrealistic timeline, our team did its best to meet each new request.

At the end of the day, we believe we put forward an excellent plan informed by third-party subject matter expertise based on sound science. This plan showed no meaningful environmental impact, represented significant operational improvement, and ensured Nova Scotia’s forest sector and the thousands it employs could remain a vital part of our economy, all while enabling the timely closure and remediation of Boat Harbour prior to the original contracted closure date of 2030.

Still, the Minister of Environment decided he didn’t have enough information and requested a full environmental assessment – a requirement that adds at least two years to the timeline.

It is disappointing that the Minister of Environment’s request for a full environmental assessment was not made many years earlier. It would have provided a definitive process and a more realistic timeline.

Instead, the Minister’s decision, combined with the Premier’s refusal to extend the deadline for the closure of Boat Harbour, is now resulting in the closure of Northern Pulp, the devastation of Nova Scotia’s forestry industry, loss of over 2,700 rural jobs, and significant impact to another 8,300 forestry jobs across Nova Scotia.

To our 330 direct employees and the families and forestry workers across Nova Scotia who have depended on the mill to help them put down roots and raise their family in the region: we want to make it clear that we do not want to close Northern Pulp. We want to operate in Nova Scotia for the long-term. We believe that a prosperous economy and healthy environment can co-exist in Pictou County, just like it does in 89 other communities with pulp and paper mills across Canada.

Unfortunately, an unrealistic timeline and undefined process has put us in the position we, and you, are in today. We are sorry for the difficulties and unknown futures you are facing. We don’t know what February 1, 2020, will look like. We will, however, continue to meet with government and industry stakeholders to fight for a future for Northern Pulp in Nova Scotia.

In the absence of certainty that the Nova Scotia wants to continue supporting a flourishing forestry industry and the economic benefits it provides, our team is currently focused on supporting our employees, developing plans for a safe and environmentally sound hibernation plan, and working with the Government of Nova Scotia to understand if there is a future for our operations.”


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13 Comments » for Paper Excellence CEO releases statement on Northern Pulp, ‘setting the record straight’
  1. Thom Mason says:

    Well said Brian Baarda.

  2. Garry Macdonald says:

    Agree entirely with the new proposed treatment plant and totally disagree with MacNeils decision to not give the extension required. A total lack of knowledge on the impact that is and will be forth coming is devastating to the province based on MacNeils decision that caused the mill to close

  3. Lorrie Wile says:

    I truly believe there is no common sense left in this province. Compromise is what was needed and between our premier and PLFN and Northern Pulp. Unfortunately it appears Northern Pulp is the only one interested in keeping forestry sustainable in this province.

    • John Fraser says:

      Northern Pulp has never compromised ever here in N.S. they have always cried & bitched threatening to close n when asked to comply with what the people & environment ,erven threatening to take the Gov. to court They take no responsibility
      for what they do .they hide behind an Indemnity Agreement Paper Exellence is too cheap +to build a modern closed loop mill they suck the tax coffers from our province would rather spend Billions buying old decrepid mills in B.C. & Brazil all up grades to Nortern Pulp are taxpayer paid not Paper Exellence the fishing industries of Nova Scotia & the other Provinces who fish in this Gulf generate more money than any 10 Pulp Mills would .there will be never any Northern Pulp pollution pipe in our rich commercial fishing grounds ever even this Pic on this article is misinformation this is what Northern Pulp looks like only on shut dowm

  4. John Fraser says:

    we need a quality wood forestry & to re open all the independent saw mills that Northern Pulp forced to close because they did not want to jump to the strings that the Pulp cartel pulled they didnt care about all the jobs they destroyed there.this pipe plan was proposed by Neena Paper& was turned down because it would cause grosse eutrophication in the Gulf Maybe that is why Neena Paper paid Blue Wolf to take this mill & assets .Pulp miolls should not be in the position th lord over Our Canadian & Provincial forests the Harvesters should be the ones that say where & what wood goes where & what gets cut monitored by a local commitee of envionmentaly minded people . Northern Pulp has fought back threatening to close every time that they have been asked to comply with environmental guide lines even threatening to take the N.S. Gov. to court if their operations were so clean why do they hide behind an Indemnity Agreement If this Indemnity agreement was squashed they would stop their push to put this effluent into our multi provincial Multy billion rich fishing grounds the seafood buyers already said that they will not buy seafood caught in Effluent waters will Paper Exellence buy the seafood caught bu the fishermen from the provinces along the gulf . will they buy it with Northern Pulp’s Corporate welfare check there w9ill never be any pollution pipe in our Gulf ever!

    • Linda says:

      That pulp mill was a dead horse for years . Pictou co. had enough of the population it caused and putting a pipeline in our strait was the last straw . Pulp mill took enough money out of our government and not pay it back which came out of taxpayers pockets . No pipeline in our waters thank you

  5. Ethel MacLaughlin says:

    So, sad and unnecessary to lose this company.

  6. Walter Hadley says:

    excuse me 35 years ago Ralph young my brother en-law was a a fisheries officer in Pictou county when he found a stream with some black liquid coming from the then Scot paper mill he reported it to the pulp mill staff and to environment Canada in Ottawa. when the leek was still going on after two years he reported it all again this time the response came back to him that it was no lounger his responsibility and not to enter fear Ottawa would handle it from their office . So when i herd the same pulp mill after some name changes is closing because they can no longer dump their poison in the harbor and poison NS waters i started remembering my brother in law Ralph young who patrolled the poisoned waters around that spill in the harbour .now i am reading that Brian Baarda is saying that the mill did not have enough time to correct the problem it seems to me 35 YEARS should have bean enough time . the reason i am telling you about Ralph Young fisheries officer in Pictou Nova Scotia is he died off cancer a couple off years ago RIP Ralph your job is going to be taken care of

    • Mary says:

      That was 35 years ago!!! A lot of Things weren’t healthy then nor did people have the knowledge of how to fix problems. This is 2020! The effluent has been proven non toxic through scientific studies. As far as cancer goes, people are dying all over the world. Is it from this small pulp mill in Pictou County? I think not. A pig headed premier along with a few greedy groups have caused so many families their livelihood! For no good reason. Paper Excellence has complied for years although the government says otherwise because they kept refusing their proposals The government had no intentions approving anything! They however are the ones who haven’t done anything in the last five years. They knew this was going to happen yet made no plan to clean up Boat Harbour which is going to cost Tax payers millions of dollars. Thing is they have made no plans. THEY did nothing the last five years. And as a result all the wildlife living in Boat Harbour will now die once Northern Pulp shuts down and remove their aerators. The stink will be unbearable as it sits there stagnant with no fresh oxygenated effluent flowing into it causing wildlife to die and then probably cancer to the people not to mention people are not going to want to drive into Pictou!! Premier McNeil you have destroyed Pictou County along with thousands of people with your back door deals with China! You have ruined businesses, Real Estate and the lives of many families! No one trusts you or this make believe transition team you have. Most workers don’t even qualify for anything. You are just trying to make yourself sound good – way too late for that!!! You never sound good when you can’t even be found!! At least Paper Excellence is trying to help the workers and other people affected. At least they care which is more than can be said for you!! You are catering to a very racist woman. The things she said about the poor mill workers who were only trying to make a living and support their families and the racist things she said about them was disgusting! Any white man would be In jail for that!! And to think she sits on the Human Rights Board!!! People are working on changing that sherade !!! But you just wait till you stop satisfying her!! She will have you in court which is where you should be now!!! You are not deserving of Premier after the damage and destruction you have caused in this province!!

  7. Jane Sproull Thomson says:

    The history behind this decision is complex and covers fifty years; it cannot be covered in press releases and sound bites. Before you comment, please take some time to inform yourself. “The Mill” by Joan Baxter is a good place to start.

  8. Robin Brown says:

    It is truly unfortunate that science is left behind in many of these comments. The P&P industry has very strict environmental standards to meet, including fish toxicity. The science does not support a belief that the pulp mill is currently harming the fishery. People “feel” it does but feelings and gut instincts can be wrong. In this case, it appears that polarized sides could not discuss pros and cons in a sensible and logical manner. It is tragic when biased politics wins over cooperation, science based discussions and mutual respect.

  9. Stuart Robinson says:

    John Fraser you should step up and purchase the operation you seem to know all about the cost related to running this operation
    they dont close mills for any other reason than costs
    said to see they were not able to make it to the end
    its always easy to say they should do this they should do that
    have you seen the books ( I dont think so )
    good luck John

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