Fishers, First Nations fight Northern Pulp mill’s proposed effluent pipeline into ocean

After half a century of discharging contaminated waste into Boat Harbour, the Nova Scotia mill is proposing a new plan to pipe 85 million litres a day of warm treated effluent further into the ocean — where locals fear risks to a critical seafood industry

Northern Pulp mill Nova Scotia
The Northern Pulp mill in Pictou, Nova Scotia, pictured December 6, 2018. Photo: Darren Calabrese

Greg Egilsson, who is chair of the Gulf Nova Scotia Herring Federation, has been fishing here in Caribou Harbour for more than 30 years. He says Caribou Harbour is an important spawning ground for herring and lobsters, a nursery area for rock crabs and scallops.

He points along the shoreline to a fish plant he says employs about 100 people during fishing season.

Egilsson — like hundreds of others who fish the waters of the Northumberland Strait from Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick — is eagerly awaiting May 1 when lobster season starts, and after that, seasons for all the other seafood treasures that come out of these waters.

But this year, the fishers and all the local industries that depend on the inshore fishery, are also waiting for something else — albeit nervously.

On March 29, Nova Scotia’s Environment Minister Margaret Miller will deliver her verdict on the plan by the 52-year-old Northern Pulp mill on Abercrombie Point for a new effluent treatment facility. The minister can either accept it as is, reject it outright, or ask for more information about the planned project. MORE

 

Ford government increasing energy bills and pollution, says watchdog in final report


Dianne Saxe, Environmental Commissioner in Queen’s Park, Ontario on Dec. 6, 2018. Photo by Cole Burston

The Ontario government is increasing energy bills, air pollution, health impacts and greenhouse gas emissions through policies that promote the use of fossil fuels, says the province’s environmental commissioner, Dianne Saxe, in her final report released on March 27, 2019.

Her report notes that the economy in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, relies on fossil fuels for 75 per cent of its energy, which results in a “hefty” health, economic and environmental pricetag.

Under the previous Liberal government, she said this pricetag added up to $24 billion each year to import fossil fuels such as oil, petroleum products and natural gas, between 2010 to 2015.

“If we were even 10 per cent more efficient, Ontarians could save from $1.6 billion to $2 billion every year,” Saxe said in a statement.

But she also noted that Ontario had been making progress in measures to encourage the conservation of energy since 2007. At least until last week, when she said that the Ford government cancelled and reduced funding for “proven, effective conservation programs.”

The report is likely the last one to be published by Saxe in her current role. She is expected to leave on April 1 as the Ford government proceeds with plans to reduce powers of her position and merge it into the office of the auditor general. MORE

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Liberals block new SNC-Lavalin ethics probe as Trudeau insists his team is ‘more united than ever’

Prime minister downplays caucus divisions over SNC-Lavalin affair


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Liberal caucus is more united than ever, despite divisions over the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair. (Patrick Doyle/Reuters)

Liberal MPs have voted down an opposition motion to launch a Commons ethics committee probe into the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who broke with party ranks to vote in favour of an NDP motion calling for a public inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin matter, said he opposes an ethics committee hearing at this time because it is “premature.”

He pointed out that the justice committee is still awaiting a written submission, texts and emails from former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, the Liberal MP whose allegations of political interference in her work as attorney general touched off the scandal which has dominated federal politics for weeks.

“To me, it makes far more sense to see what is said in that statement, to see how justice reacts to that and whether they think any of that new information is something worth reconsidering their previous decision to close off their study,” Erskine-Smith said.

Apart from Erskine-Smith, no other Liberal members spoke during the committee meeting. He said the Liberal members met before the meeting began and decided he would speak for the group.

Frustrated Conservatives called the vote further evidence of a government effort to sweep a scandal under the rug.

“Liberals had a chance to put their votes where their mouths were, and instead they decided to vote for another coverup,” said Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre.

Conservative MP and ethics critic Peter Kent had drafted a motion to launch an inquiry, call former cabinet ministers Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott to testify by April 5 and formally request that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broaden a waiver to allow them to speak freely. MORE

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SNC-Lavalin controversy shows danger of dabbling in economic nationalism


Seven weeks of carnage in Canadian politics prove Justin Trudeau’s choice to stare down the independence of the justice system for the benefit of a corporation was a bridge too far, Heather Scoffield writes.  (JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

If economic nationalism exists on a spectrum, where Donald Trump’s America is at one end, and hands-off, open economies are at another, Canada has traditionally been somewhere in the middle.

Yes, politicians advocate for Canadian corporations, negotiate trade deals on their behalf, and deal in programs and incentives to encourage their growth. But no, they don’t force companies to locate here, or compel trading partners to buy their wares, or jimmy with Canadian institutions to pave the way.

The SNC-Lavalin controversy shows the gravitational pull of the Trumpian side of that spectrum. But if there’s anything that’s heartening in the vitriol that has infected the public discourse on this matter, it’s that Canadians seem to generally agree: don’t go too far in that direction.

From day one, SNC-Lavalin has made little secret that Ottawa should head to that place. MORE

Votes in B.C. and P.E.I. give the Greens two shots at making history


Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has been her party’s sole MP since 2011. That could change with the Nanaimo–Ladysmith byelection on May 6. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has been her party’s sole MP since 2011. That could change with the Nanaimo–Ladysmith byelection on May 6. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)The stars could be aligning for the Green Party of Canada to catch a lucky break — and just in time for October’s federal election.

A federal byelection in the B.C. riding of Nanaimo–Ladysmith gives the Greens a chance to make a pre-election breakthrough. Nanaimo–Ladysmith is one of the party’s target ridings and the byelection there could take place just days after a provincial Green Party makes history in the smallest province.

Voters in Nanaimo–Ladysmith will be heading to the polls on May 6 for a byelection — the last opportunity Canadians anywhere will have to cast a federal ballot before the scheduled general election on Oct. 21. It follows the resignation of former NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson, who quit her seat to mount a successful bid for provincial office.

The timing couldn’t be better for the Greens. Last night, the P.E.I. government announced the next provincial election will be held April 23.

Normally, a provincial election in P.E.I. wouldn’t have any implications for a federal contest at the other end of the country. But the Greens are leading in the polls in P.E.I. If that lead holds, the Greens could form their first government anywhere in Canada. MORE

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Greens in lead as Liberal premier calls Prince Edward Island election for April 23

Climate emergency demands less traffic, more walkable cities


Wikimedia Commons photo of Paris street

The climate emergency exploded onto the headlines in 2018, with a relentless series of disasters leading up to the UN COP 24 climate conference in December. But the people cutting climate pollution by creating delightful urban spaces on an unprecedented scale should be headline news in 2019.

I experienced some of this climate action in October, joining throngs of Paris residents enjoying warm fall days on the new linear park along the River Seine. At the time the national government of France was in court attempting to get this well-loved park turned back into the noisy, congested national highway it was previously (except during summer festivals). The court ruled in favor of year-round access and climate action while I was in Spain.

Photo of busy riverside park in Paris, which was formerly a highway, by Eric Doherty

 

Anne Hidalgo is the Mayor of Paris and Chair of C40 Cities, a group of large city governments committed to the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement. “Cities have been the loudest voices calling for bold and urgent climate action, because we are conscious of the threat it poses to our citizens […] Cities are ready to lead on the transformations necessary to secure the future that we want” said Hildago in a C40 media release.

Hildago is aiming to rapidly cut automobile traffic by 50 per cent, and has already cut traffic volumes significantly. Paris’s successes have largely been achieved by re-allocating space to transit lanes, protected bicycle lanes, pedestrianized streets and plazas, and most famously by creating linear parks along the River Seine. These actions are popular, and not just because they create nicer urban spaces and reduce local air pollution. MORE