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Northern Pulp closure and coronavirus pandemic threaten Nova Scotia’s forestry sector

Over the past few weeks, multiple sawmills in Nova Scotia have closed their doors.

The coronavirus pandemic, combined with the closure of the Northern Pulp mill, has created a “perfect storm” that is threatening the future of forestry in Nova Scotia, according to lumber industry professionals. 

Over the past few weeks, multiple sawmills in Nova Scotia have closed their doors. By April, only one sawmill in Nova Scotia will still be buying wood.

“They made a movie called the Perfect Storm,” Robyn Wilbur, president of Elmsdale Lumber Company, told the Chronicle Herald.

“We’re in it.”

In late December, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil rejected Northern Pulp’s plea for an extension to meet environmental regulations, effectively forcing the paper mill to shut down. 

Northern Pulp had asked for a time extension so they could find an alternative to pumping waste effluent into lagoons near Pictou Landing First Nation, but McNeil said the paper mill had already been given enough time to find a workable solution.

“You shut down our kraft pulp mill and now everyone wants toilet paper,” said Eric Williams, owner of Williams Brothers sawmill.

“People should know that these sawmills would not be shutting down if the province didn’t take away their market for wood chips.”

The closure of Northern Pulp resulted in the loss of 300 jobs at the mill and about 2,400 jobs total in the Nova Scotian forestry sector.

Across Canada, the forestry sector has seen increasing losses and bureaucratic red tape, with provincial governments unwilling to offer significant help to workers.

Thousands have been laid off across British Columbia in the past year as the forestry sector on the west coast continues to crumble.

In December, BC Liberal forestry critic John Rustad estimated that about 80% of the coastal forestry sector is not in operation.

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