Between meetings yesterday I had about an hour to fill. I had just read about Northern Pulp and the provincial decision to ban how it handles effluent and the resulting closure of the mill. I decided to search Twitter for “Northern Pulp” to gauge the Twitterverse reaction the closure of one of the larger private sector employers in all of rural Nova Scotia.
I must have scrolled through at least 300-400 tweets and almost all – except for a few – were jubilant in their praise of government for this decision. I didn’t count but I think it was less than 10 that were shocked and outraged by the closure.
I’m not going to weigh in on Northern Pulp or the history of the mill or the how it handles effluent or the fact it didn’t abide by a provincial directive. The government might have been fully justified in its action. Northern Pulp could have been the Beelzebub of corporate citizens. I’m just surprised that there wasn’t more sadness at the loss of hundreds of good paying jobs, the hundreds of small firms and foresters that relied on the mill for their livelihood.
International pulp and paper exports from Nova Scotia were worth $500 million in 2018. A large share of those export dollars flow right back into the province each year in the form of wages, supply chain spending, capital spending, etc. Of course, Northern Pulp did not account for all the value of those exports, but it was a significant share.
This is not to mention the impact on Nova Scotia Power which had offered the firm a ‘load retention rate’ because of its importance as a baseload user of electricity.
No speculation of how much more money the taxpayer might be on the hook for the $300 million in outstanding loans to the firm and site remediation costs.
No queries of whether the $50 million offered to help workers cope with the closure could have been used to help solve the mill’s effluent problem.
This $50 million transition fund offered by the province will hardly cover the one year wages that will be lost from the closure.
The GDP contribution from the forest products industry in Nova Scotia was in the midst of a growth spurt rising by 21 percent between 2012 and 2018. This will more than kill that rally.
The good news is that wood pulp still has value and hopefully there will be some economic opportunity to use the resource.
Again, I’m not speaking on the merits of the government decision. Maybe thousands of people took to Twitter after my initial scan to decry the loss of jobs and economic activity.
But the initial reaction on Twitter, for me, was disturbing.