Ottawa Withholding Northern Pulp Assessment Recommendation Until After Federal Election

The public will not be allowed to know whether a federal environmental assessment was recommended for Northern Pulp’s proposed effluent treatment plant before it is a moot point.

According to the legislation governing it, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency had 45 days from Northern Pulp’s Jan. 31 registration of its controversial project with the province to determine whether a significantly longer federal assessment would be required.

With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau having suggested it was a provincial responsibility during a recent visit to Prince Edward Island, The Chronicle Herald sought to find out whether staff at the federal agency responsible for conducting federal assessments shared that point of view.

So we filed a freedom of information request with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to get a copy of the recommendation they were mandated to provide Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna by mid- March.

On Thursday the CEAA responded that they will need 150 days to find the recommendation they made to McKenna and to consult with her department on releasing it.

The notice of a 120-day extension to the legislated requirement of a response within 30 days, adds that if McKenna’s department challenges the release of the recommendation, it could take longer.

That would, coincidently, push the release of the recommendation until after the federal election scheduled for Oct. 21. The Chronicle Herald is appealing the delays.

“They told us it wouldn’t be political but we’re certainly beginning to think that it is,” said McCarthy.

“We’re still in disbelief that a decision (on a federal assessment) hasn’t been made yet because as soon as (Northern Pulp) puts shovels in the ground the feds are automatically out of it.”

McCarthy said that a history of backroom dealing between the provincial government and the mill has created a climate of distrust in Pictou County. The federal agency’s refusal to release the recommendation it made to another federal department that is dragging its feet on the decision adds to that distrust.