A photo of Stephen McNeil
Premier Stephen McNeil. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

Nova Scotia Cabinet ministers met for 90 minutes today, the first meeting in two weeks. Premier Stephen McNeil said he has not yet read the Lahey Independent Review on Forestry received by his government on Tuesday morning. He refused to take a position on any specific recommendation. However, he did say “my sense is whatever change would happen in and around Crown land, there are private woodlot owners and a supply out there that mills and the industry would be able to use to meet their obligation for the amount of fibre they would require.”

McNeil said action would be taken “within the year” on recommendations from Lahey and he expects many recommendations will come up for discussion when the Legislature resumes September 6.

Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin also declined to endorse any specific recommendation but re-iterated his support for the three-pronged ecological model recommended by lawyer Bill Lahey to improve the health of the forests.

The premier was asked to confirm whether the Province has put aside $82 million toward the cleanup of the Boat Harbour site where effluent from the Northern Pulp mill is deposited. The figure was first noted by journalist Richard Starr in his Starr’s Point blog. Starr found the estimate in Public Accounts documents released last month on page 47.

The documents compare last year’s expenditures with what the government had previously budgeted. McNeil said the total amount the province will contribute to the Boat Harbour cleanup is still part of ongoing negotiations with Northern Pulp. He did note the government has a responsibility under an agreement signed in 1995 by cabinet Minister Gerald O’Malley to pay for waste treatment at the pulp mill until 2030.

“We do know there is a liability for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia in closing down Boat Harbour 10 years early,” said McNeil. “We are still in the process of negotiating that amount.”

Cap and Trade

On another front, Premier McNeil was asked why the Province is not sharing with Nova Scotians the details for its cap-and-trade plan to reduce carbon emissions. The plan must be filed with the federal government September 1, only a week away.  If it complies with Ottawa’s objective to slow climate change, Nova Scotians will not pay a carbon tax imposed by Ottawa. McNeil has promised fuel prices will be lower under a cap-and-trade system and polluters won’t have to pay for at least the first three years.

But the province has not made public the draft regulations that will provide the substance and details for how the system will work, or what the limits or caps will be on large carbon emitters such as Nova Scotia Power, Heritage Gas, and Lafarge Canada.

When Nova Scotia passed cap-and-trade legislation last October, then-environment Minister Iain Rankin promised there would be public consultations in the spring but those never materialized. Thursday, the premier had this to say in response to a question about why the government is being so secretive:

We’ve been working with industry about how they will be impacted. We need to verify with Ottawa that our system meets their benchmark. So before we can take it out to people, we need to make sure it is a system that will be acceptable. And as you know, there are ongoing issues around the pricing of carbon across the country and we are following and watching that debate.

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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  1. I’m wondering if Premier McNeil and his cabinet have been getting an early start on the impending legalization of cannabis:

    “McNeil has promised fuel prices will be lower under a cap-and-trade system and polluters won’t have to pay for at least the first three years.”

    On second thought, I don’t think it’s possible to smoke enough pot to make you that stupid.

    Denial is the most powerful drug of all.

  2. Good to see Mr MacNeil working with industry. Now how about working with the people you are supposedly representing? Next election can’t come soon enough.