Truckers rally to save forestry jobs linked to Northern Pulp

It was an unusual sight along Highway 104 Thursday afternoon.

Dozens of trucks were parked on the shoulder of the road in an attempt by members of the forestry industry to raise support for Northern Pulp.

“This mill shuts down, this industry will pretty much die,” said Matthew MacGillivary, a Northern Pulp contractor. “The people that are lining the side of the highway today will not be here. We will lose our jobs.”

Northern Pulp must close the current Boat Harbour effluent facility by January 2020.

The company has said it plans to build a new $130-million treatment facility, however, it still doesn't have approval.

In a statement, a spokesperson said:

“The environmental assessment process is ongoing, and the environment department has outlined the additional information it needs from the company to properly assess the project's impacts on the environment.”

The mill's owners have previously suggested they may need to shut down operations unless an extension is given.

That's why workers from across the Maritimes rallied Thursday.

“We're asking for the government to give Northern Pulp … the time that it requires to do this facility,” said MacGillivary. “That it needs. That, the province needs. To let it run. We need this.”

Trucking contractor Jeff Black said “if the mill closes, we'll lose approximately two-thirds of the forest industry in the province. The industry's a $2.1 billion dollar industry to the province. I suspect there will be a forest industry, but it will only be a portion of what it is today.”

However, not everyone feels the same. In a statement, Pictou Landing First Nation Chief Andrea Paul said: “I respect their position, however Pictou Landing First Nation continues to stand by the legislated date of Jan. 31, 2020.”

The group Friends of the Northumberland Strait says they have sympathy for the workers, but want to see Boat Harbour cleaned up.

“I question whether they really know what they're asking for, because what they're asking for is a continuation of environmental racism,” said Jill Graham-Scanlan, the president of Friends of the Northumberland Strait.

Graham-Scanlan says Northern Pulp is responsible for the position they're currently in.

“Northern Pulp has had five years to get this plan in place and to allow for the closure of the treatment facility by January 2020,” said Graham-Scanlan.

Meanwhile, workers are hoping a solution can be found before any jobs are affected.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Natasha Pace.