Nova Scotia won't appeal judgment allowing Northern Pulp to prepare lawsuit

·2 min read
The Northern Pulp mill in Abercrombie Point, N.S., as viewed from Pictou, N.S., in December 2019. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)
The Northern Pulp mill in Abercrombie Point, N.S., as viewed from Pictou, N.S., in December 2019. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston says his government will not appeal a recent British Columbia Supreme Court decision clearing the way for Northern Pulp to spend money from a creditor protection fund to help prepare a lawsuit against the province.

The ruling, green lighting the use of $450,000, came last week. Houston has said he disagrees with it, but on Thursday told reporters at Province House that he's leaving the legal decisions to the province's legal team.

"Obviously we're not happy with the outcome," he said.

"I'm not really qualified to make a decision on the merits of an appeal when you look at the legal arguments. The advice that I've received is that this is not a decision that's appealable."

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

Northern Pulp was forced to shut down at the end of January 2020 when it failed to get environmental approval to build a new effluent treatment facility to replace Boat Harbour. Because the Boat Harbour Act, which forced the closure of the site, ended the company's lease about 10 years early, Northern Pulp has argued it's entitled to compensation for lost profits.

Armed with an indemnity agreement a former owner of the mill signed with the province in 1995 that was subsequently renewed by a later government, Northern Pulp officials have already asked for $100 million and said in court filings they could be seeking losses of $450 million.

As he has throughout his time as premier, Houston said Thursday that if the company wants to make its case the place for that to happen is in the courts. He said he doesn't accept the figures the company has submitted as its losses and said there is no agreement on what the company is owed.

"Those aren't even discussions that are happening," said Houston.

"I appreciate that the company is trying to frame the amount, but I don't accept that framing at this stage."

CBC
CBC

Liberal Leader Iain Rankin, who served as premier for six months and was a member of the former Liberal government that passed the Boat Harbour Act with all-party support, said that bill was drafted with the confidence that it "supersedes everything."

"And so, I was prepared to go to court to figure that out and I was not interested in any kind of settlement when I was [premier]," he told reporters Thursday.

Rankin said he thinks the province is in a safe position and noted that the company owes the province $85 million for an outstanding loan.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill said that for a company facing significant challenges re-establishing public confidence, talking about suing the province for $450 million "is very odd."

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