Who Will Win the Game of Thrones?

by IronEclipse on November 10, 2017 - 11:11pm

There is a lot at stake in terms of power for Nova Scotia residents living in the Halifax community. Why, you may ask? A battle currently wages on three fronts – the first concerns the Canadian government, more specifically officials within the ministry of Environment and Climate Change. Northern Pulp, a manufacturing industry dedicated to processing bleached softwood into pulp, is the second player in this equation. The third and final participants in this confrontation are the people living and thriving in the Halifax community.

Why is this battle so significant? Is there a reason why such a standoff requires a comparison to a Game of Thrones?

Every war requires a victor; the winner of such a confrontation will ultimately determine the quality of air in Nova Scotia for years to come. For approximately three years, Northern Pulp has violated the air pollution limits set by the Canadian government. Unfortunately, despite the clear risks and challenges at hand, there is one obvious contradiction to this story.

As of September of 2017 government officials imposed – and then retracted – a $697 dollar fine on Northern Pulp as a result. Yes, you read that declaration correctly; the Canadian government withdrew a viable charge on a company known to ignore environmental protocols and regulations. Chrissy Matheson, an Environmental Department spokesperson said in a statement to CBC news, “It was discovered that there were some technical difficulties during the June and August tests that were immediately addressed. The summary offence ticket for June was retracted because of this.”

In terms of technological unpredictability, this statement is acceptable. Unfortunately, with a tarnished emissions record that spans over three years, it is simply redundant. Limits were exceeded in March 2015, September 2015, June 2016, and December 2016, all releases of air pollutants exceeding 150 milligrams per cubic meter, the allotted amount accepted by the government. The highest measurement recorded was collected in June of 2017; the emissions reached approximately 224 milligrams per cubic meter. Despite such a high concentration of air pollution, the Canadian government refuses to acknowledge the infringement or enforce some form of punishment. To make matters worse, individuals within the public are completely left in the dark. Paul Sobey, a community member states, “Why are they not meeting the tests and why are the tests not being enforced by the government?” Other citizens from the surrounding area feel as though the government is failing to “work with people in regards to the issue.”

If the government continues to act in a manner that disregards transparency, not only will air quality decline at an increased rate, but Northern Pulp will resume its production and proceed to violate the proposed emissions limits illustrated above. If Halifax is to survive and thrive in such a volatile environment and perhaps play a part on an even battlefield, it is imperative that individuals within the community strive to be heard. This can take the shape in various public participatory measures such as citizen-led science. Methods such as this can hold the both the government and various companies accountable to their actions. In terms or resource management, techniques such as this are very effective, as figures within the public collecting research feel as though they are involved with legislative processes.

Some individuals may argue that participatory research methods such as this only serve to undermine government power or threaten the very foundations that constitute the Canadian government. On the contrary however, it can be argued that processes of this magnitude are simply a responsibility of the state. The state – in this case Canada, gains power as a result of the demands of its citizens. As such, if individuals stress the need for transparency and a ‘green’ attitude, the state is obligated to maintain environmental integrity, conserve ecological areas, manage resources in an efficient manner, and most importantly, protect the quality of the air. The government is expected to lead by example and harness the data collected within the public sphere.

Perhaps the above issue does not convey the true seriousness of an actual Game of Thrones, but in terms of resource management, the battle for recognition and power is quite similar. It is clear that much can be lost and gained. There is more than dignity, respect, and most notably power hanging in the balance; democracy, the very essence of Canadian society, is at risk. The citizens within Halifax must hold the government and Northern Pulp liable to activities that degrade both the quality of the environment and the air, otherwise the battle to protect the environment and the surrounding community will ultimately be lost.

Works Cited

Mitchell, B. (2015). Resource and Environmental Management in Canada. (5th Edition). Don Mills: Oxford University Press. 
Withers, P. (September 20, 2017). $697 air pollution fine levied – then withdrawn – against Northern Pulp last year. Retrieved from (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/novascotia/northern-pulp-pollution-fine-