Owls Head golf proposal could bring much needed economic development, supporters claim.
CBC’s Michael Gorman interviews Margaret Stevens, Seldon Keating, and Ronnie McKay, local residents that live near the proposed golf course development at Owls Head Park. Then, Michael Gorman hears from NDP Leader Gary Burrill about the Owls Head Act. We have transcribed some of the questions and answers below. You can listen to the whole interview here.
March 3, 2020
Without notice or consultation, the government removed the 285 hectares of the coastal Crown Land in Little Harbour from its list of properties awaiting legal protection (that happened last March). The move cleared the way for the province to consider a proposal from a developer, who wants to buy the land to build golf courses. The decision – and how the government went about it – have sparked vocal opposition from environmentalists, scientists, and residents in the area. Some though, are in favour of it. CBC’s Michael Gorman went to Little Harbour to speak with people there about the possibility of development.Information Morning
Michael Gorman: “The government has gone about this without really giving folks a head’s up and a chance to comment on it ahead of time. So, let me ask you first about that. Do you feel like there should have been some public head’s up that this is being considered before the land was made available for it to be sold?”
Margaret Stevens: “I’m yet to figure out how it became a provincial piece of property.”
Seldon Keating: “As far as dealing with politicians […] today, tomorrow, and every day this year, somewhere in Nova Scotia, Canada, right across, there’s going to be deals being made by our provincial and federal governments.”
Michael Gorman: “The other concern, obviously, that’s been voiced, is about what development would do to the area itself. It would obviously have to be pretty drastically changed, environmentally. A lot of fill would have to be trucked in if you were going to build a golf course there. Do you folks have any concerns about environmentally, what a project like this would do to that area?”
Margaret Stevens: “I don’t think so. I don’t see anything. When you look at other golf courses that are built next to oceans. I fish for a living and I don’t see anyone there ever complaining about what they’ve lost since they opened up a golf course. We travelled to Fox Harb’r; we’ve gone there twice now. If we can have what they have, I praise it, I want it.”
Ronnie McKay: “Look, like I said, I don’t mind the golf course, I just don’t like the fact that they’re talking about selling Crown Land to put it in […] I’ve been here all my life, it’s always been Crown Land, and I don’t think it’s right (no matter where it’s at) for the government to be selling anybody Crown Land.”
Michael Gorman: “I take it if you’ve lived out here all your life, you’ve got some experience with the land. When you think about the time you’ve spent on that land, how much work would need to be done there to make that fit to be a golf course?”
Ronnie McKay: “A ton. A ton, it’s all cliffs and swamps. I don’t know how much; I don’t build golf courses. But millions of dollars, I would expect.”
Michael Gorman: And Ronnie, what do you think of this argument, from folks in favour of the idea, that the Eastern Shore needs some sort of economic development, that something like this might be just what the doctor ordered.”
Ronnie McKay: I don’t know. Check the golf course in P… that they built and went out of business, it’s not there no more. And as far as I know, River Oaks is doing alright, but they’re not making great money. This is down in – I won’t say where – but down in nowhere. People just don’t want to come out here; it’s too far to travel.”
Gary Burrill: “Our Owls Head Act says that whenever there is a piece of Crown Land in Nova Scotia that is pending protection as a wilderness area, or as a park, or as a nature reserve, that that pending protected status cannot be rescinded by the government without there being a process of public engagement, public consultation, and the sharing of public information.”
Michael Gorman: “And what do you think of the government’s counter – that consultation was always going to happen, it’s built into the process of selling Crown Land – so what’s the problem?”
Gary Burrill: I think it’s pretty clear, on the Eastern Shore, that people had a general understanding (not a legal understanding but a general understanding) that the government was protecting that land, that that land was not in the for sale category. When they found out about the golf course, the reason people have been so upset is because there’s a big difference between the protected and the for sale categories. All we’re saying in the Owls Head Act is that a government ought not to be able to move [a property] from the protected category to the for sale category without there first being an extensive public conversation. Because after all, that land was put on the protected list, in the first place, as a result of extensive public consultation and the extensive sharing of public information.