Nova Scotians must wonder if properties really protected.

Contributed by Dale Smith
The Chronicle Herald/Saltwire
December 14, 2022
Originally published here

Dale Smith (retired) served as manager of parks planning with the Natural Resources Department and as director of protected areas with the Environment Department.

The Cabot Group’s proposed golf course development would not only be devastating in its impact on West Mabou Beach Provincial Park but also threatens all provincial parks in Nova Scotia.

The immediate upwelling of public opposition fully attests to West Mabou Beach’s renown as a crown jewel within our provincial park system. Adding insult to injury, the proposed development brazenly focuses directly on, and would run roughshod over, the most ecologically significant and sensitive elements of the park: its extensive dune system and habitats of rare plants and animals.

The recent contention around golf course proposals for West Mabou and Owls Head surely must have Nova Scotians, locally in the Mabou area and across the province, wondering if our provincial park properties will ever be truly protected from the ambitions of private developers and the presumed entitlements of political operatives.

… Tim Houston’s response to media inquiries about the current Cabot proposal asserted that “if something comes forward, we will look at that” and “there will be extensive public consultation before anything would even be considered.”

The premier’s remarks are, at best, worrisome. If a proposal were to be received and given consideration, the natural integrity of West Mabou Beach immediately would be placed in jeopardy. Furthermore, the precedent set effectively would nullify the perceived protection gains afforded by the designation of Owls Head, and all existing designated provincial parks would be signalled as being open for business.

At the same time, hopefully, there also are grounds for optimism.

To its credit, the Houston government has in fact followed through on the Owls Head designation, has passed progressive legislation to increase land protection and has committed to the development of regulations to protect our iconic ocean shorelines.

Even more encouraging is the premier’s clear position, when in Opposition, as conveyed in an email to the Margaree Environmental Association criticizing Rankin’s fence-sitting regarding the protection of Owls Head:

“My position is that any property on a protected list should stay on a protected list, unless a court directs otherwise.”

Premier Houston, so far you have the high ground on this. Just say no to Cabot.

Read the full piece here.

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