The Chronicle Herald
Letters to the Editor
August 7, 2021
Originally published here
Legal, not moral
It’s easy to assume that the law is a mirror image of morality. But that is not always the case.
The McNeil government, ignoring decades of consultation between previous governments and the public, secretly delisted Owls Head Provincial Park from the Parks and Protected Areas and entered into a covert agreement to sell the 700 acres to Beckwith and Kitty Gilbert, two U.S. billionaires, for $216,000.
As Crown land, Owls Head Provincial Park belongs to all of us. The park is also part of Mi’kma’ki, unceded Mi’kmaw territory. However, when the park was delisted, it was then minister of Lands and Forests, Iain Rankin, who made the decision not to inform the general public or the Mi’kmaw community. And later, when the Gilberts’ lawyers asked that consultation with the public and with the “Aboriginal community” be withheld until the sale was finalized, Rankin agreed.
On July 30, Justice Christa Brothers ruled that these secret negotiations between the Gilberts and the Liberal government did not violate the law.
Governments are charged with making decisions for the benefit of the people they serve. The secret agreement to sell Owls Head Provincial Park to wealthy U.S. citizens did nothing to serve the interests of Nova Scotians. If the sale goes through, Nova Scotians will be deprived of a ruggedly beautiful environment formed by glaciers 10,000 years ago. The Gilberts will own the land, which they intend to destroy in order to build as many as three golf courses and a number of high-end estates.
While legal, it is impossible to make a case that these McNeil/Rankin negotiations with the Gilberts meet any standard of decency.
Peter Barss, West Dublin
Contempt for voters
The recent ruling by Justice Christa M. Brothers of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court on the proposed Owls Head golf course sweet deal exposes more smoke and mirrors than any logical voter would imagine.
Under the legislative fine print, The Tartan Sultan and The Pretender did nothing wrong! Wow! Why, there was no real legal protection at all!
Silly voters! Didn’t they remember Nova Scotia’s motto: NOIRANOIA — No One Is Responsible And No One Is Accountable?
The under-the-table aspect of this bothers me. The lack of respect for the voters of Nova Scotia — well, that’s no surprise to me at all.
Bruce Ellis, Dartmouth
Owls Head spinning
Many of us have watched in dismay as real-estate bidding wars between out-of-province buyers push the price of home ownership beyond the reach of most Nova Scotians. Prices for vacant land have followed a similar pattern.
Current listings for half a dozen parcels of land on the Eastern Shore, only one of which has ocean frontage, show asking prices ranging from $21,000 to $200,000 an acre.
Imagine, then, being able to buy five miles of ocean frontage in that same vicinity for just $306 an acre. “Impossible!” you say. But no, this was precisely the deal negotiated in March 2019 by Iain Rankin as minister of Lands and Forestry by delisting over 700 acres of land, designated at the time as Owl’s Head Provincial Park.
The buyer, an American hedge-fund manager, proposed (and presumably still plans) to spend $12.6 million grinding the previously designated “ecologically significant” terrain into sand for a golf resort. No hint of this remarkable giveaway of public land was revealed until December 2019 when a CBC reporter was able to divulge what he’d discovered from months of freedom-of-information excavations.
Clearly, there is much more to this strange story than what has so far been revealed. Thus far, the Liberal talking point on the subject seems to be that “it was never a park” — true only if one ignores the mapping that’s since been scrubbed from the relevant government websites. The PC leader appears to be firmly on the fence and only the NDP has taken a position that this preposterous “deal” must be cancelled.
Gillian Thomas, Wolfville
Provincial Supreme Court Justice Christa Brothers may have made her ruling on Owls Head based on a technical detail of a legal nature: that the government did nothing illegal in trying to “give” (you might as well say) this public property to a foreign billionaire, but it certainly wasn’t the moral one.
Iain Rankin, Stephen McNeil and Michel Samson showed complete disrespect for the scientists and other stakeholders who carried out a thorough public hearing and ecological assessment in the 1990s to put those pieces of public land on a list to be protected.
It took 30 years for politics to sink low enough for the hollow men to get control in order to carry out schemes that, before, would have been unthinkable. But with no moral compass to guide their actions, they ignored the will of the people. This speaks volumes about lack of character.
Instead, these pretenders “act” like they “care” by using “the politics of the English language” (as George Orwell explained in his essay of the same name) to manipulate the system for their covert agenda.
Here’s Orwell: “Political language (and, with variations, this is true of all political factions, from Conservatives to anarchists) is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
How true does this quote ring when thinking of the Owls Head Provincial Park debacle and other instances. Note Rankin’s clumsy and deceptive use of language for his own ends. For example, “I was found innocent” on a drunk-driving charge in 2005, or when he stated that consultation with the Mi’kmaq regarding Owls Head “will take place after the sale” to an American billionaire. This spreads a heavy fog that obliterates a clear sky of moral character.
So will we get a leader of character whose moral compass doesn’t allow for debasing the language like this? Or will we end up with a “care actor” who oppresses and abuses the language with whatever words will conflate, control or confuse? It’s the big con where we end up in a tawdry tragedy of nothing that is true, beautiful or good; nothing of scientific or cultural value. Just a poseur on top, flattening us all.
Joanne Light, Cornwallis Park