“Public engagement is a requirement of the Letter of Offer, so you’ll be able to have your say.”
This is something you might hear when you speak to your elected representatives. But it’s incorrect and I’ll explain why.
1. Most importantly: A public consultation about the delisting of Owls Head Provincial Park is not the same as a public consultation about the proposed sale and development of Owls Head Provincial Park.
2. Even if there was overwhelming public support (which there is not), that would not retroactively excuse secretly delisting a provincial park reserve. When you truly respect the citizens, you consult with them before you make the decision.
3. The government orchestrated three years of secrecy at the behest of a private developer. Nova Scotians deserve better than this. We deserve transparency and meaningful public consultation.
4. The public consultation process should be run by the Department of Lands and Forestry, not the would-be developer.
The public consultation that should have taken place before the provincial government removed Owls Head from the parks and protected areas list will now fall to the prospective developer of the land.Jim Vibert, The Chronicle Herald
5. The public consultation about the sale and development of this property should be open to every Nova Scotian, each of whom is a stakeholder of Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan. Yet the government’s own Brief from the legal case says that the public engagement requirement in the Letter of Offer is only to “determine whether there is local support for the proposed project.” (Page 3)
And yet, the introduction to Our Parks and Protected Areas: A Plan for Nova Scotia says,
The plan’s success has been authored by you: Nova Scotians committed to protecting and conserving our beautiful province for future generations. It builds on extensive consultations over the last several years involving members of the public and Nova Scotia’s Mi’kmaq community, which helped identify potential lands for protection, and the legislative and policy initiatives necessary to ensure that future generations will also enjoy them.Introduction to Our Parks and Protected Areas: A Plan for Nova Scotia
6. The Letter of Offer states, “The sale of the Property is subject to public engagement being concluded to the satisfaction of the Department.” This is not reassuring, since Premier Rankin (who was Minister of Lands and Forestry at the time) explained that the public consultation process would not give citizens the ability to prevent the development.
“There’s no veto, but from my understanding the developer wants to have a good understanding of what the community wants.”Minister Iain Rankin, as quoted here
If indeed there’s “no veto,” it sounds like the public engagement process is nothing but a box to check. And that’s just not good enough.