House of Assembly: Premier Rankin & NDP Leader Gary Burrill on Owls Head Provincial Park

Question period: THURSDAY, APRIL 1, 2021

GARY BURRILL: Mr. Speaker, today’s judicial review of the Premier’s action when he was the Minister of Lands and Forestry to move Owls Head from the list of parks and protected areas in preparation for a potential sale, is a judicial review that is drawing a lot of public attention. Why wouldn’t it?

Owls Head is one of 153 areas under the 2013 Our Parks and Protected Areas plan which have never officially been designated as protected, so it’s normal and natural for people to have questions and to be concerned now about the other 152.

Mr. Speaker, what guarantee can the Premier offer the people of the province, particularly the thousands of people who participated in the consultations leading up to the 2013 Park and Protected Areas plan, that other areas in that plan are not also going to be taken from that list?

HON. CHUCK PORTER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows that this is within a judicial review before the courts. It would certainly be inappropriate for myself or any government to make any further comment on that.

GARY BURRILL: Mr. Speaker, one thing that would not be inappropriate would be for the Premier to answer the following question. The context is those many mandate letters that were sent out in recent weeks to the minister who just spoke, to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, to all the range of ministers, and the line there that called on all of them in their work to conduct their work with what’s called a citizen-centred orientation.

Today, citizens are in court two blocks from here contesting the 2019 decision to delist Owls Head, including the government’s decision and failure to consult or even to inform the public about that. Will the Premier explain how forcing citizens to go to court with – how this aligns or is in conformity with his citizen-centred approach?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think it’s very important to listen to all Nova Scotians. The member knows that there are hundreds of citizens that signed the petition that was brought to this Legislature asking for the government to look at a potential project in the referenced area. I’m going to continue to keep my commitments that I’ve run on. Over the last month we’ve announced many of those, and some of our commitments are related to protecting more land across the province – wilderness areas and nature reserves. We’re approaching 13 per cent.

I’m looking forward to bringing more land forward and working with Nova Scotians to protect more land in the province.

GARY BURRILL: Mr. Speaker, as the Premier speaks this morning, on the plaza of the Law Courts the demonstrators have convened in support of the judicial review, and they have done so with a sense of great hope. There’s a great hope amongst those who are assembled there – from where I’ve just returned – that the Premier will show that his words about the environment and about the value of land protection are in fact signifying something real, and that he will show that by reversing his government’s delisting of Owls Head.

Will the Premier tell us whether or not he plans to disappoint them?

THE PREMIER: What I intend to do is to continue to look at sites across the province with the Minister of Lands and Forestry and the Department of Environment and Climate Change. They have a mandate to look at identifying sites from the Parks and Protected Areas plan, as we’ve done in the past.

That referenced land was not protected, Mr. Speaker. We need to look at continuing to listen to communities, consult with communities, and that’s what we’re going to do.


Full transcript available from the Nova Scotia Legislature Hansard. This exchange starts on page 28.

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