MICHAEL GORMAN: Judge reserves decision in Owls Head matter

Michael Gorman
CBC News
April 1, 2021

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Owls Head might never have been a provincial park, but the fact so many Nova Scotians believed it was — and, indeed, even government officials — should have made public consultation a requirement before the province considered selling it, Nova Scotia Supreme Court heard Thursday.

… “The heart of this issue is really the secret removal of a park’s [pending] protected status,” Simpson told the court.

He provided a variety of examples that showed members of the public and provincial government officials believed for decades that Owls Head was a provincial park. Only recently was it learned the land did not carry that designation.

As such, Simpson argued the public was owed a duty of fairness and the chance to comment before members of the treasury and policy board made the decision to delist the property and potentially sell the Crown land at the recommendation of Iain Rankin, who was lands and forestry minister at the time.

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FRANCIS CAMPBELL: Owls Head fate debated in court, premier defends decision, rally calls to stop the sale

Francis Campbell
The Chronicle Herald
April 1, 2021

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Inside the courthouse, lawyer Jamie Simpson challenged Iain Rankin’s March 2019 decision, as then minister of lands and forestry, to remove 285 hectares of Crown property at Owls Head from the protected areas plan and to enter into sale negotiations that would support a golf course development instead.

“The minister had a process in place that led to the parks and protected areas plan,” said Simpson, representing the judicial review applicants, Bob Bancroft and the Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association.

“The decision to remove Owls Head from the plan, absent any notice or consultation with the public, was a marked departure from this established practice,” Simpson said. 

Simpson said it seems the minister and the treasury and policy board was bound to a single outcome, “that is to remove the park from the parks and protected areas plan so that the minister could negotiate a sale to a private interest.”

Simpson argued that Rankin and the Lands and Forestry Department never assessed the property for its economic and ecological value, but instead entered into a discussion to sell the four pieces of property in question for a proposed $216,000, a price based on the land being undevelopable.

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Applicants’ Brief

PRE-HEARING BRIEF SUBMITTED ON BEHALF OF THE APPLICANTS WITH RESPECT TO THEIR APPLICATION FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW

The Applicants in this judicial review challenge the following decisions:

a.the Minister of Lands and Forestry and Treasury and Policy Board’s March 13, 2019 decision to remove Owls Head Provincial Park from the Parks and Protected Areas Plan of 2013; and

b.the Minister of Lands and Forestry’s December 16, 2019 decision to execute a Letter of Offer with Lighthouse Links Development Corporation in order to sell the Owls Head Crown land for private development into resort residences and two or three golf-courses.

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Owls Head Sale Opponents Back in Court

Richard Bell
Eastern Shore Cooperator
August 23, 2020

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Opponents of the proposed sale of Owls Head Provincial Park to an American billionaire took the next legal step forward on August 18 with the filing of an amended version of their January request for a judicial review. A hearing to set a date for the full judicial review will take place on September 23, although the trial itself will probably not take place until 2021.

The amended petition challenges two different secret decisions by Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin:  the decision to de-list the park on March 13, 2019 and the decision to entertain a Letter of Offer with the golf course developer on December 19, 2019.

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Opponents to Owls Head golf proposal will seek judicial review

Company wants to build up to 3 golf courses, a housing development and more

Michael Gorman
CBC News
August 18, 2020

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Armed with a favourable court ruling, a retired biologist and environmental group will seek a judicial review of the Nova Scotia government’s decision to remove 285 hectares of Crown land from the pending protected status list.

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N.S. Supreme Court Grants Environmentalists More Time to Appeal Cabinet Decision

Battle is over Owls Head, a 285-hectare piece of Crown land on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore

Blair Rhodes
CBC News
August 5, 2020

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In a decision released Wednesday, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Kevin Coady granted Bancroft and the forest watch association more time to file their request for a judicial review.

“The Applicants have a reasonable excuse for the delay,” Justice Coady wrote.

Coady added that the applicants “will suffer prejudice if the extension is not granted” but the respondent “will suffer little prejudice” if it is.

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