JIM VIBERT: Without answers, Rankin’s credibility suffers

Naturalist Bob Bancroft and the Eastern Shore Forest Watch were in court last week making the case that the secret removal of Owls Head from the list denied the public an opportunity to be heard. There was broad public consultation to develop the list.

… Rankin’s defence of the behind-closed-doors machinations was vague and vapid. He talked about listening to Nova Scotians and following the right process.

Yet, all available evidence suggests Rankin and the government listened only to the golf course proponents and their well-connected Liberal lobbyists. As for the process, it was hidden from Nova Scotians, who just happen to own the land.

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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

Full Article Here>

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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FRANCIS CAMPBELL: Owls Head decision, a hot topic in the court of public opinion, goes before a judge

“We’re saying that the minister ought to have let the public know and consulted the public before making the decision to remove Owls Head provincial park from the parks and protected areas plan, in other words to remove its status as protected public land,” said lawyer Jamie Simpson, who is representing applicants Bob Bancroft and the Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association in court.

“It’s been represented to the public as a provincial park for over 40 years and it’s been serving that role, doing what it was set up to do, that is protecting a special part of the province and a special habitat for wildlife and certain rare plants and species at risk. 

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LTE: Money grows on trees

This does not bode well for the renewed promises on the environment that came out of the Liberal leadership race. I also read Bill Black’s puffery piece on Owls Head last week, and still fear for the outcome of that nefarious scheme. If it goes ahead, the messages will be clear: “Business as usual” and “Wealth Trumps all” — pun intended. Has this pandemic failed to teach us anything about looking after this planet and the public good? 

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Golf giveaway

Editorial Cartoon by Bruce MacKinnon

Re: Bill Black’s March 20 column, “Give golf course bid at Owls Head fair shot.” Give them a “fair shot,” Bill? Right between Nova Scotians’ eyes, maybe! 

Mr. Black certainly has a way with numbers, but in his one-sided defence of the sale of Crown land, he neglects to mention the biggest number of all: the fact that at a time when real estate prices are rapidly rising, our government is doing its sneaky best to sell our Owls Head Provincial Park, without any consultation, to two wealthy Americans for a paltry C$326 an acre!

I can see it now on CNN Breaking News: “Nova Scotia’s dumb government is doing its utmost to sell its priceless waterfront parkland to Americans for only US$238 an acre.”

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LTE: Too foggy, buggy

If the public land is destroyed, do folks really believe that the golf course owners will let you wander down the fairways? Do they really believe that buyers will flock to purchase very high-end houses or stay in swanky hotels built around the “links”?

Picture this as you tee up, preparing to drive a long one down to the rocky cliff: The fog is so thick your caddie pulls out his GPS to show you where and how far to aim. After a few practice swings, you step up to the ball, take a deep breath, and after swallowing a dozen or more blackflies, you cough and spit up all you can as you try to steady yourself and catch your breath.

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