By R Doyle Safire
In Star Trek, Spock said, “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” However when business transactions are struck in Canada, they are often done to benefit one individual or corporation, or in some instances both.
I offer this quote as a backdrop of an ongoing issue on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, where a group of concerned citizens have been fighting to preserve the iconic view planes of Lawrencetown Beach from the encroachment of a proposed 249-foot telecommunication tower.
Over the last 6 years, these citizens have educated and mobilized their neighbors to join in a community effort to prevent their community from being transformed from its post card image of Nova Scotia coastal beauty to one where the signature landmark is a 249-foot tower.
One of the concerns of the community is a process where a private, for profit, company can engage in a lease arrangement with a private landowner to erect a tower without the approval of the local government or the provincial government.
When you look at land use laws, you find that the use of land is a Legislative Authority granted to provinces by Section 92(13) of the Constitutional Act, and can be delegated through provincial law to a Municipality. The Nova Scotia Municipal Government Act has delegated land use regulation to the municipality, which in turn has the legal authority to enact by-laws to regulate the use of and planning of areas within its jurisdiction.
But way back in 1931, the Supreme Court of Canada said that the Parliament could override these provincial and land use laws when it came to matters involving the then-new technology of radio. In a 3-2 decision, the Court ruled that Parliament had the authority to Regulate and Control Radio Communication. Their decision was as follows:
“In the existing state of radio science and in the light of the knowledge and use of the art as actually understood and worked, radio communication is subject to the legislative jurisdiction of the Dominion Parliament.”[Author’s emphasis]
In 1966, Star Trek introduced the communicator, the prototype of today’s cell phones. But despite having moved far beyond the telecommunications world of 1931, the Supreme Court’s 80-year-old court decision is still the basis of today’s tower siting policy, now administered by Industry Canada. This agency allows companies to negotiate leases with private landowners and then to engage in a limited “consultation” with “affected” land owners before being granted approval. The Province’s constitutional rights are not part of the process.
Tower opponents continue to work with the various representatives of government to find a solution. The group is of the opinion that a more strategic way to identify potential sites is possible, and that the province should have a role in co-ordinating this site-selection process with the federal government.
However under the current process, the needs of the company and a single landowner outweigh the needs of the many, the city, and the province. There is a Facebook page with more information and history of the fight against these oceanfront towers at Stop Tower Scapes (https://www.facebook.com/StopTowerscapes/).