By Richard Bell
Gary Burrill, head of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party, told the Cooperator in a phone interview that the NDP intended to challenge the province’s decision to delist Owls Head Provincial Park and sell the land to a golf-course developer, particularly the use of secrecy.
Burrill also dismissed the province’s defense that the land had never actually been protected. “The public in general had a reasonable understanding that these were lands held by province in some kind of special category,” Burrilll said. “ Rankin decided to make a change, from whatever category the land was really in, a change he made without the kind of consultation, of discussion, of sharing information, that a decision of this magnitude always calls for.”
Burrill pointed out that only 5% of the province’s 7,400km of coastline were in public hands, and that we should be talking about protected more coast, and more land in general, to deal with the threats of global warming. “Expanding the protection of lands and coasts is a key question across all of Canada right now,” Burrill said. “It’s a central issue, not a marginal issue. People have every right to assume that removing a designation should have been done in a way that a normally engaged citizen would have been informed.”
Burrill said that making decisions “under the cover of darkness” was all too common in the McNeil administration. He pointed to the government’s decision to use a public-private partnership (P3) model for the redevelopment of the QEII hospital. “The government commissioned a study that said P3 was the way to go,” Burrill said. “But no one outside of government has seen this study. No journalist, no party, and they’re protected it from FOIPOP.
Burrill said that the NDP believed that for people to believe in the integrity of government, the government should be willing to make documents public. “We may endure some criticism, but that’s just part of the democratic process. At the NDP, our standards are such that we have to make materials like this available to the public.” He said the NDP would be raising the Owls Head issue in the upcoming session of the Legislature.