By Richard Bell
In a phone interview with the Cooperator, Brad Johns, Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party critic for the environment, was blunt about the province’s decision to delist Owls Head Provincial Park and sell the land to a golf-course developer: “The fix is already in."
Johns said that his party supported exploring opportunities for economic development, but that the time for public consultation was before making a decision, not after. “What they’ve done is put the cart before the horse here.”
“How can the pubic expect a fair and open process, “Johns said, “if government is negotiating in secret with private businesses, meeting with a former MLA who’s now working for the golf company, with no public consultation, over an area that’s already been recognize by numerous people to be a rare ecosystem.”
“Part of purpose of having a registry of protected lands is to recognize important areas of our environment,” Johns continued. “It seems like the government is sneaking around the whole concept of protected areas to promote development.
If you believe the environment is important, if you really believe the environment is important, then the environment’s important all the time, not just when it’s convenient for you to say it’s important. “[Johns’ emphasis].
Johns pointed out there were other examples of the McNeil government operating in secrecy, or spending tax dollars on court fights to prevent the public from finding out what the government was doing, like refusing to reveal the “management fees” to the company responsible for the Yarmouth ferry fiasco, or its current appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, after losing in all lower courts, to refuse to release documents showing what the province’s instructions were to a lawyer who was fired after he described the Mi’kmaq as a “conquered people” in court.
Johns is planning to raise the Owls Head issue at the next sitting of the Legislature, but his expectations are low. “My hope is that we have the opportunity when the House goes back in,” Johns said. “I will certainly bring it up. I have already talked briefly to Minister Iain Rankin, but haven’t heard back yet. I’m also a bit of a realist though. There are so many questions around this decision, it looks like the fix is already in, or they wouldn’t have removed the land first, and then told us about it.”