Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia shelves act that would have made province the first to regulate biodiversity

The Nova Scotia government is shelving a key piece of legislation it introduced less than a month ago. Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin says the Biodiversity Act won't become law, as planned, this spring.

Lands and Forestry Minister promising to bring it back "this mandate"

The Monarch butterfly is listed as endangered in Nova Scotia. (Alain Belliveau)

A marquee piece of legislation introduced this spring by the McNeil government won't be proceeding as planned during this sitting.

Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin confirmed Friday that the Biodiversity Act may need reworking and is being temporarily shelved.

He refused to say when the proposed law might be brought back to the Nova Scotia legislature to resume its path toward becoming law.

"I'm not going to set a timeline," Rankin told reporters at Province House. "We intend to bring it back after we consult more and it will go to committee of the whole, then third reading."

Rankin noncommittal

Asked if it could be back next fall, Rankin was noncommittal.

"Not necessarily, but we intend to meet the commitment in the [Liberal election] platform.," he said. "We'll pass it in this mandate."

Raymond Plourde, the Ecology Action Centre's wilderness coordinator, called the move "quite a last-minute surprise switch-up."

"I guess what I take from it today is that somebody with more influence got this thing stopped," he said.

Plourde was one of 10 people to present to the law amendments committee on March 25, when the public was given an opportunity to comment on the proposed law.

The committee also heard from other environmental groups, as well as forest industry officials and a private land owner. 

All of them recommended changes to the bill, but the Liberal-dominated committee voted to send the bill back to the House unchanged.

Environmentalists concerned

Ploude said it appeared to him that foresters were able to lobby the government to shelve the proposed law.

"It's concerning that this has been stopped at this late hour by the forest industry, at their pleasure, in order to either weaken it, presumably, or stop it altogether," said Plourde.

But Rankin isn't promising any changes, just more talk.

"I wouldn't assume that there will be changes," he said. "We just want to make sure that the understanding of the bill is accurate."

PC MLA Tory Rushton called the temporary halt "a great thing."

"We want to make sure this is going to go right," he said. "This is the first act of its kind in Canada."