Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia businessman awarded 'bittersweet' $8.2M from province

A Nova Scotia entrepreneur has been awarded millions of dollars from the province for the way in which it went about expropriating land to twin a section of the Trans-Canada Highway, but he's not overjoyed with the decision.

Twinning of TransCanada thwarted company's expansion plans, says Stephen Smith

Highway 104, a section of the Trans-Canada Highway connecting mainland Nova Scotia to Cape Breton Island, is seen on Tuesday, May 24, 2016. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

A Nova Scotia entrepreneur has been awarded more than $8 million from the provincial government for the way in which it went about expropriating land to twin a section of the Trans-Canada Highway in Antigonish County.

But Stephen Smith isn't overjoyed with the decision.

"While a traumatic legal dispute spread over 19 years has finally given me what I was promised I would receive, it is still only partial reimbursement for the many business losses I suffered," he said in a statement. 

"This litigation will only have a happy ending if lessons are learned and changes are made by the government of Nova Scotia."

Smith owned a company called S&D Central Supplies Ltd. that operated seven home-improvement stores in Nova Scotia. The firm was acquired on Jan. 1 by Kent Building Supplies, a division of J.D. Irving Ltd.

One of S&D Central's stores was located on a 20-hectare plot of land in Lower South River, N.S., that was bisected by the new Highway 104 route.

Dispute dates back to 1998

Smith said he had planned to expand his business on that property in part by adding a central distribution centre, but those plans hit a roadblock due to the highway's construction.

After 21 days of hearings, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board issued a decision Thursday saying that Smith was entitled to $8.2 million in compensation, plus interest. 

The award factors in things such as the market value of the land that was expropriated, business losses and other costs, such as building a fence along the new highway route.

It's a far cry from the $266,000 in compensation that Smith claims the Department of Transportation had originally offered.

Province could appeal

The review board noted that one portion of the property was left inaccessible, while the other portion was too small for the company to expand the retail store and build a new distribution centre as planned.

In his statement, Smith called the decision a "bittersweet victory."

One of his chief complaints is that there had been a lack of communication with the province since 1998, when he first learned that two of three proposed routes to twin the highway crossed the property.

Smith said he hopes the decision will make the government think twice about how it handles similar cases of expropriation.

"I am fortunate that I had the financial and legal resources to stand up for my rights as a landowner when it was necessary to do so, but I wish that it had not been necessary to do so," he said.

"I hope the government will take note of the board's comments about how I was treated during this process, if only to ensure that other Nova Scotians who may be facing expropriation do not have to endure what I endured."

The Department of Transportation has 30 days to appeal.

Asked to comment on the decision, a spokesperson for the department said staff are reviewing the decision and "considering next steps."