Regulations almost complete for Nova Scotia's Coastal Protection Act
Environment Minister Tim Halman says act will come into force in first half of 2023
Nova Scotia's environment minister says the long-awaited Coastal Protection Act is months away from coming into force, but opposition members say that isn't soon enough as people prepare to rebuild following the destruction of post-tropical storm Fiona.
The former Liberal government passed the act in 2019. Among other things, it will guide where new buildings can be constructed in relation to the province's shoreline.
Since then, the province has worked with stakeholders to develop regulations for the act.
Environment Minister Tim Halman told reporters following a cabinet meeting on Thursday that the regulations are almost complete and the plan is to have them before cabinet early in the new year.
Department officials are moving as quickly as they can, said Halman, and it's his goal to have the law enacted in the first half of 2023.
"We want to make sure we implement this correctly because it is going to be a fundamental component in Nova Scotia adapting to the realities of climate change," he said.
The act is also intended to help protect salt marshes, dunes and other coastal features. A big component of implementation will be education about the short-term and long-term impacts of building too close to the coastline, said Halman.
The province would continue to work with municipalities on the issue, but the act will give the government the power to step in, if necessary, to block inappropriate coastline development.
"That's part of the intention of this," said Halman.
"But, again, it's working with our municipalities."
Opposition parties want faster action
Halman said municipal officials are "a critical partner" and have been active in working on developing the regulations.
"They get it. They understand how important this will be in Nova Scotia's overall approach to adapting to climate change."
But as people in areas damaged by post-tropical storm Fiona begin to turn their minds to rebuilding, opposition MLAs said having the Coastal Protection Act in place is an important step to safeguarding people from the effects of climate change.
"That act needs to be in place ASAP," said NDP House leader Susan Leblanc.
Fiona was a significant storm and there are going to be more and more like it, she told reporters.
"We need to be ready for the next one."
No timeline yet for Chignecto Isthmus work
Leblanc and Liberal Leader Zach Churchill also called on the government to speed up the process to protect the Chignecto Isthmus, the vulnerable piece of land connecting mainland Nova Scotia with New Brunswick.
"That's the main link between Nova Scotia and the rest of the country," Churchill told reporters.
"It needs to be protected. It's been a long-standing conversation and we do need to see some action on that."
The province continues to be in talks with New Brunswick and the federal government to determine which of three options it will pursue. Ottawa has told the provinces it could foot half the bill.
Depending on the option selected, the cost of the work is estimated to be between $189 million and $300 million.
$35B trade corridor
Nova Scotia Public Works Minister Kim Masland told reporters on Thursday that there is still no timeline for when an agreement among the three parties will be reached, but she understands the "critical importance of the isthmus."
It's estimated that about $35 billion in trade happens each year via the rail line and Trans-Canada Highway stretching between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
"The Chignecto Isthmus protects our very important trade corridor," said Masland.
"This is a significant project and it is going to take some time to make sure that we use the right approach to make sure that we're protecting our critical infrastructure."
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