Four years after it was passed, N.S. still has no timeline to bring Coastal Protection Act into force
Opposition MLAs say the government seems to be trying to avoid making the act law
Opposition MLAs say it makes no sense for the Nova Scotia government to continue delaying proclamation of the Coastal Protection Act, especially in light of the floods that devastated parts of the province last weekend.
"The only conclusion you can reasonably come to is that there is something or someone or some people who don't want this act to pass," NDP Leader Claudia Chender told reporters on Thursday.
"The excuse of consultation, frankly, is ridiculous."
The act was passed with all-party support in 2019, but its proclamation has been stalled because the Tory government wants to do a third round of consultations on regulations for the legislation.
When it comes into force, the act would specify where people can and cannot build in the province so they are protected from the vulnerabilities of climate change.
Environment Minister Tim Halman has missed several self-imposed timelines and last month could not say when the latest round of consultation would take place or how it would look.
Premier Tim Houston said Thursday it is important for the government to consult again with property owners along the 13,000 kilometres of Nova Scotia's "diverse" coastline before the act comes into force.
"I don't personally think this can be or should be a one-size-fits-all, so that's why I think it's important to have those consultations with communities around the province," he told reporters following a cabinet meeting in Halifax.
The coastline is near and dear to Nova Scotians and people must be heard from before any changes to potential use can take place, said Houston.
Chender said Houston seems more concerned about some private property owners being able to do whatever they want than he is about the potential ramifications of not putting safeguards in place for the coastline.
"Nova Scotians enjoy their coast, yes, but we need to protect it on their behalf," she told reporters.
"That takes leadership. That's the job of the government and I think they're abdicating their responsibility."
Chender said successive governments, including Houston's, have regularly passed bills with little to no consultation before proclaiming them. It seems odd that the Tories would want this additional level of consultation, she said.
Liberal MLA Braedon Clark said it "defies logic" that the Tories would not act more quickly given that the frequency and severity of weather events is increasing.
"And it is particularly difficult for coastal areas, which of course is a huge amount of this province," he told reporters.
The Tories appear uncomfortable with the bill and seem to want to prevent proclamation by dragging out the consultation process as long as they can, said Clark.
"We're now less than two years away from the next general election and I have my doubts as to whether or not it will be proclaimed before then."
Houston told reporters that no one has lobbied him or members of his government on the file.
The premier said legislation is not the only way to protect the coastline and that municipalities could do it through zoning and planning bylaws.