N.S. environment minister cannot say when Coastal Protection Act will become law
The bill was passed in 2019 and regulations are still not complete
Nova Scotia Environment Minister Tim Halman is backing away from a pledge to bring the long-delayed Coastal Protection Act into force this year.
Last fall, Halman said the regulations for the act were almost complete and he planned to present them to his cabinet colleagues, so the act could be proclaimed in the first half of 2023.
But on Tuesday, the minister told reporters that he's instructed officials in his department to engage in a "targeted" round of community consultation due to concerns too many property owners "don't even know the act exists."
"We've got to get these regulations right," said Halman.
"We've got to ensure Nova Scotians understand what the regulations are about; it's evident a lot of property owners don't."
The former Liberal government passed the act in 2019. It's intended to spell out the location of new development in relation to the shoreline, as well as protect salt marshes, dunes and other coastal features.
Community consultation first happened in 2018 after the bill was introduced at Province House, followed by another round in 2021 as the regulations were being developed.
Liberal environment critic Iain Rankin was part of the government that passed the bill and was environment minister during "rigorous" consultations with municipal officials across the province.
In an interview Tuesday, he said Halman shouldn't delay any longer.
"I think it's ridiculous, frankly. We did significant consultation from the time we passed the act."
Rankin said it is "besides the point" if people are still unaware of the act, which would outline where it is and is not safe to build as the impacts of climate change become more severe.
"We're in a point in time now where we need to protect people," he said.
NDP environment critic Susan LeBlanc said it is unacceptable that the government still has not proclaimed the act at a time when sea level rise and coastal erosion becomes an increasing problem.
If people are unaware of the act, LeBlanc said the government should educate them, but that should not add any further delay to proclamation.
"I am all for community consultation," she said in an interview.
"It's already happened and now the time is for community education."
Halman could offer no estimate for when the regulations would be complete and the government would be ready to bring the act into force.
"At this juncture, we're focused on consultations. I can't speak to specific dates."