Nova Scotia

Reopening Donkin coal mine was 'an atrocity,' says Elizabeth May

Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May had strong words about the controversial coal mine in Donkin, N.S., as she made a campaign stop in Halifax Wednesday.

Leader of the federal Green Party says moving away from coal ‘isn’t optional’

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May called for an end to Canada's coal industry and a transition to renewable energy during a campaign stop in Halifax Wednesday. (Robert Short/CBC)

The leader of the federal Green Party says it's long past time for Nova Scotia to move away from coal.

During a campaign stop in Halifax on Wednesday, Elizabeth May said it was "an atrocity" that the controversial underground mine in Donkin, N.S., reopened two years ago.

"We should never, ever, have allowed the Donkin mine to open," she told reporters.

Coal mining in Cape Breton had been dormant for more than 15 years until the non-unionized Donkin mine opened in February 2017, established to tap into a massive coal deposit under the ocean.

Since then, it has been cited for a variety of safety issues, including compliance orders and warnings since January for deficiencies in equipment and procedures. Coal production has been limited to two small areas following a series of roof-falls last year.

Since reopening in February 2017, the Donkin mine has been cited for a variety of safety issues. (Radio-Canada)

A spokesperson for mine operator Kameron Collieries indicated the company might comment later on Wednesday.

While the federal Liberal government has set a deadline to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030, Nova Scotia was granted an exemption to continue its use beyond that deadline.

There is no set date for the province to eliminate coal.

May said Nova Scotia has "specific challenges in a number of areas of the economy," but "the economic opportunities for Nova Scotia are greater in a carbon-constrained world where we focus on industries that benefit this economy."

She said the Greens have allocated $400 million in their budget for a transition strategy for workers in the declining coal sector.

"We don't want to leave any part of Canada behind, we don't want any worker to feel insecure," said May.

The spine of the Green Party's platform is a commitment to a 60 per cent cut in emissions below 2005 levels by 2030, doubling the current 30 per cent target.

May speaks with reporters during a campaign stop. She was joined by Nova Scotia Green Party Leader Thomas Trappenberg, along with candidates Richard Zurawski, Lil MacPherson and Jo-Ann Roberts. (Robert Short/CBC)

May said the party also intends to "decarbonize" Canada's electricity grid and expand it to ensure that renewable energy can be transmitted from province to province.

This would help Nova Scotia's transition away from coal, she said.

"The task force on coal sector workers has already gone out, met with the communities, met with the workers, and Nova Scotia should be able to rely on 100 per cent renewable energy from, for instance, Hydro Québec," said May. 

"There's a lot of renewable energy available to each part of Canada from another part of Canada."

Nova Scotia could also use renewable energy to make money for its municipalities, said May, pointing to the wind turbine in Chester as an example. 

According to the municipality's website, the turbine has generated over $2.8 million for the small town since January 2014.

"Every community should be able to generate its own renewable energy to creating a revenue line to local communities," said May.

May also said that transitioning to 100 per cent renewable energy is both possible and necessary by 2030.

"This isn't optional," she said. "This is what we have to do if we want to ensure that the stability of the global atmosphere and climatic systems allows children alive today to get to their natural lifespan in a world where human civilization functions."

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