Nova Scotia

Liberal leadership candidate Zach Churchill floats potential of uranium development

The two candidates for leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party met for their second debate on Monday.

Angela Simmonds calls for improved credentialling system for immigrants

Nova Scotia Liberal Party leadership candidates Zach Churchill, left, and Angela Simmonds in a photo from last month's debate in Halifax. The two had their second debate Monday in Sydney. (Nic Takushi)

Yarmouth MLA Zach Churchill said it's time to move beyond political taboos as he advocated for responsible natural resource development — including uranium — during the second leadership debate for the Nova Scotia Liberal Party.

"We can't have this mentality that all resource development is a bad thing," the former cabinet minister said during the debate Monday night at Centre 200 in Sydney.

Churchill said the province has minerals and precious metals integral to the tools necessary to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. That extends to uranium, he said. Nova Scotia has had a moratorium on mining and exploration of uranium since 1981. Churchill said uranium can be used in the pursuit of nuclear energy and its extraction can help reduce the risks of radon gas.

"We're sitting on a pile of it in Nova Scotia ... the value of it right now is incredible, not just economically but to the planet," he said.

Churchill said balancing the pursuit of resource development is the government's role to have a "fair, objective, science-based regulatory process that protects people, communities and the environment."

Helping rural economies

Resource development and support for rural economies, along with immigration, were the topics of focus during the debate, which was hosted by former CBC Radio host Ian McNeil.

The other contender in the race, Preston MLA Angela Simmonds, said one of the best ways to invest in rural Nova Scotia is to make sure there are not two tiers of service. She pointed to reliable high-speed internet as an example.

"If you have a customer come in and have to wait 45 minutes or a half-hour for a debit machine to go through, how many customers are standing behind that one? It is essential that you have internet service and you have services that are viable here in this province for you to do your business, for you to be engaged in this province, to be relevant."

Simmonds, whose ideas and proposals during the debate were generally less detailed than Churchill's, also called for the creation of a rural strategy, to be developed in consultation with a variety of partners, including municipal leaders.

Churchill said one of the best ways to help rural communities capitalize on renewed interest as people move to those areas, is to address the housing crisis those communities face.

Ways to enhance immigration

He advocated for allowing people to expand housing on their own property by allowing them to tap into affordable housing grants currently reserved for developers.

"Why can't every Nova Scotian who wants to put a nanny suite on their house or a micro home in their backyard or build a cottage or duplex on their property get access to this funding?"

On immigration, Churchill called for expanded streams that would include refugees, families and a municipal program, while improving the efficiency of existing pathways.

Simmonds, meanwhile, called for more support for settlement services to help people feel welcome when they arrive. She said the province should also examine a credentialling system that would identify people working in in-demand fields elsewhere, such as health care, and then help them with the necessary steps required so they can work in those same fields here.

"And we need to be creatively thinking about ways we support them to be able to work faster here and be part of our community."

The final debate is June 6 at White Point Beach Resort. Party members will select their next leader at a convention on July 9.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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