Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia MLAs regret Occupy handling

Provincial politicians have officially expressed their regret over how the Occupy Nova Scotia eviction was handled

New Democrat says Halifax council 'bunch of sneaks'

Nova Scotia's provincial politicians have officially expressed their regret over how the Occupy Nova Scotia eviction was handled.

MLAs from all three parties voted unanimously Monday in favour of a motion put forward by New Democrat Howard Epstein.

Epstein said it's clear that Halifax regional council didn't act properly.

"I know from talking to some of the councillors that they perhaps didn't appreciate fully the consequences of what they were consenting to, but really ongoing talks would have been the right way to go," he said.

"Council were a bunch of sneaks," he added.

Epstein's motion:

WHEREAS the Occupy Nova Scotia encampment linked Halifax with more than 900 cities internationally where similar protests, in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, are expressing sharp concerns with the alarming escalation of economic inequality; and

WHEREAS the Occupy Nova Scotia protesters demonstrated great respect for the core values of our community by voluntarily vacating the Grand Parade in order to facilitate observances in connection with Remembrance Day; and

WHEREAS we are blessed in Canada to have a Constitution that includes a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that includes protection of the freedoms of expression and of assembly;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this House notes with regret that the Occupy Nova Scotia supporters and H.R.M. did not resolve their differences through ongoing negotiations.

Mr. Speaker I ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

Council agreed to evict the demonstrators from Victoria Park in a closed-door meeting on Nov. 8. Three days later, on Remembrance Day, police enforced the no-camping bylaw and dismantled tents

Fourteen people were arrested on Nov. 11. Police charged three people the next day, accusing them of egging on other demonstrators after they were ordered to stay away.

Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly has said everything was done properly.

Halifax police Chief Frank Beazley, who decided when to execute the eviction order, has said Remembrance Day was the safest time to act because it was a holiday with few people on the streets.

Epstein said a municipal bylaw does not trump freedom of expression.

He said anyone who questions the relevance of the Occupy movement should look at the bonuses paid recently to executives at AbitibiBowater, which owns the paper mill near Liverpool.

"Here we are with a company that's precarious and lots of individual workers are likely to lose their livelihood and yet executives are granted millions of dollars in bonuses. It's exactly that kind of corporate irresponsibility that the Occupiers are drawing attention to, and so they should," Epstein said.