Nova Scotia

Provincial government reviewing process used to delist Owls Head provincial park

Nova Scotia’s new minister of natural resources and renewables says he wants to know more about the process the former Liberal government used to remove the pending protection status from a piece of Crown land so it could be considered for sale to a private developer.

Minister of natural resources and renewables has started briefings on the matter

This picture shows Little Harbour in the upper left, private land in the foreground, and the Owls Head park reserve in the upper right. (Nova Scotia Nature Trust)

Nova Scotia's new minister of natural resources and renewables said Thursday he wants to know more about the process the former Liberal government used to remove the pending protection status from a piece of Crown land so it could be considered for sale to a private developer.

"We don't agree with how things rolled out with the previous government," Tory Rushton told reporters following a cabinet meeting.

Still, Rushton stopped short of saying the new Progressive Conservative government would cancel the potential sale of what's known as Owls Head provincial park to an American couple.

The couple, Beckwith and Kitty Gilbert, want to develop the 285 hectares, along with adjacent property they own in the Little Harbour area, to build up to three golf courses, housing and tourist accommodations.

"I haven't been fully briefed on this whole file yet," said Rushton. "That's something that is ongoing with other ministers and the premier, as well, right now."

Rushton said the process to gather that information started Wednesday and will continue.

NDP leader calls for process to be halted

The former Liberal government quietly delisted the land in 2019 so it could enter into an agreement to potentially sell the land to a company called Lighthouse Links, which is owned by the Gilberts.

Opponents to the move have condemned what they see as the secretive approach the former Liberal government used, and that the kind of development the Gilberts are proposing would destroy a sensitive and globally rare ecosystem.

Supporters of the project, meanwhile, say it would create much-needed economic development and jobs.

Tory Rushton is Nova Scotia's minister of natural resources and renewables. Rushton says he is in the process of being briefed on the Owls Head file. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Before the provincial cabinet can ultimately make a decision on whether to sell the land, the Gilberts must engage in public consultation using a plan the government must first approve, as well as satisfy all requirements under provincial environmental regulations.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill said the Tories should simply cancel the potential sale.

"I think the government needs to send a signal in this moment of the twin emergencies of biodiversity and climate change, that it understands that this is at the top of the order paper, that conservation is not some peripheral matter, a sidebar," he said.

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