April 1, 2021
Public litigants make the case that the Government of Nova Scotia should have consulted the public before removing Owls Head Park from the province’s Parks Program and entering into agreement to sell it to land developer
Today, Justice Christa Brothers of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia will hear arguments in a judicial review of the Minister of Lands and Forestry’s decisions to de-list Owls Head Provincial Park from the Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan and to enter into an agreement to sell the land to a private company, Lighthouse Links, for development into a golf resort.
The applicants, Robert Bancroft and the Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association, have argued that the province should have consulted the public before de-listing Owls Head. The park, while not legally designated under legislation, had long been thought to be a park. Additionally, it has been managed by the Department as a park for many years under its Parks Program.
“For forty years the people of Nova Scotia have trusted successive governments which assured us that Owl's Head was protected as a Provincial Park. Governments must be required to tell the truth about public land, and to consult the public when such a major decision is contemplated”, says Barbara Markovits, a director of the Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association.
The outcome of the judicial review could have wide-ranging consequences for the public’s interest in having its parks and specially protected Crown lands, which are managed for the benefit of present and future generations, set aside in favour of private development.
Bob Bancroft pointed out the need for governments to act more in the public’s interest as a key issue. “The secrecy of this government in de-listing this park to offer it for private sale at a bargain price, and its cavalier attitude about transforming a biologically rare coastal site into golf courses that will pollute the ocean, shines a spotlight on elected officials who are not acting in the public interest”.
Ms. Markovits also pointed to the broader impact the decision might have for other protected Crown Land. “The secret decision to de-list Owl's Head from the Parks and Protected Areas plan was wrong. Of the more than 200 Provincial Parks in Nova Scotia, over 100 are not legally designated, like Owl's Head. If this decision stands, the government could sell them all tomorrow.”
The judicial review hearing will begin at 9:30 AM at the Law Courts in Halifax.
Barbara Markovits 902-845-2620
Bob Bancroft 902-386-2501
Jamie Simpson 902-817-1737
Mike Kofahl 902-494-7121