A dozen Nova Scotia municipalities have joined the Ecology Action Centre (EAC) in demanding the province implement Coastal Protection Act (CPA) regulations.
In a media release Monday, the EAC said six municipalities have joined them in signing a joint statement. Another seven municipalities sent individual letters to the Nova Scotia government — this includes Pictou County, which also signed the joint letter.
In the joint statement dated Monday Nov. 6 and sent to Minister of Environment and Climate Change Tim Halman, the EAC, and Pictou County — along with the towns of Clark’s Harbour, Bridgewater, Kentville, Lunenburg, and Digby — expressed “deep disappointment” over the decision to delay regulations for the act.
That joint letter calls on the province to immediately release and implement the regulations “before any more reckless development puts our communities and ecosystems further at risk.”
The letter said because we’re in a climate emergency, the delay is “irresponsible and unacceptable.”
“A vast majority of Nova Scotia’s coast has no significant development regulation,” the letter said. “The province’s continued delay of the regulations is an unfair offloading of labour and costs onto Municipalities, leaving them to either pass their own bylaws, or continue to suffer degradation of our coastal communities and environment.”
The EAC’s coastal adaptation coordinator Will Balser said in the release the provincial government is shirking its responsibilities with the Coastal Protection Act and passing them on to municipalities.
“Municipalities are realizing they will be stuck doing the province’s job for them, including shouldering labour and financial costs for something that should have been done ages ago,” Balser said.
“It’s no wonder they are upset by this.”
The ‘race to the bottom’
Individual letters were also sent to Halman. Those came from the District of Chester, Kings County, West Hants Regional Municipality, Region of Queens Municipality, Pictou County, and the towns of New Glasgow and Trenton.
The Kings County letter notes it has been hearing from other municipalities “frustrated” by the delay in tabling the 2019 Coastal Protection Act regulations. Signed by Mayor Peter Muttart, it said:
While Kings is not directly impacted (our coastal areas are already zoned as environmentally sensitive areas where construction is restricted), we have observed in other municipal jurisdictions the ‘race to the bottom’ whereby some members of the public are scrambling to erect multiple residential and other structures on paste-stamp sized lots within ‘spitting distance’ of the high-water mark – mostly to rent as B & B’s as commercial tourism enterprises.
‘A failure to protect Nova Scotians’
In its letter, the Municipality of Chester said the delay breaks a provincial promise made to communities. It also described it as “a failure to protect Nova Scotians from sea level rise and the impacts of climate change.”
The letter also noted a “vast majority” of the province’s coast has no significant development regulation. With the CPA regulations pending, many municipalities, including Chester, have opted for minimal regulations. The letter said this was done to avoid creating a “confusing regulatory requirement” that could conflict with provincial regulations. It continued:
Most municipalities also lack the professional expertise to develop regulations that adequately address the complexities of coastal protection. The provincial regulatory regime was intended to address this in a scientifically sound and defendable method.
The province’s continued delay of the regulations creates a situation where municipalities may need to enact their own regulations. However as stated, this would create a situation where some municipalities would then choose a minimal setback and protective measures, while others would potentially end up with excessive regulations. This would create an unbalanced protection of our coastline.
‘Shouldn’t be forced to deal with this on their own’
As reported here, the EAC held a press conference on the Halifax waterfront on Oct. 24. It called the province’s delay in implementing the Coastal Protection Act “recklessly irresponsible” and demanded immediate action.
In a September media release, the Department of Environment and Climate Change said the province was for the first time contacting coastal property owners for their input on how to plan and adapt development along Nova Scotia’s coastline in response to climate change.
That online consultation survey closes on Tuesday. Both the EAC and NDP leader Claudia Chender have suggested the delay is out of concern for private property owners who want to build before the new regulations come into effect.
On Oct. 24, Environment and Climate Change Minister Timothy Halman was asked in the legislature whether this was the case.
“No. That’s absolutely not the case. This is about getting authentic feedback from the people who are going to be affected by the Coastal Protection Act,” Halman replied. “In the two previous public consultations, the government didn’t get that clarity from property owners.”
Halman also said he’s committed to the Coastal Protection Act, but wouldn’t provide a timeline for the implementation of regulations.
The province has said municipalities could pass their own bylaws while waiting for the Coastal Protection Act’s implementation. The EAC said that puts unfair pressure on municipalities.
“This shouldn’t be something that municipalities are forced to deal with on their own,” Balser said in Monday’s EAC media release.
“The fact that the province is continuing to drag their heels while Nova Scotia faces increasingly severe climate impacts puts their constituents at direct risk. Frankly, it’s unacceptable.”