Photo: Irwin Barrett

Close to 150 people turned out for a rapid-fire political debate on environmental issues Tuesday at the University of King’s College. The forum was hosted and co-ordinated by East Coast Environmental Law, the Sierra Club Atlantic chapter, and the Ecology Action Centre.

The four parties were represented by Iain Rankin, Liberal candidate for Timberlea-Prospect; Lisa Roberts, NDP candidate for Halifax-Needham; Jessica Alexander, deputy leader of the Green Party; and Rob Batherson, PC candidate for Halifax-Sable Island.

The moderator was King’s College President Bill Lahey, a former deputy minister of the N.S. Dept of Environment. The participants answered questions prepared by their hosts as well as questions from the audience. Here is brief a synopsis of where the parties stand on a handful of environmental issues.


Would your party commit to closing the Donkin coal mine, a criminal Act to employ 52 people for a short time?

Rob Batherson

Roberts, NDP:  I don’t know how the NDP has addressed this but it is a concerning development for sure. We are burning coal in the province and it is coming from somewhere.

Alexander, Green:  The Greens are committed to closing down all coal-fired generating plants, reducing by 80 per cent our reliance on coal by 2030. We will re-introduce feed-in tariffs to encourage production of more renewable energy.

Batherson, PC:  The mine was approved by a process all three parties agreed to follow. We have to respect the rule of law or we get into trouble.

Rankin, Liberal:  We are trying to strike a balance. We can’t get off coal overnight. Fifty-six percent of our electricity is generated from imported coal. The question is should we be using imported or local coal?


What will your party do to reduce clearcutting to 50 per cent and reform forestry practices?

Rankin, Liberal:  We have deferred decisions on granting long-term licences on Crown land in southwest Nova Scotia. We have heard from many people and the Natural Resources Strategy (which set a target to reduce clearcutting from 90 to 50 per cent) had no consensus. We will hire an independent consultant to advise further.

Lisa Roberts

Roberts, NDP:  Change is difficult and there will be no consensus. The Natural Resources Strategy was the result of lengthy public consultation and the NDP commits to moving forward with it. What we have seen is high volume/low value use of our forests.

Alexander, Green:  Why would 50 per cent clearcutting even be allowed in the first place? (Applause) The Green party questions and would end current practices such as spraying glyphosate (a herbicide) on Crown lands as well as clearcutting causing loss of soil nutrients  and biodiversity.

Batherson, PC: The Progressive Conservative party will review what is an acceptable level of clearcutting on Crown lands.

Alton Gas

In the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Act… what is your party’s position on the duty to consult Mik’maq treaty holders to protect our waters with respect to the Alton Gas Project?  (Asked by Michele Pau,l from Sipekne’katik  First Nation, a Treaty Rights Holder in Sipekne’katik District [see comments below].)

Alexander, Green: Congratulations to the Sipekne’katik on your courtroom victory in January (forcing a delay in the project). The Alton Gas project would not have  proceeded this far if Nova Scotia had had an Environmental Bill of Rights in place.

Iain Rankin

Batherson, PC: Respecting treaty rights is not an option, it is the law of the land. I respectfully challenge Ms. Alexander’s point about the role of an Environmental Bill of Rights. The rule of law must be enforced.

Rankin, Liberal: Treaty rights are of paramount importance to this government. The Premier has put himself out there to defend them. We did do extensive consultation over a number of years. New terms and binding conditions were added to the environmental approval.

Roberts, NDP: Under the proposed Environmental Bill of Rights which an NDP government would introduce, people have a right to be consulted and heard. In the community where Alton Gas plans to do business, people are convinced it not an appropriate development in that place.

Local food

Will your party review the goals in the Environment and Sustainable Prosperity Act and expand it to require the procurement of local food by provincial institutions?

Rankin, Liberal:  The Act needs a review  but a section with respect to food procurement is supposed to come into effect in November 2018.

Jessica Alexander

Roberts,NDP:  Yes, the Act introduced by an NDP government is now 10 years old and we need that conversation around setting new goals. The NDP proposes creating a marketing board for local food producers to help get their food into hospitals, jails, and Community Colleges.

Alexander,Green: Yes to the review. And please add a section on food security or pass a new Food Security Act as a Green Party member successfully introduced in New Brunswick.

Batherson, PC:  Yes. It is time to modernize the goals in the Environment and Sustainable Prosperity Act.

The Bayers Lake Brouhaha

What would your party do to ensure the province makes sustainable planning decisions in concert with municipalities?

Batherson, PC:  It was unconscionable to move Access Nova Scotia offices to the Bayers Lake Business Park. It is ridiculously difficult to get there by public transit and almost easier to take a bus from downtown to Sackville before transferring to  Bayers Lake. A PC government would review the decision to locate a proposed outpatient clinic there without any evidence.

Rankin, Liberal: With respect to locating a new outpatient clinic in Bayers Lake, 45,000 people live within a 10-kilometer radius of the Business Park, more than near the Cobequid Health Centre in Sackville. We were also the first provincial government in 20 years to invest in public transit. I think four years is ample time to get a bus stop there.

Roberts, NDP: When the Bayers Lake location of the Outpatient Clinic came up in the legislature, I heard Stephen McNeil say: “Mike Savage is the mayor of Halifax; I’m the Premier of Nova Scotia.” And that to me is the problem. When jurisdictions overlap, we need to be able to work together.

Alexander, Green:  I agree with what was just said. And the Cobequid Health Centre is on three bus routes, just sayin’.

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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  1. Also the question Michelle asked was: “In the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation calls to action and the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Mi’kmaq Treaty Rights, what is your position on the duty to consult with Mi’kmaq Treaty Rights holders, in relation to their cultural, inherent right to protect their lands and waters in Mi’kmaki regarding the Alton Gas Project?”

  2. Can you please edit Michelle Paul’s title in your description? She is a Treaty Rights Holder in Sipekne’katik District, which is how she was introduced. Important distinction.

  3. Another great article. Thanks Jennifer and The Examiner. My comments are likely awaiting moderation, but the environment can’t wait.