As reported Tuesday morning, Mabou resident and former Conservative premier Rodney MacDonald has sent a letter on behalf of The Cabot Group signaling its intention to apply to the Houston government to lease one-third of the West Mabou Beach Provincial Park so it can build a golf course. The letter went to members of the West Mabou Beach Park advisory committee, as well as Premier Tim Houston and the leaders of both the Liberal and NDP parties. 

At Province House today, reporters asked political leaders for their response to The Cabot Group’s stated intention to lease publicly owned land to build another golf course. 

Houston said if a proposal comes forward “we would look at that.” 

“Obviously, it would have to go through extensive public consultation and other analysis. I think that’s what was missing in the Owls Head situation. I think with Owls Head the government of the day had struck some agreement with someone without going through the process. I can assure you that’s not the case here.” 

The Examiner asked what’s the point of having a provincial park if a developer can make such a request.

“No request has been made,” Houston said. “The provincial parks are a valuable part of the Nova Scotian experience. If something comes forward, we will look at that but there will be extensive public consultations before anything would even be considered.”

NDP Leader Claudia Chender said the proposal “seems like a bad idea.” 

“On the face of it, the proposal is suggesting building a golf course on top of sand dunes in a provincial park,” said NDP Leader Claudia Chender. “So, it seems like a bad idea. Certainly the notion that we would open up our provincial parks in sensitive ecological areas for development is a non-starter, in our opinion.” 

Liberal leader Zach Churchill said his party has “taken a position that changing park designations is not a good idea.”

“Nova Scotians really value our beautiful provincial parks and certainly there has to be a better development idea to expand Cabot than infringing on the park that is there,” Churchill said.  

Over the past 15 years, Cabot has established the Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs resorts near the village of Inverness, Cape Breton. The company states it spends $11 million a year in the area. Now the company, which is owned by an American millionaire, wants to build a third golf course at a publicly owned beach park that includes extensive sand dune formations, as well as wetlands habitat and a couple of endangered bird species. The Cabot Group is proposing to spend $125,000 a year supporting four local community organizations in return for their support. 

Any future application put forward by The Cabot Group will be handled by the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables, which is responsible for provincial parks. Finance Minister Allan MacMaster is the MLA for the Inverness area where further development by The Cabot Group is a divisive issue. He declined to comment on the proposal in the event a decision eventually has to come before Cabinet.  

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

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  1. Why and what is due process for what everyone thought was protected park land? Well it turns out that when you look at the law protecting parks, it can actually be overruled by the Governor in Council namely the Premier and cabinet. That means that potentially all provincially protected land in Nova is Scotia is up for grabs with the right development proposal. Remember Owls Head? It was NOT the province which stopped the development but rather the developer who withdrew due to public ire at his greed.