I attended the Owls Head rally in Halifax on Saturday, a very upbeat event.
The rally was opened with a prayer of thanksgiving for Mother Earth by Mi’kmaw grandmother Dorene Bernard.
The Greens and NDP had reps at the rally, but evidently there were none from the Liberals or Conservatives. NDP leader Gary Burill spoke very clearly about Owls Head and what he would do about it and made a firm commitment to 25% protected area by 2025 and 30% by 2030 in line with the federal Liberal Government’s commitments (Rankin’s Liberals commit to only 17%). The greens cited their commitment to Work with Mi’kmaq leaders “to create a Land Back program that will return the management and stewardship of all Crown lands to Mi’kmaq communities and create a process for residents of the province to return the stewardship of their land back to Mi’kmaq communities”
Had the Liberals/Iain Rankin changed course and ripped up the conditional sale with the whoever-it-is billionaire who wants to purchase the Crown lands at Owls Head, this event would not have happened and I and perhaps others might even still vote Liberal*. But they (the Liberals) didn’t, at least not-to-date, and it appears they won’t.*
*Iain R’s caving to Forest NS on the Biodiversity Act and allowing continued plunder of our forests during his time at L&F and a short tenure as premier hardly added to his environmental creds either.
I am old enough, but perhaps Iain Rankin isn’t, to remember the Jim Campbell barrens fiasco which was the first time a Liberal Government delisted a prospective protected area out of ‘public interest’. Unlike Rankin, to date at least, the Liberal government of the day eventually reversed course.
In December 1996, after concerted lobbying from the industry, the Liberal Cabinet did indeed remove this area from the candidate list to allow for unencumbered mineral development. A provincial newspaper columnist captured the moment best when he wrote that: “the cabinet… [in an instance] voted to override four years of planning and public consultation and delete the Jim Campbell Barren as a candidate protected site” (Dobson, 1996). This action not only risked this specific area’s ecological integrity, but was viewed by protected area advocates as making the other listed areas vulnerable to interference. Those supporting tourism and salmon fishing for example, as well as environmentalists locally, regionally, provincially, and internationally mobilized to lobby for re-listing. In the middle of considerable political upheaval the government backtracked and re-listed this area in time for legislative enactment. SOURCE: The political economy of wilderness designation in Nova Scotia Glyn Bissix, Leah Levac & Peter Horvath, 2002. In Todd, Sharon, comp., ed. 2002. Proceedings of the 2001 Northeastern Recreation Research Symposium. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-289. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station. 377-382.
For more on the Jim Campbell barrens fiasco view
- THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF WILDERNESS DESIGNATION IN NOVA SCOTIA
Glyn Bissix, Ph.D.
- Who was Jim Campbell anyway?
Sierra Club – Chebucto Group
APRIL 15, 1996
- Barren lost to sell-out science and politics
BY CHRIS MILLER in the Gazette October 23, 1997, p10
- Defining a goldmine
Editorial in The Gazette October 30, 1997, p8
- EXPLORATION 1998 — Battle over a Barren — Regal Goldfields to take dispute over protected site to court
Read these docs and it may sound familiar: the same arguments about jobs and the same concerns about delisting an area designated for protection were voiced in 1996-8 that we hear today in relation to Owls Head.
On the jobs issue, Owls Head area resident Pam Baker talked at the rally about the Golf Course Supporters’ “Rallying Myth” that the US billionaire’s NS-subsidized golf course project would provide needed jobs and make for rosy living at Owls Head.
They were words are well worth consideration by a broader audience. I asked her for a copy of the comments which she had read from a prepared text, so I could post them on NSFN.
Here they are, with some bolding and italics added (you can also listen to them as spoken at the rally):
On Golf Courses at Owls Head: comments by Pam Baker, August 7th, 2021
I want to begin by telling you that I am not a scientist, not an expert on biodiversity or ecosystems; however, neither am I anti-development. I’m a retired high school English teacher who chose Nova Scotia as my home. My husband and I live 10 minutes up the road from Owl’s Head and we decided almost 2 years ago that we could no longer sit on the sidelines. Apparently, thank goodness, almost 10,000 other people feel the same way.
The golf course has become the supporters’ rallying myth and although we do not believe it is the central issue, it needs to be addressed. Much of my information stems from conversations with my brother who has been the General Manager of two very large golf and country clubs and he has been in the business for over 35 years. He loves golf, has a very low handicap and thinks building even one golf course at Owl’s Head is foolish.
IF and it’s a big IF, Lighthouse Links and Beckwith Gilbert acquire this oceanfront land at the ridiculous low cost of $306 an acre, my brother’s opinion is that these proposed golf courses will not even be feasible.
Golf courses cannot be constructed overnight. If there is no grading nor specialized blasting needed, the CGA says that an average course takes 12-18 months to complete with another 6 months to ensure the grass on fairways and greens takes hold. This area will require far more invasive destruction and will likely double the estimate. There is no natural fill in this area, so it will need to be trucked in…another piece of land will be decimated in order to fill the hundreds of trucks that will travel our road down to Owl’s Head. We are on the short side of the loop so it would make sense that it will be our homes that will have to put up with the noise and traffic…and what damage will be done to our road? And will our taxes go up to fix this damage?
I wonder if people are aware that the average golf course sucks up 900,000 liters of fresh water every day, and are these same people not concerned about the fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides that golf courses use, ones you and I cannot lawfully purchase. How will they affect the ocean and the all-important eel grass?
People who think this golf course will bring instant employment are not being told the truth. If one course could take 3 years to finish, the jobs they think will magically appear, will be seasonal and low paying. A Little Harbour resident kept track of the weather over the last 72 days. 23 of those days were foggy and 20 were raining or overcast. If you factor in black fly and mosquito season, your golfing days at Owl’s Head will be few and far between. If you had to wait around for more than 3 years to maybe get even a part time job that paid you for 4 or 5 months, would you be prepared to wait?
The myth continues with visions of hotels, bars and restaurants. If a golf course takes 3-4 years to open, the other facilities traditionally are not built until the owners know that the course is successful. Rich people do not get richer by throwing good money after bad. There will be no other commitments of hotels & bars until they are certain. It could be 8-10 years before cocktails are served at the 19th hole.
The alternatives? There are so many other ways to spend money on the Eastern Shore. We need sidewalks for our kids, bus service for our seniors, bicycle lanes for residents and tourists, a swimming pool so folks can avoid 2-hour round trips for lessons or recreation. We need a science centre with accommodations where full time instructors can help to celebrate the environment, explain the effects of climate change and partner with The Deanery to lead both student and adult kayak tours in summer and snowshoeing hikes in winter
I firmly believe that the golf course and the promise of jobs is a smokescreen that covers up the land grab of one wealthy foreigner who has waged a campaign of buying up properties to create an oceanfront playground for himself and his family. And this present government engineered it, tried to hide it and used the people of the Eastern Shore in an old-fashioned game of bait and switch.
Vote to replace this government and tell Iain Rankin to keep the blazes away from our parks.
Thanks for speaking up, Pam Baker
Some might call Pam’s remarks and the rally partisan, but they weren’t.
They were about Owls Head and the global struggle to finally reverse our (non-aboriginal) abuse of Mother Earth.
Thank you Dorene Bernard, Thank you Elizabeth Marshall & other First Nations peoples for the land as it was under your care, and now for helping us – the settlers – to heal it and to respect it and each other.
Aug 8, 2021:
– NDP, Greens promise to scrap Owls Head sale
Haley Ryan · CBC NewsAug 7, 2021:
– Hundreds rally for Owls Head
Yvette D’entemont in the Halifax Examiner.
– Proposed sale of Owls Head to U.S. developer becomes major N.S. election issue
By Jesse Thomas Global NewsAug 6, 2021:
Court examines procedural fairness, ‘public interest doctrine’ in fight over parkland’s pending sale
By Terry Davidson for The Lawyer’s Daily. “A group of public interest litigants is considering appealing a Nova Scotia court’s decision not to intervene in a case where the province secretly arranged to sell what had long been…” Subscription required.
Save Owls Head Provincial Park
The Save Owls Head Provincial Park/Little Harbour from Becoming Golf Courses Facebook group is a grassroots movement of over 9,000 concerned citizens and scientists, passionate about saving Owls Head Provincial Park. Website provides a lot documentation, photos, info on how to take action.
Save Owls Head Provincial Park/Little Harbour From Becoming Golf Courses
Public Facebook Group, 9.6K members “Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin said the government was comfortable removing the designation (legal protection) because the land isn’t a priority for legal protection. He didn’t ask the residents how they felt. The people who want to buy the land hired a former Liberal cabinet minister Michel Samson to lobby on their behalf. Something smells fishy here and it is not the fish.”