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Nova Scotia

Cabot golf plans should avoid protected parkland, say opposition leaders

Opposition leaders and an environmentalist in Nova Scotia say if Cabot golf course officials want land to build a new golf course in the Mabou area, they should find it somewhere other than an environmentally sensitive provincial park.

Cabot officials have revived a proposal to lease part of West Mabou Beach Provincial Park for the development of a new golf course. However, concerned community members say the part of the park Cabot wants is the most environmentally sensitive.

Liberal leader Zach Churchill said his caucus did not support Cabot’s proposal.

“Nova Scotia values ​​our beautiful provincial parks and there must surely be a better development idea to expand Cabot than to infringe on the park there,” he told reporters at Province House on Tuesday.

Liberal leader Zach Churchill says Cabot officials should look elsewhere for a proposed golf course in the Mabou area. (CBC)

NDP leader Claudia Chender said her caucus also opposed the proposal.

“On the face of it, it suggests building a golf course on top of sand dunes in a provincial park, so it seems like a bad idea,” she told reporters.

Cabot, which hired former Prime Minister Rodney MacDonald as its community liaison, has pledged financial support to community groups in the Mabou area if the plan goes ahead. MacDonald is not a registered provincial lobbyist.

Chender questioned the company’s ability to call such an approach true community consultation.

“I find it flimsy to say that organizations to which you have offered to write a check support your project. Of course they support your project – you give them money.”

NDP leader Claudia Chender said building a golf course in a protected park is a bad idea. (CBC)

Government officials have so far commented less on the proposal.

Treasury Secretary Allan MacMaster, who represents the area, said he would not comment on the proposal as it could eventually come before Cabinet.

Premier Tim Houston told reporters MacDonald casually mentioned the plan to him during an event they both attended, but he said the government had not received a formal proposal.

When the company submits a proposal, Houston said it would be evaluated through a rigorous evaluation process by the Department of Natural Resources that would include extensive community consultation.

“What’s happening to parks, what’s happening to land that’s public land in this province that’s being traversed by Nova Scotians,” Houston told reporters.

The developers circulated this map of the park in their proposal. It outlines where the 18 hole golf course would be placed. (Cabot Kapbreton)

The previous Liberal government faced public backlash across the province after CBC reported that the Liberals secretly removed the outstanding protection designation for land in Little Harbor so they could discuss selling the land to a private developer interested in building golf courses .

This land, known as Owls Head Provincial Park, became a campaign issue and the developer eventually abandoned the proposal in the face of strong public opposition. The Tory Government recently extended legal protections to Owls Head and made it a provincial park.

Unlike the process that liberals followed with Owls Head, Houston vowed that no discussions related to West Mabou Beach Provincial Park would be held behind closed doors.

“I can assure you that is not the case here.”

Premier Tim Houston says when his administration receives a proposal from Cabot officials, it is evaluated through a rigorous process that includes extensive public consultation. (Robert Kurz/CBC)

But Ray Plourde of the Ecology Action Center said the Houston government shouldn’t consider anything.

The land is legally protected, ecologically sensitive and unique, Ploude said. That should be enough for the Tories to halt the process before a proposal is even officially tabled, he said.

“Permanently protected should mean permanently protected, not notionally protected, until someone comes along with one scheme or another and says, ‘Man, I want to use this land, so give it to me and my company.'”

When Cabot owners want land for a new golf course, Plourde said they have the resources to buy it themselves from private landowners, rather than going to the province to get what little crown land is on the books .

“Most of our coastline is privately owned,” Plourde said.

“Only five percent are protected by our provincial parks and sanctuaries [plan] and our two national parks.”


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