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Playing partisan politics with environmental racism

Bill 111 misses spring second reading, MLA alleges ministerial snub

by Miles Howe

Pictou Landing First Nation band member Maurina Beadle speaks with Minister of the Environment Randy Delorey, at the site of last year's Northern Pulp effluent pipe burst. Delorey could have pushed through Bill 111 - An Act to Address Environmental Racism - during the spring session, but didn't. [Photo: M. Howe]
Pictou Landing First Nation band member Maurina Beadle speaks with Minister of the Environment Randy Delorey, at the site of last year's Northern Pulp effluent pipe burst. Delorey could have pushed through Bill 111 - An Act to Address Environmental Racism - during the spring session, but didn't. [Photo: M. Howe]

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) - While not necessarily dead, Bill 111 – An Act to Address Environmental Racism – isn't quite making its way through the Nova Scotia Legislature at the speed its proponents would like. The bill, which takes the tentative, but concrete, step towards forming a committee to examine and address instances of environmental racism in Nova Scotia, could have passed through its second reading during the spring 2015 session. Bills introduced at similar times have already passed through second reading.

Although NDP MLA Lenore Zann, who initially tabled the bill, sought out interest from the reigning Liberal party to have the bill passed through, Zann claims she was stonewalled by two members of the Liberal caucus, including the Minister of the Environment, Randy Delorey.

“I spoke to Randy Delorey and asked him if he would support the bill so that we could introduce it to second reading while the house was still sitting in this past session, because of course the session was coming to an end,” Zann tells the Halifax Media Co-op. “He said two things. First of all he said: 'We're already going to be contemplating passing one of the NDP opposition bills.' As if to say they were already doing their duty letting us have one bill pass through.

“Then he said: 'Lincolnville, well that's close to my riding. That could be a problem.'”

Lincolnville, readers will remember, is an African Nova Scotian community founded by Black Loyalists on a promise of a 3,000 acre land grant in 1784. The grant itself has never been honoured. For close to four decades, it has also been home to a series of dumps. Accusations of toxic seepage from the dump have been rampant for years. Until Zann introduced Bill 111, those accusations – and others from around the province - had fallen on deaf ears at the provincial governmental level.

To be sure, Lincolnville is but one example of a minority community in Nova Scotia living in disproportionate proximity to a industrial site of concern. The ENRICH project, spearheaded by the work of Dr. Ingrid Waldron, has, for the past several years, been gathering more information on environmental racism in the province.

Zann continues:

“I also spoke to Michel Samson (Liberal MLA for Cape Breton – Richmond) and asked him if he would consider it and he said he hadn't read it yet, but that they were going to be passing one of our NDP bills.

“Again, it was the same thing of: 'Well, we're already doing one of your bills so we don't need to do more.' I find that rather disingenuous and I think that that stinks if that's the way politics are done. It's just tit for tat and 'Well, we'll let you get away with one if you do this for us.'”

Randy Delorey declined repeated requests for comment on this issue, but did issue the following email statement to the Halifax Media Co-op:

We have heard from community members, such as the Pictou Landing First Nations, who feel that their areas have been subjected to a disproportionate level/degree of  environmental impacts.  As Minister, I am committed to ensuring that Nova Scotia Environment takes an effective, consistent, and equitable approach to its regulatory responsibilities, regardless of where these environmental impacts occur in the province. The Boat Harbour legislation tabled by my colleague Minister Kousoulis is a solid example of the government’s commitment.

Hanging the Liberal hat on Bill 89 - An Act Respecting the Cessation of the Use of the Boat Harbour Effluent Treatment Facility for the Reception and Treatment of Effluent from the Northern Pulp Mill – as Delorey's statement appears to do, is not at all synonymous with admitting that Nova Scotia has a larger problem with environmental racism. While Chief Andrea Paul of Pictou Landing First Nation, along with other community members, have praised the passing of Bill 89, the larger issue, that of environmental racism in Nova Scotia, is conveniently sidestepped in Delorey's statement.

Despite the set-back, Zann notes that rumours of Bill 111's death have been slightly over-exaggerated. There is, of course, the 2015 fall session, where the NDP will get the opportunity to move the bill forward. At this point, it come down to life or death for the bill.

“Where we stand with it right now is it did not get to second reading. However it hasn't been killed,” notes Zann. “It's still on the order paper. So when we pick up again in the fall, it's still there. So we can actually move it forward on one of our opposition. Every few weeks, we as the third party get an opposition day.

“Normally what happens, I've discovered, is if there's a majority government they kill whatever it is at that time. They come up with some excuse as to why it's not good enough to go to third reading. But I think if we continue to put the pressure on them and continue to have people contact them to say that they think this is a very important bill, I'm hoping this will still go through.”


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