An East Coast environmental group is calling for immediate action on legislation that will lay out where new homes and buildings are built along the Nova Scotia shoreline due to erosion and flood risks.

On Tuesday, the Ecology Action Centre (EAC) gathered at the Halifax waterfront to urge the Nova Scotia government to pass the Coastal Protection Act. As they looked out at the Atlantic Ocean, group members said the act is a critical protective measure as sea levels rise and climate change contributes to greater erosion and flooding.

Although the act was passed in 2019, Premier Tim Houston has given no timeline on when Nova Scotians can expect the law to go into effect after multiple deadlines — and hurricanes — have passed. In 2022, the government said the regulations were near completion and the act would be proclaimed within the first half of 2023.

“The province’s continued failure to implement the Coastal Protection Act is unacceptable, shortsighted and stunningly irresponsible,” said Will Balser, coastal adaptation co-ordinator with the EAC.

The government has said more consultation is needed before the act is put in place, but climate groups say it’s a vague excuse, as does Nova Scotia NDP Leader Claudia Chender. Chender, as reported by the Halifax Examiner, said Houston is actually concerned about property owners not having “access to the coast in whatever manner they want.”

In early September, the province asked coastal property owners for their input on the act and noted that it would be the first time the province “is contacting coastal property owners directly to ask for their input on how to protect coastal structures and ecosystems, and keep people safe.”

The deadline for those submissions is Nov. 7. The province’s Department of Environment and Climate Change said it is taking time to hear from people who live along the coast or own property because “they are the most at risk and have first-hand experience and knowledge which is important to hear. This, along with the input from previous consultations, our climate risk assessment, and other important information will help inform next steps.”

“The EAC believes strongly in public consultation,” said Marla MacLeod, director of programs with the EAC.

People gathered at the EAC's press conference urging the Coastal Protection Act to be implemented swiftly. Photo submitted

“But this survey is an absolute mockery of it. The questions are not only too broad and often leading, but they also cover information that has been obtained previously through extensive consultation and studies. At this point, it is hard to see this as anything more than yet another delay tactic from a government that seems wholly unwilling to do their job.”

“The province’s continued failure to implement the Coastal Protection Act is unacceptable, shortsighted and stunningly irresponsible,” says Will Balser, coastal adaptation co-ordinator with @EcologyAction

In August, Balser said resistance from the ruling PCs is likely because they aren’t attached to the Coastal Protection Act, which was passed before they came into power.

“The NDP brought it in, the Liberals developed it and put together the regulations and got it through the legislature, and we're responsible for the bulk of the development of the regulations and almost all the consultation as well,” Balser explained.

“They have no responsibility or connection to this.”

Hurricane season isn’t over in Atlantic Canada, and the region has seen many extreme weather events impact the coast in recent years. In Nova Scotia, there are warnings that sea levels could rise a metre by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t reduced “significantly.” Hurricanes are becoming more extreme, already causing widespread property damage: last fall’s hurricane Fiona was Atlantic Canada’s costliest weather event to date.

Preventing more development in areas that are especially vulnerable to climate change is essential as climate change continues to affect the region, says the EAC. There is a strong financial argument to do so: the Canadian Climate Institute estimates every dollar spent on adaptation saves between $13 and $15.

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