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Letter: Premier Houston, we have a problem

Letter to the Editor by Margaret MacDonell Saltwire - Dec. 23, 2022

Letter originally published here

Photo by Tim Krochak

The last few years have been rough. We each know the list of challenges, the collective and the personal, that we’ve faced and continue to face. And I believe if you asked most Nova Scotians what helped them cope, what enabled them to keep calm and carry on, most would, in some way, mention nature.

Nature inspires. It is the antidote to despair. Nature is the medicine. Spending time in nature is good for the body, good for the mind, good for the soul. We breathe a little easier, feel our shoulders drop and our spirits rise.

The health benefits of being in nature are so well known that last Earth Day Nova Scotia joined the rest of the country by launching PaRx: Canada’s national nature prescription program. With PaRx, health-care providers are encouraged to write prescriptions for nature as part of personal health care plans. Nova Scotians with said prescriptions are entitled to free Parks Canada passes.

Our provincial parks play a similarly vital role: they provide opportunities for recreation, to be re-created. They are both restorative and preventative, promoting health and wellness. Accessible and there for the benefit of all. We need these sanctuaries. Now more than ever.

So, for the Houston government, which purports to prioritize health care and who rose to power on a promise to fix health care, the importance of keeping the integrity our provincial park system intact should be abundantly obvious. Should be.

It’s been a rough week. I didn’t find solace in the recent announcement of 14 new nature reserves and wilderness areas; instead, I was filled with dread. Where was the government’s commitment to protecting West Mabou Beach Provincial Park?

I feared we were being played in an insidious game of trade-offs. I was left feeling even more cynical for having to continue the fight to protect protected land.

What do any of these new protections mean if West Mabou Beach Provincial Park is not safe from being desecrated by private interests? Where to turn if our government can’t comprehend the imperative to keep protected the arguably “crown jewel” of our provincial park system? Where do we go when where we went for restoration, revitalization, relief is also gone? Where to turn when our estuaries as sanctuaries are sacrificed to an American billionaire and his cronies with their insatiable greed. When will they ever learn?

Good leadership also inspires. What has changed since the province designated West Mabou Beach a provincial park protected in perpetuity in 2000 and then reaffirmed it again in 2018? Nothing has changed – except the government. The Houston government may have inherited the challenges we all face as a province, but it is solely his government’s credibility on the line when it comes to approving or rejecting Cabot’s second proposal for golf course at West Mabou Beach Provincial Park. This is happening on his watch. This is his government’s legacy.

During his election campaign to be premier of this province, Mr. Houston stated, “we will form a thoughtful, accountable, humble government that gives Nova Scotia hope.” Houston, we have a problem, lots of problems and we need hope. We need our estuaries as sanctuaries to help us face the challenges, to be Nova Scotia Strong.

To Premier Houston I say, show some leadership, stand up to Cabot’s arrogant and entitled bid to exploit our pristine protected parkland. Don’t let your government end up being one more government, one more institution that fails us. You are being faced with a critical choice: inspiration or expiration. Do the right thing. KEEP West Mabou Beach Provincial Park protected.

Margaret MacDonell

Halifax/West Mabou

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