NS MLA Smith-McCrossin seeks to intervene in court battle over Chignecto Isthmus

Independent NS MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin

Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin is seeking to take part in the court case to determine which levels of government are responsible for protecting the Chignecto Isthmus and surrounding areas from potentially catastrophic flooding.

The independent MLA for Cumberland North makes the case for her formal intervention in an affidavit submitted to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.

“I’ve been deeply involved for many years in and concerned with the various issues related [to] the dykes protecting the land in my constituency bordering the tidal waters of the Bay of Fundy and the dangers to people as well as the infrastructure connecting our province to the rest of Canada,” her affidavit states.

“I wish to and am prepared to make a submission on the duties and responsibilities of elected governments in a federal state like ours, to look after and protect its people when they face a predictable danger and to rise above constitutional technicalities,” it adds.

Smith-McCrossin will appear tomorrow before the court of appeal to argue for intervenor status.

Provincial attorneys general from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island as well the federal minister of justice are also seeking to intervene.

Jurisdictional squabble

In July, Nova Scotia’s department of justice asked the province’s highest court to determine whether the federal government has the “exclusive” responsibility to protect the transportation, trade and communications links on the isthmus.

The federal government has offered to pay 50% of the costs of raising and reinforcing dykes, but Nova Scotia and New Brunswick argue that Ottawa should pay the full cost.

Last year, the provinces released a consultants’ report estimating the cost could be just over $300 million, but New Brunswick now says its revised estimate has risen to $650 million.

Jim Quinn was appointed to the Senate in 2021 by Prime Minister Trudeau (official Senate photo)

Meantime, an independent New Brunswick senator has introduced a bill that would make the federal government solely responsible for protecting the isthmus and safeguarding the estimated $35 billion in trade that crosses it every year.

Sen. Jim Quinn, a former president and CEO of the Saint John Port Authority, argues the federal government should pay 100% of the costs because of its national responsibility to act in the best interests of all Canadians.

The preamble to his Senate bill points out that in 1948, federal legislation established the Maritime Marshland Rehabilitation Administration, an agency that replaced or repaired 373 kilometres of dykes and more than 400 aboiteaux. It also constructed five big tidal dams on rivers draining into the Bay of Fundy so that the tides could no longer flow upstream. (The controversial dam on the Tantramar River was built in 1960. The one on the Petitcodiac at Moncton, built in 1968, was finally removed in 2010.)

In his 2021 book, Against The Tides: Reshaping Landscape and Community in Canada’s Maritime Marshlands, historian Ronald Rudin writes that the MMRA ceased to exist in 1970 when the federal government handed responsibility for dykes, dams and aboiteaux to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

For the full text of Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin’s affidavit, click here.

For coverage of the consultants’ three recommendations for protecting the Chignecto Isthmus, click here.

To read criticism of those recommendations, click here.

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1 Response to NS MLA Smith-McCrossin seeks to intervene in court battle over Chignecto Isthmus

  1. Wayne Feindel Puppet of The People connecting council with citizens says:

    Chignecto Isthmus

    It has always been understood that three levels of government and private entities are important and the more co-operation there is at the lowest levels serving civic needs that there is the less need for Federal government.
    But in this case the legitimate object of the federal government is, (sorry quoting an American) “to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they cannot, by individual effort, do at all, or do so well, for themselves.” That is why the issues of global climate change are led by nations.

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