NS MLA Smith-McCrossin won’t get to participate in Chignecto court case

Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin (MLA photo)

Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin says she’s disappointed that a Nova Scotia judge has rejected her application to participate in court hearings to determine who should pay to protect the Chignecto Isthmus and surrounding areas from potentially catastrophic flooding.

“The people who live on or near the Chignecto Isthmus that are talking to me, want the dyke work done now. They don’t want any more delays,” the independent MLA said in a telephone interview after today’s court hearing.

“My concern is that with the court action and the premier saying that he wants the federal government to pay for everything, our concern locally is that that is going to cause further delays.”

Court hearing

Smith-McCrossin also made that point earlier in the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal after Justice David Farrar asked why she wanted to intervene in the case.

“I applied to be an intervenor to make sure that the voice of the people that live on or near the Chignecto Isthmus is heard today,” she said.

“And what is the voice of the people going to add to the determination of a constitutional question?” the judge asked.

“The people that I’m speaking with your honour want the Nova Scotia government and the Canadian government to work together as in other issues of urgent attention that cause risk to the local people and I would like to have an opportunity to share some of those concerns today.”

The judge then warned her the constitutional question concerning which level of government is responsible for protecting transportation, trade and communications links on the isthmus is “a very legalistic issue.”

He added that the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal does not generally hear evidence.

“We don’t decide issues of the type that you’re talking about having the voice of the people. I’m sure that can be made known through the submissions of the Attorney General of Nova Scotia.”

Intervention denied

Justice Farrar denied Smith-McCrossin intervention status after lawyers from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI expressed opposition on the grounds that her participation wouldn’t help resolve the constitutional issues in the case.

In July, the Nova Scotia government asked the court to rule on whether the federal government has “exclusive” jurisdiction over the dykes, dams and breakwaters that protect the isthmus from flooding.

The judge did grant intervenor status to the federal, New Brunswick and PEI governments and scheduled another hearing for November 8 to set filing deadlines for legal submissions and to work out other procedural and scheduling details.

Meantime, Smith-McCrossin says the federal and provincial governments should be co-operating to protect the isthmus instead of fighting over funding issues in the courts.

Nova Scotia and New Brunswick say they want the federal government to pay the full cost of raising dykes to protect the isthmus while Ottawa says it’s willing to pay only 50%.

“What I would like to see is all the grownups to get around the table and hash it out and come up with something that’s fair for everyone involved, but do so, so that there’s no further delays,” she says.

Court submission

“When I went to court today I assumed that I was already accepted to be an intervenor,” Smith-McCrossin says, “because I was given the court date and I was prepared to give my submission, but none of that happened, so again, how much longer is it going to take before the case is even heard and the decision’s made by the courts?”

Smith-McCrossin’s submission concludes:

The people who live on or near the Chignecto Isthmus do not deserve to be in the middle of a battle for money between the province of NS and the Federal government. I ask on their behalf for the court to order the protective work to start now and for everyone to work together collaboratively for the good of all people, especially the people I represent who live on or near the Chignecto Isthmus.

To read her complete court submission, click here.

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