Supporters of Waverley-Fall River-Beaver NDP candidate Trevor Sanipass (far left) and Hants East NDP candidate Liam Crouse were on hand at Leader Gary Burrill’s Environmental Bill of Rights announcement in Miller Lake West. (Healey photo)

MILLER LAKE WEST: With the location of the proposed Fall River Quarry in the background, NDP Leader Gary Burrill released the party’s plans to protect the environment should they form government on May 30.

Burrill, along with Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank candidate Trevor Sanipass, B.C. NDP MP Peter Julian, and Stacey Rudderham, from the Stop the Fall River Quarry group, unveiled the N.S. NDP’s long talked about Environmental Bill of Rights they would introduce. They had brought forward it in the Legislature to be put on the order paper.

“An Environmental Bill of Rights is a matter we’ve heard discussed quite a bit,” said Burrill. “It’s a very important piece of a legislature. We understand that as a third party chances of these pieces of legislation the opportunity for them to be passed is very small.

“One of the things we’ve been doing for the last three-and-a-half years with opposition legislation is telling Nova Scotians these are the things we believe in. These are the thing we stand for. When the moment comes that there is an election, these are the things you can look to us to stand for and put in place if we’re given the opportunity to be government.”

The Bill of Rights, Burrill said, would give Nova Scotians a greater say in decisions, such as the quarry, that impact their environment.

NDP leader Gary Burrill speaks at the announcement on May 20. (Healey photo)

It would also set hard targets for emission reduction and return the province to its place as a national leader in the fight against climate change; continue a complete moratorium on fracking; protect our oceans and fishery through stronger regulations on offshore drilling; implement recommendations of the Doelle-Lahey report; reinstate the 50 per cent clear-cutting target and work with industry and private woodlot owners to promote sustainable forestry practices; and lead by example through establishing a carbon-neutral government.

“If we are able to become the government on May 30, this piece of legislation will be enacted upon if the NDP form government,” said Burrill to applause from the crowd of about 50 or so supporters at the end of Perrin Drive. “It covers many aspects of the right of every person in the province to have clean air and clean water. All those who have been involved in environmental or community activism of any kind know the right to clean air and clean water has going along with it every citizen to have a full say on decisions that are taken.”

He said the NDP’s Environmental Bill of Rights includes participation by citizens in decisions that will impact.

“All the information related to decisions on the environment must be publicly, completely available to the public, transparent, accountable, and posted for all the citizens online,” said Burrill.

It gives the citizens the ability to monitor the government’s making the appropriate decisions of the environment.

“All material on the environment will have to be placed online, regardless of the department that it comes from,” he said.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill announces the party’s Environmental Bill of Rights at the end of Perin Drive on May 20. Also pictured is Stacey Rudderham and supporters of Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank candidate Trevor Sanipass. (Healey photo)

Burrill said there would be a position created for an Environment Commissioner, similar to that of the Auditor General.

“The commissioner wouldn’t work for NSE, but would for the people through their MLA,” he said. “We think of this as important at this time because the McNeil Liberals record on the environment at this time is how do you say unenviable.

“The Nova Scotia NDP knows we can be a world leader in protecting our environment again, and will stand side-by-side with communities in standing up for the environment.”

Rudderham said an Environmental Bill of Rights would be a great start and mean a lot to her group, and those across the province.

“We would welcome this legislation that would give us the right to engage in the application process, to gain access to the applications in their full form as they are submitted to create real and meaningful consultation,” she said. “This would give us more access than being a simple check mark on a list of things to do for the department.

“We would also welcome a commissioner that would hear us and work with us when we do experience impacts. We take comfort in knowing someone would be working for us.”