Premier says public will see Biodiversity Act changes ahead of law amendments meeting

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Premier Iain Rankin says the text of his changes to the Biodiversity Act will be ready for people to see at the start of Monday's law amendments committee meeting. (Communications Nova Scotia - image credit)
Premier Iain Rankin says the text of his changes to the Biodiversity Act will be ready for people to see at the start of Monday's law amendments committee meeting. (Communications Nova Scotia - image credit)

Nova Scotians who want to voice their opinions of the Biodiversity Act on Monday will have the opportunity to see the text of changes to the bill before the law amendments committee begins, Premier Iain Rankin said Friday.

Rankin announced earlier this week that he would be altering the bill just two weeks after it was tabled. The move follows an outpouring of concerns MLAs heard from landowners, some of which were fuelled by a lobbying campaign funded by Forest Nova Scotia.

Although Rankin has detailed the changes, so far the legislative text has not been released. But the premier told reporters on Friday at Province House the documents would come ahead of the meeting.

"The changes are being worked on," he said. "They may not be fully complete yet from legal counsel, but the intention is to have those changes out at the start of law amendments."

Not allowing the system to work

Opposition leaders criticized the delay, saying it is difficult for anyone to properly evaluate the bill or prepare possible suggested amendments without the text.

Tory Leader Tim Houston said if Rankin is serious about the process working as it should, he should pull the bill and retable it with his changes so the public and the opposition have sufficient time to consider the text.

"Right now what the premier has done is he's taken that away, because nobody actually really knows what the legislation is going to look like," he said.

"He's hinted at what it might look like, but we don't know. And that puts every Nova Scotian at a disadvantage because it makes law amendments far less effective when you don't actually understand what the legislation you're appearing to discuss is."

NDP Leader Gary Burrill questioned Rankin's decision to announce changes to the signature bill ahead of the law amendments process.

Premier remains open to feedback

Burrill said the government has shown that it "immediately just crumbles and withdraws" at the first sign of industry pushback.

"I don't think that sends a very good message to the public about who has got their hands on the democratic levers of this province," he said.

Houston and Burrill said it's their hope everyone who wants to speak to the bill will have a chance. As of Friday, 39 people had registered to speak on Monday.

Although it's his preference for things to be completed that day, Rankin said more time will be made available if it's required.

He said he will consider what people have to say about the bill throughout the legislative process.

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