The future of a new Biodiversity Act in Nova Scotia remains as unclear as a foggy morning near wetlands.
The bill, which would help manage threats to ecosystems and protect species, was first introduced by the Liberal government in March 2019, only to be pulled back a month later in the face of criticism from some people that it was too restrictive on forestry operations and from others who said it didn't go far enough.
Iain Rankin, the lands and forestry minister at the time, pledged to do more consultation and then pass the bill during the government's mandate.
But on Thursday, Derek Mombourquette, who replaced Rankin after he resigned to seek the Nova Scotia Liberal Party leadership, would not commit to passing the bill during this mandate, something the Liberals also promised to do as part of their 2017 election platform.
"What I'll commit today as the new minister of the department is to move [this] as quickly forward to a final conclusion on the act, but I'm not going to rush it, either."
Mombourquette told reporters in Halifax that he's meeting with stakeholders as part of that effort.
"Those meetings will continue on for the next number of weeks for me so we can make a determination and move forward. I know how important this piece of legislation is, but we're going to make sure that every stakeholder has the opportunity to provide that feedback as we go through various drafts."
The other pressing matter Mombourquette inherited is the implementation of the Lahey review on forestry practices, which the government received in August 2018. That review called for a Biodiversity Act.
Prior to resigning as minister, Rankin had said a new forestry management guide, on which so many of the Lahey recommendations hinge, would be ready for public consumption by the end of this year.
On this point, too, Mombourquette said he wants to move as quickly as possible, but was non-committal on timing. He was scheduled to meet with a ministerial advisory panel on Thursday and has meetings scheduled next week with interested parties.
"I'm not going to make a commitment on timeline right now. The important thing for me is to get out and see everyone and make sure that they have full access to me."
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