HALIFAX – The provincial NDP caucus feels the province has a responsibility to fix the beleaguered dike system near Amherst.
Speaking to the Amherst News, party leader Gary Burrill said his party introduced legislation Wednesday calling on the provincial government to spend $10 million a year for five years to improve the dikes in the Isthmus of Chignecto.
“We want to see money invested in the next five budgets. This would give the province an investment on the table it can use as a basis to leverage other funds from New Brunswick and the federal government to get up to a level that we know is needed to undertake that project,” Burrill said.
Climate change mitigation is a key philosophy for the provincial New Democrats. Burrill said it’s something his party has talked about for years and while it affects everyone in one way or another it impacts Nova Scotia particularly because so much of its population is settled close to the coastline.
“Of all the places in Nova Scotia where climate change mitigation is important, and there’s lots of them, there’s none where it’s any more important than on the Tantramar Marsh region, if even just for economic reasons,” Burrill said. “The total trade across that area is $50 million a day. We have our whole economy resting on an infrastructure investment that’s hundreds of years ago and has not be adequately tended to since the marshland infrastructure projects of the 1950s.”
Burrill’s comments come provincial and municipal officials on both sides of the provincial border await word on whether a feasibility study will be funded by Transport Canada. It also comes as the Municipality of Cumberland has hired CBCL to study what will be needed to raise the dikes that protect Advocate Harbour.
NDP environment spokesperson Lenore Zann said Nova Scotia must be a leader in protecting its people and businesses from rising sea levels.
“Nova Scotia is surrounded by the ocean, so we must act decisively to mitigate rising sea levels. This includes maintaining the Chignecto Isthmus which links Nova Scotia to the rest of Canada,” Zann said. “As sea levels rise our province needs to act to ensure the dikes are well maintained.”
Burrill said there needs to be a provincial program that supports municipalities in their efforts to mitigate sea level rise and it’s something that goes beyond the isthmus to include other communities along the Bay of Fundy.
“In King’s County, there is a lot of land that’s protected by dikes and municipalities there are very aware of the problem but haven’t got the financial means to do what they need to do,” Burrill said. “There needs to be a comprehensive provincial program to address those concerns.”
The NDP leader said it wasn’t very many years ago that talk of climate change and rising sea levels was viewed as abstract thinking or something not be taken too seriously. Now as temperatures increase there’s the increased risk from rising levels and what it could do to centuries’ old infrastructure.
At present, he said, municipalities such as Amherst and Cumberland County are leading the way in addressing the issue. Now it’s time for the province to come to the table. He said the province is so focused on balancing the budget the only infrastructure concerns it’s addressing are the ones that are most pressing. To Burrill, climate change is becoming very pressing to many communities and they need assistance.
“Pretty near every community in Nova Scotia knows about climate change and rising sea levels now,” he said. “We have communities that used to experience the loses of berms or road washouts that occurred once every 10 or 20 years. Now it’s happening a couple of times a season.”