In 2019, the Nova Scotia Government passed the Coastal Protection Act – the first of its kind in Canada. For more than a decade, the Ecology Action Centre (EAC) has been working with organizations, coastal community members, and the public toward the realization of this vital legislation. It will take effect once the accompanying regulations are developed and approved.
Once in place, the Coastal Protection Act regulations will be the first step in helping to make our coastal ecosystems more resilient so they can adapt and protect us.
The Coastal Protection Act will:
Provide protection for our vital coastal ecosystems
Eliminate inappropriate coastal development
Preserve the dynamic and resilient nature of our coasts to better withstand climate change
Once regulations are developed and passed, the Coastal Protection Actwill create a coastal protection zone. This will regulate all development on lands within a certain (to be determined) proximity of the shore. Through the use of property-specific assessments carried out by designated professionals under the Act, people looking to develop within the coastal zone will receive a minimum horizontal setback from the water, and be required to meet minimum building elevation above sea level standards. This is an excellent way to address and regulate the wide variety of coastal geography in Nova Scotia.
The EAC is working with groups across Canada and internationally to identify best practices for implementing the Act. We will also be championing the voices of communities across the province on issues such as undersized lots. We will ensure that regulations specifically address these pressing challenges.
In the coming years, we will be seeking updates to the current on-site septic system and well regulations to address gaps. The Coastal Protection Act does a great deal to protect new building development from erosion and sea-level rise, but fails to address the location of septic systems and wells. As these are subject to the same threats as houses and cottages, they pose a significant risk to the environment and homeowners if breached.
The Coastal Protection Act received full party support, legislative approval and received royal assent in April 2019. Significant public consultation was carried out in September 2021. Municipalities, professional groups and coastal property owners were consulted throughout the regulation development process.
During the 2021 election, in the 2022 Climate Plan and in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona, the Progressive Conservative government promised that they would complete and implement the CPA regulations in 2023. Even though increasingly severe climate impacts, including multiple hurricanes and flooding events, continue to batter our coasts, in August 2023 the province abruptly announced that the regulations would be delayed until at least July 2025, and that in the meantime municipalities could pass their own bylaws.
The EAC mobilized over 1,100 Nova Scotians to send letters to the provincial government, all calling for immediate action on the Coastal Protection Act (CPA) regulations.
In October 2023, the province released an online survey targeting coastal landowners. While public consultation is extremely important, the survey was filled with board and leading questions that covered information obtained through extensive previous consultation and studies. The EAC filled out the survey and mobilized Nova Scotians to do the same, telling the province that the continued delay was unacceptable.
The EAC held a press conference on Oct. 24, 2023 on the steps of the Halifax waterfront, calling on the Nova Scotia government to fully implement the CPA regulations and, in doing so, take the very first and most basic step in coastal climate adaptation: stop building in known risk areas. Watch the press conference below.
The province’s continued delay of the regulations unfairly offloads labour and costs onto Nova Scotia’s municipalities. On Nov. 6, 2023, 12 Nova Scotian municipalities joined the call for the province to fully implement the CPA regulations.
Five municipalities – Town of Bridgewater, Town of Clark’s Harbour, Town of Digby, Town of Kentville and Town of Lunenburg – signed on to a joint statement organized by the EAC. Read the joint statement here.
Another six municipalities – the District of Chester, Kings County, Town of New Glasgow, Town of Trenton, West Hants Regional Municipality, and Region of Queens Municipality – sent their own letters. Pictou County signed the joint statement and sent their own letter to Minister Halman. Read some of their letters here.
As of Nov. 8, the Town of Pictou had also written their own letter, bringing the total to 13 municipalities.
On Nov. 8, 2023, the provincial Liberal party brought forward a bill calling for the implementation of the Coastal Protection Act regulations.
Click here to send a message to your local MLA and Tim Halman, minister of environment and climate change, demanding immediate action to protect our coastal communities and the ecosystems they rely on.
Our coast is invaluable. Nova Scotia’s economy, our way of life, and our cultural heritage are intricately connected to our coastline. We rely on it not just for development, but for recreation, transportation and tourism, for sustaining fisheries, and as a habitat for coastal species. We need to ensure that our coastline continues to protect and nourish us, to employ, and entertain us.
Preparing for climate change, rising sea levels, and more frequent and severe storms will not only save money but will also decrease the risk to life and infrastructure. United Nations reports show that every dollar invested in pre-emptive climate adaptation can save up to seven dollars in relief and recovery down the road. When Hurricane Juan ripped through Halifax, over $100 million in damage was left in its wake. With the increased frequency of dangerous storm events, provincial dollars are better spent investing in preemptive solutions.