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Nova Scotia, Newfoundland push for quick passage of federal offshore accord changes

The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The governments of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador urged a Senate committee Thursday to quickly pass legislation that would help establish a wind industry off Canada’s East Coast.

Tory Rushton, Nova Scotia’s minister of natural resources, told the committee that the bill, which amends the Atlantic accords, is “pivotal” to help his province reduce its fossil fuel use.

The bill would enable the development of offshore wind farms and expand the mandates of both provinces' offshore petroleum boards to include renewable energy by amending agreements with Ottawa that have helped to regulate oil and gas projects in Atlantic Canada for decades.

Rushton said Nova Scotia would like to see the bill passed without further amendments so his government can introduce mirror legislation this fall and then issue its first call for project bids in 2025. The province plans on offering licences for five gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.

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“There’s not a lot of time, so again I urge our federal partners to move this bill,” Rushton told the committee.

Under questioning from the committee, Rushton said any delay of the legislative changes that would run deep into the fall would come at a cost for both provinces.

“If this is delayed past the fall so we can’t do our mirror legislation … we’re going to lose a whole year of investments from these projects that, quite frankly, will leave Canadian waters and go somewhere such as the North Sea,” the minister said.

Andrew Parsons, Newfoundland and Labrador’s energy minister, said the legislation would allow the province to build a new energy sector that will create jobs and reduce carbon emissions.

“We are in a global competition and some would say we are even in competition with our colleagues in Nova Scotia, but the reality is I do think there is a strong path forward for both provinces and it will have a national impact,” Parsons said.

However, groups including the union for inshore fishers and processing workers in Newfoundland and Labrador and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs called for more time so they can study whether offshore renewable energy development harms the fishery or the environment.

Katie Power of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union, said her membership doesn’t support “the haste with which the Senate is expected to process this bill” and wants to see protections built in so fishers aren’t further restricted from the areas of ocean they harvest.

“We are very contained in where we can fish, so to have that economic area further reduced by another industry is, of course, terrifying for our members,” Power said.

Senator Mary Jane McCallum, a non-affiliated committee member from Manitoba, asked Rushton whether he was aware of objections raised by Nova Scotia’s Mi’kmaw chiefs who recently wrote to the committee asking for more time.

“Given the significance and magnitude of this bill and its far-reaching consequences for the assessment of offshore renewable energy projects, we (Mi’kmaw chiefs) have serious concerns of the prospect of it being unduly rushed through committee,” McCallum read aloud from the letter.

Rushton replied that he was unaware of the letter but added that if that was the chiefs' concern then “further conversations” were needed.

Senate committee chair Paul Massicotte later interjected that the letter was “a concern” and said a hearing with the chiefs will be scheduled in September before a clause-by-clause examination of the bill proceeds.

The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs was unavailable for comment on Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 13, 2024.

— By Keith Doucette in Halifax

The Canadian Press