CREATIVE ACTIVISM

Creative Activism seems like an appropriate term to describe the multi-faceted, and complex approach, to work to win important environmental victories, when issues threaten what’s best about our communities.

Creative Activism is radical in the sense that one uses imagination, while working in small groups, to think of approaches to problem solving, involving community activism. What I think is radical about the idea of Creative Activism, is that it uses the same thinking and creative processes as art making, that when put into action, result in slightly different approaches to running a media campaign on an issue. Often slight differences result in big successes over time.

Two local examples of major wins from the last decade, that stopped inappropriate developments, used legal action. These court cases were against oil and gas drilling and fracking here in Western Cape Breton Island, and the Cabot Golf course condo development at Inverness beach. These legal actions made potential investors insecure about these projects. In the first case Petroworth’s stock price headed to almost zero, and in the other people declined to invest in condo’s, where the historic land title was being challenged.

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Anti-clearcut Billboard 2018

While court action is expensive, time consuming, these actions still have resulted in wins by stopping the planned projects, even though the court cases challenging these developments were lost.

Winning is important on important community issues, but also is hard work and time consuming. This volunteer work can be dynamic and exciting, especially if using creative thinking and a creative approach.

A SHORT PERSONAL HISTORY OF MY CREATIVE ACTIVISM

At some point in my career making films on environmental issues in my community in Cape Breton, and also being an activist directly on issues, I developed a creative approach to attracting media and running media campaigns on environmental issues, which I call CREATIVE ACTIVISM.

The origin of this approach came from being involved in a very long battle, working with Elizabeth May and others, in the 1970s, which stopped chemicals being sprayed on our forests, and us, in Cape Breton. See my films: BUDWORKS and HERBICIDE TRIALS.

BUDWORKS (1978) documents the horrific spraying of millions of acres of forest annually in New Brunswick with the herbicide Fenitrothion, and how 21-year-old Elizabeth May, who eventually became the leader of the Green Party of Canada, and a member of parliament, stopped the spraying of millions of acres of forests in Nova Scotia.

HERBICIDE TRIALS (1984) documents an important Canadian court case, which climaxed a campaign to stop the spraying of Agent Orange, a carcinogenic mixture of 24-D and 245-T, on the Crown lands of Cape Breton leased by the Swedish multinational Stora Kopparberg, the worlds oldest incorporated company. Stora’s pulp and paper factory was the largest employer in southern Cape Breton Island. The massive environmental effort was coordinated by Elizabeth May and involved activists from throughout Nova Scotia. The legal case pitted 12 Cape Breton rural residents against Stora. Unfortunately, we lost the court battle, and the plaintiffs, exhausted by the 2½ years of litigation, abandoned an appeal.

Despite the loss of the Nova Scotia Herbicide Court Case, the continued efforts of activists eventually resulted, by 1990, in ending spraying of forests that was taking place in Cape Breton, while the mainland of Nova Scotia to this date still suffers this corporate plague.

Alongside making political documentaries on environmental issues, in the 1980s I became more direct in my activism on issues and campaigns to stop spraying and clearcutting., and to promote wilderness protection. I volunteered with The Margaree Environmental Association (MEA), and Citizens Against Pesticides (CAP) using media releases, poster campaigns, and commercial billboards. In addition, our core group of activists initiated smaller court cases against the issuing of the permits to spray, all of which were lost. These efforts did succeed in building public awareness of environmental issues, and raising our profile with decision-makers in government and industry.

Never before had Nova Scotia seen rural dwellers become skilled activists and repeatedly take on the government, to challenge the historic status quo and old boys networks. Many of us had moved to Nova Scotia to live in rural areas. We were well educated, and not about to be told to stay at home and mind our own business within the confines of our farms; aka – “Shut up”, which seemed to be the historic norm in rural Nova Scotia.

In the years following the loss of the Herbicide case, a number of us who were active on forestry and spray issues, organized and continued fighting to stop the spraying of pesticides and herbicides on forests and nearby homes.

Jim and Sue Watkins, along with Maria Coady and Brian Peters were pivotal in starting the Margaree Environmental Association, an organization initially dedicated to support fundraising for the Herbicide Court case 1982-4. The MEA became over the next four decades the largest and most active environmental organization on Cape Breton.

In the 1990s the Margaree Environmental Association, of which I have been a long time Co-Chair with Brian Peters, ran the first billboard campaign, along with posters, to protect old growth forests which were being massively clear cut on the Keppoch Plateau near Lake Ainslie, Cape Breton. The government response was to fly journalists around the area, after which the journlaists all agreed with us, and soon after this tour the cutting of this area mostly ceased.

Part of our campaign involved me producing a short film, “THE CAPE BRETON ENDANGERED SPACES” which included aerial footage, with a narration of the story of extensive old growth forests being clearcut and sprayed.

Next we ran a successful traveling photo exhibit, with photographs done by Stephen Patterson, to show the beautiful remaining old growth forests on Cape Breton Island, together with a poster campaign, which used early satellite imaging to highlight extensive clear cuts, and to demonstrate the ubiquity of clear cutting of old growth hardwood forests.

Thereafter, more successful actions by the Margaree Environmental Association, and others, resulted in significant areas of Nova Scotia becoming protected as wilderness, after years of the government saying there was nothing to protect.

From the early 1980s the MEA was part of a very active Cape Breton anti-spray coalition called CAP – Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, first chaired by Brian Peters and then by Charly Restino. Frequently we used the court room in Baddeck for our meetings, so whoever chaired the meeting that day (I did at least once) would sit up in the judge’s chair, and even use the gavel to control the meetings.

As much as I can remember regular attendees were Jim and Sue Watkins, Brian Peters, Charles and Suzy Restino, Candace and Peter Christiano, Aaron and Ruth Schneider, Burland Murphy, Dr. Jim O’Brien, Maria Coady, Geoffrey May, Chris and Judy King, Lloyd Stone, Otis Tomas, Judy and Sam Brooks, among others.

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Anti-clearcut Billboard 2000

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PROTESTING IN SWEDEN

In the spring of 1989, I developed the idea that a delegation, consisting of Charles Restino, our local First Nations colleague Charles “Junior” Bernard, my partner Diane Moore, our 4 year old son Geoffrey, and I, would fly to Sweden to attend Stora Kopparberg’s multi-million dollar 700th birthday party. The intention was to protest and build awareness in Sweden of the herbicide spraying and forest clearcutting being conducted in Nova Scotia, by the parent company of our local pulp and paper mill. I conceived of the protest like a theatre play; that the 5 of us would simply appear wherever the events were taking place, to protest over several days, and hold press conferences.

Elizabeth May in 1984 has led a similar entourage to Sweden to pressure Stora to cancel the proposed herbicide spraying. The Swedish Prime Minister condemned forest spraying, which was not allowed in Sweden, and they attracted a huge amount of Swedish media attention. To note; Quebec and Ontario do not allow forest spraying, while New Brunswick has permitted massive spraying of millions of acres for years whether on Crown lands or private lands, the majority of which are Irving owned or leased by Irving on New Brunswick’s Crown land.

When we arrived in Sweden, the environmental groups hosting us had already briefed the media of our arrival and purpose of our visit. Well what attention we garnered! Stora has over 100 divisions of the parent company worldwide and we were the only people protesting! The media from all over Sweden, Scandinavia, Europe, and even Canada were there. As I had hoped and imagined, the media had nothing else to cover except the big party, and us. We became front page news, and radio and TV stars over the next 4 days. Even the police were excited to meet us, as was the general population, as we moved around the town of Falun, Stora’s home town.

Through our protests we were demanding an end to spraying and clear cutting. We requested a meeting with Stora’s President, and left with little choice, he had us meet with his entire Board of Directors. I recently spoke with Charles Restino on March 25, 2020; he now lives in Victoria B.C. Charles reminded me that it was this meeting that sealed the end to Stora spraying herbicides in Eastern Nova Scotia in 1990. At that time Stora’s forest operations in Nova Scotia covered more than a million acres of Crown and private land.

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Charles Restino, Geoffrey Livingston (4yr old), Junior Bernard

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Meeting with Stora president

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Stora President with Neal's Maple Syrup - Sweden 1988

CO-OPERATING FOR CHANGE

Once Stora stopped spraying, I was asked to be the cultural and environmental community representative on the company’s Forest Advisory Committee, along with Brian Peters as my alternate representative. Our efforts on this committee were successful in changing attitudes and policies to become somewhat more ecosystem based and ecologically sensitive. In addition, the MEA participated in drafting the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) rules for Acadian Forests. We demanded that in order to qualify for FSC certification companies could not spray pesticides or herbicides, and not allow old growth clear cutting. Stora was intent on gaining and maintaining FSC certification as it would give the company access to lucrative markets. Unfortunately, to this day spraying and old growth clearcutting continues across the rest of Nova Scotia, more or less with government permission, and when operators can get away with it.

CORRUPT USE OF PUBLIC FUNDS

In the early 1990’ in Nova Scotia, massive clear cutting and spraying were being subsidized with public funding from the Federal and Provincial governments. I was able to obtain the consultant’s report that examined this forestry funding agreement, after over $100 million dollars was given out to woodlot owners through forest contractors/cutters, and to the big industrial forest compnaies. The report, which had not been made public, was shocking. Under this forestry agreement, the Federal government required forestry to become sustainable through the strategic allocation of these funds. Instead, the funds were delivered directly to the forest industry (with a wink and a nod) with the false contention that the industry was now sustainable. The result was that these public funds significantly increased the rate of clear cutting and spraying.

With this report in hand we developed a campaign to stop the misuse of more public funding. The Federal government did not renew the forestry agreement with Nova Scotia, because the Nova Scotia forestry department was entirely complicit with the misuse of these funds. The Province then withdrew funding for spraying, which greatly reduced spraying, as no one wanted to pay for it themselves. Unfortunately, spraying continues on mainland Nova Scotia to this day, amidst continued public protest, but not on Cape Breton

In the early 1990’ in Nova Scotia, massive clear cutting and spraying were being subsidized with public funding from the Federal and Provincial governments. I was able to obtain the consultant’s report that examined this forestry funding agreement, after over $100 million dollars was given out to woodlot owners through forest contractors/cutters, and to the big industrial forest compnaies. The report, which had not been made public, was shocking. Under this forestry agreement, the Federal government required forestry to become sustainable through the strategic allocation of these funds. Instead, the funds were delivered directly to the forest industry (with a wink and a nod) with the false contention that the industry was now sustainable. The result was that these public funds significantly increased the rate of clear cutting and spraying.

NEW WILDERNESS AREAS

 

One of my personal interests, which comes from living on beautiful Cape Breton Island, was to identify and campaign for new wilderness areas. Many of these have now been protected. The first of these was the Bornish Hills in 1990, followed by an expansion of the Trout River protected area in the early 1990s. Large areas of old growth Acadian hardwood forest on the Keppoch plateau were being cut, which comprised the headwaters of Trout River. Charles Restino was also extremely active on this file, in securing its protection as a new wilderness area.

In the course of this campaign, I was able to meet with Don Downe, Nova Scotia’s forestry Minister, in the early 1990s, after the annual Liberal riding meeting in my community of Mabou. I politely demanded new wilderness areas be established and protected. Minister Downe advised that his staff told him there was no old growth left to protect in the province, as it had all been cut. I challenged this as nonsense. Minister Downe took on this challenge to find out who was correct, and determined that I was. Thereafter, he became a major advocate for wilderness protection, which led to the establishment of the first 31 new wilderness areas in Nova Scotia. I ran into Don Downe in 2017, and he thanked me for changing his mind on this so he could take action for wilderness protection.

I was interested in having more areas protected, and put forward Humes River, which became protected in 2019. I also brought forward the Chimney Corner Wilderness area, which has now been protected, and I like many others in my community, pushed for the protection of Crown lands on the Mabou Highlands, which has now been achieved. New this year in 2020 we are requesting that the Province purchase Chimney Corner Beach to add to the nearby Chimney Corner Wilderness Area. Its purchase by the province would ensure that this popular beach remains open to the public, and not developed by some private entity.
 

JIM CAMPBELL’S BARREN

In 1996 -1998 we enjoyed one of our biggest successes, which came from working with many groups in Nova Scotia, especially with Ray Plourde of Ecology Action Centre in Halifax. Ray organized a Province wide coalition, to win back one of the 31 new wilderness areas, the Jim Campbell’s Barren; an area that the Province suddenly gave away to mining interests. The MEA was the first group to demand this area be reinstated, to not accept this government decision. At first other groups thought we should be happy we got other areas protected, and not fight to get this one back.
 

Our victory came after an 18-month battle, during which we mobilized the media, and embarrassed the government. I garnered national media attention by using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIPOP). I discovered that the date on the Cabinet documents to remove this wilderness area was altered, which is a federal Criminal offence. The RCMP got involved, and the issue was front-page news for weeks. In the end, the scandal over Jim Campbell’s Barren was one of the reasons the Premier at the time resigned. I wrote an unpublished book about it called ROBBER BARRENS.

This incredible win was achieved before the internet was widely available. The fax machine was a powerful tool, along with the telephone, and press conferences.

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THE BATTLE AT OUR SHORES

From 1998-2000 I made my nationally televised film THE BATTLE AT OUR SHORES, which documented the large-scale community opposition to oil and gas exploration in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. After the industry conducted a limited amount of seismic exploration, the issue was brought to a standstill. While we won the fight to protect the Gulf from oil and gas exploration and development, there is one remaining site called Old Harry where permits exist.

RUDY HAASE

Rudy Haase , is a one hour documentary I completed in 2007. When Rudy was 87 years old. It is a biography about Rudy, Canada’s great unknown environmental activist. Rudy lived in Nova Scotia. He successfully campaigned to preserve wilderness internationally and locally. Rudy fought against clear cutting and spraying of forests, and uranium mining.

ZONING AS A TOOL FOR LANDSCAPE PROTECTION

In May 2008 the Margaree Environmental Association (MEA) released "Conserving Biodiversity in the Mabou Highlands: Land-use planning as an approach to conservation" by Chris Miller, Ph.D. This report proposes a method for conserving biodiversity on a landscape level by zoning , using the Mabou Highlands as a case study.

The Nova Scotia Ministers of Forestry and Environment, invited me to present the report to them with their senior staff in attendance, and then said they were interested to use our study to kickstart the Nova Scotia Bio-diversity Plan. Shortly thereafter was a provincial election in which the PC government fell, and the next Nova Scotia government, NDP, showed no interest at all in pursuing the bio-diversity plan.

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MUSKRAT FALLS

I made a strong effort, including speaking on a panel at City Hall in St. John’s Newfoundland in 2010, to bring possible alternatives to the Muskrat Falls development to national public attention. I proposed there could be wind farms set up as needed all over Newfoundland, with local people getting much of the work to build and maintain these wind projects. Instead we have the Muskrat Falls hydro-electric project, which is years behind schedule, and billions of dollars over budget. It has become a political scandal, and an environmental and economic mess (see the Muskrat Falls Inquiry–Final Report 2020).

FRACKING – THE BATTLE TO SAVE LAKE AINSLIE:

Together with many others, I played a role in stopping oil and gas drilling near homes adjacent to Lake Ainslie, Cape Breton Island’s largest freshwater lake. This exploratory drilling was to be the first oil and gas activity in recent time on Cape Breton Island.

The Margaree Environmental Association took on the court action in this battle to stop drilling and fracking. The MEA raised enough money in 3 weeks, to take the Environment Minister of Nova Scotia to court for issuing the drilling permit. While we lost the court case, the immediate result of the court action and ensuing media coverage was that Petroworth’s (the proponent) stock value dropped from 10 cents to 1 cent and then ½ cent, and the company folded up shop. This court action was a significant part of the campaigning efforts of many people throughout Nova Scotia, that brought about a fracking moratorium.

Nova Scotia is one of the only places in the world where fracking was placed under a moratorium by 2015. Through on-going citizen activism, the moratorium now covers all of Eastern Canada, including Quebec, and Newfoundland.

My award-winning feature length documentary, 100 SHORT STORIES, documents the battle at Lake Ainslie, and my own travails that eventually led to Black River Wind Limited developing a 6MW wind energy project. It is a wonderfully creative film, which mixes the stories of fossil fuels and renewable energy, with predatory capitalism.

GOLF

Then along came the mid-2000s when the American billionaire golf resort owner, Michael Kaiser, showed up in our area with his Canadian partner Ben Cowan-Dewar, and formed Cabot Links golf courses in 2006.

Unfortunately, for about 10 years starting in 2010, many of my efforts have been directed towards issues around these golf course developments in my community, including illegally building on protected beach lands, and reneging on agreements with the government and community by failing to build 2 beach access paths, and more.

Cabot built their first of two golf courses, on 190 acres of beautiful ocean and beach front lands they got for $1.00 from the Inverness Development Association. More than $10 million in zero interest loans were given to Cabot by the Federal and Provincial governments to build their golf courses and accommodations. Unfortunately, this is characteristic of many regional development programs, where business that don’t need public help are the first to receive government largesse. If you are a golfer, you'll love these courses, but do realize that they were built mostly with our tax money, on land that was given to Cabot for $1.00 in return for a royalty of $1.00 per tee fee per year.

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Party to celebrate new beach access August 30, 2018

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Beach Path Protest 2016, Geoffrey Livingston and Neal Livingston

While the community of Inverness gained seasonal jobs, many of them under the table, it lost beach access, suffers from herbicide spraying drifting onto the village, and the MEA and others have fought off several attempts by Cabot to get local, provincial and federal governments to build Cabot an executive jet airport.

In a very long drawn out campaign over 7 years, the last 3 years of which were mostly my volunteer work, the MEA was able to force the province to make Cabot honour their legal obligations, to build one of the two beach required beach accesses, which opened in 2018.

STOPPING AN EXECUTIVE JET AIRPORT

In 2011 citizens wrote to the Nova Scotia Government and successfully stopped Cabot from receiving lands from the province to build an executive jet airport at the local provincial tree nursery at Strathlorne, near Inverness.

In 2015 it became known that Cabot had convinced Inverness County to build, operate, and maintain an executive jet airport, at the local flyers club landing strip in Margaree Valley, the primary customers of which would be wealthy golfers. We defeated this proposal through an active media campaign, and meetings with provincial government officials. This was an example of local politics at its worst. You can look up MARGAREE AIRPORT NEWS to learn more about this.

 

LIVINGSTON VERSUS CABOT LINKS

 

A legal challenge to stop a Condo Development at Inverness Beach - You can search this court case to see media coverage, looking up LIVINGSTON VERSUS CABOT LINKS.

In 2017 Cabot steamed ahead, amidst major local opposition expressed at a rezoning hearing in Inverness, to prepare to build nine $2.5 million condos, adjacent to the only beach road access to Inverness beach, almost on top of the boardwalk, on a piece of land that was used for generations as a public park and beach access.

In 2018, with no other way to stop it, I raised the necessary funds from friends, as well as from myself, and took Cabot to court to attempt to prevent this development, and the loss of public recreational land. The case was supposed to be in Halifax, but unfortunately Cabot was able to get it switched to our local area where they understood who the presiding judge would likely be. The judge ruled against me in a ruling intended to discourage public interest litigation in Nova Scotia, which included awarding $ 48,714.00 in court costs against me , to be paid to Cabot within 10 days.

Six months later, Cabot announced that the whole development had been cancelled. So a stinging loss suddenly, in June 2019, became an unexpected and somewhat brilliant win. As one can imagine my year changed in about 3 seconds when I read this, and I planned to treat myself to a relaxing and fun summer in Cape Breton. But suddenly the media was calling about an airport, again.

AIRPORT ROUND 3

 

In late May 2019 with a Federal election coming we had round 3 of stopping this airport. Suddenly, with no warning, the Federal Government was set to announce $15 million dollars in grants to Ben Cowan–Dewar ‘s (Cabot’s co-owner) new airport company, together with $3 million from the Province, to build an executive jet airport. Ben Cowan-Dewar has a Parliamentary appointment as the head of the Canadian Tourism Commission.

The proposed airport was to be built on or adjacent to a protected wilderness reserve called Mason’s Mountain Nature Reserve, just north of the village of Inverness where the golf courses are located. There was massive public opposition. Cowan-Dewar’s only supporters were the local old-boys network, and nationally by some former politicians and senior business executives.

We stopped it in 5 weeks from happening. The public was furious at the behind-the-scenes machinations that took place in Ottawa to formulate such an offer.

It was the biggest summer news story in Nova Scotia, and covered nationally in the media. For more details of this look up INVERNESS NOVA SCOTIA AIRPORT NEWS .

It is an amazing story.

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QUEBEC POWER FOR NOVA SCOTIA 2011–ONWARD

The most important issue in need of resolution is to end coal burning in Nova Scotia for electricity. Nova Scotia has gained an exemption from the Federal government, to allow Nova Scotia Power to burn coal for electricity, originally until 2030, but now extended in 2019 to 2040.

Nova Scotia Power, a private Emera owned company, has a monopoly to provide power in Nova Scotia. It is still allowed by Nova Scotia and the Federal Government to burn coal for at least 50% of its power generation, making it one of the worst polluters in Canada.

In 2011, prior to the Muskrat falls construction, Peggy Cameron, Gretchen Fitzgerald of Sierra Club of Canada, and I, noticed that Quebec Hydro had signed a long-term deal with Vermont to sell power at 5 cents per kwh, so we decided that we wanted a similar deal for Nova Scotia.

I called the Premier’s office in Quebec, who forwarded me to the Environment Minister’s office, who connected me to the Executive Assistant for the Minister. Amazing, he knew all about the capacity of Quebec power that could be be moved across New Brunswick, as Hydro Quebec almost bought New Brunswick Power a few years before. The EA informed me that 300MW would be very doable on existing power lines in New Brunswick.

We were then able to calculate that moving the power through New Brunswick under existing tariff rules, where the lines could be booked for 300mw, would add about 1cent per kwh to the price from Quebec. Nova Scotia Power could make a few cents on distributing the power, and the total price for power in Nova Scotia to all classes of ratepayers would be no more than what we pay now; a long-term win/win /win for all parties, including the public.

So, we had found a once-in-a-lifetime solution to reduce coal power by 40% right away in Nova Scotia, and at the right price. We organized a press conference, one of several we held over the next 3 years, launched a campaign called CLEAN POWER NOW, and demanded government and the utility take action. Luckily, we received national and local media attention.

As we demanded action, the utility did a study comparing the price for 300MW from Muskrat Falls compared to 500MW from Quebec. They carefully set the terms of reference to be unequal. They would have known that 500MW could not be moved through New Brunswick without significant line upgrades, and they were planning to build and own the undersea cable to bring power from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia, which they now have done.

Eventually, the massively over budget and very delayed Muskrat falls Hydro plant will provide 3000MW to Nova Scotia, and with 300MW from Quebec, 85% of Nova Scotia’s coal burning could be turned off.

When the Trudeau government took power in 2015 we contacted the Environment and Natural Resources departments, travelled to Ottawa to meet with Ministerial advisors in 2016 and 2017, and demanded that Ottawa bring all the relevant parties together to get the 300MW moving to Nova Scotia. Ottawa, by doing nothing declined to act, while Environment Minister McKenna extended the date for Nova Scotia to be off coal burning for electricity an extra 10 years from 2030 to 2040.

Through 2018 and 2019, we held more press conferences, wrote the politicians, met with Nova Scotia departmental personnel, met again with Nova Scotia Power executives, and no one wanted to act. We met with Hydro Quebec, and senior staff in the New Brunswick government, who like Quebec, confirmed that 300MW of space could be booked. We demanded the Province of Nova Scotia do this, and demanded the same of Nova Scotia Power.

In autumn 2019 the Premiers of Eastern Canada, including Quebec, said they would continue to discuss Quebec power coming to the Maritimes. As well they commissioned a study to look at 800MW from Quebec for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

In autumn 2019 the Premiers of Eastern Canada, including Quebec, said they would continue to discuss Quebec power coming to the Maritimes. As well they commissioned a study to look at 800MW from Quebec for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

In March 2020 I followed up our December 2019 meeting with Nova Scotia Power President Wayne O’Connor. He surprised me by telling me that plans were moving forward on Quebec power for Nova Scotia, and that NS Power was already receiving 50MW of power this winter. He said that Nova Scotia Power, New Brunswick Power and Hydro Quebec were now working together on plans for both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to be using 800MW of power from Quebec, which requires new transmission lines. I encouraged him to not wait for these transmission line upgrades, but to move forward with a contract to use 300MW now from Hydro Quebec. Nova Scotia Power President O’Connor also told me on our call that the Premier of Nova Scotia had offered to meet with any officials necessary in Quebec, New Brunswick, and Ottawa, to help move forward with this transition to get off coal and to use existing hydro power from Quebec.

To note, power from Quebec will not impede the development of more renewables in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

So, it looks like we have a win coming over the next couple of years, or 5 years at the most, to get Nova Scotia off of burning most of its coal, and dirty wood fired biomass, instead of 2030-2040. I’m not sure if our almost 10 years of volunteer work will ever be recognized on this, but our goal to get Nova Scotia off coal burning sooner versus later will be realized. And to note, power from Quebec will not impede the development of more renewables in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

As a final note, I encourage everyone who can, to put grid interconnected solar on their homes as soon as possible. It will give you energy security and a stable cost of energy for years to come, with a pay back in less than 10 years. Once you have energy security you will find you have a lot more time for creative activities, which I hope will include CREATIVE ACTIVISM.

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Neal Livingston, MP Andy Filmore, Gretchen Fitzgerald in Ottawa, April 10, 2017

ENVIROMENTAL ACTIVISM

Neal Livingston has a distinguished career as an environmental activist and filmmaker on issues related to energy, forestry practices – against clear-cutting and forest spraying, wilderness preservation, against near shore oil and gas development – and for a green energy future.

Successful volunteer advocacy on public policy issues often comes from taking a creative approach to the most difficult issues communities face.

Neal Livingston has a distinguished career as an environmental activist and filmmaker on issues related to energy, forestry practices – against clear-cutting and forest spraying, wilderness preservation, against near shore oil and gas development – and for a green energy future.

Successful volunteer advocacy on public policy issues often comes from taking a creative approach to the most difficult issues communities face.

That is why artists are often engaged in lead activist roles using creative approaches, to help bring about victories in environmental and social controversies, that seemed to be intractable to others, and seemingly impossible to challenge.

Livingston’s approach has been to work collectively, and often with a core group of people, on numerous issues for the last 4 decades. First by producing the first political documentaries on environmental issues made in Eastern Canada, BUDWORKS (1978) and HERBICIDE TRIALS (1984) to assist in the fight against clear cutting and the spraying of herbicides on forests. These battles where one’s led by Elizabeth May who is now the leader of the Green Party of Canada.

After making these documentaries Livingston then became directly involved as an activist and media strategist which helped numerous community victories take place on Cape Breton Island. During the 1990’s and into the first decade of this century these victories included the political scandal and the re-protection of the wilderness area Jim Campbell’s Barren, stopping herbicide spraying of forests, the creation of new wilderness areas, a reduction of Acadian forest hardwood clear cutting, and stopping oil and gas drilling in near shore areas of Cape Breton.

In recent years Livingston worked to bring alternatives to the Muskrat Falls development to national public attention, and played a lead role with others in stopping oil and gas drilling near homes and Lake Ainslie. This drilling was to be the first oil and gas activities in recent time on Cape Breton Island. Livingston has also been a key activist on issues regarding the new golf course at Inverness. The course reneged on re-opening a beach access which they will now have to put in, and over their use of herbicides, and disturbance to dune ecosystems.

These battles have included when necessary community supported court challenges against the Nova Scotia Government, where Livingston often took a lead role. On other issues Government listening to its activist citizens has taken action and been in effect a partner to bring protracted complex issues to a successful conclusion.

Often using ridicule as a powerful tool of activism, and often being ridiculed, Livingston working with his community, has helped to make Cape Breton Island, and Nova Scotia a better place to live and to visit, and Nova Scotia a better society.

Livingston’s ability to frame local issues for national audiences and media interest has been an important element in this remarkable ongoing series of activist successes.

Neal is the vice-chair of the Margaree Environmental Association under which most of his volunteer activism is based. He is the former chair of the National Conservation Committee of the Sierra Club of Canada. In May 2008 the Margaree Environmental Association (MEA) released "Conserving Biodiversity in the Mabou Highlands: Land-use planning as an approach to conservation" by Chris Miller, Ph.D. This report proposes a method for conserving biodiversity on a landscape level with the Mabou Highlands as a case study. See the link below for this study.

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Neal Livingston with Elizabeth May and Rudy Haase