Blue Mountain / Birch Cove Lakes Presentation “Public Meeting” a Complete Train Wreck

by Ron Foley Macdonald

The “Presentation” of Justice Heather Robertson’s report on the Blue Mountain/Birch Cove Lakes Park Proposal came to a screeching halt at a bizarre meeting held in the tiny meeting room at the Lacewood Future Inn this evening.

Hundreds of people showed up for the meeting, held in a room that had a maximum capacity for 120.

The 35-minute meeting, surely the shortest and most deranged Municipal meeting I’ve ever attended, saw Justice Robertson attempt to justify her report, while a City solicitor added some technical details, before a developer sputtered through a plan to disembowel the proposed park.

The chair repeated that questions from the public were not to be taken. The public, which spilled out into the hallway and the lobby of the hotel, had plenty of questions anyway. Once those questions started flying, the ‘presenters’ simply gave up. They decided to cut and run, and the meeting was over, leaving a tsunami of hostility washing over the proceedings.

Holding a short meeting in an inadequate space is Bad Governance 101. There entire proceeding was an embarrassment – as one City councilor told me, it was as if Justice Roberstson had gone rogue, not understanding the process she had been brought into.

The mood of the crowd was ugly at times. When Justice Robertson said at one point that this review could be a three to five year process, for example, and that there would be a great deal more public consultation, I heard a person squeezed into the hallway near me say, “bullshit,” and another person followed up with “how much are they paying you.” At other times, it was hard to make out anything she or the other speakers said because of the boos that drowned out their remarks.

The result was farcical, uncomfortable, and deeply troubling. Halifax Regional Municipality seems to be at war with itself in the lead-up to municipal elections.

Factions are jockeying. Rules and decorum are being thrown out the window. There is a distinct feeling that the public may finally be at a breaking point when it comes to over-development in Halifax, and the perceived all-too-cozy relationship between the developers and many city councilors.

In the case of the Blue Mountain / Birch Coves Lake Park Proposal, years of planning and public consultation seems to have been tossed away in a sudden turnaround. Whether this is a temporary aberration or a grotesque sellout isn’t yet clear, but if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck… well, you know what it is.

What is clear is that there are many, many people who are very, very angry about how things have come about. Some stomped out of the meeting in the first five minutes; others walked out during Justice Robertson’s remarks. Many left during the developer’s increasingly quavering presentation. They were shaking their heads in disbelief. I can’t blame them. This might have been the strangest meeting in Halifax Regional Municipality’s entire history.

Halifax’s rampant over-development has reached a new level of madness, and the citizenry is on the verge of revolt. In the old days, pitchforks and burning torches would have no doubt been seen.

Citizens can make comments on Justice Robertson’s report and the developer’s proposals on the Blue Mountain/Birch Cove Lakes Park plans until July 4th, 2016 at, or by fax or mail, although at this point, with a feeling that the entire deal is a fait accompli, one wonders if anyone in power will really listen.

[Ed. note – header photo credit Jennifer Watts,]

Ron Foley Macdonald

Ron Foley Macdonald

Ron Foley Macdonald is a filmmaker, musician, author, and arts journalist who lives in Halifax, NS. He has written for such publications as the Halifax Daily News, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, and Take One. He taught film history for 15 years at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and has also taught at Dalhousie University and Mount Saint Vincent University. For two decades he was the Senior Programmer at the Atlantic Film Festival. He is currently the curator of the film and video series at the Dalhousie Art Gallery, and the producer of the recent feature films Exit Thread and Roundabout.
Ron Foley Macdonald

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8 thoughts on “Blue Mountain / Birch Cove Lakes Presentation “Public Meeting” a Complete Train Wreck

  • June 21, 2016 at 6:49 am

    Great report, Ron. Thanks for doing this. Was there anything in the remarks from Justice Robertson or the developer that was not contained in her report? Clearly, they and the city don’t get the idea of a wilderness park and why the province donated all that land. It wasn’t to create a park next to all the private land they own.

  • June 21, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Well said – EVERYONE SHARE THIS please!

  • June 21, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    This is terrible. I really can’t believe the lack of planning that was put into a ‘planning’ discussion. The 20 years of professional work that it has taken to name the land as a wilderness park….and this is what they do. It’s really disgraceful.

  • June 21, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Sounds like the bribes and kick backs from the developers to the Justice, and I use that term loosely, have already been paid in full. Why have a public consultation without a questions and answers phase? A complete waste of time, if they want a dictatorship they should just take their bribes and make the announcements, and stop trying to BS the public that we have any say.

  • June 21, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    TAKE ACTION: Halifax’s Birch Cove Lakes wilderness could be overrun with suburban development (see map). Please take a moment to let City Council know that the regional park is important to you. CPAWS NS has set up an action page to make it super easy for you to provide comments at

  • June 22, 2016 at 9:01 am

    Ron, Thank you for this insightful report. Halifax continues to demonstrate a lack of interest in listening to citizens’ voices. It seems HRM’s inability to execute effective and meaningful community engagement continues to mobilize voters in this election year. My hope is that the new Council will focus a renewed effort to design policies to encourage and value public participation in the near future.

    Once again, HRM undervalued the people of Halifax.

    Pamela Lovelace
    for HRM District 13
    Councillor, Hammonds Plains-St. Margaret’s
    Ph: 902.237.1747

  • June 23, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    If they weren’t going to take questions then why bother holding a meeting? They could have disseminated the information via web sites and press releases. I heard someone ask in the hallway whether or not this was a done deal and the response was that it was not. The follow-up question was, “So there might not be any development at all?” To which the reply was, “Oh there’s going to be development.” What a farce.

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