Robertson’s independent facilitator’s report: independent? facilitator?

bluemountain view

The view from Blue (Halifax Northwest Trails Association).

If you failed to submit written objections to Judge Heather Robertson’s “Facilitator’s Report” on proposed Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Regional Park boundaries by 3 p.m., Monday, July 4, forget it. If your written objections ran to over three pages and you failed to submit 35 copies, no one will read them.

No matter.

It was too late before it was too late.

Let’s rewind.

HRM’s 2006 Regional Strategy designated an untamed swath of land between the Bayers Lake Industrial Park and Hammonds Plains — an area two-thirds the size of the Halifax peninsula — as a public wilderness park. It would be, in the City’s own evocative words, “an opportunity to leave urban life behind and be immersed in natural forest, lakes, streams and bogs within a stone’s throw of the city. Short trail loops, longer hikes, mountain bike trails, lakes for swimming, skating, fishing and two canoe routes will allow the public to use the park for an hour or more, or for an entire day.”

But the park-in-waiting included provincial land and 15 privately owned blocks. In 2009, the province designated its land “protected wilderness,” creating a basis for the new park. By then, however, two of the biggest private landowners were pressing for a secondary planning strategy to allow them to commercially develop their land.


Judge Robertson

In 2014, the city and the landowners agreed to appoint Robertson as a facilitator to help negotiate acceptable park boundaries. (Question: when the City widened Chebucto Road in the mid-oughts, did it hire a facilitator to negotiate with affected homeowners?)

On June 20, Robertson delivered her behind-closed-doors-orchestrated 29-page report to 200 stunned residents at the Futures Inn in Bayers Lake. No questions permitted.

Instead of suggesting a boundary, complained Bob McDonald, chair of the Halifax North West Trails Association, Robertson delivered “a development proposal… on behalf of the landowners/developers,” including permitting private shoreline development on Fox and Susie lakes in the middle of the park while blessing the developer’s scheme to sell another tract of parkland to the city for twice what staff believe it’s worth.

Ignoring staff’s objections the developers’ boundary plan “fails or only minimally achieves” regional park objectives, Robertson insisted — without apparent evidence — their plan is “economically feasible.” For whom?

Some “independent,” some “facilitator.”

Time for a public interest re-do.


  1. ” The more things change the more they remain the same” History has proved time and time again that what government power wants it gets one way or another. I could of course sight 100’s upon 100’s of land grabs and broken promises wrt to Native Indians and farmers and other land owners. The moment bind closed doors is mentioned, trouble is brewing and it never ends well for the little guys, To day we live in the most complex and demanding society but little has changed in government because of Power and influence ….. so why? …. because the primary purpose once elected is to remain elected and big business fuels the re- election flame. Justice Robertson is a fine outstanding judge who like all others will be praised for their contributions ….”But” she is part of the top players in the system and the system once again proved it always has special interests at heart.


  2. You have to wonder how much integrity she brought to her legal decisions. It’s always who you know in Nova Scotia. This was a stitch up from the start.


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