Healthy Bays Network
NS Municipal Election Candidates Overwhelmingly Support an Open Net-Pen Transition
Updated: Oct 28, 2022
Across nine responding municipalities, fewer than a fifth of municipal candidates were willing to claim support for the open net-pen aquaculture industry in Nova Scotia.
Hector the Shark outside Halifax City Hall. Photo by Simon Ryder-Burbidge.
On September 19th, the Healthy Bays Network (HBN) launched a poll to better understand the opinions of the candidates vying for positions as councillors and mayors in the 2020 Nova Scotia Municipal elections.
Recognizing that this isn’t an issue in all jurisdictions, HBN reached out all the candidates 18 of the 40 Nova Scotian municipalities. These 18 municipalities were targeted as most likely to be discussing the open net-pen issue over the next four years.
Candidates in these municipalities, totaling 180 people altogether, were approached and asked to participate in the poll via email, sometimes through municipal returning officers. We hosted the poll via Google Forms, but candidates were also invited to reach out to the HBN if they had questions or if they wanted to share any additional information. The poll only asked one question, besides asking about the candidates’ name and municipality:
Do you support the transition of open net pen finfish aquaculture out of Nova Scotian waters?
Candidates were given two choices to answer this question in the poll: Yes or No. Several candidates did reach out and express their desire to participate but felt limited by those choices. These responses were captured in the poll and represented in the results as “blank” or neutral responses.
Of the 18 municipalities targeted, nine of them had at least one respondent. Twenty-three candidate responses from the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) represented the most robust feedback of any municipality. Within the HRM’s 17 races (mayoral and 16 districts) nine had at least one candidate respond.
District 13, which includes St. Margaret’s Bay, and District 2, which includes the Eastern Shore, provided the most responses within the HRM. Candidates from the Region of Queens Municipality provided eight responses, with all but two of the municipal races (mayoral and 7 districts) generating at least one response.
Candidates that responded strictly via the Google Form, where they didn’t have a blank option, voted overwhelmingly in favour of a net-pen transition, with 84 percent of respondents indicating their support. Even when a blank option was introduced, almost 70 percent of all respondents indicated they were in favour of transitioning away from open net pen aquaculture.
Nearly 70 percent of responding municipal candidates claimed support for a transition away from open net-pen aquaculture in Nova Scotia.
The support for moving away from open net pen aquaculture held up when the responses from the candidates were broken down by municipality or by district. This analysis shows that except for the Town of Digby, where there was only one response, those responses opposed to a transition away from open net pen aquaculture were never in the majority (50 percent or less). The current council for the Municipality of the District of Digby passed a 3-2 motion in January of this year opposing an open net-pen expansion in the region. Other mayors and councils have also voted on their opposition, including Mahone Bay, Chester and the Region of Queen's Municipality.
Candidate responses broken down by municipality still showed a widespread opposition to the continuation of open net-pen aquaculture.
In the HRM, districts where open net-pen aquaculture is most likely to take place, including District 13 (St. Margaret's Bay) and District 2 (Eastern Shore), responded widely in favour of an open net-pen transition.
While we did not receive responses from a majority of candidates, the responses we did receive continue to validate the message of coastal towns all across Nova Scotia: No more open net-pens. At this point, the message to industry and government should be loud an clear. At the HBN, we're looking forward to working with elected councils and mayors throughout the province to make sure our coastal communities are heard and respected on this issue.
If you'd like to know more about municipal candidate responses for your region, please get in touch, and be sure to get out and vote this week!