WHYCOCOMAGH: Reliable internet service and coastal protection will be on the agenda as Inverness Municipal Council prepares to meet with officials in two provincial government departments later this month.

County representatives speaking at a recent council meeting at Whycocomagh’s Keltic Quay confirmed that they hope to have representatives from the Nova Scotia Environment (NSE) Department and the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA) visit the county prior to the end of August.

These meetings are designed to address a provincial commitment of $120 million to expand broadband internet service around Nova Scotia, as confirmed this past March, as well as new coastal protection legislation unveiled in June and slated to reach the provincial legislature as early as September.

“We have a significant issue over coastal lands in Inverness County,” said Chief Administrative Officer Keith MacDonald, who noted that he and the county’s Director of Finance, Tanya Tibbo, have each attended recent consultation sessions on the coastal protection legislation in Port Hawkesbury and Truro.

“I’ve put in a request for a representative to come to council for a meeting later this month, so if there are any more questions, they can be tabled with them at that session…We’re hoping that, within two weeks, we’ll be able to have someone in to meet with us.”

Noting that the proposed legislation “could have a significant impact on our county,” Tibbo explained that the new strategy is designed in part to define coastal protected areas and also aims to determine permitted activities within these areas.

Several councillors raised concerns about the potential for the new legislation to limit activity in such areas as the portion of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park that takes in such communities as Cheticamp, Pleasant Bay, and Meat Cove.

“You can’t blanket-zone coastal properties…We have to have our own local expertise,” insisted Inverness-area councillor Jim Mustard.

“There was a whole report on Cheticamp done through the Ecology Action Plan, so I think there are a number of things that have already been done, and we’ve already had our mapping done. So it would be nice to have a little bit of that [discussion} done and have a little more of that discussion.”

As for the provincial broadband initiative, which also received a federal commitment of $26.4 million in May, Tibbo warned that while the Nova Scotia government is looking for feedback from municipal units on internet service expansion, individual municipalities will have to follow the province’s Municipal Government Act (MGA) in terms of their own ability to contribute financially to the project or make specific requests for individual communities.

“It’s all about the power to spend,” she explained.

“The MGA tells you what you can do, but it doesn’t tell you what you can’t do. So they’re changing the language around the power to expend, to prohibit spending on certain things.”

Tibbo also cautioned that the broadband expansion initiative is “very preliminary” for the time being.