Politics

Activists at N.S. legislature need no invitation to speak out

'We’re holding them accountable'

 

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Amina Abawajy uses sidewalk chalk to demand accessible post-secondary tuition for students in Nova Scotia.   Caora McKenna

Thursday’s speech from the throne was an invitation-only event, but this didn’t stop more than 50 students and environmental activists from gathering outside Province House.

They were there to have their voices heard.

The speech is read when a legislature sitting opens and outlines the government’s agenda. Groups often use the event as a platform to challenge government policies.

Charlotte Kiddell, Nova Scotia chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students, noted that university tuition in Nova Scotia has increased by 17 per cent since 2013. She says these are the fastest-rising tuition fees in the country.

“We’re here to say that is unacceptable,” says Kiddell.

The Canadian Federation of Students invoiced the province for accessible post secondary education.
The Canadian Federation of Students invoiced the province for accessible post-secondary education.   Caora McKenna

The federation displayed a large invoice addressed to the government, with payment posted as overdue. Their demands are lower tuition fees, converting student loans into grants, and restoring funding to post-secondary institutions.

Other groups present at the protest and were concerned with protecting forests and waterways.

Chad Hoelzel and his daughters Abie and Alyssa were protesting on behalf of Stop the Spray.
Chad Hoelzel and his daughters Abie and Alyssa were protesting on behalf of the Stop the Spray campaign.   Caora McKenna

Chad Hoelzel, an electrician, was supporting Stop the Spray Nova Scotia. The group was formed after it was announced that hundreds of hectares of woodland would be sprayed with an herbicide containing glyphosate. The spray will only allow forests to grow coniferous trees.

“In my opinion, an Acadian forest is more than just one kind of tree,” says Hoelzel.

He brought his two daughters, Alyssa and Abie, with him. He says he is trying to educate the girls about what happening because people who do not live in areas being logged may not know it’s happening.

A damp banner with the phrase ‘“Stop Alton Gas” also hung from the gate outside the legislature building.

It was still wet because Trish MacIntyre and other activists have been protesting AltaGas’ controversial project, near the Schubenacadie River estuary, all week, “rain or shine.”

The project would see salt caverns being dug to store natural gas and a series of processes to move salt brine, some of which would be released into the river.

“We want the fishing industry in the Bay of Fundy to survive,” said a woman from the rear steps at the rear of Province House.

The company has the necessary industrial and environmental approvals to move forward, but the Mi’kmaq community is concerned it will affect the ecosystem.

MacIntyre says she and the other activists were there to hold politicians accountable for their actions.

Party leaders did not specifically address any of the issues being raised outside the building after the throne speech was finished.