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Appeal court hears case over fight to reopen gates at Windsor Causeway

The aboiteau gates under the Highway 101 causeway in Windsor were ordered closed by a provincial emergency order last June. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)
The aboiteau gates under the Highway 101 causeway in Windsor were ordered closed by a provincial emergency order last June. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)

Three Nova Scotia Court of Appeal judges reserved judgment Thursday after hearing arguments from lawyers representing fisherman Darren Porter and the Nova Scotia government over whether they should nullify part of what a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge ruled last August.

Lawyers Jamie Simpson and Richelle Martin appealed to the judges to find Justice Scott C. Norton was wrong to rule Porter did not have the right to go to court to fight the emergency order that was first issued last June but renewed by cabinet every two weeks since.

After the hearing, Simpson said that part of Norton's ruling would seriously hamper his client's still unresolved fight against the emergency order.

Justice Department lawyer Jeremy Smith argued against the motion.

Outside the courtroom, Porter told reporters he remained keen to continue his battle despite last summer's setback.

He called the decision by the provincial government simply an attempt to win votes and not over the need for water to fight fires.

John Lohr, the minister responsible for the Emergency Management Office, has repeatedly justified issuing the order and renewing it to ensure local firefighters can access water from two hydrants that draw from Lake Pisiquid.

But Porter said there are other sources nearby.

"We put my boat in 400 metres away from that site and it takes one foot of elevation for me to drop my boat," said Porter.

"So, if I can put a boat in to do a government study on that system, 400 metres from that dry hydrant, they can put their pipes in that water and draw water."

Porter said he was being paid by the province to study fish movement in the Avon River region.

He said part of his fight was also to try to restrict the power of governments to impose their will without having to justify their actions.

"If they get away with this and they have unfettered discretion, wow," said Porter. "What does that mean?

"I'm not a judge. And in that room, that was pretty difficult stuff to understand. But that's pretty autocratic to me. That doesn't sound democratic."

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