Environment Minister George Heyman (Hansard TV)

B.C. government moves to tighten resource industry regulations

New superintendent will oversee engineers, biologists, foresters

B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman has begun the NDP government’s overhaul of oversight of resource projects, bringing forward legislation to set up a new superintendent to oversee engineers, biologists, foresters and other professionals who are currently self-governing.

Heyman said the change is required to “restore public trust” in decisions made on natural resource projects.

“The initial stage of implementation would enable the office and its policy, guidance, investigation and enforcement functions and bring key provisions of the act into force, such as whistleblower protection,” Heyman told the legislature Monday.

“During transition these authorities would operate alongside existing governance statutes of five professional regulatory bodies, the agrologists, applied biologists, applied science technologists and technicians, engineers and geoscientists and forestry professionals.”

Changing the law was a key demand of B.C. Green Party MLA Sonia Furstenau, who won election in Cowichan Valley after a protracted battle over a contaminated soil site in an old rock quarry near Shawnigan Lake. No contamination of the lake was ever identified, but the operations lost its licence over technical issues, including provision of financial security in the event of a breach or cleanup.

The changes are a condition of the Greens’ “confidence and supply” agreement to support the NDP government.

“I think we need to rebuild the trust in B.C. in terms of the kinds of decision-making that happens around our resource sector,” Furstenau said.

RELATED: B.C. cancels waste discharge permit at Shawnigan Lake

Heyman said professional organizations are in favour of the change, and it would be a “very, very rare” for the new superintendent to overrule one of the professional organizations.

“We’re streamlining and making more efficient the oversight of the five professions through their regulatory bodies, and ensuring that public expectations of qualification, ongoing professional development, release of information in the public interest and dealing with issues of ethics and conflict of interest are foremost in our legislation,” Heyman said.

The Association of B.C. Forest Professionals issued a statement calling the legislation “a missed opportunity” that doesn’t change environment and land use policies.

The foresters “stressed the need for government to clearly define values, clarify desired results, set objectives and values, and establish a hierarchy of objectives on the landscape,” CEO Christine Gelowitz said. “Without those tools, forest professionals are left trying to balance numerous competing and varied expectations by disparate groups with differing values and competing interests on the land.”

Asked if the additional oversight would have changed anything at Mount Polley mine, where legal actions continue over the failure of a tailings pond dam in 2014, Heyman was cautious.

“Clearly if this legislation and requirements had been in place prior to the Mount Polley incident, and a number of years back, we might have had a different result in terms of the kinds of reports that were issued,” Heyman said. “But frankly that’s speculative on my part.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

AESS senior girls eyeing spot in basketball provincials

The team needs to move up one more ranking get a place in the championships

Agassiz man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

Chilliwack Chief Harrison Blaisdell climbs Central Scouting Bureau rankings

The 17 year old forward is now drawing a second round grade as CSB releases its mid-term list.

Classical paired with folk for Chilliwack Metropolitan Orchestra’s winter concert

Chilliwack Metropolitan Orchestra presents Tchaikovsky in America at G.W. Graham theatre

Community artists, amateurs wanted to create Kent anniversary logo

The 125th anniversary committee is hoping to choose a logo designed by the community

VIDEO: Harrison sailor looking for competitors to race model boats

Bernhard Van Velze is hoping to create a club for model sailboats at Harrison Lake

B.C. man fined $10,000 after leaving moose to suffer before death

Surrey man was convicted last week on three Wildlife Act charges

‘Blue Monday’ isn’t real, but depression can be

CMHA encourages people to prioritize their mental health

South Surrey mother didn’t have the intent to kill her daughter: defence

Closing submissions in case of Lisa Batstone underway

Anti-pipeline group wants NEB to consider impact of emissions, climate change

Stand.earth filed NEB motion asking to apply same standard to the project as it did with Energy East pipeline

Parole granted for drunk driver who killed B.C. RCMP officer

Kenneth Jacob Fenton will be able to attend alcohol abuse treatment, nearly three years after crash that killed Const. Sarah Beckett

B.C.’s largest public-sector union wants inquiry into money laundering, drugs

Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry

Teen in confrontation with Native American: I didn’t provoke

Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School said he was trying to defuse the situation

VIDEO: 11-year-old violinist practices for Vancouver Symphony Orchestra debut

Cloverdale student Da-Wei Chan will perform Jan. 31, Feb. 28 with the VSO

Most Read