Environment Minister George Heyman, former executive director of Sierra Club B.C. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. VIEWS: Do we need another layer of green government oversight?

Foresters, engineers may not be trusted to act ethically

The B.C. NDP government is getting set to deliver on another key promise to its minority government partner, the B.C. Green Party, with an overhaul of environmental assessment.

This is not to be confused with the federal government’s overhaul of environmental assessment, which layers more rules on new pipelines and brings back navigable waters legislation created for the age of paddlewheelers.

At the provincial level, the B.C. government is looking to set up a new bureaucracy to oversee professional organizations, such as foresters, engineers and biologists, who have been deemed unable to adequately discipline their members for misconduct.

Environment Minister George Heyman has quietly released a report on “professional reliance” that he commissioned to meet the terms of the governing agreement with the Greens. In NDP style, he stresses that more consultation will be carried out before legislation to change the system this fall.

“Professional reliance” is the term used by the Gordon Campbell government in 2003 when it entrusted professionals with the technical details of projects such as logging roads and mines. It was part of Campbell’s “core review” of government designed to streamline systems and remove duplication.

Heyman hired University of Victoria environmental law professor Mark Haddock to survey the results. His instructions were to “review and address failures in the professional reliance model in B.C. so that British Columbians’ faith in resource development can be restored.”

(Note this ‘loss of faith’ rhetoric was also used by a campaigning Justin Trudeau to set the stage for replacing the National Energy Board, because Canada’s environmental reviews aren’t long or thorough enough to satisfy the protest industry.)

Haddock has a history of activism, working with EcoJustice, suing in an effort to stop projects including the Northern Gateway pipeline and Trans Mountain expansion. EcoJustice changed its name from the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, a spinoff of the Sierra Club, whose B.C. branch was run by Heyman before he went into politics.

RELATED: Industry groups pan B.C.’s professional reliance review

As noted by resource industry analyst Stewart Muir, Haddock published a paper in 2015 that essentially gave his recommendations in the 2018 report, before all the consultation he was paid to do. He concluded three years ago that what’s needed is “plugging loopholes, addressing conflicts of interest, incorporating better checks and balances, improving environmental performance, restoring government approvals where needed and thereby increasing public confidence.”

Two major incidents are tied to this alleged loss of public faith. Critics of professional reliance point to the Mount Polley mine dam failure that spilled millions of litres of ground rock and water into Quesnel Lake in 2014.

Of course that mine received its permits and was built in the 1990s, years before the Campbell government introduced the professional reliance model.

The other project was a contaminated soil facility in an old quarry near Shawnigan Lake. Protest and legal action led by then-regional district director Sonia Fursteneau led to its permit being cancelled, not due to contamination (there was none) but because the paperwork and security deposit fell behind.

Heyman and now-Green MLA Fursteneau share their disgust at a revelation during a court challenge that a geologist who examined the quarry had a profit-sharing deal with the developer. Apparently this may mean all geologists, foresters, engineers and so forth are shady characters who need an additional bureaucracy to police them.

We’ll see this fall if the B.C. NDP government is going to tweak a system that has generally served the province well, or if the Ministry of Environment has become the political wing of the Sierra Club.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Harrison retiree leaves legacy of ‘non-stop ideas’

Ruth Altendorf is remembered as a ‘“bubbly, enthusiastic, outgoing person’

Harrison musician Todd Richard gearing up for album release party in Chilliwack

Todd Richard’s third album, Live Your Life, features all ‘true-story’ songs

Told ‘no’ twice by local shelter, homeless Surrey man sent to Hope anyways

Deemed medically stable, patient was taxied to Hope by hospital when a spot in Surrey wasn’t located

Agassiz speed skater heading to Canada West championships

Mya Onos, 11, is qualified for her first provincials this year, and is now taking on Western Canada

Harrison considers future of memorial bench program

Harrison to keep maintaining bench plaques, council seems to feel new benches could be in the future

Harrison Hot Springs students bring ‘Twelfth Night’ to life

The adaption of Shakespeare’s classic comedy include songs and phrases from Canada’s east coast

European, Canadian regulators to do own review of Boeing jet

Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1

Prime minister defends Liberal budget measures as sales effort gets underway

Conservatives under Andrew Scheer say it’s a spree funded by borrowing against the future

B.C. lottery winner being sued by co-workers

They claim he owes them $200,000 each, in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

Teacher reprimanded for conduct towards special needs student

Alan Stephen Berry told vice principal he did not have time to use positive strategies

‘Full worm super moon’ to illuminate B.C. skies on first day of spring

Spring has sprung, a moon named in honour of thawing soil marks final super moon until 2020

Having phone within sight while driving does not violate law: B.C. judge

The mere presence of a cell phone within sight of a driver is not enough for a conviction, judge says

Woman punched on the sidelines of B.C. soccer game

Both involved were watching the U21 game in West Vancouver from the sidelines when things got heated

B.C. launches immunization program at schools to stamp out measles resurgence

Vaccination records to be checked at B.C. schools next fall

Most Read