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

Castlegar’s Waterline property purchased; owners to protect it for rock climbers

New owners plan to subdivide, sell bluffs to recreational climbing group

Grand Forks daycare now part of universal childcare program

The spaces will now cost a maximum of $200 per month.

Josie Hotel will be ready on opening day, says management

West Kootenay’s first ski-in, ski-out boutique hotel to open this month

Children’s books needed for Christmas hampers

Considering donating some books this Christmas.

Good fencing makes good neighbours— especially when your neighbours are bears

Workshop in Pass Creek this weekend to promote benefits of proper protection for livestock

Extreme Education and Career Fair helps give back to the community

It’s estimated that there will be one million job vacancies in the next nine years in B.C.

Hunter who saved B.C. man pinned inside smashed truck says ‘God was sending me to him’

Sayward man describes chance discovery of Duncan Moffat, 23, in northern Vancouver Island woods

Road-weary Canucks thumped 6-2 by Wild

Vancouver hosts the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday

Toronto private school didn’t report alleged sexual assault to police

Police say a sexual assault at an all-boys Catholic institution was not reported to them

China says butt out; Canada calls for release of “arbitrarily” detained Muslims

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman accused Canada’s envoy of going beyond their diplomatic roles

Dead Saskatoon tattoo artist’s skin removed and preserved

The skin was removed in honour of the well known artist’s work

B.C. Realtor suspended after helping intern forge note about sick grandma

Vancouver real estate agent Jaideep Singh Puri has to pay fine, take ethics course

Offensive Facebook post by Okanagan Conservative riding sparks outrage

Post taken down after Conservative MP in neighbouring riding condemns it and demands removal

Judge rules against ALC on rural B.C. subdivision

The ALC can’t change the definition of an acre, the judge ruled.

Most Read