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

Fires still burning near Telegraph Creek

BC Wildfire Service assures residents of a proactive plan heading into wildfire season

Northwest entrepreneurs pitch their plans for cash prizes

ThriveNorth announces 12 finalists in this year’s business challenge

CT scanner expected to be up and running by end of June

When tragedy strikes and internal injuries are expected, 30 minutes can make all the difference

Gas prices steady in Smithers

Industry analyst says local retailers not making money, pain yet to come

Verdict scheduled in Giesbrecht murder trial

B.C. Supreme Court justice will render his decision May 24

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Private cargo ship brings Easter feast to the space station

There are three Americans two Russians and one Canadian living on the space station

Notre Dame rector: “Computer glitch” possible fire culprit

The fire burned through the lattice of oak beams supporting the monument’s vaulted stone ceiling

Most Read