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

Seven Days in Chilliwack

A list of community events happening in Chilliwack from Dec. 16 to 22

Rotary CATT Fund volleyball fundraiser brings in toys and cash for two Chilliwack charities

Event brought in 435 toys and $33,000 for Chilliwack Community Services and Chilliwack Children’s Foundation

Chilliwack Fire Department battled two structure fires on Friday the 13th

Greenhouse fire had medical marijuana growing in it, house fire was up in Ryder Lake in Chilliwack

Celtic folk festival favourites Early Spirit live at Tractorgrease in Chilliwack

Vancouver-based folk-rock band caps off stellar year with live performance in Chilliwack on Dec. 28

Three Chilliwack entrepreneurs finalists for Small Business BC Awards

Woodside Enterprises, Pick Eco Refills and Culture Co. could win in different categories

VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Chickpea at the Chilliwack SPCA

Chickpea is a one-year-old male domestic rat who’s up for adoption at the Chilliwack SPCA

B.C. VIEWS: Hunger does not end with the season

Despite innovations in food distribution, the need is still there in B.C. communities

Sharks beat Canucks 4-2 to snap 6-game skid

Vancouver visits Vegas on Sunday

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

VIDEO: Fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

Social media eulogies peg the property, nicknamed “The Pharamacy,” as both loved and hated

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Surrey councillor wants the policing transition process to ‘immediately stop’

Brenda Locke to make motion at Dec. 16 meeting to reconsider current plan

Man pleads guilty to second-degree murder in 2017 Stanley Park stabbing

Lubomir Kunik was found by a man out walking his dog on the beach late on Feb. 1, 2017

Vancouver homeless camp brings community, safety, home, says resident

Encampment in the city’s Downtown Eastside is one of many that have sprung up in B.C.

Most Read