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

Teamwork and rotating 12 hour shifts helped Island Health weather the storm in Cowichan

“At one time we had 11 hospital sites on generator power”

Cowichan’s private seniors care facilities used generators to get through outage

Like so many places, the power went out at 11:30 a.m. Thursday,… Continue reading

Fences destroyed, power out but Cowichan’s animals were safe after epic Dec. 20 storm

“It was a wake up call for being prepared for emergencies.”

B.C. storm totals $37M in insured damages

The December storm wreaked havoc on B.C.’s south coast

North Cowichan will host new permanent rowing centre starting October 2020

Saanich’s bid for national rowing centre at Elk Lake sunk

VIDEO: Cowichan Secondary starts two-week run of ‘The Addams Family’ Jan. 16

The Cow High cast is ready, the stage is set: all they need is you so make tracks to see this show

Chiasson nets shootout winner as Oilers edge Canucks 3-2

Edmonton moves one point ahead of Vancouver

B.C. chief says they didn’t give up rights for gas pipeline to be built

Hereditary chief: no elected band council or Crown authority has jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en land

Thieves steal thousands from 140 Coast Capital Savings members

Online fraud tactics included phising and ‘brute force’ in November and December

Condo rental bans may be on way out with B.C. empty home tax

Many exemptions to tax, but annual declarations required

UPDATE: B.C. boy, aunt missing for three days

The pair are missing from Kamloops

Daredevil changes game plan to jump broken White Rock pier

Brooke Colby tells council daredevil event would help boost waterfront business

Liberal bows out of byelection after singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Karen Wang says she made comments online that referenced Singh’s cultural background

Most Read