Sonia Furstenau said she hopes the review of B.C.’s environmental assessment process will help the province step into the 21st Century.
Furstenau, MLA for the Cowichan Valley and the B.C. Green Party spokesperson for environment, said the review, announced by Environment Minister George Heyman on March 7, is a first step in restoring public trust in the province’s environmental assessment process.
“There have been too many instances where development has failed to ensure the health and safety of our local communities,” Furstenau said.
“This has left communities and First Nations with no choice but to use the courts to advocate for their own protection. A robust environmental assessment process that includes adequate consultation and thorough scientific, evidence-based analysis will avoid costly legal challenges and save government from dealing with expensive clean-ups when projects go awry.”
Heyman said the review will focus on restoring public confidence in the assessment process, ensuring respect for Indigenous legal rights and protecting the environment while supporting sustainable growth.
He said the recommendations of a 12-member advisory committee, which will include Lydia Hwitsum, a lawyer and former Cowichan Tribes chief, will lead to reforms of the assessment process expected to be introduced this fall.
The government also announced late last year that it will review the professional reliance model that has been in place for many years to have proposed projects in B.C. environmentally assessed.
In many cases under the process, the same engineers and other professionals that companies rely on to do the technical work on their projects are also being called upon to provide the mandatory environmental assessments of the work being done.
Furstenau said at the time that she welcomed the government’s professional reliance model review and hoped it would lead to policy changes that will prevent other communities from having to face what Shawnigan Lake went through in its efforts to close a contaminated soil landfill that had raised concerns around contamination of the local water supply.
Furstenau said the review of the professional reliance model, which is separate from the review of the environmental assessment process, is ongoing.
“The period for public input into the review of the professional reliance model ended in January and the input is now being analyzed,” she said.
“I hope to see a final report with recommendations soon.”