BCGEU seeks clarification about government announcement on permit backlog

January 29, 2013

To: BCGEU Members:
Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations

This week, the government announced an additional $7-million in funding to "maintain timely processing of natural resource authorizations." The announcement was made by the Premier at an Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia conference. At the same time, a new electronic system for permit applications was announced.

The BCGEU has been raising concerns about permit backlogs in the Natural Resource Ministries for some time. Permit backlogs mean lost revenues to government. As you know all too well, a decade of sustained budget cuts and staff layoffs are the major cause of permit backlogs the resource sector.

The BCGEU filed a request under the under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the details of the backlog. In response to our request, the government acknowledged a total of 7,000 permits backlogged in the resource ministries.

The province announced a plan last year to begin to address this backlog. See here for the BCGEU posting on this.

We have been urging government to maintain their support for this project. Our submission to the all-party Finance and Government Services Committee this year called on the province to maintain funding to ensure the permit backlog is eliminated by the end of fiscal year 2013/14.

The all party legislative budget committee agreed that action is needed as did many business groups including the BC Business Council. While the staff increases were announced as being temporary in nature, the BCGEU believes they should stay in place until the backlogs are completely eliminated. Action now will mean greater economic activity and increased government revenues in the long term.

It is unclear if the $7 million in funding announced today is new, if it will go to maintain or increase staffing, or of it will eliminate the permit backlog. We will be seeking more information in the provincial budget when it is tabled next month. As well, the BCGEU and Employer are currently re-establishing our Ministry Joint Article 29 Committees, and we will attempt to get clarification from the ministries in that forum.

We will update you as events unfold.