Yesterday, we welcomed the final report on the independent professional reliance review, the result of an eight-month review process led by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to examine professional reliance in the natural resource sector. The comprehensive report clearly identifies the problems with professional reliance and provides concrete recommendations to make the system work better for everyone.
We urge the provincial government to move forward immediately on the recommendations and to take meaningful steps toward restoring public trust in government decision-making.
The professional reliance model was adopted by the former B.C. Liberal government as part of a dramatic plan to reduce "red tape" and weaken environmental and health protection laws. B.C.'s civil service – the professionals responsible for stewarding B.C.'s resources and natural environment – was slashed by over 25 per cent. Qualified professionals, hired by industry, assumed greater responsibility for decision-making and oversight of projects, often at the expense of the public interest and the environment.
I believe that the government needs to reclaim its leadership role in resource and environmental stewardship. For too long, corporations were allowed to certify their own resource plans and police their own operations, creating a conflict of interest.
The report puts forward 121 recommendations as a roadmap to improve and strengthen the rules governing natural resource management and environmental protection including:
- 2 recommendations to restructure the governance of professional associations by creating new legislation and establishing a new government agency
- 32 sweeping recommendations to strengthen natural resource regulatory regimes including improving laws, regulations, Indigenous engagement and improve information
- 87 specific regulatory regimes
A key recommendation in the report is to significantly improve staffing, capacity and organizational culture in key government agencies that are mandated with land use planning, protecting wildlife and habitat, stewarding forest and mineral resources and ensuring that our air and watersheds are properly managed. The report identified that a "culture of deference" that leads many resource managers see their primary role as advocating for a particular industry, or that they are unable to speak out about issues that arise.
I was encouraged to see many of our members' concerns reflected throughout the final report. Our members, many of whom directly work to protect our environment and manage our natural resources, know first-hand the problems of the professional reliance system. You can read our submission to the provincial government here.
Reforming the professional reliance system is an important step forward for the province. However, for real change to be made on-the-ground, the provincial government must also improve legislation that governs our natural resources and rebuild the public agencies mandated to protect our land, water and natural resources.
I look forward to continuing to bring our members' voices and concerns to the provincial government and in ensuring that the recommendations of this timely report are brought to life.
To build our collective power, BCGEU has joined forces with the Professional Employees Association, Ecojustice, Organizing for Change, the BC Wildlife Federation and others in the non-profit and union communities to reflect the concerns of the public, government officials and concerned and knowledgeable individuals.
You can read the final report of the Professional Reliance review at: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/professionalreliance/
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