The B.C. government has introduced legislation aimed at making sure decisions affecting the province’s natural resources are science-based, transparent and protect B.C.’s unique environment for future generations.
The Professional Governance Act will, if passed, modernize and strengthen the roles and expectations of qualified professionals in the province, in turn providing greater, science-based public oversight of how B.C.’s natural resources are managed. It will also establish an office of the superintendent of professional governance to ensure consistency and best practices are applied in the work of qualified professionals moving forward.
“This legislation is about making sure we live up to our responsibilities to British Columbians in protecting our natural heritage for our kids and grandkids,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “British Columbians are rightly proud of our natural resources and environment — they represent who we are and where we’ve come from. This legislation recognizes that legacy and symbolizes a recommitment to putting the public interest first when it comes to managing our natural resources.”
"These changes will help strengthen public trust that the health and safety of their communities always comes first,” said Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley. “They will also give greater certainty to industry and qualified professionals. I am encouraged that government has acted quickly to implement these key recommendations from Mark Haddock’s report and I am hopeful that we will also see action on his other recommendations.”
The legislation and the establishment of the office of the superintendent of professional governance are intended to increase public access to natural resource information and ensure professionals are held to the highest ethical and technical standards. They are being proposed in response to two recommendations included in the final report of the Professional Reliance Review, submitted in June 2018 following a full public engagement process.
The remainder of the report and recommendations focus on natural resource regulatory regimes. Government is acting on many of these recommendations as part of broader goals and mandate commitments for natural resource management, including strengthening results-based laws, building government capacity for compliance and enforcement, modernizing land-use planning and building partnerships with Indigenous peoples for resource management. Other recommendations will be considered by specific ministries over the coming months.
“The changes we’re proposing will help restore public confidence in the professional reliance model and give certainty to resource companies that rely on qualified professionals,” said Heyman.
Theresa McCurry, CEO, Applied Science Technologists & Technicians of B.C. —
“The new professional reliance legislation could provide Applied Science Technologists & Technicians of BC (ASTTBC) with the authority to govern the respective practice of technology professionals. ASTTBC ensures that its members are certified and competent in their jobs, which is essential for ethical and safe technology practice. These requirements are based on competency assessments, adherence to a code of ethics and a commitment to continuous professional development.”
Christine Gelowitz, RPF, CEO of the Association of B.C. Forest Professionals —
“The Professional Governance Act and office of the superintendent of professional governance will significantly change how forest professionals are governed. We hope these changes will achieve the government’s goal of increasing public confidence in the management of B.C.’s natural resources and we look forward to working with the government on the remaining recommendations that will directly affect management of the land base.”
Bob Peart, co-ordinator, Professional Reliance Working Group of Concerned Citizens —
"We thank the government for taking this first step towards protecting B.C.’s natural resource sector by legislating the governance of qualified professionals. The report shone a spotlight on the myriad ways that the current professional reliance regime is failing communities and ecosystems. We strongly encourage the government to implement the report’s recommendations in their entirety, in a clear and transparent manner; and now await the next steps in the process."
Bob Fleet, vice-president environment and forestry, Tolko Industries Ltd. —
“Tolko is pleased to support the government’s efforts to improve the British Columbia professional reliance model. We have been included in a comprehensive consultation process that has enabled us to contribute to the new approach to professional reliance. We are hopeful and confident that this new approach will secure the public’s trust that British Columbia’s natural resources are being managed professionally, sustainably and responsibly.”
Ann English, P.Eng., CEO and registrar, Engineers and Geoscientists B.C. —
“We support efforts to improve the regulatory framework and are hopeful that the legislation introduced today can achieve that goal. Changes to regulatory models are complex and require careful implementation, especially when managing areas of practice overlap. We are committed to working with government to ensure this is accomplished to the benefit of the public we both serve.”
JP Ellson, executive director/registrar, British Columbia Institute of Agrologists (BCIA) —
“BCIA welcomes the government granting of practice rights to professional agrologists across the province as that will ensure that all persons working in our field will be subject to the same level of oversight. We look forward to working with government to determine full implementation of all of the recommendations within the Haddock report. Only through full implementation can the challenges within the natural resource sector be addressed.”
Brad Herald, vice-president Western Canada operations, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers —
“The professional reliance model plays a vital role in maintaining the competitiveness of B.C. We support government’s effort to achieve strong and consistent governance across all professional organizations to ensure responsible resource development.”
Christine Houghton, executive director, College of Applied Biology —
“The legislation introduced today is a result of government’s year-long process to transform how we manage natural resources in B.C. By granting right to practice to applied biology professionals, government has recognized this profession as critical to upholding public confidence. This is a significant step forward to better protect the public interest. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners to implement other critical recommendations in the Haddock report.”
Two backgrounders follow.