Today in the Legislature I rose to table my second private members’ bill: Bill M220, Recall and Initiative Amendment Act, 2015.
It is clear that British Columbians are concerned about oil pipelines and have lost confidence in the federal review process. The problem is, the tools we have to make our voices heard are too restrictive. If enacted, this bill would give British Columbians a stronger voice on how oil pipeline proposals are evaluated in the province.
Just last month, people in Vancouver saw first hand how unprepared we are for an oil spill. It’s clear from the federal hearings on the Trans Mountain pipeline that these concerns aren’t being adequately addressed. My bill would make it easier for British Columbians to require their provincial government to hold a made-in-B.C. hearing process on oil pipelines.
A. Weaver: It gives me great pleasure to introduce this bill that is designed to empower British Columbians so that their voices can be more effectively heard on environmental reviews of major projects, like oil pipelines.
It’s fitting that I introduce this bill this week as we move to committee stage debates on Bill 20, the Election Amendment Act. Too often politicians let themselves believe that the only time they need to listen to voters is at elections, and I disagree.
If we are to re-engage British Columbians in our democracy, we need to actively seek their view on far more of what we debate in the Legislature. We also need to provide them with additional tools to hold their government to account. The Recall and Initiative Amendment Act is one such tool.
As every member of this House will surely agree, we live in the most beautiful part of the world, and British Columbians want to keep it that way. They want to ensure our pristine coastlines, our natural environment and our unique ecosystems are preserved.
Under the existing Recall and Initiative Act an individual can put forward a bill to be either debated in the Legislature or put up for a non-binding referendum. To be successful, the proponent must collect signatures from 10 percent of registered voters in each of 85 electoral districts within 90 days.
The Recall and Initiative Amendment Act would change the electoral district requirement for initiatives that specifically address pulling out of environmental assessment equivalency agreements with the federal government. Successful petitions in these instances would require signatures from 15 percent of registered voters in British Columbia regardless of electoral district, making it easier to meet the requirements.
British Columbians have lost faith in the federal review process, particularly as they pertain to oil pipeline proposals. The province has not listened to their voices, and this bill would offer British Columbians an opportunity to ensure that their voices are heard. If an initiative were to pass under the proposed changes in the Recall and Initiative Amendment Act, it would require government to pull out of an existing environmental assessment equivalency agreement for a particular project and hold its own made-in-B.C. review of, for example, a proposed heavy-oil pipeline.