On December 10th, 2014 the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations released his decision concerning how hunting licenses would be allocated between industry and resident British Columbia hunters. After consulting with constituents and stakeholders, I released a media statement raising concerns that the interests of resident British Columbia hunters were being set aside in favour of special industry interests. A few days later, I provided a more thorough analysis of the issues involved.
On February 6, amidst widespread pressure from BC resident hunters and the BC Wildlife Federation, the government revised its decision on wildlife harvest allocations slightly. But this was not enough.
Today, BC’s resident hunters held a rally on the Legislature lawn. I had the privilege of speaking at the rally and I reproduce the text of my speech below.
I also had honour of presenting a petition from over 16,000 British Columbians on behalf of the British Columbia Wildlife Federation today. The text of the petition is reproduced here:
“We, the undersigned, representing residents of British Columbia and supporters of resident hunting in the province, state that changes to the Province’s Wildlife Harvest Allocation Policy announced in December 2014 provide an unwarranted larger share of hunting permits to BC’s professional guides and outfitters, who primarily guide non-resident trophy hunters, at the expense of BC resident hunters.
The wildlife allocation made available to Guide Outfitters Association of BC members is unprecedented in North America and there is no economic justification for these allocation changes, which will adversely affect BC’s resident hunters.
We, the undersigned, respectfully request that the provincial government repeal the changes to the Wildlife Harvest Allocation Policy announced on December 10, 2014 by the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and limit non-resident hunters and Guide Outfitters Association of BC members to the Wildlife Harvest Allocation specified in the 2007 Wildlife Allocation Policy.“
Finally, today I introduced my first Private Member’s Bill: the Wildlife Amendment Act. My introduction is reproduced below. We’ve written up a more thorough discussion of the implications of the bill elsewhere.
I’d like to begin by thanking all of you for coming to the legislature today. I know a lot of you had to travel quite far and take time off work to be here. But I am glad that you did. This issue is too important to let it quietly slip off the public radar and I commend you for being here today; for speaking up on behalf of hunters across BC; and for realizing that the February adjustment to the allocation policy was simply not good enough. It was little more than a patronizing response to your heartfelt feedback and concern for the future of hunting in BC.
The erosion of hunter’s access to BC game is yet another example of government putting the needs of special interests ahead of those of British Columbians. Hunting is a foundational part of life for many people in BC. As you all know so well, it is way to connect with nature, spend quality time with your loved ones, and provide a clean, healthy source of protein for your families. Having that connection to one’s food, knowing its true value, and appreciating where it came from means that you have a profound understanding of the importance of conservation.
It has been a great honour for me to work closely with the B.C. Wildlife Federation – the province’s largest conservation organization – as I attempted to educate myself on allocation issues over the past few months.
Hunters in B.C. have had a rich history of conservation in our province, working tirelessly to ensure animal populations are healthy, abundant, and that their habitats are protected.
Despite running on a “families first” platform, the BC Liberal government has continued to put the vested interests of a select profitable few ahead of its own residents. In the hunting sector especially, we have seen a steady erosion of your rights as they continue to be reallocated to the guide outfitting industry.
The December hunting permit amendment may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, but the BC government has been making the shift towards prioritizing the needs of industry over its own residents for the last decade.
The government’s actions have not been guided by the values of British Columbians. Nor have they been guided by independent expert advice. The numbers put forward in December weren’t even close to the allocation splits recommended by the ministry.
What troubles me is that according to the lobbyist registrar, the Guide Outfitters Association has had over 2,000 person meetings with government officials since 2011. Quite a number of them included Premier Clark.
But today and together we’re here to say to government that that’s not enough. Together we are demanding that government listen to British Colmbians, the people that they are supposed to represent.
The increased allocation of BC’s wildlife to guide outfitters is an issue that affects all of us, not just the people here today.
I look forward to tabling the BCWF petition opposing the permit allocation amendments shortly. That should help government understand just how many people care about the unfair treatment of resident BC hunters.
I will also be tabling a bill that, if enacted, would make trophy hunting for non-residents more difficult by requiring them to remove the meat from their kills and transport it back to their home address.
For local sustenance hunters – the vast majority of hunters in B.C. – this bill merely echoes what they are already doing; harvesting wild game to bring the meat home to feed themselves and their families. For non-resident trophy hunters coming to B.C. in search of antlers or a hide this poses a larger logistical challenge of exporting large quantities of meat.
It is not a perfect solution to our problems, of course, but it will make the government engage in a conversation about where their interests lie and emphasize the importance of supporting sustainable, respectful hunting practices in our province — practices that are embodied by BC’s resident hunters and the BC Wildlife Federation.
I move introduction of the Wildlife Amendment Act for first reading.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce this bill that, if enacted, would restrict the practices of non-resident trophy hunters who come to B.C. to kill large game by making two specific amendments to the Wildlife Act.
The proposed changes remove grizzly bears from the list of animals exempt from meat harvesting regulations and ensure that all edible portions of animals harvested in B.C. are taken directly to the hunter’s residence.
As the legislation currently stands, the edible parts of big game animals (except cougars, wolves, lynx, bobcats, wolverines, and grizzly bears) must be removed from the animal and packed out to one’s home, or importantly for non-resident hunters, to a meat cutter or a cold storage plant. These last two options provide trophy hunters with legal meat laundering opportunities. By adding “directly or through” to the clause, hunters can still use meat cutters and cold storage plants to process their harvests, but it can’t end there. The meat must make it to their home address. If they want to donate that meat to charity after the fact they are welcome to do so, but they have to take it home first.
Hunters are already required to remove the edible portions from black bears. If enacted, this bill would bring meat harvesting standards for grizzly bears up to the same standard.
British Columbians, and in particular BC resident hunters, support these change. A 2013 McAllister Research poll found that 88% of British Columbians oppose trophy hunting. In addition to that, 95% of hunters said they believe you should not be hunting if you are not prepared to eat what you kill.
For local sustenance hunters – the vast majority of hunters in B.C. – this bill merely echoes what they are already doing; harvesting wild game to bring the meat home to feed their families. For non-resident trophy hunters coming to B.C. to kill an animal only for its hide, skull, or antlers this poses a logistical challenge of exporting large quantities of meat.
I look forward to second reading of the bill.
I move that this bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House.
It may seem odd that I would rise today to speak in favour of The Cultus Lake Park Amendment Act which resides in the riding of Chilliwack-Hope (MLA Laurie Throness), but I was contacted by a number of constituents who had summer homes in the area. This is what prompted me to examine this legislation more deeply. Below is the text of my speech.
While the member for Chilliwack-Hope is probably wondering what the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head is doing standing up to speak in favour of the Cultus Lake act, I will add that I had a number of constituents who e-mailed me specifically about this act because they have summer homes in Cultus Lake. They pleaded with me to support this act. I’d like to read one of the e-mails that I received from the constituents. It said as follows:
“We are two of your constituents who have a summer home at Cultus Lake. Currently the residents of Cultus Lake Park do not have a democratic election process. Residents can only vote for two of seven politicians who represent them. By you voting yes for this bill, it will make a considerable improvement in democracy and accountability for the Cultus Lake Park, thus improving the future sustainability for this wonderful area, which is enjoyed by thousands of B.C. residents every year.”
Now, of course, as soon as an e-mail mentions the word “sustainability,” my ears perk up, so I took some time to explore this bill further.
The Cultus Lake Park Amendment Act takes an important step forward in the lead-up to the 2014 municipal elections to ensure that the residents of Cultus Lake are adequately represented in their government. The act would change the number and composition of representatives from the current structure of seven representatives, two of whom are Cultus Lake residents, to the new structure of five representatives, three of whom are Cultus Lake residents.
By increasing the representation of local residents, this bill will further empower those residents to sustainably manage a park that is enjoyed by so many British Columbians, including residents from the Oak Bay–Gordon Head riding here on southern Vancouver Island.
I, too, would like to thank the government and the member for Chilliwack-Hope for his work to bring and introduce this bill forward, and I very much look forward to supporting its adaptation at second and third readings and committee stage.
Tens of thousands of people in BC have voiced their opposition to the recent passing of Bill 4 – the Park Amendment Act. They are demanding its repeal because of fears around industrial development taking priority over the protection of our most significant areas of ecological diversity and natural beauty. I share many of their concerns.
The Problem with Bill 4 – the Park Amendment Act.
The Park Amendment Act is a controversial piece of legislation that now allows the BC Government to issue park use permits for activities that are not necessarily related to the mandate and purpose of our BC parks. The Act allows for permits to be issued for two general categories: film production and research.
Previously, for a park use permit to be granted the applicant had to prove that the activity, for which they required the permit, was necessary for the preservation or maintenance of the recreational values of the park involved. Bill 4 changes this.
Now, the Minister of the Environment has the ability to issue permits that fall under the vague and undefined term “research” for any type of “feasibility study” for any kind of “prescribed project”.
Without any limitations on what these studies or projects might entail, without any guidelines for how the studies or projects are to be assessed, and without defining the term “research”, the Act, in essence, can allow for a park use permit to be issued for virtually any type of activity. The language is so vague as to be utterly meaningless. In theory, I could sip a beer while watching Hockey Night in Canada and qualify and call this research as part of a ‘feasibility study’ under this Act. Conversely, exploratory drilling could also fall into this category.
To be fair, there are regulations within the Ministry that do define the term research, and there are guidelines over assessing what kind of activities are to be allowed in BC parks. However, they are not law – they are regulations, and they can be changed by the ministry without any public consultation, public debate, or public scrutiny. The passing of Bill 4 means that the law protecting our Parks has been weakened, while the ministry has increased its power and adopted a “trust us” approach.
It is also important to acknowledge that, under the existing Park Act, no major industrial project can actually occur within a protected area. If a major project wants to cross a park, the general practice in BC allows for proponents to propose a boundary adjustment to a park in order to accommodate their project. This proposal then is reviewed by the ministry and if a park boundary is to be changed it must be passed in the Legislative Assembly.
Bill 4 doesn’t change that. It simply allows research permits to be issued to conduct a “feasibility study” on a “prescribed project” (a pipeline or a road for example). This doesn’t mean the project will go through, and it doesn’t mean the research will be benign, but it does signify that industry might be able to get an earlier foot in the door towards applying for a boundary adjustment change, and may invest significant capital in doing so.
Adding to the uncertainty surrounding the underlying motivation for this Bill is the fact that a number of BC parks are facing possible boundary adjustments in order to accommodate major industrial projects. Under a Freedom of Information request submitted last year, the Ministry of Environment released which parks stand to be affected by certain projects. For example, the proposed Kinder Morgan Pipeline Expansion alone is expected to affect nine provincial parks and will require significant boundary adjustments to at least three of these parks. Furthermore, given the BC Liberals push for natural resource development, it’s no surprise that so many people are suspicious of this Act, and are worried that its purpose is merely to expedite industries application process.
Holding the Government to Account
When it was introduced, Bill 4, the Park Amendment Act, clearly did not have the social license to proceed. The proposed changes caught most people by surprise, major environmental groups condemned it, and the Bill was strongly opposed in the Legislature.
Working with the official opposition, I spoke against the Bill, highlighting the concerning and vague language used as well as the lack of public consultation and support for instituting these changes. I proposed that before passing in the House, the Bill should at least go to a committee review stage, in order to give the government time to build up the social license needed for this bill and to address the many concerns voiced. I also proposed amendments to the Bill, including adding a definition for “research”, as a way of trying to ensure that the Bill did not undermine the mandate and purpose of our Parks. Unfortunately, these were defeated by the government.
What Happened in the House
Despite being given opportunities to engage the public, and despite the public outcry, Bill 4 – the Park Amendment Act, received royal assent on March 24, 2014. In defending the bill, Honourable Mary Polak, the Minister for the Environment stated that “the intention of this amendment is to provide the legal statutory certainty for the granting of research permits, commercial filming permits, that we have granting but have been advised that we do not have sufficient legal certainty in order to proceed as we have.” She assured the house that the 30-page Park Act still “contains all the guidance necessary to ensure that we don’t have mining in our parks, that we don’t have drilling for oil in our parks, that we don’t have major industrial activities taking place in our parks”. As British Columbian, our job is now to ensure the minister is true to her words.
Should we be concerned?
At roughly 14 million hectares, British Columbia has the third largest park system in North America (second only to the federal parks system of Canada and the US). Over 14.4% of the province is protected under the Parks system, and over 90% of British Columbians have visited a provincial park at some point in their lives and 60% regularly visit at least one park each year.
Over the last 10 years our parks have undergone 44 boundary changes totaling roughly 811 hectares of lost park land. Although only 8 of these changes were for proponent-based projects (industrial projects), the rest being largely administrative in nature, this number accounted for almost 70% of the total area removed from our parks. Clearly, although they only account for a small number of total adjustments, the proponent-based industrial projects are the ones that have the biggest impact to our Parks.
Equally important however is that this is a relatively small amount of land when it is taken in the context of 14 million hectares that are protected. In addition, just a few weeks ago that number was increased by 55,000 hectares.
The good news is that even though this Bill does allow for research permits to be granted, possibly for major industrial projects, the park boundary would have to be changed before the project itself could be approved. For our provincial parks, any boundary change has to come through the legislative assembly. And here, at least, there is an avenue for public attention and debate to occur over a park boundary change. You can be assured that I will be closely monitoring any future park boundary changes.
Bill 4 is a piece of legislation that is far too vague and gives too much power to the ministry. It clearly did not have the social license needed and continues to face strong opposition. If used inappropriately the Bill has the potential to undermine the legislated protection of our Parks. For these reasons I opposed its passage in the house, and will do whatever I can to ensure it is not used to abuse the underlying purpose of our Parks (as detailed in the BC Parks Mission Statement):
BC Parks is committed to serving British Columbians and their visitors by protecting and managing for future generations a wide variety of outstanding park lands which represent the best natural features and diverse wilderness environments of the province.
The Next Steps
I hope that this post helps people to understand this issue, its complexity, and the importance that will now be placed on ensuring that every boundary adjustment is transparent and fully understood so that our park system remains protected and continues to serve the interests of British Columbians.
If you are concerned about this Act, here are some options available to you:
1 – Sign a Petition
Some groups have called for an appeal to this Bill. It can be found here.
2 – Write a Letter
The minister has explained that this was essentially a housekeeping Bill — one that gave the ministry the legal authority to do what it had already been doing. However, my main criticism of this Bill, aside from the use of incredibly vague language, is that it clearly did not have the required social license to move forward. If you share this concern I would encourage you to write to the minister about your views on the process, and how in the future the government needs to first engage in public consultation, before imposing such a controversial bill. Please provide me with a cc of your letter so that I can speak to your concerns in the future.
Media Statement: March 6, 2014
Greens and NDP support further Public Consultation on Parks Amendment Act
For Immediate Release
Victoria BC – Today Andrew Weaver, for the second day in a row, worked with the official opposition to provide the government the ability to build the social license needed for the Park Amendment Act to move forward. The Park Amendment Act has received considerable opposition from numerous stakeholders across the province and it is clear that further engagement with British Columbians is warranted before the government makes these substantial changes to the legislation governing BC parks.
Yesterday, the NDP tabled a motion that would have delayed the passing of this Bill for a further six months giving the government an opportunity to engage British Columbians and address their concerns. Andrew supported the motion, arguing that the lack of “Public trust” was “a critical component of why [he was] supporting this amendment”.
Weaver argued in the house:
“Good governance requires outreach and consultation on controversial topics, and I encourage the government to actively engage the citizens of British Columbia in public forums before enacting this bill. The time proposed in the amendment is critical to allow for successful public buy-in of this bill.”
MLA Weaver gave his full support to the NDP motion; unfortunately, the motion was defeated.
Today, the Green Party MLA noted that “the government did not feel that the delay of this bill was in their interest” and he reiterated his view that “the Park Amendment Act does not have the social license to move forward.” He then introduced a different amendment on the Park Amendment Act: to send the Bill to a committee.
Weaver argued that “Moving the Bill to a committee would allow for the multi-partisan engagement of stakeholders, it would show that the government is listening to the concerns of British Columbians, and it would ensure that the development of the language of this Bill satisfies the concerns of its many critics.”
In another notable show of multi-partisan cooperation, many members in the caucus of the official opposition spoke and voted in support of Weaver’s amendment. The motion to amend was voted down by the Government.
Mat Wright – Press Secretary, Andrew Weaver MLA
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Earlier this session the government introduced Bill 4 – the Park Amendment Act. This act essentially allows the government to issue park permits for two activities that are unrelated to the mandate and purpose of our parks. The first is that park-use permits can now be issued for film production. Generally I support this development, and think that it could provide a boost to our film industry. The second is that park-use permits can now be issued for “research” activities.
Prior to this legislation, park-use permits could not be issued unless, in the opinion of the minster, they were necessary for the preservation or maintenance of the recreational values of the park. This Bill now allows park-use permits for film production and for ‘research’.
Research can mean different things to different people. Research can mean a study on an endangered species, or it can mean exploratory drilling. Some types of research seem appropriate for our parks and fall within the purpose and mandate of our parks, others do not. Leaving out a definition of research without any parameters around what will and will not be allowed under a ‘feasibility study’ is leaving our parks open to possible industrial development in the future.
Current regulations and policy does define and constrain research activities that will be undertaken in our parks. However, regulations and policy can change without any public input and without public announcement. Legislation, on the other hand, is openly debated in parliament.
There is a lack of public trust on this issue. There is a lack of public trust that government has the best interests of our parks in mind, particularly given the strong opposition to pipelines going through our province. Instead of unilaterally weakening the laws that protect our Parks, the government should instead undertake an extensive public consultation in order to obtain the social license that is critical for this type of change to the Parks Act.
Today in the house I stated that:
“Public trust is a key component of why I am opposing this Bill. The public does not know why this Bill is being brought forward, and does not necessarily trust government to ensure that this Bill will not undermine our parks. Although the policies and regulations around the issuance of research permits do have specific constraints, these policies can be easily changed without going through the legislature. Today the public is concerned about pipelines and large industrial projects going through our province, and it is not surprising, therefore, that this legislation which weakens the requirements for the issuance park permits, has faced considerable backlash. Indeed, of the legislation introduced thus far this session, this Bill has gained the most significant and controversial media attention that I have seen in quite some time.”
I also stated that “Our parks are world-renowned and are a huge part of our tourism industry, they are enjoyed by thousands of British Columbians every year, and in many ways, represent the best that “Beautiful British Columbia” has to offer. This legislation weakens the current legislation of the Parks Act, and there are many who fear that it paves the way for industrial projects through our parks.”
Understanding the concerns around this Bill my staff and I were prepared to call for an amendment to delay the enactment of the Bill, allowing for public engagement and clarification of the Act. However, before I spoke to the Bill the official opposition, sharing many of my concerns, introduced an amendment calling for a delay of 6 months on the enactment of Bill 4. This is a move I fully support.
My Views towards the Bill in Full
The Park Amendment Act, introduced earlier this session, has some elements to it that I believe warrant support. In particular I was happy to see the inclusion of a more streamlined and accessible park permit issue process for activities related to film production. This legislation will likely attract additional filming business to the province, and I applaud the government for its foresight in including film production components in this Bill.
However, I have considerable concerns around how the concept of “research” is being proposed in this Bill. Good research is an integral part of forming good policy and I am a firm believer in the principle of evidenced-based decision making. The problem with how this legislation uses the term ‘research’ is that it does not define the term, it does not give any limiting parameters around what types of research would or would not be allowed, and it provides no guidelines on how the research activity is to be conducted. I am aware that there is a definition for research as well as guidelines around how research permits can be issued within the parks policy, but herein lies the problem. Policy and regulations can be changed and modified without public input or awareness, in contrast, modifying legislation has a clear accountability process.
The reason why we have parks in this province is to preserve and protect the most outstanding natural environments and ecologically diverse areas of British Columbia. Our parks exist for the use and enjoyment of British Columbians today and for the future generations of tomorrow. Indeed, the mission of BC parks is to “protect representative and special natural places within the provinces Protected Areas System for world class conservation, outdoor recreation, and education.” Furthermore, in its mandate BC Parks outlines its commitment to British Columbians through:
Operating on this understanding of the purpose of our parks, this Bill fails to define research in a way that ensures that the mandate and underlying purpose of why our Parks exist, is not undermined. One definition of research that I would argue is compatible with the mandate of our parks is one used by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This organization defines research as “experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view.” I would like to draw attention to that last section of this definition and highlight that research in this sense is done, and I quote, “without any particular application or use in view”. Being a scientist by trade, I believe this definition encompasses the spirit of what good research in our Parks should entail.
For example, research that is focused on understanding the endangered Vancouver Island Marmot within the Haley Lake Ecological Reserve is, in my opinion, entirely acceptable as the underlying motivation of the research is to acquire new knowledge of this species. This type of research is also directly compatible with the mandate and purpose of our Parks. In comparison, exploratory drilling ‘research’ or widespread ore-sampling ‘research’ in the same type of protected area is not acceptable, as the motivation behind this type of research is likely for an industrial project which would directly contradict the mandate and purpose of our Parks. In my view, this latter type of research that supports a specific application or project within our parks, and which also inherently works against the purpose and mandate of our Parks, is problematic to say the least.
The proposed legislation will overrule previous clauses of the Park Act which ensure park use permits are not be granted unless it is clear that the permits “will not be detrimental to the recreational value of the park”. Current legislation also states that permits “must not be issued unless, in the opinion of the minister, it is necessary for the preservation or maintenance of the recreational values of the park involved”. By allowing park use permits to be issued around this vague concept of ‘research’, particularly research focused on undertaking a “feasibility study” for virtually any type of “prescribed project”, we are opening our Parks to special interests whose intentions may not align with the interests of British Columbians. It seems to me that this legislation is, intentionally or not, prioritizing industrial proposals over the preservation and protection of the parks of British Columbia. Given that we are discussing protected crown lands meant to preserve and protect places of ecological sensitivity, the habitats of endangered species, or places of historical and natural significance, should there not at least be some basic guidelines imbedded in the legislation around what type of research can be conducted and how it must take place?
Public trust is a key component of why I am opposing this Bill. The public does not know why this Bill is being brought forward, and does not necessarily trust government to ensure that this Bill will not undermine our parks. Although the policies and regulations around the issuance of research permits do have specific constraints, these policies can be easily changed without going through the legislature. Today the public is concerned about pipelines and large industrial projects going through our province, and it is not surprising, therefore, that this legislation which weakens the requirements for the issuance park permits, has faced considerable backlash. Indeed, of the legislation introduced thus far this session, this Bill has gained the most significant and controversial media attention. Six of the leading environmental organizations that are active in this province and which have memberships representing many tens of thousands of British Columbians, have condemned this Bill. Good governance requires outreach and consultation on controversial topics and I encourage the government to actively engage the citizens of British Columbia in public forums before enacting Bill 4
Our parks are world-renowned and are a huge part of our tourism industry, they are enjoyed by thousands of British Columbians every year, and in many ways, represent the best that “Beautiful British Columbia” has to offer. This legislation weakens the current legislation of the Parks Act, and there are many who fear that it paves the way for industrial projects through our parks.
As the Bill does not define the term research, and does not outline what constitutes a valid research activity within the protected areas of British Columbia, I cannot support this Bill. Before this legislation is passed I ask the government to explicitly define the term research, to produce research guidelines that would ensure any research activity done within our Parks would follow specific rules, and to amend the definition of a “feasibility study” to contain specific limitations and parameters which would ensure that these feasibility studies are compatible with the mandate of our Parks. Furthermore, as this research will take place on public lands, I believe that the Bill should clarify that any research activity which receives a park-use permit must be done in a manner that is consistent with the long-term health and purpose of the park. I ask that all of these requests be enshrined within legislation.
I think that in BC right now, there is a general lack of public trust at this juncture for changes to the way parks are administered, particularly with the uncertainty around major pipeline projects. Despite some positive aspects to the legislation, the fact that the public does not trust the reasons why government is making amendments to the Park Act is a serious concern.
I question whether the government has obtained the necessary social licence to make changes that could contribute to streamlining the development of industrial projects in our parks – projects which in some cases, a majority of British Columbians are opposed to.
I am opposed to the nature and direction that this legislation currently takes, and I urge the government to carefully consider the long-term consequences of passing this bill as it stands today.