In Budget 2022, the BC NDP government invested $12 million over 3 years to create the long-awaited Declaration Act Secretariat to better organize the provincial reconciliation efforts. That budget though will just cover the salaries and administration of the office.
We know that government funds its priorities and so I asked Hon. Murray Ranking, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, about how the 79-point action plan tabled last summer is going to be implemented by all his colleagues. The money will be found in their core budgets.
In my supplemental I asked Hon. Josie Osborne, the new Minister of Lands, Water and Resource Stewardship, about conservation financing. Last year, the BC NDP put old growth deferrals on Indigenous Nations but provided no fiscal tools to make up for the losses. Again, there was no clear answer to this question. I will keep asking.
If what we’re doing in question period here today is indicating to the trustees that this House is unanimous behind the call from the official opposition, then count the B.C. Green caucus as making this House unanimous.
This government shows priorities in how they spend the money. In this budget, I’m looking to how this government is meaningfully advancing reconciliation. In Budget 2022, we finally see this government reorganizing how ministries interact through the Declaration Act secretariat. However, the $4 million per year to create the secretariat, appears to be just enough money to administer and to pay the salaries of the staff that are in that secretariat, so where is the priority in this budget for action on reconciliation?
Last summer the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation published a 79-point action plan required in section 4 of the Declaration Act. This action plan encompasses the work of every single one of the minister’s colleagues.
The Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation is responsible for his colleagues in cabinet delivering on our commitments that we made to Indigenous people over two years ago, yet there doesn’t appear to be any money in the budgets of the ministries for the actions laid out in the plan. Where is the money in this government’s plan to finance progress on the DRIPA action plan?
Hon. M. Rankin:
Thank you to my colleague across the way for the question.
We’re very proud of the work that the secretariat will do in implementing DRIPA, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. We’ve appointed, as associate deputy minister, Si Sityaawks, Jessica Wood, to serve in that historic role to lead the government’s response to the alignment of our laws, both existing and new, with the declaration commitments that are part of that act.
We believe that the money to do that will be found in the mandate plans for each and every ministry and their actions going forward. The action plan to which the hon. member referred will be before this House within the next few weeks. We’re very proud of the concrete actions of that action plan that will make tangible difference to the lives of Indigenous peoples across this province.
Member for Saanich North and the Islands, supplemental.
RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND CONSERVATION FUNDING
I thank the minister for his response.
I think that it’s important to acknowledge that I also have an incredible amount of confidence in Jessica Wood in navigating the creation of the Declaration Act. Indigenous leaders like the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs’ president, Grand Chief Phillip Stewart, have been critical of the provincial government’s all-talk-and-little-action approach. Specifically, they’ve been calling for conservation financing, which would protect endangered species and build economic opportunities to logging-endangered, old-growth forest.
In Budget 2022, there does not appear to be any money set aside for conservation financing, even though last summer the federal government put more than $160 million on the table for Indigenous protected and conserved areas. This provincial government has asked First Nations to pause the logging of old-growth forests but hasn’t given them any funding to compensate their potential losses. Budget 2022 was an opportunity — a missed opportunity — to fix that mistake.
The first item in the new Minister of Lands, Water and Resource Stewardships mandate letter is to develop a path forward with First Nations to build a comanaged land and resource management regime that will ensure that natural resources are managed effectively into the future. My question is to the new Minister of Lands, Water and Resource Stewardship. Will she act on the first item in her mandate and secure the desperately needed funds for conservation, as was requested by Indigenous leaders in British Columbia?
Hon. J. Osborne:
Thank you to the member opposite for the question. First of all, let me say that I am incredibly proud to be asked to lead this new ministry, one where I will be working with my colleagues, with industry, with First Nations and with communities to help transform the way we work with First Nations to seek environmental stewardship, conservation, economic sustainability and, most importantly, true reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
We all want our natural resources sector to support reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. We know that we seek the balance of environmental sustainability and economic benefits. Our government has been working towards these goals, but we know that there have been huge changes in the way natural resource ministries have been set up and the way the sector has played out. We have an incredible amount of work to do. I am very proud to be leading this ministry and very much looking forward to the work ahead. I look forward to more conversations with the member opposite in the days, weeks, months and years to come.