As I write this, world leaders gather in Montreal for the next two weeks for COP15, the United Nations summit on biodiversity. They are discussing our fractured relationship with the natural environment.
For my colleague, Sonia Furstenau (MLA, Cowichan Valley) and I in the BC Green Caucus, biodiversity has been a key issue since we signed the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the BC NDP in 2017.
In those early days, former Premier John Horgan instructed his environment minister, Hon. George Heyman, to get to work on provincial species-at-risk legislation.
In 2019, that work was abruptly ended, and Horgan’s government inexplicably shifted focus, quietly promising a reformatted biodiversity legislation instead. Fast forward to 2022, and Heyman has made little progress on a project that was ill-fated from the beginning.
It was doomed because the BC NDP have been reluctant to shift away from the decades-old political culture in British Columbia which puts economic values of natural resources above all else. The priority focus of the provincial government needs to be ecosystem health.
Sonia and I have been pressing the BC NDP on these issues since the beginning. However, for the purposes of this post I want to highlight some more recent work that demonstrates the lack of willingness to change the direction of forestry policy.
In November 2021, I questioned Minister of Forests, Hon. Katrine Conroy (2021/11/18 & 2021/11/22) about clause 33 in Bill 23: Forest Statutes Amendment Act (2021). It dealt with the factors the Chief Forester must consider when creating a forest landscape plan. In 2.22, they are presented as a list, “(a) supporting the production and supply of timber… (b) supporting the protection and conservation of the environment; (c) …Indigenous people… (d) …local community, etc
I asked Minister Conroy if the list, with “production and supply of timber” as the first point, was hierarchical. Minister Conroy said it was not. When I proposed to change the order, which in a non-hierarchical list should be meaningless, she informed me that Ministry staff advised her against it. As you can see in the transcript below I did not give up quickly!
I then moved on to Gary Merkle and Al Gorley’s recommendation from the Old Growth Strategic Review report to,
“Declare conservation of ecosystem health and biodiversity of British Columbia’s forests as an overarching priority and enact legislation that legally establishes this priority for all sectors.”
Minister Conroy and the BC NDP have consistently said they are going to implement all the recommendations of the report. So, I asked the Minister why she didn’t “declare conservation of ecosystem health and biodiversity” to the list in 2.22 to “legally establish” these objectives as key factors for consideration of the Chief Forester when they are making decisions.
She simply responded they are “reflected in the existing objectives.” The problem is that they are not – otherwise, we would see significantly different outcomes on the ground.
In February of this year, I asked Minister Conroy about the logging operation at Fairy Creek threatening the Specklebelly lichen (2022/02/22), listed federally by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada as a “species of special concern.” The Minister said she recognized my “passion for the issue” and promptly moved on.
A few weeks later, I asked her about the continued use of herbicides such as glyphosate (2022/03/31), and mechanical destruction of indigenous plants, foods and medicine for humans and other species.
Minister Conroy defended the use of glyphosate as necessary for “establishing conifer or conifer deciduous-mixed stands and ensuring future timber supplies.” This is an unfortunate but unsurprising confirmation that the list we debated in November 2021, may have been hierarchical after all.
I followed up with another question (2022/04/04) about the destruction of indigenous plant species, noting that killing species gathered by Indigenous people for food and medicine is a form of environmental racism. The Minister minimized the threat and sidestepped the issue.
In May, during budget estimates, I challenged Minister Conroy (2022/05/12), asserting that our current forestry policy turns healthy productive forests into tree farms. I stated firmly that this is the definition of deforestation.
She responded by saying that,
“We do not practice deforestation in British Columbia. In fact, we operate on a sustainable forest management system. We have good, solid legal objectives in place to maintain biodiversity. As well, we will continue to enhance biodiversity in partnership with my colleague in the new Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship, and I’m looking forward to that collaboration between the two ministries.”
So, I followed up with the Minister of Land, Water, and Resource Stewardship, Hon. Josie Osborne (2022/05/19), who is a biologist, about biodiversity protection. She assured me it was an issue she takes very seriously – but those are words, not actions. There have been no actions from the ministry responsible for resource stewardship to protect biodiversity.
In October (2022/10/06), I presented Bill M213 – Wildlife Amendment Act (No.3) 2022, to protect bear dens. It is further proof that the primary value of forests is for the production of timber for harvest and not places for animals to live. British Columbia has woefully inadequate protections for bear dens. This is just one of many species we fail to accommodate. I want to change that but the BC NDP wouldn’t call my bill for debate the policy initiative.
Despite the platitudes, the BC NDP consistently defends resource harvesting policies that put timber harvest values ahead of ecosystem health. They act as if humans are the only species on the planet for which the rules of nature don’t apply. They pretend we can thrive even as the ecosystems are collapsing around us. The priority focus of the provincial government needs to be ecosystem health.
Premier David Eby announced a new Cabinet with Hon. Bruce Ralston taking over the Ministry of Forests (mandate letter), and Hon. Nathan Cullen (mandate letter), taking over as Minister of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship.
Minister Cullen has been given an ambitious direction. If he is successful over the next two years he will begin to address many of the issues Sonia and I have been raising. I look forward to seeing the recommendations of the Old Growth Review finally implemented, conservation financing made available, and 30% of the provincial land base protected by 2030. He can count on my support for those initiatives.
The responsibility to deliver substantive protections for biodiversity is now on their shoulders. While their mandate letters instruct them to act, previous Ministers have failed their mandates. So, we will see whether the BC NDP delivers on their commitments to sustainable landscape management or if they continue to ignore them.
With representatives gathering for COP15 in Montreal, the eyes of the world are on us.
Thursday November 18, 2022 – 5:10pm – 5:25pm
Bill 23: Forest Statutes Amendment Act (2021) – Committee of the Whole House
A. Olsen: On clause 33, 2.22, I’m just wondering if the minister can talk about how the government will ensure that the objectives that are set out here in this part of the clause will be applied to ensure the health of the land.
Hon. K. Conroy: It’s all laid out in 2.22, as the member said, in the objectives. They all refer to the land, not only to support the production and the supply of timber in the forest landscape area. In order to do that, you have to respect the land. Supporting the protection and the conservation of the environment is part of making sure that the land is first and foremost.
Managing the values placed on the forest ecosystem by Indigenous peoples, very specifically, is part of what happens with the land, as are the values on forest ecosystems by local communities. Again, the values are part of what a local community has.
Then preventing, mitigating and adapting to impacts caused by significant disturbances to forests and forest health, including wildfire, insects, disease and drought, which all impact the lands that the forests are part of.
All of those objectives very much pertain to how we ensure that we are taking care of the land.
A. Olsen: How does this part of the clause mirror or compare to the objectives that the chief forester currently has — in determining the objectives that the chief forester currently has?
Hon. K. Conroy: We’d just like to clarify with the member if the member is referring to the 11 values that are part of the existing forest stewardship planning regime.
A. Olsen: Well, I’m not necessarily referring to anything, though, specifically. What I’m referring to, or what I’m trying to canvass here, is that in this division, in clause 33, 2.22, in preparing a forest landscape plan, the chief forester has and must consider these objectives.
Presumably, the chief forester has a set of objectives that they must consider when making decisions currently. What I am wondering, and what I’m trying to understand, is how this would be different from the objectives that the chief forester currently has in making decisions about the landscape in the province?
Hon. K. Conroy: Under the current regime, the chief forester doesn’t consider a set of objectives. The objectives that exist are required by licensees to develop results and strategies.
A. Olsen: How would the minister characterize the consideration of the objective of managing the values placed on forest ecosystems by Indigenous people? How will the chief forester consider this? Can the minister please explain to us what this looks like in practice?
Hon. K. Conroy: Values placed on the forest ecosystem by Indigenous peoples will be identified in the government-to-government process.
A. Olsen: Is this list, (a) through (e), hierarchical?
Hon. K. Conroy: No.
A. Olsen: How will the chief forester evaluate and weigh each of these five points, objectives?
Hon. K. Conroy: In collaboration with the Indigenous nations.
A. Olsen: Only (c) is reflective of Indigenous peoples. What I’m wondering is: how will the chief forester consider all five of the objectives in this list, and how will the chief forester weigh those objectives that, arguably, are in conflict with each other?
When you read the list, there are conflicting values and objectives here. How will the chief forester weigh those?
Hon. K. Conroy: They would be weighed differently, depending on the local issues, the local values, the values of the Indigenous nations, and that would be determined in those government-to-government discussions.
A. Olsen: Presumably, then, if I moved an amendment to move (a) to the bottom of this list, then there would be no reason why the government wouldn’t support that?
Hon. K. Conroy: They’re not listed in hierarchal order, but in order to change any of the legislation as it is tabled, we would have to confer with legislative counsel.
Noting the hour, I move that the committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.
The committee rose at 5:22 p.m.
Monday November 22, 2022 – 4:10pm – 5:05pm
Bill 23: Forest Statutes Amendment Act (2021) – Committee of the Whole House
A. Olsen: I think it was on Thursday afternoon. I finished up with a question about whether or not these clauses in 2.22 were hierarchical. The minister responded that they weren’t.
I then asked a question about the implications of amending the list, simply moving (d) up to (a) and just reorganizing the list. The minister suggested that she would need to consult with legislative counsel.
Has the minister consulted with legislative counsel on what the potential impact of reorganizing that list would be?
Hon. K. Conroy: Before we start, I just want to introduce the staff that are with me today. Ariel Taylor is the manager of Indigenous consultation and negotiation. Tony Cheong is our senior legislative analyst. Doug Kelly is our director of the forest tenures branch. Diane Nicholls, our ADM and chief forester, is here.
Yes, we did have a discussion. As I previously mentioned, these objectives are not listed in any order of priority. Depending on who’s asking, we could get in a long discussion about how to order the objectives. It, ultimately, wouldn’t change anything, because the chief forester would consider each objective equally as important when preparing a forest landscape plan.
A. Olsen: Then the answer to the question that I asked on Thursday, quite simply, would be…. I could move an amendment here to reorder them, and government would support that amendment.
Hon. K. Conroy: Well, no, actually.
What I was saying is that I think…. Depending on who’s asking, we could then get into a long discussion about how to order all the objectives. What I’m saying to the member is that it would not ultimately change anything. The chief forester has to consider each objective when preparing a forest landscape plan and would put the same priority on each objective. So I don’t see the need to move these at this time.
A. Olsen: Can the minister maybe outline the statement that she made, “depending on who is asking,” and maybe provide a little bit more clarity on what the differences to the response would be, depending on who it was that’s asking? It’s very vague. I don’t understand.
Depending on if I was asking, if the member for Nechako Lakes was asking, if somebody else was asking…. What are the implications of “depending on who was asking?”
Hon. K. Conroy: I think some people might want to have “managing the values placed on forest ecosystems by local communities,” if they thought local communities should be the first objective. Some people might feel that “protection and conservation of the environment” should be the number one objective.
The reality is these objectives are not in any order. The chief forester has to consider each one with equal consideration when preparing a forest landscape plan. So at this time, we feel that there’s no need to move any of the objectives around.
A. Olsen: If the objectives were moved around, that wouldn’t change the outcome of the decision that was made, and therefore, government wouldn’t have a problem supporting an amendment that would move or reorder this list.
Hon. K. Conroy: Our legislative counsel advice has said that we are at risk if we consider the amendment necessary. Then a court could say that we changed it to make a certain objective the priority, which would be an establishment of a system of priority when there is no prioritization.
A. Olsen: There is a prioritization. There’s (a), (b), (c), (d). There’s a hierarchical list. If there was no prioritization, there would just be 2.22, and it would then have a single…. You wouldn’t necessarily need any delineation between them. It could be just a clause with all of the language that’s there altogether — that these are the factors that are going to be taken into consideration.
Part of the reason why I’m asking this is…. The minister chose to draft this legislation with a hierarchy — (a), (b), (c), (d). So (a) comes before (b), (b) comes before (c), and (c) comes before (d). There is a suggestion of hierarchy. The minister just suggested that changing it would indicate that there is. But the fact that it is the way it is ordered is the very same indication that the minister has suggested. So that’s precisely the reason why I’m asking.
Does the minister not agree, then, that there is already a hierarchy built into this based on the lettering and the list as it’s organized in this clause?
Hon. K. Conroy: No, I do not.
A. Olsen: Is this not a list, (a) through (d)? The reflection of what the minister said would be that this would be organized with a single point, with all of the language that is in (a), (b), (c) through (e). That would be the cleanest way to indicate that there is no hierarchy, that the chief forester is not going to be considering the production and supply of timber in advance of the other four items on this list.
Hon. K. Conroy: In considering a forest landscape plan, the chief forester must consider the following objectives. This is not in hierarchical order.
A. Olsen: Why list it in hierarchical order?
Hon. K. Conroy: They are not in hierarchical order. The letters are only so that they can be referred to as each objective.
A. Olsen: Okay. Thank you.
The letters indicate…. Separating these into five separate parts of this clause indicates that there’s a delineation between them. And then organizing them in a list using (a) through (e) and stacking them the way that they’re stacked suggests that there is some separation between these thoughts. There’s some separation between the consideration of these objectives.
Is the minister, then, suggesting that when you create a list…? By the way that this is organized, there is no hierarchy in this.
Hon. K. Conroy: The list is not in hierarchical order.
A. Olsen: Nowhere in this list are the principles or the objectives of managing for ecosystem health or minimizing biodiversity risk.
These are two aspects of the commitments that have been made by the government with respect to the old growth strategic review. The minister has claimed repeatedly that all aspects of that report will be implemented. It seems like there would be a very easy opportunity here to be made to include managing for ecosystem health and minimizing biodiversity risk into the considerations of the chief forester to ensure that, truly, these two really important pieces that were highlighted throughout the OGSR report are in this law.
Why did the minister choose to exclude these objectives from this list in direction to the chief forester?
Hon. K. Conroy: Ecosystem health and biodiversity are reflected in the existing objectives.
A. Olsen: Can the minister explain here how managing for ecosystem health first is reflected in the list that’s here?
Hon. K. Conroy: We believe that ecosystem health and biodiversity are reflected in all five of the objectives.
A. Olsen: Specifically not mentioning biodiversity…. This is really unfortunate, because in the old growth strategic review report, one of the key recommendations was to protect those ecosystems that are at the highest risk of biodiversity loss. Again, it seems like with the minister’s repeated commitment to capturing the spirit and intent of those recommendations, this would be one way to ensure that our forests would be managed for protecting against the risks to biodiversity and the management for ecosystem health.
With that, I’ll move an amendment to this clause that will, in essence, add (f) to this non-hierarchical list — basically just adding “managing for ecosystem health and minimizing biodiversity risk.”
[CLAUSE 33, in the proposed section 2.22, by adding the underlined text as shown:
Preparation of forest landscape plan
2.22 The chief forester, in preparing a forest landscape plan, must consider the following objectives:
(a) supporting the production and supply of timber in the forest landscape area;
(b) supporting the protection and conservation of the environment;
(c) managing the values placed on forest ecosystems by Indigenous peoples;
(d) managing the values placed on forest ecosystems by local communities;
(e) preventing, mitigating and adapting to impacts caused by significant disturbances to forests and forest health, including wildfire, insects, disease;
(f) managing for ecosystem health and minimizing biodiversity risk;]
The Chair: We will take a ten-minute recess just to circulate the amendment.
The committee recessed from 4:24 p.m. to 4:32 p.m.
[R. Leonard in the chair.]
The Chair: We’re looking at Bill 23, and the proposed amendment to clause 33 is in order.
On the amendment.
J. Rustad: I thought the minister might want an opportunity to state the government’s position before we vote on an amendment. So maybe I’ll ask the minister, if I may, whether the minister is accepting this amendment or not.
Obviously, there is potential for some debate and discussion around adding issues like biodiversity and ecosystem health into this list. They’re very important values. They certainly do need consideration. When you think about everything that’s going on in the forest — whether it’s managing forage, which the minister rejected adding, or whether it’s a wide range of things like recreational values, etc., into all of this — the minister was pretty clear in saying that there would be a requirement for First Nation consultation to be able to make any changes to this the last time she was up on the forage stuff.
If I could ask the minister if that is a requirement before she would consider this type of an amendment?
Hon. K. Conroy: Just in response to the amendment, we believe that ecosystem health and biodiversity are both supported by the existing objectives. Therefore, this amendment is not required.
A. Olsen: Would the minister agree that this would add further definition to the determination of the chief forester in preparing a landscape plan, and it would add to the objectives that the chief forester needs to consider?
Hon. K. Conroy: We believe that the chief forester already considers this, because ecosystem health and biodiversity are supported by the existing objectives.
A. Olsen: Can the minister point out the harm in supporting a clause that identifies, specifically, ecosystem health and minimizing biodiversity risk?
Hon. K. Conroy: We believe that the ecosystem health and the biodiversity are already included within the objectives.
A. Olsen: I understand that, and I imagine that the minister is going to continue to reorganize her words in every question that I ask.
Can the minister please identify the drawback in adding specificity, especially considering the minister has been on the record repeatedly talking about the importance of bringing in all of the recommendations of the old growth strategic review?
This would be a very simple way, actually, for the minister. She has already indicated to this House that I’m not adding anything other than, maybe, specificity, which shouldn’t be seen as something that is not supportable. I’m actually just adding specificity to something that, the minister has admitted, the chief forester is already doing.
What is the harm in adding that specificity?
Hon. K. Conroy: We believe that ecosystem health and biodiversity are areas that are fully supported by these objectives.
S. Furstenau: I just want to reinforce that the member for Saanich North and the Islands pointed out, very clearly, that this was a specific aspect of the old growth strategic review panel’s report — that what has been lacking and what is needed is a recognition of ecosystem health in how we manage forests and protection of biodiversity.
This amendment provides an indication that the minister, who has been consistently indicating that she accepts all the recommendations of the old growth review panel’s report, is committed to these outcomes. This amendment gives the minister the capacity and the opportunity right now to show that — not just to believe it, not just to say it, but to actually show it — by putting it into the legislation. As we know, unless it’s in the legislation, the believing, the saying and the hoping don’t matter.
The minister indicated to my colleague, earlier in this discussion, that biodiversity protection, ecosystem protection and ecosystem health are captured already in these points that exist in this legislation. If that’s the case, then there could be no problem with inserting them specifically so that the public can see the commitment — which this minister and this government have made, over and over again, in their words — actually present in legislation.
Again, I’m going to ask the minister. How does she square saying that she’s committed to these recommendations and to these outcomes in protecting ecosystem health and biodiversity but not being willing to include it as what we’re managing forests for, specifically, in this legislation?
Hon. K. Conroy: We are well aware of the needs and the old growth strategic review. We are committed to, and will implement, all 14 recommendations. We believe that ecosystem health and biodiversity are supported by the five objectives that are laid out in this act.
A. Olsen: Again, I appreciate the minister sticking very firmly to the singular message. However, does the minister not see the potential threat that is posed by not supporting an amendment that adds the specificity?
What it actually looks like — to the public and to anybody who is going to see this video afterwards — is that by not supporting this, the minister is unwilling to put the words that the minister claims are already covered, the specific words, in and that that’s actually a threat to the position that the minister is taking.
Hon. K. Conroy: I believe that anybody that is watching this video will, hopefully, watch the whole video and see what everybody is saying.
They will know that this is not a threat, that we believe that the ecosystem health and biodiversity are very clearly supported by the existing five objectives in this legislation and that the chief forester will consider all these objectives when making forest landscape plans.
A. Olsen: Then those people that are going to watch this video are going to see the minister not providing a direct response to where and how these two aspects that I’m adding through the amendment are reflected.
Just a very simple, basic message that the minister and her staff believe that they’re reflected. Nothing to outline how. It took zero minutes of time to detail how people can feel confident that this is done. When asked about why not do it, why not add these, simply the response back was, as the minister already said: “We don’t believe that we need to add the specificity, because it’s already covered.”
Yet no explanation as to how it’s covered, how the chief forester will include biodiversity, specifically…. Let’s just use that one, because that’s actually a pretty substantive aspect of this amendment. It will offer nothing but just a very simple message box response back that offers no confidence to people that, indeed, they are….
In fact, before I move this amendment, I didn’t necessarily…. I was interested to see how the minister was going to respond. Now with the minister’s responses, I actually think that this amendment absolutely needs to make it in because of the minister’s unwillingness to offer any detail on how these will be captured.
If the minister was going to stay down, I just encourage the minister at this time…. I’ll put it in a question. Will the minister stand here and give the people of British Columbia the confidence that’s needed to ensure and to explain how these are captured in the list of five items that are objectives, separated into a list of five — I’ll point this out again; separated into a list of five — that the chief forester has to consider when creating a forest landscape plan?
Hon. K. Conroy: Again, the chief forester, in preparing a forest landscape plan, must consider — it’s must, not may or perhaps — the following objectives. The following objectives are clearly laid out. They’re not in hierarchical order. They all are equally important, and we do believe that ecosystem health and biodiversity are existing in these five objectives.
I mean they’re here in the objectives. They’re listed here, so I do not believe that this amendment is required because they are supported by these existing objectives.
S. Furstenau: It’s a little tricky to navigate this. So the public can know, what exists right now is: “(a) supporting the production and supply of timber in the forest landscape area” — I don’t think that’s where we’re protecting biodiversity or ecosystem health; “(b) supporting the protection and conservation of the environment,” but that doesn’t specifically say anything about biodiversity or ecosystem health; “(c) managing the values placed on forest ecosystems by Indigenous peoples; (d) managing the values placed on forest ecosystems by local communities; (e) preventing, mitigating and adapting to impacts caused by significant disturbances to forests and forest health, including wildfire, insects, disease….”
What I don’t see anywhere in that list, and what my colleague doesn’t see and why he has presented this amendment, is managing for ecosystem health and minimizing biodiversity risk, which were identified in the old growth review panel’s strategic report.
I’ll ask another question. Does this minister think that this province has done a good job of managing for ecosystem health and biodiversity risk up to now?
Hon. K. Conroy: We are debating Bill 23. We are debating the preparation of forest landscape plans. We are talking about what the chief forester must do in preparing a forest landscape plan. The following objectives that the chief forester must consider when preparing forest landscape plans. All of these areas support biodiversity. They support ecosystem health.
I believe that this amendment that the members are talking about is not required. I will continue to say we are debating Bill 23.
The Chair: Leader of the Third Party on the proposed amendment to clause 33.
S. Furstenau: We’re not actually debating. We’re asking questions and getting pretty much the same answer every time.
I’ll go back to the question that my colleague asked in this, which is: can the minister point specifically outside of this list? Because I don’t think this list captures ecosystem health and biodiversity. Those words are not mentioned. Is there somewhere else that the minister can specifically point to in this legislation where ecosystem health and managing for biodiversity risk is articulated in any way, specifically, in this legislation?
Hon. K. Conroy: Again, we believe that the ecosystem health and biodiversity are covered within these lists of objectives that the chief forester must look at when considering forest landscape plans.
S. Furstenau: I’m just curious about laws that we make where we’re just supposed to believe things are in those laws, but those laws don’t actually state what is in those laws and whether we think that that is responsible law-making, because I don’t think it is. Now, if the minister doesn’t think that this should be included, that’s fine, but she needs to say that.
To continuously say “We believe” — that’s not how laws work. Laws are very specific. That’s why we spend all these weeks and months in here going through these laws with fine-tooth combs, because they’re meant to be specific. If there is no mention in this law, in these amendments, about ecosystem health or managing for risk to biodiversity, then there is nothing that ensures that that is, in fact, what has to happen.
Because what the chief forester will have to take into consideration are the objectives that are specifically identified in the amendment. What is not specifically identified is ecosystem health or minimizing biodiversity risk. I’m actually flummoxed and, I think, would like it to be taken a little more seriously than just some talking points. We’re asking legitimate and important questions about the land base in this province, a land base that has not been managed for ecosystem health or biodiversity risk. That is very plain to see.
If the minister doesn’t have the interest in actually answering the questions without just going to a talking point, that raises other concerns. I’m asking again: is there anywhere that she can point to in this legislation that specifically speaks of protecting forests for ecosystem health and minimizing biodiversity risk? We are in a global collapse of species. I think the least we should be doing is considering what role do we play in British Columbia where we have some of the last little bits of biodiverse, intact forests.
Do we have a responsibility to the rest of the world to protect free ecosystem health and biodiversity risk? I think we do. But I think the only way that we’re going to achieve that is if we actually put it into the laws.
Again, can the minister point out where exactly…? Not just in believing. That’s not how laws work. Where in the legislation is this protection happening?
Hon. K. Conroy: Ecosystem health and biodiversity are supported by the existing objectives in 2.22(a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) — all of the objectives.
A. Olsen: A quick question here. Earlier in the debate, the minister suggested that the questions that we were asking were outside of the scope of this bill.
Is this bill dealing with the creation and the development of forest landscape plans? And hasn’t the justification of this bill been because we need an admission, at least part of the talking points that have been about this bill, that we need to reform how forest landscapes are managed in this province? Aren’t there 64 pages of those amendments to do that in this bill?
Hon. K. Conroy: What this bill will do is amend the current forest management regime.
A. Olsen: Thank you. I appreciate that response.
What if I said I don’t believe that the clauses in this reflect ecosystem health, managing for ecosystem health and minimizing biodiversity risk? Is that as equally a true statement as the minister standing up and saying that she believes that this section includes the management of ecosystem health and minimizing biodiversity risk?
Hon. K. Conroy: I believe that the member can believe whatever he would like to believe, but I know that ecosystem health and biodiversity are part of the five objectives that the chief forester must consider when developing a forest landscape plan.
The Chair: I’d just like to ensure that debate doesn’t become repetitive on the proposed amendment to clause 33.
A. Olsen: Yeah, no, I appreciate that. I don’t think that it’s this side of the debate that has been repetitive in any way, shape or form. I’m trying to get to an understanding, Madam Chair, as to actually what’s in the bill and what is imagined to be in the bill and what could be inferred in the language of the bill, what is required to be an objective considered and what is not required to be an objective considered.
What I’m proposing in this is (f), and that would be a requirement — as the minister said earlier, a must, not an inference, not a suggestion, not a maybe, not a may but a must — to include as a consideration the “managing for ecosystem health and minimizing biodiversity risk.”
Again, I will ask this question. It might be a slight repetition, but it hasn’t been answered. If this section already includes that as an inference, what is…? It’s very similar to the debate that we had, actually, about a comma for another bill. Where the comma is placed actually makes a big deal as to what the actual meaning of that sentence and that clause is. So the reality of the way we create laws in this province isn’t on inferences or suggestions or, you know, we consider it to be done. It needs to be done, either in this amendment or in the regulations.
Will the minister commit here today that managing ecosystem health and minimizing biodiversity risk will show up somewhere in the regulations of this act?
Hon. K. Conroy: The five objectives support ecosystem health and biodiversity.
A. Olsen: Do the five objectives that are currently written in this bill…? Will the chief forester have to consider climate change?
Hon. K. Conroy: It’s here. Climate change is part of the protection and conservation of the environment. You only have to read through the objectives to know it’s there.
I mean, the member can come up with many different words they would like to add in. The chief forester knows that when preparing a forest landscape plan, she has to consider all of these five objectives equitably, which cover things like biodiversity, ecosystem health and climate change.
The Chair: Seeing no further questions, shall the proposed amendment to clause 33 pass?
Division has been called.
Amendment negatived on the following division:
YEAS — 4
NAYS — 7
Tuesday February 22, 2022
Question Period: BC NDP have no clear plans for protecting biodiversity or species at risk!
A. Olsen: Specklebelly lichen grow in old-growth trees in B.C.’s coastal rainforests. Eleven years ago, it was assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada as a species of special concern. This classification is in essence an AMBER alert, a signal that human activity is seriously threatening the survival of the species.
We don’t have our own species-at-risk legislation in British Columbia, but in 2017 our province signed a management plan allowing the federal government to take steps to ensure the survival of specklebelly lichen on the B.C.’s west coast. This plan commits to maintaining “all known extant populations of this species.” That means taking biodiversity into account in our forest management decisions.
Last fall, I asked the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources how she will protect biodiversity in forestry when it’s not included as an objective in the new forestry legislation. In the fall, the minister told me that believes biodiversity will be protected despite not being in the legislation. Now that the law has passed, can we count on it to provide valuable populations such as the specklebelly lichen?
Hon. K. Conroy: I recognize his passion about the issue with the specklebelly, and I know my staff are working with him and his folks on that issue, because we know how important it is. We know how important it is to the people of the province. We know how important the biodiversity is to the people of the province and the ecosystem and the forests.
That is why we are committed to it. That is why we have committed to it. That’s why we are committed to ensuring that we are going to look at all 14 recommendations of the old growth strategic review, which include the incredible biodiversity of our forests — ensuring that we are saving that. We are moving forward with that and working every day to ensure that we are doing just that.
Mr. Speaker: Member for Saanich North and the Islands, supplemental.
A. Olsen: Of course, the specklebelly lichen is just one of many species in our province that are endangered or have a threat of being extirpated. The minister committed in the debate last fall, at committee stage, that the amended forestry legislation would, indeed, protect biodiversity, even though biodiversity is not mentioned in the legislation.
We’re hearing from First Nations and scientists that endangered species in our province do not have the level of protections that are needed. The First Nations Leadership Council recently passed a resolution calling on the provincial government to enact a new law for biodiversity and ecosystem health. They have advocated directly to the minister and her colleague the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, on this.
At the same time as that advocacy was ongoing, logging in TFL 46, where one of the few remaining extant populations of oldgrowth specklebelly lichen was being extirpated, was ongoing there. To the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, despite his colleague’s commitments last fall, we continue to see this government’s management practices threaten endangered species. Will the minister finally listen to First Nations, scientists and advocates and table our own species-at-risk legislation or biodiversity legislation?
Hon. K. Conroy: I just want the member to know that one of the issues that we are dealing with, with First Nations is working together with them on issues of biodiversity and ecosystem health. We are working with them, when it comes to the old growth deferrals, by saying to them: what issues are in your traditional territories? Because that’s what’s really important: working with the rights and title holders on their traditional territory to ensure that we are looking at the biodiversity and the ecosystem health of those areas.
Those nations have come forward, and they have been very clear about areas that they want to make sure are deferred and areas they feel have already been deferred — and have already been working on those areas. We are really respecting and using and working with those nations to ensure that we can do that across the province, because we recognize the importance of this issue.
Thursday March 31, 2022
Question Period: BC NDP Forests Minister defends spraying glyphosate and other poisons
A. Olsen: Yesterday we celebrated the tabling of the Declaration Act action plan. We’ve repeatedly committed to repairing the legacies of colonialism, to upholding Indigenous rights, including their rights to their territories — rights to fish, hunt, gather medicines and foods, unencumbered.
This week, Angelina Hopkins Rose, from St’át’imc Nation, was in the news. Hopkins Rose is calling on the government to pause a proposed land management plan to spray glyphosate and other poisons in the unceded territories of the Stó:lō the St’át’imc, the Nlaka’pamux, Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Hopkins Rose’s activism has been successful. This weekend, my constituency office — actually, our constituency offices — received over 2,000 emails on the issue.
The management plan in question takes effect tomorrow, and will have these carcinogenic chemicals sprayed broadly across their land. Lands where Indigenous peoples regularly harvest berries and other traditional plants and medicines. Hopkins Rose is saying there was not nearly enough consultation with Indigenous peoples on this management plan.
My question is to the Minister of Forests. In keeping with our commitments under the Declaration Act, will the minister pause the spraying of glyphosate set to begin tomorrow, and order a consultation with Indigenous peoples that have been affected by this?
Hon. K. Conroy: I thank the member for the question. I’ve done a lot of research on this, because we’ve also been…. There is questions about glyphosate use in forestry and the effects of glyphosate on human health has been really extensively reviewed by international regulatory agencies, including Health Canada, with the conclusion being that exposure to glyphosate does not pose a carcinogenic or general toxic risk to humans. It remains an important tool for establishing conifer or conifer deciduous-mixed stands and ensuring future timber supplies.
But that said, the use of this herbicide in B.C.’s forest sector has declined significantly in recent years, as foresters use a variety of approaches to manage competing vegetation, including manual, mechanical, burning, biological and herbicides. The glyphosate use in forestry has to comply with B.C.’s Integrated Pest Management Act, and steps have to be taken to minimize impacts on environment, including in fish-bearing streams.
Mr. Speaker: Member for Saanich North and the Islands — supplemental.
A. Olsen: My question was about whether or not engagement with Indigenous nations, as we celebrated — quite intensely celebrated — yesterday, allowing non-members onto the floor of this Legislature to speak, is a substantial thing. According to the plan, B.C. Timber Sales will be permitted to spray. Whether they’re spraying less now than they have in the past makes little difference. The fact of the matter is that they’re going to be allowed to spray glyphosate and other poisons for the next five years.
These poisons will be used to kill salal, mushrooms, Indian hellebore, and berries — thimbleberry, raspberry, salmonberry, red elderberry, huckleberry, blueberry, ocean spray. These are all species that are unwanted, apparently. Unwanted by who? I don’t think they’re unwanted by the bears, but they’re certainly not unwanted by Indigenous people who have been picking and harvesting these as staple food sources for thousands of years.
Ocean spray, as an example of the connection that I want to make here…. Ocean spray, as my uncle J,SIṈTEN talks about, is the sign of Saanich summer. When the ocean spray starts to bloom, and we can smell that beautiful scent throughout our territories, we know it’s time to go out and engage our fishing in the summer in the Gulf Islands. These are species that are unwanted, but yet Indigenous people have been using them — species such as ocean spray — to be able to understand how to live properly in our territories. These will just be wiped out with the spraying of glyphosate.
My question is to the Minister of Forests. Does the minister believe that the rights of Indigenous peoples to harvest traditional plants are outweighed by the ministry’s interests to maximize harvest volumes by the spraying of glyphosate?
Hon. K. Conroy: I respect the member asking the question, and his considerable knowledge on Indigenous peoples culture. I respect that there have been changes in this Legislature.
We are working with Indigenous people. In fact, under the B.C. Integrated Pest Management Act and the B.C. Integrated Pest Management Regulation, the use of herbicide and products in forestry for vegetation and invasive plant control requires authorization by way of registering a pest management plan, which requires First Nations and public consultation — but First Nations consultation. That is something that we take seriously. Every year a notice of intent has to be submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, with detailed treatment maps. Again, that consultation with First Nation is required.
There has also been new technique on using superior orchard seed, improved nursery techniques, fast-growing seedlings and well-timed planting so that we can improve plantation survival in areas of high vegetative competition. That’s reducing the amount of herbicide used for plantation management.
I visited the plantation, the centre, in Vernon recently and saw the work that was being done on this, the considerable work being done to try to improve the seeds that we are using right across the province to ensure that we can use less herbicide when it comes to making sure that we are investing in our forests. But also, it’s very critical that they also consult with Indigenous nations, which is part of what the act is about.
Monday April 4, 2022
Question Period: Indigenous food security threatened by glyphosate spraying of forest lands
A. Olsen: Food security is a growing concern in British Columbia. With the impact of the climate emergency, food security is felt in the grocery stores and in our budget — empty shelves and sky-high prices of food. But in Indigenous communities, such as my own, food security has been under threat for much longer. We view, in here, food security through a colonial lens.
Take, for example, how resource development has significant negative impacts on hunting. Each year my family goes hunting for a moose, but in recent years, it has been more like a hike with a gun. As my sister Joni Olsen, a negotiations analyst for the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council, said at a recent meeting:
“The western definition of food security has and continues to destroy Indigenous food security. Agricultural nutrients and fecal matter in the waterways have cumulative effects on species and create DFO closures on our beaches. When the tide is out, our table is set. But this has not been the case on polluted beaches. When the beaches close, it criminalizes our harvesting and our food security. Keep in mind that the Blueberry ruling was on the cumulative impact that toxin input and removal of habitat contribute to.”
What specific actions has the minister taken to protect all forms of food security, including the right of Indigenous people to harvest wild animals, plants and medicines?
Hon. L. Popham: Thank you for the question.
I think it’s a important question to be posing, especially these days, as we see so many situations where our general food security in the province has been under treat by climate change–related disasters, supply chain issues, because of the pandemic. All of this brings into question what is food security for our province. It’s one of the things that our government is especially interested in, because we need to include everybody in that conversation.
So two years ago, through my ministry, we formed the B.C. Indigenous Advisory Council on Agriculture and Food. Throughout these last two years, we’ve come to a terms of reference. We are now compiling, working with Indigenous partners, a set of action plans that reflect what we would consider modern-day food security but, also, Indigenous food security. That takes into account different types of food systems, like natural food systems, wild mushrooms, berries, etc.
I think we’re well on our way to having a different lens on what food security is, and I’m really proud of the work that has been done by our Indigenous partners.
Mr. Speaker: Member for Saanich North and the Islands, supplemental.
A. Olsen: I thank the minister for her response. It’s an important response, because last Thursday, we heard the Minister of Forests defend the spraying of poisonous glyphosate, saying it was allowed because it’s regulated through the Integrated Pest Management Act.
Let me remind the Minister of Forests that these pesky plant species that she justifies killing are native plants. They’re not pests. They’re the foods and the medicines Indigenous peoples have harvested and traded since time and immemorial. Our Minister of Forests is killing native plant species as pests. It’s no wonder why this government has been so reluctant to actually pass biodiversity legislation. They’re too eager to wipe out whatever biodiversity we have left to protect these lifeless tree farms so the forestry industry can increase their timber harvest volumes.
If willfully destroying biodiversity isn’t enough, the policy our Minister of Forests defended last week is a clear example of environmental racism. When asked about this last week, the minister did not answer the question. In fact, the minister knowingly ignored this clear case of environmental racism and took refuge in the laws and regulations that enable environmental racism to exist in British Columbia.
So I’ll ask the minister again. Does the minister believe that the rights of Indigenous peoples to harvest traditional plants are outweighed by the ministry’s interest to maximize harvest volumes by spraying glyphosate?
Hon. K. Conroy: Just to be clear, since 2015, the use of glyphosate in the forestry sector has actually declined by 95 percent. The member referred last week to the Sea to Sky region. Glyphosate has not been used in that area for over ten years, and there is no planned use for it this year.
All six First Nations that were impacted by the B.C. Timber Sales pest management plan were consulted as part of its development. Actually, in clear contradiction to what the member’s claim was last Friday, the Squamish First Nation put out a public statement confirming that they were, in fact, consulted. They have agreed to the current plan. There will be no glyphosate use in that region.
Thursday May 12, 2022 – 1:50pm
Budget Estimates: Ministry of Forests
A. Olsen: At COP26, nations got together and committed to a non-deforestation pledge, I think by 2030. Now, deforestation is when a jurisdiction purposefully cuts down trees and then converts that land to something else. In British Columbia, we seemingly, I think, state that we don’t engage in deforestation here, because we replant with trees.
However, we call them tree farms. We require that at least 95 percent of the land, I think, is planted with coniferous trees. We utilize mechanical planting techniques and the use of pesticides to remove a variety of native plant species from those areas in order to farm trees.
I’m wondering if the minister can clarify how it is that we are not engaging in deforestation in this province when we are clearly practising tree farming. In fact, we even call them tree farms. The removal of the biodiversity in the forests is an indication that we are engaged in deforestation in this province.
Hon. K. Conroy: We do not practise deforestation in British Columbia. In fact, we operate on a sustainable forest management system. We have good, solid legal objectives in place to maintain biodiversity. As well, we will continue to enhance biodiversity in partnership with my colleague in the new Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship, and I’m looking forward to that collaboration between the two ministries.
A. Olsen: This year, last year…. I continue to find it remarkable that five to eight minutes’ worth of consultation turns into a 30-second response. I’ve been in here for an hour. My time is up. I’ve asked a total of six or seven questions. I find it incredibly hard to be able to hold a ministry accountable that is so fundamental to the current and future situation in our province and have so much time not spent answering questions, but rather just…. It’s baffling.
I can understand the minister not wanting to engage this question in any way and just completely deflecting it. The reality of it is that when we are spraying forests with herbicide, with the express intent of killing natural species in order to advantage the trees in the farm….
All you have to do is go and walk. There’s actually a road in the Premier’s riding that has an old-growth forest on one side and a tree farm on the other side. There’s nothing similar between those two areas. Nothing similar. There are literally trees that are going to be harvested on one side of the road with nothing else in them — no understorey, no salal, no berries, nothing. On the other side, it is…. When the minister says biodiversity, it is biodiversity.
How is it that we can justify these tree farms as calling them a replacement for the biodiversity that is literally devastated in clearcuts, replanting them as farms and saying that we are not engaged in deforestation? It’s a communications exercise. It’s not an exercise in reality.
I ask the minister again. How can we compare the two — a biodiverse, rich ecosystem of old-growth forest, an actual forest, and an area with one or two species that is on a harvest plan — and call that a suitable replacement? How is that not engaged in deforestation?
[S. Chandra Herbert in the chair.]
Hon. K. Conroy: I just want to make it clear with the member that since 2015, the use of glyphosate in the forest sector has declined by 96 percent. I just want to make sure that that’s on the record.
Herbicide is just one silviculture treatment used to assist in the plantation survival and establishment and, ultimately, achieve free-growing status. The herbicide option — it’s usually reserved for situations where other silvicultural options have not been or may not be completely successful, for instance, manual brushing which is utilized, or for safety purposes.
Again, the herbicide use in B.C.’s forest industry has declined significantly in recent years as foresters use a variety of approaches to manage competing vegetation, including manual, mechanical and biological treatments.
Any government-approved use of glyphosate under a pest management plan must also submit an annual report identifying the quantity used, the size of the area that was sprayed and the method of application.
The member is expressing concerns about his time in estimates. What I offered last year, and I will it offer again — any questions that he hasn’t had time to ask, we’re more than happy to submit them. We will get those answers to him as we did last year. We got significant questions answered for the member. Also, if the member requires a specific briefing on any of these issues, the staff are more than happy to provide that for the member.
Thursday May 19, 2022 – 3:30pm
Budget Estimates: Ministry of Land, Water, and Resource Stewardship
A. Olsen: I have a ton of questions. I’m finding this process with this new ministry challenging. We have such a small amount of time to be able to canvass a huge amount of material to really get an understanding between now and the next budget estimates period, which will be a year from now, of what this ministry has been designed to do, what it’s up to, how it engages with the other ministries.
I’m assuming the minister understands that it’s a complex bit of work. From an opposition perspective, it’s challenging to hold a new ministry or a government accountable if we’re not actually able to ask questions and get those questions and those responses on the public record.
I’m going to follow up my colleague from West Vancouver who was asking very big, very broad conversations about some large strategies. I think it’s pretty safe to say that when the B.C. NDP were first elected, there were a lot of people in the province that had some high expectations around the relationship to the environment and how the B.C. NDP were going to be different than previous governments, an expectation around endangered species legislation, species-at-risk legislation, specifically biodiversity legislation and the strategy that my colleague from West Vancouver was talking about, the coastal protections act.
I’ve asked the Minister of Environment about biodiversity legislation. We know that the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs has called on the province of B.C. “to explicitly and publicly commit to the enactment of new, overarching legislation for the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem health to be developed in cooperation with Indigenous peoples.”
What work is the ministry currently engaging on with respect to biodiversity legislation? Is it being considered, hopefully, and if so, when can British Columbians see that?
Hon. J. Osborne: First of all, thank you very much to the member for Saanich North and the Islands for the question. I want to start by just saying that one of the reasons why I’m very proud to be appointed to be the minister of this new ministry is to work on the very subject matter that the member raises. I think that the member understands, with my own personal background as a biologist and having grown up and been inspired by natural habitats, that this is something that’s personally very important to me, so I want him first to understand that.
I also want to acknowledge that I understand that people feel a real sense of urgency when it comes to protecting species, species at risk, and protecting, conserving and building, frankly, the biodiversity of British Columbia’s natural habitats, be they marine or on the land. It is one of the reasons that this ministry was established. It’s also why we must continue this work with First Nations and other partners in a whole variety of initiatives that are already taking place, and I won’t go into a big list right now. We can get into that, if the member would like to.
But what I want to say is that I really feel strongly that one of our greatest responsibilities as a government is the care and stewardship of the natural environment. That is an environment that provides us with services and with resources that we all depend on.
Our government has accepted all 14 recommendations of the old-growth strategic review. As the member knows, the second of those recommendations is to “declare the conservation and management of ecosystem health and the biodiversity of British Columbia’s forests as an overarching priority and enact legislation that legally establishes this priority for all sectors.” We have accepted this recommendation.
The authors of the report explained to us that prioritizing ecosystem health can be done in a variety of different ways and that different tools and approaches can be used. One of those ways, of course, is through overarching legislation or amendments to existing legislation. I’m very committed to looking at all the tools that are available to us.
The authors in the report also noted that the province should declare that managing for ecosystem health and minimizing biodiversity risk are key priorities of its provincial land management framework and create overarching legislation that applies to every sector. So what I’m saying is this isn’t just about forestry or forests, but this is about natural resource management altogether.
Among the five guiding principles that the authors provided us with that should guide the development of this legislation, the first that they list is an Indigenous government-to-government foundation. I think that this is really the nut of it in the sense that working collaboratively with First Nations has to be the cornerstone of the development of new legislation or any new tools to conserve biodiversity. In doing all of this work, if stand-alone legislation is what emerges as the top priority, then that is what I will seek a mandate to do.
While I can’t give the member specific timelines about when this can happen, I can tell him, and I hope he can tell from my response that I’m deeply committed to this work. Like I said, I won’t get into a big, long laundry list of all of the initiatives that are taking place right now, which I feel our government is doing excellent work on, in conserving species at risk and biodiversity, but I hope my answer provides some assurances to the member.
I also want to add…. I really appreciate the member’s interest in this area, and I look forward to more conversations with him. He started off his question by expressing frustration about the estimates being a process that takes place once a year. There’s not a lot of chance to be able, especially in the creation of a new ministry…. This is day 49 of a new ministry. How do you hold a ministry accountable?
I invite the member for more conversation and for more detailed briefings, as I’ve offered to members of the official opposition, around really understanding the creation of the new ministry, what its roles and responsibilities are. It is important that we all understand that. I do appreciate that the new ministry being created and, then, going right into estimates…. It’s difficult for all of us to be able to really elucidate on that and understand exactly how the ministry fits in.
I know that next year’s estimates will have new questions and different ways of answering those questions because we’ll have a year of a track record.
A. Olsen: I know that there was a process in place to create species-at-risk legislation in this province. In fact, that process was a long way down the road. It may be completed.
I know that people in the Ministry of Environment were working on this legislation. It was added to an already busy workload. I know that this legislation was, then, put on the side, the back burner. There were, then, commitments made to create stand-alone biodiversity legislation. Work was done.
I think the minister has to know that referring to the…. The biodiversity legislation is much more broad than the old-growth review panel’s recommendations. I know that the minister referenced that. Accepting those 14 recommendations and putting in place legislation that requires the policy-makers and the decision-makers in this province to make decisions to protect biodiversity are entirely different things. You cannot equate the two.
The requirement to do something and accepting the recommendations of a report, a report that I would also note was not hierarchical…. There was only one recommendation in that that said: “Get on with this particular thing right now.” That was work on deferrals. The other recommendations…. It is a fabrication to suggest that the 14 recommendations were listed in a hierarchy.
Working with Indigenous nations is part of a program that needs to be put in place first. Indigenous nations cannot…. I framed my entire question around the Indigenous nations, many Indigenous nations that are part of this particular group that is asking for this government to publicly commit to it.
Does the minister understand the difference between accepting a recommendation in a report about old growth and the need to protect biodiversity and the species at risk through legislation that, then, will require an entirely different policy framework, and is this government working on that as an outcome, or will we just not have legislation that protects the biodiversity of this province?
Hon. J. Osborne: The short answer is yes. Yes, I do understand the difference. I do understand that the old-growth strategic review…. Although this recommendation comes from an old-growth lens — that’s what the subject matter of the report was — this applies across sectors.
What this means to me is…. This is part of the wholesale transformation of the way that lands and waters are managed or stewarded in this province. Instead of setting objectives around maximizing economic opportunities and then managing for biodiversity underneath this, this is a flip. This is the flip to managing for biodiversity, subject to the other constraints that are underneath it.
Again, I just want to assure the member that I take this work very, very seriously.
A. Olsen: I respect that the minister takes this work very seriously. The current Minister of Environment, who started this work, also assured us that this work was being taken very, very seriously, and then it ended.
What is kind of dismaying to me is…. If the provincial government currently is on a track to steward our environment, steward species, steward land and waters in a more sustainable way, then species-at-risk or biodiversity legislation is an important part of the accountability and transparency measures in place.
It should be an easy answer. It should be just: “Yes, we are going to be revitalizing the process.” It was already nearly or almost or entirely, depending on your perspective, complete. It should be a very simple answer. It should be a component part of the policy framework to protect these species.
We’ve been having conversations here about the very fragile situation that most wildlife populations are in, in this province. In fact, a government that is serious about the environment wouldn’t pause the process of biodiversity or species-at-risk legislation; they would be expediting that process. They would be requiring, as part of this new relationship with nature, all other ministries to create policy around how we are engaging nature in a different way, how we are rebuilding the watersheds that our colleague from West Vancouver was talking about and how we would be doing everything we can to protect species that are at risk and the really important biodiversity in this province.
How is it that this government has stopped that process, set it aside entirely and now can’t even commit to biodiversity legislation as an important part of a framework of resource stewardship? If it’s not an important part, why would we even need a federal species…? Let’s just get rid of the federal species-at-risk and just let all the federal ministries and all of the provincial governments and ministries do their good work in protecting the environment without these important pieces of legislation. There is a reason why they are there.
Why can’t this government commit to biodiversity legislation quickly and say: “Yes, it’s an important part of this policy framework”?
Hon. J. Osborne: I can confirm for the member that we are building off the work that has been done previously. It is clear in my mandate letter that I have a responsibility to forward that work and to do so in a way where we are collaborating with First Nations. That’s foundational, as the authors of the old-growth strategic review spoke about. Again, I want to come back to the very reason for the creation of the ministry is in the work that it has to do around all of these objectives — around reconciliation, around environmental sustainability but also around economic opportunities for people and the work that needs to be done.
I appreciate the urgency that I hear in the member’s voice and the sense that he feels and I think that many, many British Columbians feel too. This work needs to be done well, it needs to be done right, and it needs to be done in a way that is durable and lasting. That is my commitment.
Thursday October 6, 2022
Bill M213 – Wildlife Amendment Act (No.3), 2022: Bill to protect bear dens in British Columbia
A. Olsen presented a bill intituled Wildlife Amendment Act (No. 3), 2022.
I move that a bill intituled the Wildlife Amendment Act (No. 3), of which notice has been given in my name on the order paper be introduced and read a first time now.
For over 20 years, experts have been advocating for laws to protect bear dens in British Columbia. The province continues to lack a comprehensive legal protection for bear dens. Despite legislative protections in Haida Gwaii and the Great Bear Rainforest, much of the province continues to lack these mechanisms to protect these essential habitats. As a result, bear dens have been left to a patchwork of policies by logging companies, which are inconsistent and unenforceable.
Earlier this year, the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria and the B.C. Sierra Club published a study recommending provincial legislation that protects bear dens. The act before us today makes these essential changes. It sets out that if a person disturbs, molests, damages or destroys a bear den, they have committed an offence. Further, this protection stands on both Crown and private land, which is an essential component, given the proliferation of private-managed forest lands in pockets of British Columbia.
We are currently living through the sixth mass extinction caused by human activity. It is more important than ever to protect the biodiversity of our province, and this includes protecting bear dens, where bears hibernate, give birth and raise their young.
Members, the first reading of the bill.
I move that this bill be put on the order papers for second reading at the next sitting after today.
Bill M213, Wildlife Amendment Act (No. 3), 2022, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Minister of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship – Hon. Nathan Cullen
Mandate letter from Premier David Eby
- Lead cross-government work to improve timing and transparency of permitting processes to support sustainable economic development, housing and infrastructure while maintaining high levels of environmental protection.
- Continue to transform the management and stewardship of our waters, lands and resources, together with First Nations, and work toward modern land use plans and permitting processes rooted in science and Indigenous knowledge that consider new and cumulative impacts to the land base.
- Lead B.C.’s work on water, watersheds, and our coast, including work to:
- Co-develop, complete, and launch the Watershed Security Strategy and
Fund and the Coastal Marine Strategy, and continue implementation of
the Wild Salmon Strategy; and
- Develop and deliver a long-term vision for the Clean Coast, Clean Waters
- Co-develop, complete, and launch the Watershed Security Strategy and
- Protect wildlife and species at risk, and work collaboratively with First Nations, other ministries, and the federal government to protect and enhance B.C.’s biodiversity through implementing recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review, and the Together for Wildlife Strategy.
- With support from the Ministers of Forests and Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Environment, develop a new conservation financing mechanism to support protection of biodiverse areas.
- Partnering with the federal government, industry, and communities, and working with Indigenous Peoples, lead the work to achieve the Nature Agreement’s goals of 30% protection of BC’s land base by 2030, including Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas.
Minister of Forests – Hon. Bruce Ralston
Mandate letter from Premier David Eby
- Improve timing and transparency of permitting processes to support sustainable economic development while maintaining high levels of environmental protection, aligned with cross-government work on permitting led by the Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship.
- Continue work to update and modernize forest policy and legislation to ensure a competitive, sustainable future for communities, Indigenous Peoples, workers, and companies.
- Accelerate the transition of our forestry sector from high-volume to high value production, with fewer raw log exports and more innovative wood products manufactured locally.
- Explore options for enhancing BC Timber Sales to support high value production, dedicating a specific portion of the annual allowable cut to producers creating new jobs for workers in BC, and supporting mills to transition to second and third growth trees.
- With support from the Minister of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship, accelerate implementation of the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review and actions to protect important old growth forests, and complete the old growth strategic action plan in 2023.
- Accelerate work to re-engineer cut block boundaries to maximize old growth protection and ensure supply of timber and fibre for manufacturing and value added processing.
- To advance reconciliation and meet our government’s obligations under DRIPA, continue to work toward full partnership with First Nations in managing B.C. forest resources, including through the new revenue sharing model being developed by our government.
- In collaboration with First Nations and with support from the Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, complete amendments to the Heritage Conservation Act in line with the DRIPA Action Plan.
- With support from the Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness, strengthen the BC Wildfire Services focus on wildfire prevention and management year-round, including cultural and prescribed fire.
- Explore options to improve training, retention, and recruitment in B.C. Wildfire Service.
- With support from the Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness, and in collaboration with local, federal and Indigenous governments, strengthen the province’s flood response through the completion of B.C.’s Flood Strategy, and start the work to translate the strategy into action through the BC Flood Resilience Plan.
- With support from the Minister of State for Trade, continue work to protect and create jobs by fighting for a fair deal for B.C. wood products in softwood lumber negotiations with the United States.