Biologically diverse B.C. to benefit from pledge for endangered-species law
Faisal Moola Director, Terrestrial Conservation and Science Program with David Suzuki Foundation poses with dirt in Stanley Park in Vancouver, B. C., October 27, 2010. (Arlen Redekop photo/Postmedia Network)
As Canada's "most biologically rich province," B.C. stands to benefit hugely from a long-awaited provincial government commitment to create a species-at-risk law, a senior official with the David Suzuki Foundation said Tuesday.
B.C. is home to some 76 per cent of Canada's bird species, 70 per cent of freshwater species and large iconic ungulates and carnivores that have been extirpated throughout much of their historic range, Faisal Moola, a foundation director-general, said in an interview.
Yet the absence of a "stand-alone" endangered species law has resulted in sub-standard protection for at-risk plants and animals, along with their habitat, he said.
The federal Species At Risk Act is also not the answer. "SARA does not automatically apply to provincial lands," Moola said. "So, many of these species are essentially in legal purgatory. They fall between the cracks and don't receive effective protection from, say, logging of their habitat."
Postmedia News reported in March that the federal government had secured just 10 convictions out of 444 enforcement cases opened since SARA came into force 13 years ago, including only one case involving a B.C. endangered species.
Newly elected NDP Premier John Horgan has issued a mandate letter to George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, to make "substantive progress" on enacting an endangered species law during his first 100 days in office.
Moola noted that Heyman, as well as a former union leader, served as head of Sierra Club B.C., and is "fully aware of what is needed to significantly improve upon the existing piecemeal and fragmented regulatory landscape for the management of species at risk in B.C."
In his mandate letter, Horgan also called on Heyman to "revitalize" the Environmental Assessment process and review the professional reliance model to ensure the legal rights of First Nations are respected, and the public's expectation of a "strong, transparent process is met."
A 2015 report by Mark Haddock of the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria noted that former premier Gordon Campbell adopted the professional reliance model in an attempt to reduce regulations on resource industries. Under the change, environmental standards are overseen by professionals such as foresters in the private sector, rather than government bureaucrats.
The problem is that "in some cases the same individual can be the evaluator, planner, approving professional and the supplier of goods and services," Haddock's report noted. "In many cases that professional may be an employee or contractor of the proponent, with duties of loyalty that may conflict with optimal environmental outcomes."
Other priorities spelled out in Horgan's mandate letter:
• Renew the Climate Leadership Team, implement a comprehensive climate-action strategy that meets carbon-pollution reduction targets, including setting a new legislated 2030 reduction target.
• Work with the minister of finance to implement an increase in the carbon tax by $5 per tonne per year, beginning April 1, 2018, to meet the federal government’s carbon-pricing mandate. Take measures to expand the carbon tax to fugitive emissions and to slash-pile burning.
• Employ "every tool available" to counter expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and a projected seven-fold increase in tanker traffic.