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BC’s Green Party calls for the province to adopt Environmental Bill of Rights

Two years after the catastrophic tailings pond spill at the Mt. Polley mine, BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver says the province needs to adopt an Environmental Bill of Rights to ensure a similar situation never happens again.

“With cuts to compliance and enforcement, we have a situation where regulations are not being enforced, there’s no compliance measures being taken and we start to see situations like Mt. Polley predominate.”

Weaver says BC relies too much on industry agents when it comes to regulation and wants to see stronger, more independent regulatory measures put in place. He calls the results of the Mt. Polley tailings pond breach profound and says better oversight and independent reviews are key to regaining the BC mining industry’s stellar reputation.

He says the province needs arms-length, independent oversight of projects and proposals that could have extensive environmental impacts.

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“The Environmental Bill of Rights would ensure the creation of an Environmental Commissioner, much like the one that exists federally. By requiring this provincially, it gives an oversight into project approval, regulation and compliance and ensures that environmental issues are front and centre.”

The Commissioner could be completely independent or part of the Auditor General’s office.

Weaver says the creation of an Environmental Commissioner is the single most important item in the Environmental Bill of Rights’ five components. The other four are protection for whistleblowers on environmental issues, publicly accessible environmental information, increased accountability from ministries and rights and responsibilities of the provincial government and residents of BC on environmental matters.

Weaver introduced the Environmental Bill of Rights Act in the legislature this spring. He’s hopeful it will pass during the fall session.

The BC Greens put together a petition to support the bill this week. It already has more than 1000 signatures.

Article was written by reporter Shannon Waters.

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