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Public confidence, investor certainty needed

This editorial ran in the August 17, 2016 edition of the Interior News. You can download the pdf here.

This summer is the second-year anniversary of two major events in the province that are having significant impacts on mining.

Two years ago in June the Supreme Court of Canada Tsilhqot’in decision confirmed aboriginal title exists on a large part of traditional territories and a new level of consent is required before the province authorizes activities such as forestry and mining. And Aug. 4 was two years to the day when a breach in the tailings dam at Mt. Polley sent 25 million cubic metres of wastewater and debris into pristine, wild-salmon supporting Quesnel Lake.

Unfortunately the response of the Christy Clark government to these two milestone events over the past two years has done little to improve public confidence or bolster investor certainty. Instead of embracing the true nature of reconciliation, the Premier took the opposite approach last spring when she called hereditary chiefs “ragtags” for expressing their view that Lelu Island is not the best site for LNG development due to concerns about potential damage to critical juvenile salmon habitat. With that kind of derogatory name calling from our Premier, it’s no wonder that BC is ranked eighth from the bottom out of 113 jurisdictions when it comes to investor certainty associated with land claims as cited in this year’s Fraser Institute report on global mining investment.

And the BC Auditor General’s report in May on government oversight of mining tells a story of a lack of resources, inadequate monitoring and infrequent inspections under the Christy Clark government causing the Auditor to conclude significant risk remains. A main recommendation in the audit to eliminate a perceived conflict of interest by creating an independent compliance and enforcement unit so the same ministry that promotes mining does not conduct regulatory oversight was rejected by the BC Liberals. Such inaction leads the public to question this government’s willingness to strike the right balance between economic development and managing risk.

We know that mining is important for jobs in rural areas like Stikine, in urban centres like Vancouver too, and is a revenue generating sector for government. And that is why it is a major concern that the BC Liberals are not adequately addressing public confidence and bolstering investor certainty.

– Doug Donaldson is the MLA for Stikine and Opposition spokesperson for Energy and Mines.