A government commitment to legislate changes to the province’s controversial professional reliance model is being welcomed by Sonia Furstenau.
Furstenau, the Green MLA for the Cowichan Valley, said the government’s announcement that it will introduce legislation this fall that will regulate qualified professionals, and establish an independent office of professional regulation and oversight to oversee them, are important first steps in the right direction.
But she said much more works needs to be done in regards to changing the professional reliance model, and she will continue to work hard to see it through.
“I will continue to be engaged and involved and advocate for the public’s interests so that land-use decisions can be made in a way that the public can trust,” Furstenau said.
“The trust in government decision making in these land use issues has been lost over the past 15 years.”
For more than a decade, the province has increasingly relied on professionals hired by companies to provide environmental assessments of their projects, instead of the past practice of having independent professionals provide the information.
When Furstenau was the director for Shawnigan Lake on the Cowichan Valley Regional District, she took issue with the use of the model to allow operations at the now closed contaminated soil dump near Shawnigan Lake to proceed, despite the community’s concerns about impacts to their drinking water.
She claimed that professional reliance as it stands lends itself to conflict of interest as proponents of projects receive no independent oversight when conducting these vital assessments.
The NDP government said it would review the practice in October, and delegates at the UBCM meeting in Whistler last week heard that the review has resulted in 121 recommendations, with the government preparing to commit to two of them at this time.
Furstenau said one of the other 119 recommendations that she wants to see quick action on is the one that would ensure the independence of qualified professionals from a project’s proponents.
“I’ve heard this from many stakeholders after our experience in Shawnigan Lake,” she said.
“During a number of round table discussions I attended this summer, this was considered a very important issue.”