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Can we trust Victoria to maintain parkland as parks?
The Comox Valley Conservation Strategy Steering Committee has written to Mary Polak, the B.C. minister of the environment, to request the withdrawal of Bill 4, legislation to change the BC Parks Act.
The mandate of the BC Parks Act is to “protect representative and special natural places within the province’s Protected Areas System for world class conservation, outdoor recreation, and education.” The government has been entrusted to preserve these areas as parkland for current and future generations.
At present the B.C. government is proposing legislation under Bill 4 that will allow our parks to be used as corridors for pipelines, transmission lines and resource roads. The legislation, if passed, would allow the issuing of park use permits to conduct “feasibility studies,” which are now included under the definition of “research projects.”
The proposed legislation defines a “feasibility study” as research that can include the following:
“… the feasibility of the location, design, construction, use, maintenance, improvement of a road or highway, pipeline, transmission line and telecommunications project.”
Bill 4 will also allow feasibility studies for “a prescribed project or a project in a prescribed class of projects,” leaving the door open for any type of project to be considered.
The legislation would allow feasibility studies to be used to “inform a decision of the Lieutenant Governor in Council or the Legislature in relation to the boundaries of the protected area,” allowing parks boundaries to be changed to accommodate industrial activity.
Research is necessary for acquiring information which can be used for improving management of park assets. “Feasibility studies” can lead to the withdrawal of park land and is contrary to the aim of protecting park lands.
This proposed legislation puts into question the whole purpose of the Parks Act. The trust that B.C. citizens have in the role of government to manage park lands is in jeopardy.
Editor's note: David Stapley is the program manager
of the Comox Valley Conservation Strategy steering committee.