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Chief critical of B.C.’s environmental flip-flop

A Shuswap Indian Band chief said the B.C. Liberal government’s embarrassing about-face on removing ski resorts and nearly all natural-gas plants from environmental review is another example of its failure on environmental issues.

Late Wednesday, April 17, B.C. Minister of Environment Mary Polak said her government would rescind orders-in-council exempting destination resorts and the majority of gas plants from review by the environmental assessment office.

The changes were done quietly and without consultation, angering First Nations and environmental groups.

“Our government is committed to a strong, respectful and productive relationship with First Nations,” Polak said in a statement.

“That’s why we will rescind the amendment that would have removed the requirement for an environmental assessment for sweet-gas facilities and destination resorts, until we have undertaken discussions with First Nations.”

Neskonlith Indian Band Chief Judy Wilson said the move so angered chiefs meeting during a summit on liquid-natural gas that they kicked out provincial representatives.

Wilson is part of the executive of the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs.

“They said it really jeopardized discussions with First Nations on LNG,” she said.

NDP Leader Adrian Dix called the flip-flop “not just embarrassing, but incompetent.

“And it’s the premier’s personal incompetence here.”

Dix said the failed removal of ski resorts and gas plants from review was an attempt to do a backroom deal with industry.

“You can make these kind of deals in a backroom, which the premier wants to do, and not defend them publicly.”

Wilson said the episode is the latest in a number of failures by both government and industry to properly consult with First Nations, something it is legally required to do.

She noted a recent announcement by Sun Peaks Resort it will expand its skiing area this winter was done without consultation.

The Neskonlith and Adams Lake Indian bands have long opposed development of the ski resort and creation of a resort municipality.

“We’re looking at what the resort is talking about,” she said.

“We haven’t been consulted on further expansion... People wonder why there’s tension there. Proper processes aren’t being followed.”

Wilson also said government acknowledged several years ago bands were not consulted when the ski resort was taken over by a Japanese corporation and expanded to a modern operation with real estate development in the mid-1990s.

 

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