The B.C. Liberal government has proposed legislation that could result in pipeline proponents conducting studies to see if it's feasible to build their projects in provincial parks.
Environment Minister Mary Polak today (February 13) introduced Bill 4 (Park Amendment Act) for first reading in the legislature.
The bill would alter the Park Act to allow the minister to issue park use permits for feasibility studies relating to the "location, design, construction, use, maintenance, improvement or deactivation" of roads, pipelines, transmission lines, telecommunications infrastructure, and other "prescribed" projects.
Gwen Barlee, policy director for the Wilderness Committee, told the Georgia Straight that she wasn't surprised by the legislation, but it's still concerning for environmentalists.
"Parks, why they were created was to be protected from industrial development, and here we have a government that seems hell-bent for leather to allow parks to not get in the way of transmission lines and pipelines," Barlee said by phone.
According to Barlee, the government's legislation creates "uncertainty" about protected areas. She noted that, in some cases, people fought for decades to see land preserved as provincial parks. They won't stand by as parks are carved up for pipelines and power lines, Barlee maintained.
What also concerns Barlee is that the government lets proponents of park boundary changes run the consultation processes for these proposals.
"That's not very impartial, and I personally wouldn't trust a proponent whose desire is to see that portion of the park developed to hold an impartial public consultation process," Barlee said.
Bill 4 would also clear the way for the minister to issue permits for film production and research for environmental assessments in provincial parks.
As well, the legislation would give Class A parks of 2,023 hectares or less the same protection as larger parks.
"This bill contains amendments to the Park Act to provide increased certainty and clarity respecting the authorization of outdoor recreation, tourism, commercial filming and research activities, including academic and investigative uses, in parks and protected areas while ensuring that the natural resources and values and visitors' experiences are protected," Polak said in the legislature, according to Hansard.