Cariboo-North MLA Bob Simpson is more than a little dubious about Premier Christy Clark’s recently released jobs plan.
For the Cariboo-Chilcotin region, Simpson called into question the omission of new agriculture policies in the announcement and further criticized her targets for mining projects in the province, saying they exceed her mandate as premier and the province’s jurisdiction.
The premier announced she was “committed to eight new mines and the expansion of another nine mines currently operating in B. C. by 2015.”
When contacted by the Tribune the government would not reveal which mines it was referring to, citing confidentiality.
Clark also indicated the province would spend $24 million to reduce the time for natural resource development to get decisions on approvals and permits.
The government release stated, “This will be done without compromising environmental values or the requirement to consult with First Nations.
“Once the permit and approval backlog is reduced, the target for turnaround on new “notices of work” for mines will be 60 days.”
But Simpson says there is a problem with the language the premier used in the announcement and he wondered whether it could impact relations with First Nations to whom the provincial government has a duty to consult on such projects.
“I don’t disagree with the premier that we need to start establishing some targets and some time frames to capitalize on the potential ore bodies in the region. Unfortunately, I think the premier’s in a position where she made statements that will exacerbate the situation.”
Simpson further called the premier “presumptive” on the number of new and expanded mines, given that the federal government has a role to play in environmental permitting over which the province has no control.
He added, “We’d better not be discounting the environmental considerations to get these mines.”
He called the proposal of the mines coming on line by 2015 “a challenge right in the face of First Nations.”
“I think unfortunately rather than healing some of Campbell’s legacy around First Nations consultation, I fear that she’s actually thrown the gauntlet down challenging First Nations to get with her program. So I don’t know how that’s helped.”
Simpson added that the promised funding of $24 million aimed at “reducing the time it takes for businesses” wanting to invest in natural resource development to get decisions on approvals and permits is not the answer to what he calls a “structural” problem in the ministry.
Simpson said there is not enough bodies on the ground in the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and that “people with the right training and the right systems need to be in place for the right relationship with business.”
Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett did not return phone calls on this story by press time.
According to a provincial government press release, there are three main points to Clark’s job plan: to expand markets for B.C. products and services particularly in Asia; to strengthen infrastructure to get goods and services to market and to work with communities and employers to enable job creation.