• News Release: 5/31/2019: Chamber Network on BC Species At Risk Legislation

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    May 31, 2019

    Chamber Network Calls for B.C Species-At-Risk Legislation to Include Socio-Economic Impacts

    Last week, the BC Chamber of Commerce network – encompassing over 120 chambers, representing 36,000 business across BC – passed a resolution at its 2019 AGM, calling on the Provincial Government to include socio-economic impact assessments in any future species-at-risk legislation.

    This was in direct response to specific species recovery processes currently underway in BC—namely the ongoing development of recovery plans to protect the long-term viability of the Southern Mountain Caribou. To-date, these processes have shown a distinct lack of consideration for the economic and social impacts to communities and businesses in many sectors, which means that the decisions are being made in a way that is not fully informed.

    While Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) is currently the main piece of legislation addressing the recovery of species in BC, it does encourage a cooperative approach with provinces, giving them the opportunity to draft their own legislation. The Government of BC has signaled its intent to take advantage of this opportunity and has been working on a made-in-BC solution for species such as mountain caribou. However, this process has revealed a flaw within Canada’s SARA - there is no requirement to conduct a robust socio-economic impact analysis to parallel the environmental assessment process.
    Canadians expect and count on a reliable environmental assessment process to examine and protect the thousands of species that co-exist in a sustainable ecosystem. But examining the socio-economic impacts to communities and businesses is important—and should be done in tandem with environmental reviews, to ensure fully-informed government decisions.  

    While SARA emphasizes consultation and cooperation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples as essential to successful implementation of legislation, there is no requirement to consult beyond that, and many communities in BC are living under a cloud of uncertainty. Up until a few weeks ago, all conversations regarding caribou legislation were parallel-track, discretionary, and behind closed doors—with a limited set of corporate and Indigenous stakeholders. While these tactics from the Province are somewhat necessary—both from a practical and constitutional standpoint—they’ve also left local communities and their economic interests out in the cold. We need to keep this conversation in BC—and ensure all stakeholders are included in the consultation process.

    The BC Chamber network is ready and willing to step up to assist the provincial government with drafting BC-made species-at-risk legislation that protects animals and deeply considers the impacts on local economies too.

    We believe that this will restore the public’s confidence in this very important process but will also result in more comprehensive solutions to protect BC’s fragile and complex ecosystems, and the communities and businesses that rely on them.

    Val Litwin is the President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce
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