A lack of basic follow-up, clear compliance requirements and only one rejected application since 1995 shows the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) is rubber-stamping environmental applications, says Delta South MLA, Vicki Huntington.
The independent MLA was responding to the auditor general's report on the EAO released Thursday.
The report supports longstanding criticisms from many, including Huntington.
"The EAO has become a rubber stamp for industrial projects. If you meet the basic criteria, you are approved. And don't worry about the EAO following up to see if you are following the rules - rules that are unclear and which aren't enforced," says Huntington.
"The auditor general's office has provided a great service to British Columbia, highlighting the gaping holes in government policies that have caused the demise of the EAO's critical independent function," says Huntington, adding, "It is not the role of industry to run government decision-making: re-establishing an arms-length EAO review process will help rebuild the faith we have lost in the system."
Recent controversial EAO approvals have sparked anger and concern in Delta, namely the Deltaport Third Berth and the South Fraser Perimeter Road.
Huntington has also spoken out against the proposed airport fuel terminal at the south bend of the Fraser River, calling for the EAO to set clear limits to risk in the environmentally important Fraser River delta.
Having had an opportunity to respond in advance of publication, the EAO has appointed a new director of strategy and quality assurance, while the Ministry of Environment has committed to develop a new framework to address the problems.
"I have great hope that we are finally seeing a turnaround in the EAO," says Huntington. "I send my encouragement to both the new director and the executive lead, Associate Deputy Minister Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland who in her previous role as comptroller general often tackled management issues within government.
"The province is responsible for protecting British Columbia's ecosystem services, species at risk and heritage markers. Our natural beauty and our livelihood all come down to our water and land. Someone has to check unbridled government support for environmentally unsustainable development," says Huntington.