Stewart: Website open season for open government

Sometimes, the most effective and beneficial changes governments can make are actually quite simple.

Sometimes, the most effective and beneficial changes governments can make are actually quite simple.

Our commitment to opening up government fits into that category.

Now, when you think about open government, hunting and fishing regulations may not be the first thing that comes to mind —unless, of course, you hunt or fish, or if you happen to be the minister responsible.

Earlier this month, Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister (and Kelowna-Mission MLA) Steve Thomson announced a new, permanent public engagement website for hunting and angling regulations.

In addition, new angling, hunting and trapping stakeholder and advisory teams have been created, to guide development of regulations.

Opening up government won’t always make splashy headlines; understandably, not everyone is holding their breath to examine meeting transcripts and the rationale for altering regulations.

But if you’re reading this and thinking “that’s nice, but so what,” this is a matter of great interest for the thousands of British Columbians who hunt or fish, and whose livelihoods depend on it.

Make no mistake —hunting and fishing are a very important part of British Columbia’s economy.

For example, freshwater anglers attracted to B.C.’s world-famous lakes and rivers spend $480 million on equipment, travel and accommodation every year.

That supports some 7,500 direct jobs. Sustainable hunting contributes another $350 million per year, and the guiding industry provides about 2,000 jobs, mostly in rural communities.

That’s why organizations like the Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia, B.C. Wildlife Federation, and B.C. Trappers Association are excited about this new website.

It allows them and their members to have a more direct say in regulations and restrictions.

Angling, hunting and trapping regulations are already reviewed every two years.

But as with any government program, if citizens see or think of some way to improve it—from big-picture stuff down to minute details—it will change much faster if there’s some mechanism to tell their government about it.

The new website is up and running. Even if you don’t harbour an interest in hunting or fishing regulations, it’s well worth a quick look for the process alone.

It’s quite interesting to see proposed changes to regulations listed, and the reasons for proposed changes.

If you feel strongly about a proposed change, please don’t be shy with questions, or even if you strongly disagree—the whole point is to see what British Columbians think.

As Premier Christy Clark said: “Open government is about giving British Columbians the chance to participate in improving the policies and services that impact their lives. After all, it’s your government, your tax dollars and your information.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Visit the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations’ angling, hunting and trapping engagement website at http://a100.gov.bc.ca/pub/ahte/

 

 

Ben Stewart is the Liberal MLA for Westside-Kelowna.

 

www.benstewartmla.bc.ca