Thomson: Collaboration vital to success of new ministry

Putting all the permits, licences and authorities to use B.C.’s Crown-owned land in a single ministry is not all about allowing more efficient economic development of the resource, says Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson.

Putting all the permits, licences and authorities to use B.C.’s Crown-owned land in a single ministry is not all about allowing more efficient economic development of the resource, says Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson.

“This is about approving the right projects, not just any project,” says the Okanagan-Mission MLA about the new ministry he was asked to head up last October.

“Our Crown land is a resource for the future. We need to make careful, balanced decisions about its use,” he says.

In an interview with the Capital News this week, Thomson admits he’s very aware that people are watching the new ‘super ministry’ to see how it works—and whether it works. But, he’s confident that it can work.

By collectively working together with a number of the natural resource ministries, he says it will be possible to better address the challenges of both reduced staffing levels and reduced budgets in individual ministries.

I would hope this will result in improved communication between ministries where otherwise there could be conflict, he said.

While policy is still set by the ‘line ministries,’ the new ministry carries it out in terms of administering licensing and regulation, under their direction, he explained.

What makes it all work is the Environment and Land Use Committee of the B.C. cabinet, which includes the ministers of energy (also Thomson at the moment), forests (Pat Bell, who chairs it), mines (Randy Hawes), aboriginal relations (Barry Penner), environment (Murray Coell) and agriculture (Ben Stewart), as well as the parliamentary secretary for water stewardship (John Slater).

Deputy ministers also attend those meetings, and sit on the Natural Resource Management Board.

At ELUC all those ministers work together to resolve issues. “It only works if we all work collectively. We’re a support ministry for the line ministries. We ensure strategic policy is carried out,” he explains.

“Hopefully we resolve issues and find a balance with a collaborative approach. There’s only one land base and it has many pressures from many uses,” he said.

At the same time, he admits it’s a work in progress, getting a new ministry—made up of key staff from many different ministries—up and running smoothly.

Adjustments are still being made, and he would like to see some flexibility where there are bits that aren’t working.

The idea is to get away from ministries becoming silos, working quite apart from each other, even when they are discussing permitting activities on the same plot of land. Sometimes those activities could be conflicting ones, such as motorized use of trails in domestic watersheds and this new initiative, this new ministry, is a vehicle for resolving such issues even before they become issues, he explained.

And, although the list of general responsibilities in the new ministry is a page long, Thomson hastens to point out that only part of the responsibility for each lies in the NRO. Only the permitting portion is, while policy is still set in the line ministry.

Asked about the importance of recreation sites and trails, once in the forests ministry, but then slashed completely some years ago, then gradually re-instated as a government responsibility but in the tourism ministry, Thomson said he feels there are an important part of the B.C. experience.

They are now in his ministry, and he said he will have to ensure the policy is there to support them.

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com

Just Posted

West Kelowna mayor to run for councillor position

After saying he won’t seek re-election as mayor, it appears Doug Findlater wants to stay on council

Ash falling in the Okanagan

Reports on social media of ashes on cars around the Okanagan

Temporary smoke relief in sight for Kelowna

Kelowna is expected to see a break in smoke until tomorrow afternoon

Kelowna developer warns home buyers to look at more than the price tag

Kelowna developer Jeffrey Anderson wants first-time homeowners to look at more than the price tag.

Canadian Armed Forces assist with mop-up of fire near West Kelowna

100 Armed Forces members are helping BC Wildfire crews with the Gottfriedson Mountain fire

Snowy Mountain fire travelling away from communities

The Snowy Mountain fire near Keremeos remains at 13,359 hectares in size

Minister optimistic after 2 days of Columbia River Treaty negotiations

Canadian and U.S. officials met in Nelson Wednesday and Thursday to discuss future of the treaty

Man dies in B.C. police cell while awaiting court hearing

An independent investigation is underway after a man died while in Penticton police custody Aug. 16

RCMP appeal for tips, dashcam footage in German tourist shooting west of Calgary

The Durango crashed into the ditch after the shooting near the Goodstoney Rodeo Centre

2 nurses attacked at B.C. psych hospital, union calls for in-unit security

PHSA says that in-unit guards would do more harm than good

Former Shuswap optician won’t be jailed for sexually assaulting minor

Kenneth Pilkington sentenced to 24 months’ probation for offence three decades ago

Osland to make LPGA Tour debut

Kelowna’s Megan Osland has earned an exemption into next week’s CP Women’s Open in Regina.

Red Cross now accepting donations for those impacted by B.C. wildfires

The Canadian Red Cross is asking for help now and in the weeks and months ahead.

Most Read