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"Natural Resource Operations" is about "One Process"

October 24, 2010

We’ve just received an email sent to people working in the natural resource sector explaining the new Ministry of Natural Resource Operations (MNRO).  West Coast Environmental Law expressed concern about this new Ministry yesterday (Oct. 25th), in our post Will BC’s cabinet shuffle unleash Mr. Hyde on the environment?

The email comes from Ministry of Natural Resource Operations Deputy Minister and CEO Doug Konkin (we recently covered the reorganization of the Ministry of Environment under Konkin – perhaps a precursor to the new reorganization?).  It confirms our fears that this latest reorganization of ministries is more about facilitating industry access to natural resources (even the bizarre CEO title has the ring of getting business done, private-sector style) than about ensuring appropriate protection of the environment.

This new structure will streamline government processes for critical natural resource industries to better attract global investment and turn proposed projects and investments into actual worksites and jobs. It will enable BC to work with our federal counterparts towards establishing a 'one project, one process' model.

West Coast has commented on the uncritical drive towards a “One project, one process” model before (albeit in the context of environmental assessment legislation). 

That being said, DM Konkin signs the email on behalf of the Natural Resource Sector Management Board – apparently a new structure which is comprised of deputy ministers in each of the resource-management Ministries.  This new structure, which has yet to be unveiled, may provide a partial answer to our warning that:

If the new MNRO wants to have environmental credentials, it will need to demonstrate in short order that it is not just an approval-granting machine, a personification of Mr. Hyde, but that it accepts its marching orders from the Ministries that have a more Dr. Jekyll-like mandate, and that environmental concerns are appropriately and responsibly addressed in its deliberations.

Is the Natural Resource Sector Management Board intended to ensure that the MNRO does operate subject to some oversight by the other Ministries?  That being said, it’s difficult to see that a committee at the deputy minister level can by itself ensure that one ministry’s actions fully integrate environmental considerations.  Presumably there will be more details forthcoming as the government further develops its vision and policies governing the new Ministry. 

Any further information comes not a moment too soon – the creation of the new ministry has a lot of people scratching their heads.  And we’re not the only ones critical of this restructuring – shockingly the Minister of Energy, Bill Bennett, has attacked Campbell for not consulting with cabinet before the restructuring.  If even the Minister of Energy doesn’t understand how the restructuring will work, how should anyone else be expected to have confidence in the new structure? 

Bennett said he does not know enough about the changes to say if they will be good for the resource sector or not, but added he will do what he can to make them work. …

Bennett said he thinks the biggest challenge for the resource ministries now is money.

By Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer

[Update - October 28th - Various additional documents and resources are coming to light on this issue.  These include:

 


Here’s the whole of the email from DM Konkin, for those interested:

To All Staff in the Natural Resource Sector:

This is an exciting time for the Natural Resource sector.  Today’s announcement solidifies the integrated approach to resource management that we have been moving toward over past few years, by reorganizing the sector into the Ministries of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation; Agriculture; Energy; Environment; Forests, Mines and Lands; and Natural Resource Operations.

Working together is not new.  For decades, staff have been collaborating to optimize resource and environmental benefits for British Columbia.  We have worked between organizations and legal frameworks, across organizational boundaries, and adapted to different service plan priorities.  Making the patchwork successful has been difficult; more so as demands on the resource base have grown in complexity, global competition has increased and our workforce demographics show many of us close to retirement.

The restructuring announced today formalizes the “One Land Manager” concept.  This is not about reducing budgets or workforce levels—each one of us is key to the success of the sector, whether we work in permitting and land use, environmental standards, stewardship or corporate services, to name a few.

In fact, in the coming days much will seem like business as usual as we move through the more detailed steps to ensure an efficient and client-focussed natural resource sector.

This new structure will streamline government processes for critical natural resource industries to better attract global investment and turn proposed projects and investments into actual worksites and jobs. It will enable BC to work with our federal counterparts towards establishing a 'one project, one process' model.

We know you have many questions and we are committed to providing you with more information in the days and weeks ahead.  Tomorrow we will send you a link to detailed Qs and As and continue to update them on a regular basis. We’ll also provide you with an address for sending your specific questions.

We look forward to working with all of you to advance the single team approach to resource management.

Doug Konkin, Deputy Minister and CEO, Ministry of Natural Resource Operations, on behalf of the Natural Resource Sector Management Board:

Steve Munro, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation

Wes Shoemaker, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Agriculture

Robin Junger, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Energy

Cairine MacDonald, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment

Dana Hayden, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Forests, Mines and Lands

Steve Carr, Deputy Minister and COO, Ministry of Natural Resource Operations

 

Author: 
Andrew Gage