Resource ministries not going back

Forests

VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark’s shuffle of B.C. resource ministries is not a reversal of the previous government’s effort to streamline industrial project approvals, the minister responsible says.

Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson has added forests and lands to his title along with natural resource operations. Thomson was assigned last year to oversee the centralization of land use permits that remains the most controversial of former premier Gordon Campbell’s changes.

Unveiling her first cabinet last week, Clark named Abbotsford-Mission MLA Randy Hawes as a parliamentary secretary to review natural resource operations. But Thomson said that should not be interpreted as a retreat.

“We’re obviously going to look at how that all fits together in the new ministry, and that’s part of Randy Hawes’ job as well,” Thomson said in an interview. “But the basic objective of what we’re trying to achieve in natural resource operations – one project, one process – stays exactly the same.”

Critics have said streamlining approvals for roads, logging, mining and energy projects is a recipe for lowering standards in the name of job creation. Clark has placed a further emphasis on rural resource jobs by moving Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Pat Bell from forests to a new ministry of jobs, tourism and innovation.

Going into the new cabinet’s first meeting last week, Bell said he is expected to help develop new industries as well as expand the existing forestry and mining sectors.

“The job Premier Clark has given me is to go out and create jobs, and I intend to do that,” Bell said.

Clark campaigned on a promise to deliver rural jobs, and has carried on Campbell’s effort to simplify federal as well as provincial environmental approvals. One of Clark’s first acts as premier was to lobby Prime Minister Stephen Harper for federal approval of a gold and copper mine in the Cariboo region.