This Means War! Campbell’s New Ministry Final Straw for Environmentalists


What has raged as an undeclared war between conservationists and the Campbell government starting in 2001 became a declared war when Gordon (Pinocchio) Campbell trotted out a new cabinet. For those of us dedicated to preserving our birthright, this war was formally declared when Campbell created an entirely new ministry called Natural Resource Operations as a one-stop-shop for permits in B.C., covering everything from large independent power projects to one-day hunting licences.

Campbell said the aim is to “streamline access to B.C.’s natural resources …The drive has always been to try and increase more investment in the province, to increase our export opportunities.”

The new minister Steve Thomson (Steve WHO?) is given responsibility for a wide range of natural resource approvals, including approvals related to:

  • Crown land allocation and authorizations
  • Forests and range authorizations
  • Roads/bridges/engineering
  • Independent Power Production
  • Mines and minerals permitting and inspections
  • Mineral and coal titles
  • Aquaculture licensing and regulation
  • Water use planning and authorizations
  • Aboriginal consultation and coordination – natural resource operations
  • Resorts and alpine ski developments
  • Licensing and permitting for angling, hunting and trapping
  • GeoBC and information management
  • FrontCounter BC
  • Provincial hatchery and stocking program
  • Watershed restoration
  • Fish, wildlife and habitat management
  • Drought management
  • Dam and dyke safety and regulation
  • Flood plain management
  • Pests, disease, invasive plants and species
  • Public backcountry and commercial recreation
  • Recreation sites and trails
  • Archaeology and Heritage Conservation Act permitting
  • Resource management compliance
  • Crown land restoration
  • Forest investment operations
  • Wildlife management

(The bolded powers are those of special concern to environmentalists).

What power is left to the Environment Minister? The premier’s statement clearly indicates that an already weak-kneed ministry requiring a weak-kneed minister to suit his policy will be weakened even more.

What other conclusion can one come to when giving plain meaning to Campbell’s words?

As far as The Common Sense Canadian is concerned this is war and we will join one and all British Columbians who care about their environment in taking the fight to Campbell and his bunch on every front and at every opportunity.

Is this over the top?

Not at all, in fact it shows we haven’t fought hard enough.

Damien and I had the great privilege of joining Corky Evans at two public meetings we held in the Kootenays last week and he, in two marvelous speeches, made the obvious but often forgotten point that the lands, water, and air we live in and use belong the Province of British Columbia in the right of the crown. It does not belong to the government of the province. And, here’s the critical point: the Crown is us, the citizens of this province.

The reality is, of course, that governments can, by passing a statute and having it approved by Her Majesty’s representative, the Lieutenant-Governor, alienate these possessions of ours but we should sit back and remember just what that process is.

It starts by The Legislative Council (the Cabinet) – the Queen’s advisors – tabling a bill in the legislature asking for approval. When approved, the Council (Cabinet) then asks the Lieutenant-Governor on behalf of the Crown to proclaim this as law.

We know that in practice the government does what it pleases but we should understand the technicalities so as to better interpret – and hopefully one day stop – the practice of alienating the resources that we the people own in the name of the Crown.

When the power of the Crown is corrupted, we the people must fight back. And it’s sure as hell been corrupted in British Columbia.

Consider how our resources were being dealt with by the Campbell government before Campbell made these changes. Take, for example, the Ashlu River. A large construction company sought to destroy the essence of this river so it sought government help to get this Crown-owned water given to them. (Actually, the request amounted to giving them the river and funding besides, but more on that in a moment).

At that time, the people had a process by which they could declare whether or not they wanted this to happen – it was called zoning.

After several public hearings the Regional District the Ashlu was in (The Squamish and Lillooet Regional District) refused to zone in favour of the corporation and left our water and its ecology in our hands, unalienated. The Campbell government immediately passed retroactive legislation taking away the right of local governments to zone these properties, known as Bill 30.

This meant that the people had no opportunity to pass judgment on these matters!

The only hope the public was left with was the environmental assessment process where the public would be entitled to go to public meetings concerning these projects.

These meetings were fixed. There’s no other word for it. The hearings were held at a time and place suitable to the company and – here’s the rub – whether or not the project should be approved was out of order! All a member of the public could do is suggest terms of reference for the environmental review process! Damien and I have been to several of these sham meetings and the anger of the public was white hot.

We the citizens can make our feelings known whether or not a Walmart Store should be built, whether a pub can go into a neighbourhood, or where an apartment will be permitted, and what form it will take – but when a company wants to steal a river, destroy it and the ecology it sustains, we have no right to be heard at all!

Even worse, the company pays almost nothing for the river and then – and mark this well – our Crown Corporation, BC Hydro, is forced by the Campbell government to give the company a sweetheart contract which pays the company twice or more what the power is worth on a “take or pay” contract, which power is not needed by Hydro, and thus must be exported for ½ or less what they paid for it! The moment the approval is given, the company uses that approval to finance the project! We have our property stolen then must finance its destruction!

What I’ve just said applies to what has happened hitherto – now, says Campbell, the government is going to “streamline” this ghastly process.

One must give plain meaning to those words. The Campbell government is going to make it even easier than it is now for our resources to be given away along with what amounts to a very generous cash-filled handshake!

I’ve been referring to Independent (Private) Power Production but please go back to the list and note that this streamlining of public theft from the people will also apply to Crown land allocation and authorizations, forests and range authorizations, roads/bridges/engineering, aquaculture licensing and regulation, water use planning and authorizations, natural resource operations, resorts and alpine ski developments, licensing and permitting for angling, hunting and trapping, dam and dyke safety and regulation and Flood Plain management.

CONCLUSION: We have moved from a fatally flawed environmental regime with no public consultation, under the direction of an insipidly weak minister, to a fatally flawed environmental regime, with no public consultation, under the direction of a minister ordered by the premier to make it all happen even easier and faster.

It’s now over to us – if we don’t defend what it ours, what is our legacy, we will go down in history as the generation that gave in to a tyrant.

For our part at The Common Sense Canadian we will fight every outrage with every weapon at our disposal and will encourage and assist as best we can, all who do the same.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at

11 thoughts on “This Means War! Campbell’s New Ministry Final Straw for Environmentalists

  1. Solange, your prescription is precisely what we have been about all along – our very ethos – which is why I find YOUR comments, in fact, mildly insulting. You’re simultaneously preaching to the converted and demonstrating that you don’t understand what makes us tick in the least.

  2. Damien, I did not say that! I just wanted to convey to Rafe that it is nothing short of insulting that NOW it is over to us. It has been over to us long before this! BC residents are NOT innocent in this. I am not advocating self pity. I am saying before we can change the bigger landscape, lets start with the one closest to home! The chains of apathy, fear and discouragement can only be broken when we become engaged politically as a people, recognize the core problem that has brought us here and begin to work from the change that this recognition yields. It will be tell tale come the next election if the people of BC have had the courage to look inward post Campbell resignation.

  3. Is that all you have to offer SOLANGE? Hang our heads and give up? Commit seppuku and be done with it?! Both Rafe and I will be the first to agree that we all share the responsibility as citizens for how things have gone – but the flipside of that coin is that we also share the responsibility for digging ourselves out of this hole. Now let’s get to it! It’s over to us.

  4. It is NOW over to us? Hell, we handed it over from the outset as voters! Before Campbell should be ashamed of his legacy, the voters of this province should stop celebrating and hang their heads in shame, because it is OUR choices that created a legacy far worse then Campbell’s!

  5. You think Mike Harris invented the term Common Sense? Our inspiration predates Harris by oh, about two centuries – that being Thomas Paine. Look him up. That you would even float this comparison shows that you know very little about what we’re all about here.

  6. Hey Rafe of the River,

    Some of us still remember when you were environment minister Rafe.

    Now its all well and fine that you had some sort of environmental epiphony and kudos to you for taking up some of the fight.

    However if this site here and your effort is all about a rerun of the common sense revolution ala Mike Harris, get ready for your conservative ass to burnt at the stake.

    However, if not and there is a genuine pitch to take back our Province, push back against the petro state from Harper’s Hell Pit and right the many wrongs of Campbell’s Bilderberg agenda, then all the power to you and keep up the good work.

    But remember, we wont be fooled again.

  7. I guess that means we will also be forced to “share” the trails with more ORV’s and mountain bikes. Does anybody have any clue as to how many trees become damaged, diseased and fall down because of these kinds of wreckreational activities, along with their consummate trail building? (How many trails do we need? All of them…)

    Do you know how many vernal pools, etc. have become affected by mountain bikers filling them in, or diverting natural “drainage” because it interferes with their rad ride? They build roller-coaster, teeter totter and jump ramp structures. Mountain bikers need to be contained where they do no more damage to the environment.

    Nobody wants to address the ongoing damage caused by such unnatural and invasive activities in our natural environments. This ongoing destruction of our Natural Capital for selfish extreme off road wreckreation is being glorified by the media, and being taught to our children.

    Fact is, we are becoming a very nature deficit society. It is all about ripping and shredding our special and natural places, nowadays. 🙁 This rough treatment of nature must not continue. Our forests, parks and wetlands should not be turned into abusement parks!

  8. I have spent the last 40 plus years of my life fighting for environmental cocerns, winning a few, loosing most. Now Minister Bell is off to China with a group of business people to drum up takers for BCs natural resources. In my humble opinion this will open a doorway incomprehencable in its magnitude. Alongside Campbells streamlining access 1.5 Billion people will easily consume every tree, fish, mineral deposit, living and inert thing until they are all gone and still require more.
    Yes, this harvesting will create jobs and make a few people very wealthy, but what do we leave our children and theirs amid the irreplacable rubble of what will be left ?
    It has never ceased to amaze me how short sighted and greedy some can be with everything focused on the here and now for personal fame or gain.
    I have little doubt that history will show this period as being incomprehencnsible as our most unthinking and destructive time.
    Barry Whiting. Sooke.

  9. As I see it, as long as Gordo and his gang are in charge, it matters not which ministry is in charge of environmental assessments. As long as the consortium that is looking for a favourable ruling, and donates monetary contributions to the BC Liberal Party coffers, they will likely get the green light.

    Whenever I see a questionable ruling, I immediately check out Elections BC for political contributions, and have yet come up empty handed.

    For example, Taseko Mining got the green light from BC for their proposed Prosperty Mine, where they aim to use Fish Lake as a tailing pond. Well, lo and behold, I find that Taseko Mining has donated $30,150.00 to the BC Liberal Party between 2008 and 2009. This money was donated in about 8 or 9 lots and were probably happening as the “assessment” was being carried out by our environmental specialists. It sure doesn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling that the interests BC’s environment were uppermost in the minds of the assessors.

  10. Rafe, you as a lawyer know perfectly well that there has been no legitimate Government in Canada since the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. Since that time all legislative law that has been passed is null and void. If you really mean what you say about fighting with every tool, well, I believe that since there is no legitimate government you can fight and win on this basis alone.

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