In 2001 the BC provincial government set a target of eliminating one third of all regulations. Between 2001 and 2005 the government repealed, amended or replaced a wide range of environmental statutes, as well as cutting funding to environment-related ministries. Despite promises that the changes would maintain high environmental standards, these changes severely weakened the province’s environmental regime.
Since 2005 the BC government has maintained a more balanced approach to environmental legislation. However, many of the province’s environmental laws still bear the mark of this period of deregulation. The reports on this page summarize some of the laws that were enacted in this period and discuss how they continue to affect British Columbia’s environment.
Three reports provide a comprehensive picture of what staffing cuts and regulatory changes mean to British Columbia.
- Cutting Up the Safety Net looks at changes to environmental regulation from 2001 to early 2005, examining their impact on government's ability to protect our environment and achieve a sustainable economy.
- No Response documents and explains a collapse in provincial enforcement of environmental laws between 1990 and 2005.
- Please Hold looks at staffing cuts and the impacts these have had on the ability of government to monitor and enforce environmental laws.
In addition, a series of de-regulation backgrounders discuss the changes to BC’s environmental laws in the context of specific issues:
- Water - The provincial government's Riparian Areas Regulation, enacted in July 2004, weakens protection for fish habitat, giving wriggle room for developers who want to build close to the banks of fish bearing streams. However, local governments can still protect the environment by developing more stringent protection for fish-bearing streams.
- Mining – A series of amendments to the province’s laws governing mining in 2002 have reduced protection for land owners and the environment. See our backgrounders on Bill 54: Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act 2002; Bill 36: the Energy and Mines Statutes Amendment Act; and Bill 32: the Waste Management Amendment Act, 2002.
- Pesticides – In 2003 the Pesticide Control Act was replaced with a new Integrated Pest Management Act. In addition to our backgrounder on the Act, see our page on Pesticides for more information.
- Pollution – In 2003 BC enacted a new Environmental Management Act, replacing the Waste Management Act. The new act and its Waste Discharge Regulation shifted from requiring government approval before waste can be released to (in many cases) a system of regulations – under which industry can pollute as long as the rules are followed. We released backgrounders discussing both the new Bill 57: the new Environmental Management Act and the Bill 57: Environmental Management Act - Waste Discharge Regulation.
- Parks – Amendments to the Park Act in 2003 weakened restrictions on development in provincial parks, authorizes petroleum and natural gas removal from parks and changes seven park boundaries. Our backgrounder discusses the changes.
- Environmental Assessment – In 2002 an entirely new BC Environmental Assessment Act replaced the previous assessment process. Environmental Assessment allows the environmental impacts of major developments to be examined before environmental harm occurs. West Coast's analysis demonstrated that this change was a dramatic step backward for environmental protection in BC.
- Agricultural Land and Greenbelt Protection – In 2002 the province enacted a new Agricultural Land Commission Act, replacing an earlier Act. Our backgrounder demonstrated that while the new Act incorporated many requirements of the old Act, a number of key structural and substantive changes weakened protection for environmental lands.
- Forestry – A series of new forest laws were passed in 2002. By far the most significant was the new Forest and Range Practices Act which replaced BC’s Forest Practices Code with a so-called "results based" forest management regime. Our analysis demonstrated that the new Act and its regulations is not effective in protecting environmental values.
West Coast Environmental Law’s Environmental Law Alert program continues to monitor changes to the province’s environmental laws – both changes that strengthen and weaken protection for the environment.