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BC NDP backtracks on proposed amendments to Land Act ... for now

Changes proved too hot to handle in an election year
B.C. Water, Land and Resource Stewardship Minister Nathan Cullen said Feb. 21 the province is pausing proposed changes to the Land Act pending further consultation.

The BC NDP have walked back on changes to the province’s Land Act, citing a need for more consultation and demonstrations of how shared decision-making with Indigenous governments will work.

“We need to take the time to further engage with people and demonstrate the real benefits of shared decision-making in action,” Water, Land and Resource Stewardship minister Nathan Cullen said in a statement announcing the pause. “We want to get this right and move forward together.”

The province announced plans in early January to revise the Land Act, launching a public consultation and engaging stakeholders, including ranching, resource and outfitting groups.

The public consultation was to run through March 31, with a bill proposing the amendments due in late April.

With a provincial election looming, the amendments seem to have been too hot for the government to handle.

Pushback from various sectors, including critical opinions of the roll out by various law firms, made clear that the government had not been transparent.

BC Cattlemen’s Association representatives opposed the changes, which promised to have a significant impact on the Crown leases ranchers across the province depend on for grazing their herds.

Opposition MLAs with BC United have also been holding townhall meetings across the province that generated significant public feedback against the changes.

While all parties lent unanimous support to the Declaration Act in 2019, which set the stage for shared decision-making with Indigenous peoples, BC United has criticized the government’s approach to the Land Act amendments and other initiatives as “secretive and unilateral.”

It pointed out that the pause announced Feb. 21 does not mean the end of the road for shared decision-making.

BC United said it supports alignment of BC laws with the Declaration Act, but will “ensure that all land management decisions are made by provincial representatives elected by the people in the public interest.”