The B.C. Liberal government’s response to the Testalinden Dam review shows that years of public service cuts and de-regulation have eroded their ability to ensure public safety, the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) said today.
In responding to Deputy Solicitor General David Morhart’s 12 recommendations in the Review of the Testalinden Dam Failure report, Deputy Environment Minister Doug Konkin states that “going forward, the Ministry of Environment will have a greater on-the-ground presence to ensure dam safety.” The government response also commits to hiring an additional 4 dam safety officers.
“Years of public service cuts and deregulation have eroded government’s ability to ensure public safety,” says BCGEU president Darryl Walker. “Regulation requires enforcement, and 8 years of budget cuts have removed many of the front line workers who protect the public, in dam safety, in forestry and environment.
“We welcome the additional resources to oversee dam safety, but we have to ask – why did it take a disaster for the government to finally begin to act?”
While publicly committing to implement the 12 recommendations from the dam review, the provincial government still has not fully committed to make the necessary changes. The government response states that “it may not be possible to develop completely consistent oversight and regulation” for mining dams and tailing ponds.
In another section, the response states that, “considerable resources would be required to implement these actions and additional discussions are necessary… to determine if the changes are warranted.”
“The recent toxic dam failure in Hungary and the Gulf oil spill disaster should be a wake-up call for us all,” Walker says. “Cutting public service staff and allowing industry to regulate itself is a recipe for disaster.
“Taxpayers expect government to live up to their responsibility to protect the public interest. We can only do that when we have sufficient staff to provide proper monitoring and enforcement.”