It’s time for senior levels of government to recognize that they have a responsibility to assist local governments with their water issues, according to the MLA for the Cowichan Valley.
Sonia Furstenau told North Cowichan’s municipal council at its meeting on June 20 that water issues in the Valley are important to all its communities and both the province and Ottawa need to become more involved in finding solutions.
Climate change and other factors are causing droughts and other water-related issues in the region more frequently in recent years than ever before.
The Cowichan Valley Regional District intends to hold a referendum as part of this fall’s municipal elections on establishing a water service function that would deal with local watershed management issues as a region.
Furstenau, who has been visiting all local governments in her riding in recent weeks, said she wants to make sure she’s connected and constructively working with all the councils and boards in the Valley to ensure all are collaborating together on important issues.
Furstenau said she’s pleased that the government has decided to re-evaluate and make changes to the province’s professional reliance model and its environmental assessment process, both issues that she has worked on since the provincial election last year.
During the last 10 years of Liberal rule in B.C., the government had increasingly relied on professionals hired by companies to provide environmental assessments of projects instead of the past practice of having independent professionals provide the information, and the NDP-Green government is looking to make changes.
As well, the government announced in March that it will re-evaluate the environmental assessment process for major projects in B.C. and will be turning to the public to provide feedback on what changes they would like to see in the process.
“These were two of the main issues that prompted me to get involved in provincial politics in the first place,” Furstenau told council.
Furstenau was one of the leaders in the successful fight to shut down the contaminated soil landfill near Shawnigan Lake last year.
She said she’s also concerned about the increasing numbers of “vulnerable” people across the Valley.
“Many people have fallen through the cracks, and we need to work on that,” Furstenau said.
“Our child welfare system has created a humanitarian crisis right here in the Valley, particularly among our Indigenous population. Much works need to be done and the effort requires provincial support.”