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Sustainability workshop looks for guiding principles

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Leaders help the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management in new goal

When the provincial government sits down with various stakeholders to create the Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan, they will be implementing a new goal called "sound governance."

Sound governance will provide a set of principles, which will create an LRMP in keeping with the province’s goals of maintaining a strong vibrant economy, maintaining a sustainable environment and supporting a social infrastructure.

"Our approach is grounded in the three legs of the sustainability stool," Stan Hagen, minister of sustainable resource management, said Monday.

"The glue that holds the legs in the stool is our governance structure."

The minister spoke at a two-day workshop in Whistler where roughly 80 leaders from all levels of government and other sectors met to pool their knowledge and ultimately provide Hagen’s ministry with background information to create these guiding principles for sound governance.

Among the guests asked to attend the closed-door workshop at the Whistler Conference Centre were First Nations representatives, Whistler Mayor Hugh O'Reilly and Ken Baker, executive director of environmental sustainability with the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Bid Corporation.

Each guest was there to provide insight on governance and ultimately improve the government's strategy for sustainability.

Topics ranged from suggesting various decision-making tools for senior levels of government to discussing the idea of accountability in the process, which would track progress toward sustainability.

"I expect this to result in some significant shifts in resource management across B.C.," said Hagen.

The workshop falls in the footsteps of a provincial approval of draft sustainability principles, presented by Hagen to cabinet on May 22.

Cabinet approved the principles for initial application to certain pilot projects and for public consultation.

Among the 10 principles were competitiveness (removing barriers to investment and promoting open trade), shared responsibility (co-operation between First Nations, government, corporations and others) and transparency (having an open and understandable decision-making process).

After consultations and review over the summer and fall, these principles will be finalized.

Then they can be used to assist with major policy and legislative initiatives involving land and water resources.

Hagen pointed to the work, which has been done to date in the Central Coast LRMP. That area has been gaining international attention because it contains one of the last temperate rainforests.

"We have a responsibility to protect it," said Hagen.

The government has protected 20 specific watersheds but is also looking at new ways to generate other wealth in the area.

A $35 million trust fund has been set up to mitigate the impact of these land-use planning decisions on workers and community members in the Central Coast, North Coast and Queen Charlotte Islands.

In this way Hagen said they are working towards balance in the sustainability stool.

A discussion paper will come out of the ideas generated at the Whistler workshop.

Ultimately, the guiding principles will be easy to implement and can even be used throughout Canada and the world, said Hagen.

"Rather than uneven and inconsistent standards we will have a harmonized approach," said Hagen.

He admits that there are difficulties, especially in the current economic times.

"We have a big job to do here," he said.

"We are off to a great start and this workshop is one more step in that direction."

This month the Sea to Sky LRMP process will be moving to its next step.

There will be public meetings in Whistler, Pemberton and Squamish from June 18 to 20 for community feedback and information.

Hagen said: "This plan (the Sea to Sky LRMP) will meet the test of sustainability as outlined in this workshop."

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