By David F. Rooney
No one should expect the Ministry of the Environment to rethink its decision to not replace the local Conservation Officer and you have to wonder why.
In a to City Council, written a month after she received their letter of concern Environment Minister Mary Polack responded thusly:
“With the Conservation Officer assigned to Revelstoke retiring, I want to reassure the community that the Conservation Officer Service will continue to provide the highest level of public safety and natural resource law enforcement service possible in the community,” she said in her April 29 letter.
“The Conservation Officer Service is a highly mobile service. As with most communities throughout the province, Conservation Officers in the Columbia Kootenay zone are managed using a zone concept where officers respond to complaints and concerns anywhere in the zone.
“A review of the deployment of officers in the Columbia Kootenay region found moving the sergeant position from Revelstoke to Golden would provide the best level of service to the entire zone and enhance safety and mutual operational support for the two officers in Invermere and one in Golden.
“The review was based on location and types of complaints and calls received throughout the region, and took into consideration the safety and wellbeing of our officers. From April 2013 to January 13, 2014, the Columbia Kootenay zone received 600 calls — 43 for Revelstoke and 173 for Golden.”
Her response was pretty much what Mayor David Raven and Council expected and fit with the responses to letters of concern written by the Rod & Gun Club, the news media and others after the retirement of CO Adam Christie last December.
Now MLA Norm Macdonald says the results of a Freedom of Information request shows that Revelstoke residents and organizations who contacted the MoE about the need for a local conservation officer were probably talking to the wrong person.
“Input from the community of Revelstoke was neither asked for nor included in the decision to remove Revelstoke’s conservation officer,” Macdonald said in a statement issued from his Legislature office. “Instead, the ministry was more interested in consulting with Bill Bennett, the MLA for Kootenay East, who supported this very serious cut to the community.”
The Freedom of Information (FOI) request filed by the Opposition indicates that the Ministry of Environment sought the approval of Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines, and the Minister responsible for Core Review. Government communications state: ‘Minister Bennett is supportive of moving the position in Revelstoke.’
“It is beyond ridiculous that the way decisions are made on such important issues is for an entire ministry of professionals to await the final word of a guy who knows absolutely nothing about the conservation service or the community of Revelstoke.”
The FOI request asked for specific records relating to Revelstoke’s loss of its only Conservation Officer. In a 171- page document, 97 pages were redacted (meaning they were jerked from the FOI report), and the remaining items related primarily to the receipt of correspondence on the issue, and the communication plan that would be employed by the ministry.
“I don’t believe that the people of Revelstoke are going to accept this kind of political interference by a politician that frankly should have no authority in this matter,” Macdonald said. “I think that Revelstoke will stand up to the minister of environment and demand that this decision be revisited without Bill Bennett’s input.”
Please click here to read the complete, through redacted, result of MLA Norm Macdonald’s Freedom of Information request — https://legacy.revelstokecurrent.com//wp-content/uploads/2014/05/online-FOI-request-re-CO-service.pdf
Please click here to read Environment Minister Mary Polak’s letter to Mayor Dave Raven and City Council — https://revelstoke.civicweb.net/FileStorage/4F3009DC656A47BFA1E7D8DC2CE0A62C-Admin-Minister%20Polack%20RE%20Conservation%20Officer%202014.pdf.
Please click here to read an official overview of the BC Conservation Officer Service — http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cos/COS_program_plan.pdf.