British Columbia has announced the creation of a new ministry that will encompass reconciliation with Indigenous people, economic growth and environmental sustainability.
NDP Premier John Horgan appointed Josie Osborne as the first-ever minister of land, water and resource stewardship.
"The fundamental part of being British Columbians, with our abundant natural resources, is ensuring that we're stewarding those effectively," Horgan said at a news conference at Government House.
"For too long the development of our resources have not focused on the people who own them, British Columbians."
The Opposition B.C. Liberals criticized the new ministry, saying the government is building more bureaucracy when people in resource industries, especially forestry, are concerned about their futures.
“At a time when communities, loggers, contractors, employers, workers and First Nations are all looking for stability, John Horgan and the NDP have decided that adding uncertainty and more bureaucracy is the way to go," John Rustad, the Liberal forests, lands and natural resources critic, said in a statement.
"The government's goals of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, economic stability and environmental sustainability are best achieved through restructuring and a new Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship," the government retorted.
The ministry will work with First Nations on co-managed land and resource issues, developing land-use policy that ensures certainty for investors, and co-ordinating strategies to protect drinking water. The new ministry will also be responsible for provincial species at risk, and fish and ecosystem management.
Horgan said the ministry restructuring and the creation of a stewardship branch of government is a concept he's been supporting "for many years. This is an exciting time," he said.
The Premier said Nathan Cullen will take over in municipal affairs. Horgan noted his vast experience with local government and First Nations as a former New Democrat MP in the Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding. Cullen's provincial Stikine riding in northwest B.C. covers some of the same territory, he said.
"Nathan is a superior communicator, which means, in my mind, he listens, he synthesizes complex issues and he's able to communicate those back in a way the public can understand," Horgan said.