Forest Practices Board nearing 25 years of independent operation

In 2020, the Forest Practices Board will be 25 years old. When it was first established in 1995, one of the most important attributes of the Board was that it would act independently and work on behalf of the public interest. From its inception, the concept of independence was built into the legal structure and composition of the Board. And over the next 25 years, the Board established the operating procedures and policies that ensure it operates at arm’s length from politics and from the usual constraints of ministerial responsibility.

Some of the ways the Board maintains its independence include:

The Board sets its own policies and procedures and determines its own strategic priorities.

The Board issues its own independent reports without government review or approval.

The Board reports its findings to the public, and has the legislated authority to submit a report directly to the Lieutenant Governor in Council.

The Board has its own voted budget appropriation, which is separate from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

The Board determines its own relationship with the public – who it meets with and listens to.

By legislation, the Lieutenant Governor in Council (Cabinet) must establish a Forest Practices Board, which must conduct “independent” audits, including audits of government enforcement.

Board member appointments must be undertaken in consultation with the Chair, and members serve for fixed terms (usually of 2-3 years), rather than “at pleasure” of government.

The Board is responsible for all of the conduct of its own operations, including details such as maintaining its own computer systems.

Government ministers are not “answerable,” in the Parliamentary sense, for decisions or reports of the Board; the Board Chair is.

Having all these structures and processes in place is still not enough. The Board continually monitors its work, and examines whether it can make improvements so the public can continue to have confidence that it truly is independent.

The current Board recently reviewed the status of our independence; we identified several areas where we will improve our internal processes. One of the areas for improvement is to ensure our Board recruitment process, which must be merit based, is clearly documented, including transparent competencies to recruit potential board members to the role.

An independent Board increases public trust in our work. If you ever want to talk about the Board, or how we maintain our independence, contact the Chair at kevin.kriese@bcfpb.ca

 

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