The Ministry of Forests Land and Natural Resource Operations’ enforcement staff should consider attaching stiffer penalties to administrative actions against companies that violate regulations, the forest-industry watchdog says.
It also suggested that the Ministry of Forests publish its determinations to make them more of a deterrent.
The B.C. Forest Practices Board highlighted the findings of a special investigation it conducted of the Ministry of Forests’ administrative proceedings against contraventions of legislation and regulations between 2009 and 2014, which found that fewer than 10 per cent of 146 cases saw violators receive the maximum fine.
“Penalty amounts seem low,” the board wrote in its report, with 79 per cent of fines falling below $5,000.
And while infractions involved weren’t serious enough to warrant full prosecution, the board concluded the administrative actions “are not effective in promoting compliance,” within the industry, nor instilling public confidence in enforcement because penalties aren’t published.
“It’s something that’s necessary, especially with bigger corporations,” Forest Practices Board chairman Tim Ryan said. “I think you catch their attention quite quickly if the determination is going to be made public, and you really get their attention with respect to a bigger fine.”
Putting those decisions online in a searchable database was the board’s top recommendation, and the ministry agreed in an official response to the recommendations that publishing decisions would “increase awareness and deter future contraventions.”
Assistant deputy minister Greg Townsend said the ministry is discussing options for reporting its penalty determinations as part of a ministry effort to harmonize compliance and enforcement provisions.