Posted by: friendsofstrathcona | January 4, 2011

Public trust betrayed, by Ken Van de Burgt

Open Letter – Please give wide dissemination
1 January 2011

Honourable Murray Coell
BC Minister of Environment
PO Box 9047
Victoria BC
V8W 9E2

Dear Sir

A. Your email November 19, 2010
B. My email to BC Minister of Environment, Barry Penner, 30 August 2010 (Reference: 130187)

Thank you for your response to my email as per references A and B. It appears that I just didn’t get my point across in my previous email. I will try again.

The issue about the 2010 amendment to the Strathcona Park Master Plan is as much about horses as it is about the principle of public trust doctrine. Public trust doctrine is the principle that certain resources are preserved for public use, and that the government is required to maintain it for the public’s reasonable use. My understanding is the Government of British Columbia is supposed to manage BC Parks under the principle of public trust doctrine.

I am aware that there are many commercial outfits operating in Strathcona Park. The main difference is that the Minister is not changing the Park Master Plan to allow an activity for the sole benefit of one particular commercial operator in an area where that activity has not previously been allowed.

Public trust doctrine requires that the government show a public benefit to any transfer of public property or use of public property into private hands. Allowing a private company to drive a change in a Park Master Plan in order to accommodate and profit from an activity not previously permitted, to the detriment of the Park and established Park use, is clearly against the public trust doctrine. Where is the public benefit when the only potential riders of horses in Bedwell Valley are customers of Clayoquot Wilderness Resort?

Mr. Penner, your predecessor, has abused the public trust doctrine through an inappropriate change to the Strathcona Park Master Plan. The non-transparent process by which the changes were made has seriously damaged the public goodwill that was painstakingly created through the development of the original Park Master Plan. Through this inappropriate change, the integrity of the entire Park Master Plan has been put at risk. You see, the Park Master Plan was a work of restoring trust between government and the public following an earlier grievous attempt to destroy Strathcona Park.

The change to the Park Master Plan to allow commercial horse use in the Bedwell Valley is the same as if you were going to allow a mine; it exposes that the Park Master Plan does nothing to protect our Park because it can be overridden at the whim of the government. There are negative implications for all of the Parks in British Columbia.

Please explain how the Minister could even consider changing the Strathcona Park Master Plan against the strong recommendations of the Strathcona Park Public Advisory Committee, against the will of a public who will have to live with the decisions forever, and against the principle of public trust doctrine invested in our government.

If you do not restore the original Park Master Plan then it will need to be changed again. The Park Master Plan will have to include a constitution with an amending formula that puts the Park forever out the reach of government. You see, I no longer trust your office to properly manage Strathcona Park.

Please correct this most serious breach of the public trust doctrine and rescind the 2010 amendment to the Strathcona Park Master Plan.


Ken Van de Burgt
453 Murray Place
Campbell River BC

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