Kamloops residents have the environment on their minds.
Federal Liberal MP and small business, tourism critic Joyce Murray said she uncovered the angst among residents during her tour of the region.
While in Kamloops on Saturday, she said she discovered concern over the Conservative government's streamlining of the environmental review process of so-called mega projects, which was unveiled Thursday during the federal budget announcement.
"Whether the person I spoke with was for or against a specific project like the Northern Gateway pipeline, there was a great deal of concern that the regulatory process would be changed in mid flow to shorten it up," she said.
Kamloops Area Preservation Association (KAPA) members are among those concerned.
"I acknowledge that sometimes these processes take a long time but certainly I think we have to be aware there could be some very, very negative impacts if they're properly assessed," said KAPA spokesperson John Schleiermacher.
MP Cathy McLeod said the streamlining provides a good balance for all involved.
"I think we're actually moving forward in a positive way in terms of having a process that still has all the integrity and robustness to it but just gets rid of the duplication and puts some reasonable time-frames in."
Terry Lake, Kamloops-North Thompson MLA and B.C. environmental minister, also backed the new approach.
"We've been advocating a one-project, one-process approach for a very long time," said Lake.
Although provincial and federal environmental processes for projects such as the Ajax mine proposal work in tandem, he said decisions on the provincial and federal level could have a gap as long as a year.
"That's been very frustrating for us as a province and for everyone involved," said Lake. "So in terms of Ajax, it means once the provincial decision is made, the federal decision is made at about the same time so we don't have that big lag phase that we had before."
Murray said she also heard unease over the decision to spend $8 million auditing charities to ensure they comply with rules when political issues are involved.
"The people I spoke with didn't think that was really a priority for that money when there's so much else that needs to be done," said Murray.
There's also widespread belief that the audits target environmental groups, especially since there's focus on foreign donations and the Conservatives have vehemently criticized foreign involvement in opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline.
"That's very chilling," said Murray.
Schleiermacher said his group has felt the hostility of government towards environmental groups.
"The federal government has called anyone opposing these mega-projects outsiders," he said. "And Terry Lake said in the past KAPA is a group of outsiders without even talking to us.
"For some reason if we care about the environment and the long term impact of resource extraction, we're considered outsiders."
However McLeod, who is parliamentary secretary for the Canada Revenue Agency, said the audits are intended to create transparency and will focus on any charity that engages in political activity.
"There's never been a focused audit in that area," she said.
"Charities get significant tax breaks. So we believe there should be transparency around where the money comes from and how the money gets spent."
© Kamloops Daily News