Council discusses Farmers Advocate initiative with Ministry

Northeast B.C. may soon have an Independent Farmers Advocate.

The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources is looking to provide a provincial service for rural residents, industry and government. The Independent Farmers Advocate would resolve problems and emphasize facilitation, negotiation or mediation. Meanwhile, the advocate would provide an independent gateway to existing services that address the concerns of rural residents.

The Province wants to have the advocate position in place as of October 1st, 2009.

Fort St. John City Councilors took part in a conference call on July 14th with representatives from the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.

During the meeting, Community Relations for the Ministry Richard Sawchuck said the advocate would be working out of an office in Dawson Creek. But, Councilors were concerned over the location, considering that Fort St. John is identified as Energy B.C., and that it hosts the oil and gas training centre.

Sawchuck confirmed that the location is meant to be mobile, and that the person holding this position will be traveling a lot. He said the intent is that the office will be going to the landowner rather than the other way around.

Now, the group also discussed the possibility of initiating the Good Neighbor Initiative in the area.

The goal of the initiative would be to alleviate concerns from landowners regarding the oil and gas activity. Basically, this would be an industry-led initiative and will be a coordinated effort to raise awareness both in industry and public.

Council argued that there needs to be repercussions to companies who do not participate in this program. But the Ministry said those regulations have yet to be written, and that the Ministry will be encouraging the private sector to develop these initiatives.

Now, City Councilors have until July 31st to send out a completed questionnaire, which will provide feedback for the proposed initiatives.