Victoria dodges liability issue in Mount Polley tailings collapse – by Vaughn Palmer (Vancouver Sun – May 3, 2016)

Victoria — At first glance Tuesday, it looked as if the B.C. Liberals were accepting the auditor general’s findings of guilt in connection with the catastrophic failure of the tailings dam at the Mount Polley mine.

“Government accepts auditor general’s recommendations,” announced the Mines Ministry after auditor general Carol Bellringer put out a lengthy, damning report on lax enforcement in the mining sector that focused on the August 2013 breach and massive tailings spill at Mount Polley. Then there was the apparent endorsement from the minister of energy and mines himself.

“I want to thank the office of the auditor general for this report,” Bill Bennett was quoted as saying. “We are well on our way to implementing the audit report’s 17 recommendations. I agree with the auditor general’s office that ‘business as usual’ on mine sites in B.C. is just not good enough.”

However, as is often the case with this government, I found myself waiting for a big “but.” Sure enough, there it was on the bottom of the second page of the press release.

“Despite embracing the vast majority of recommendations in the audit report, government believes a number of assertions in it are incorrect and therefore was compelled to set the record straight in a response from government”.

Standard practice for the auditor general to share her findings with government in advance and to permit the target ministry a right of reply to be incorporated into her own report.

Still, the government response in this case ran to a dozen pages. One of the longest written comebacks in years of dealings between the province and the independent watchdog, as Bellringer herself noted in a followup news conference.

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