Government to upgrade licensing system

Hunting licence program moving online for convenience and flexibility for users

The B.C. Liberal government took the first step recently in building a new online hunting licensing system, which it says will be more convenient and flexible for hunters, as well as increase cost-effectiveness in a time of fiscal restraint.

According to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, a key feature of the upgrade will be an electronic service, which hunters can access 24 hours a day, seven days a week to purchase hunting licences and apply for Limited Entry Hunting (LEH) opportunities.

As it stands, LEH applications can only be purchased from Service BC offices or licensed vendors, who aren’t usually available on the weekend or non-business hours.

One of those vendors is Jude Dion, owner of Exeter Sporting Goods Ltd. in 100 Mile House. It’s still too early to say how the new program will look exactly, but if it’s like the online fishing licensing system, Dion says he might have a few issues with it.

“The fishing licensing seems to be going pretty good online, except it’s painfully slow. I can write probably three or four licences in the amount of time it takes to do one (online).”

He adds the cost-saving the government states goes with moving toward a digital program is at the expense of vendors like himself.

“Now, we do all the administration. I buy two computers and a printer for $5,000 and have them on the counter. I buy the paper. I buy the ink. I enter the guy’s (information). I do all the work. They do absolutely nothing.”

Dion admits it might be more convenient for some hunters to have the option of going online, but that option does not necessarily extend to everyone.

“In Vancouver it’s all good and well because everyone has a laptop or computer at home or works in an office. But, 90 per cent (of people) out in the country like here … they’re on dial-up and stuff like that, so they don’t do it at home because it’s too slow…. They don’t want to spend $2,000-$3,000 for a computer they’re going to use once in a while.”

Dion notes that even with the fishing licensing system online, he sells just as many licences as he ever did. He adds the move to online hunting licensing can be a good thing if the government sticks to its word about the process being quick, easy and efficient.

“It should just be a (hunting) number and a birthday. That’s it,” Dion says of the information the government should require to dispense a license.

The ministry wants the new system in place by the 2015/16 hunting season. It launched the bidding process to design and upgrade the system on July 11 and the process closed Aug. 20.

In a news release, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO) Steve Thomson says the system will also help the provincial government meet important resource management objectives and ensure the health and sustainability of wildlife populations by creating a single point of reference for data collection on things like inspection and harvest information.

The BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) commends the move to go online and calls it an “important initiative.”

“The new electronic licensing system is a fundamental step forward in improving access to hunting and will help support sustainable wildlife populations by creating a reliable system to collect hunter participation and harvest information,” says BCWF president Bill Bosch.

According to the MFLNRO, hunting generates $9.2 million in licensing revenues and is responsible for an additional $500-700 million in broader economic activity, primarily in B.C.’s more rural and remote areas.