2002 Legislative Session: 3rd Session, 37th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes
The printed version remains the official version.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 8, 2002
Volume 7, Number 8
|Introductions by Members||3275|
|Introduction and First Reading of Bills||3275|
|Attorney General Statutes Amendment Act, 2002 (Bill 46)
Hon. G. Plant
Business Corporations Act (Bill 47)
Hon. G. Collins
|Statements (Standing Order 25B)||3276|
|Nurses in B.C.
Actions against Liberal MLAs
Work of emergency preparedness volunteers
|Irene Chanin's position with BCBC
Hon. S. Santori
Hon. G. Campbell
Referendum on treaty negotiations
Hon. G. Plant
School district funding
Hon. C. Clark
Sale of Vancouver Canucks hockey team
Hon. R. Thorpe
2010 Vancouver-Whistler Olympic bid
Hon. T. Nebbeling
|Second Reading of Bills||3280|
|Protected Areas Forests Compensation Act (Bill 39)
Hon. M. de Jong
Forests Statutes Amendment Act, 2002 (Bill 40)
Hon. M. de Jong
|Irene Chanin's position with BCBC||3283|
|Hon. G. Campbell|
|Second Reading of Bills||3284|
|Forest (First Nations Development) Amendment Act, 2002 (Bill 41)
Hon. M. de Jong
|Committee of the Whole House||3286|
|Deregulation Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), 2002 (Bill 35)
Hon. M. de Jong
Hon. K. Falcon
Hon. C. Hansen
Hon. R. Neufeld
|Reporting of Bills||3290|
|Deregulation Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), 2002 (Bill 35)|
|Third Reading of Bills||3290|
|Deregulation Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), 2002 (Bill 35)|
|Committee of the Whole House||3291|
|Food Safety Act (Bill 37)|
|Report and Third Reading of Bills||3291|
|Food Safety Act (Bill 37)|
|Committee of the Whole House||3291|
|Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act (Bill 27)
Hon. M. Coell
[ Page 3275 ]
WEDNESDAY, MAY 8, 2002
The House met at 2:04 p.m.
Introductions by Members
L. Mayencourt: I have some good friends in the gallery. I'd first like to introduce Josef and Gita Bakalinsky, who are visiting here from my riding, Vancouver-Burrard. Would the House please make them welcome.
Directly behind them are two gentlemen that have been very helpful to me in my campaign times, Tex Enemark and Michael Hillman. Would the House please make them feel welcome as well.
Hon. C. Clark: I'm delighted to introduce two old friends to the gallery as well: Tex Enemark, who is well known to these buildings as a former deputy minister for previous governments; and a man who served as, I think, my father's campaign manager — or it was the other way around — when they were seeking office in Burnaby, Mike Hillman. I hope everyone will make them both welcome.
B. Lekstrom: It's not often that I get to rise in the chamber to introduce guests from my constituency. It's a long way, and….
B. Lekstrom: Just about.
I have the privilege today to introduce two friends of mine from Dawson Creek who are down here visiting. I would like the House to please make welcome Mr. and Mrs. Court Wright from Dawson Creek, who have contributed greatly not just to Dawson Creek but to the northern area in its development. Please make them welcome.
S. Orr: I have the pleasure today of introducing two special people. Mr. Bob Kennedy is the regional representative for the Emergency Social Services Association, and with him is Ms. Kelly McReynolds. She is the coordinator of the disaster and international services for the coastal region. Will the House please make them welcome.
Hon. S. Hawkins: I'm pleased to introduce Anne Sutherland Boal. She's our province's first chief nurse executive. This is National Nursing Week, and Anne has been visiting nurses throughout B.C. and joins us today in the gallery.
If you recall, she was appointed last fall, and she's been very busy implementing the province's $21 million nursing strategy. Anne has been investing quite a bit of time working on the long-term provincial health human resources plan. She's met with nurses across the province — registered nurses, nurse educators, researchers, registered psych nurses, LPNs. You name it, she's met with them. She's working very hard for us. Certainly, in this time of change, as we're implementing improvements to the health care system, she is reaffirming our commitment to nurses and showing that we do value them and we are going to make sure that they can deliver quality health care as we make the necessary changes.
I want to thank Anne for her commitment to nurses, and I ask the House to join me in making her welcome.
First Reading of Bills
ATTORNEY GENERAL STATUTES
AMENDMENT ACT, 2002
Hon. G. Plant presented a message from Her Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Attorney General Statutes Amendment Act, 2002.
Hon. G. Plant: I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.
Hon. G. Plant: I'm pleased to introduce Bill 46, the Attorney General Statutes Amendment Act, 2002. This bill amends five statutes which are under the responsibility of the Ministry of Attorney General.
Last summer we introduced and passed the Lobbyists Registration Act, which contains an exemption for members of various public boards and councils. The act as passed last summer, however, did not include an exemption for employees of bodies that represent those boards and councils. The amendment to the act introduced here today adds such an exemption to ensure that employees of these representative bodies have the same level of exemption that the school boards and municipal councils already have under the act.
The amendment to the Lobbyists Registration Act also includes a correction to an oversight in the original drafting. A reference was omitted to a regulation-making power, and section 11 is amended to add that necessary reference.
The amendments to the Offence Act will streamline the hearing of motor vehicle and other violation ticket disputes. Those who dispute the fine amount or request time to pay will be able to do so in writing rather than appearing in court. When an offence is being disputed, the enforcement officer who issued the ticket may submit his or her evidence in writing rather than attending the hearing.
In addition, the amendments I am introducing will provide for a reduced fine if the defendant pleads
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guilty and pays the fine within 30 days, thereby providing an incentive for persons to pay their ticket within the prescribed time. This is estimated to reduce the number of disputes by as much as 2 percent, thereby reducing costs to the justice system.
I am introducing amendments to the Provincial Court Act which are intended to support the changes to the Offence Act and also to implement changes recommended by the 2001 Judicial Compensation Committee with respect to judges' pensions. The Sheriff Act is amended in ways that I will make clear in second reading. Finally, the Supreme Court Act is amended to remove an anomalous requirement for a Supreme Court justice to reside in the Peace River district.
I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 46 introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
BUSINESS CORPORATIONS ACT
Hon. G. Collins presented a message from His Honour the Administrator: a bill intituled Business Corporations Act.
Hon. G. Collins: I move that Bill 47 be introduced and read a first time now.
Hon. G. Collins: I am pleased to introduce the new Business Corporations Act, which will govern how companies are created, dissolved, organized and managed in British Columbia.
The new Business Corporations Act replaces the 1993 Company Act. It will enhance British Columbia's potential as an attractive jurisdiction for incorporation and assist in rebuilding a competitive business environment in the province. The new act will provide British Columbia corporations with greater flexibility in the areas of corporate governance, corporate finance and fundamental corporate changes. As well, it will reduce the regulatory burden — for example, by removing regulatory overlap with the securities legislation. The new act will also result in improved efficiency for the corporate registry and business in British Columbia by accommodating electronic filing and search capabilities.
I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 47 introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
(Standing Order 25b)
NURSES IN B.C.
S. Brice: This is Nursing Week, and as such, I wish to recognize the significant role that nurses play in caring for all of us. There are 35,000 registered nurses in B.C., 2,000 registered psychiatric nurses and 5,000 licensed practical nurses. As this is Nursing Week all across the country, I would especially like to draw attention to their contribution in maintaining the health of British Columbians.
Nurses are and will continue to be the largest group of health care providers in the province. Our government has made a commitment to addressing the challenges that nurses have identified as affecting their abilities to provide optimal patient care. The Ministries of Health Planning and of Advanced Education have implemented strategies to address these concerns. Our government has taken actions through a number of strategies to increase the number of nurses entering or returning to the profession, including increasing the number of education seats and the successful recruitment of foreign specialty nurses.
I understand that the return-to-nursing program introduced by the Minister of Health Planning has had a tremendous response from both foreign- and B.C.-educated nurses. Our government has supported continuing education through a distribution of specialty education grants to health authorities and nurse innovation grants to allow nurses the flexibility to design their solutions to the specific needs they face.
In addition to nurses who are providing direct care to patients, it's important to acknowledge nurses in leadership positions, nursing educators and nursing researchers.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the new graduates across the province that have dedicated their time and careers to nursing. They are the future of the profession, and we thank them for their commitment. I applaud the value, knowledge, compassion and strength with which all nurses fulfil their duties and recognize their contribution to the health and well-being of all British Columbians.
ACTIONS AGAINST LIBERAL MLAS
J. Nuraney: I would like to raise a matter of a very serious nature today. I feel very disconcerted, almost angry, when I hear of some of the tactics used to express contrary opinions. For example, the offices of a number of MLAs were forcibly occupied and damaged, and the Premier was recently mistreated on his flight back from Kelowna when some members of a union accosted him.
These are cruel, uncivilized tactics similar to the ones I experienced in the Congo, where I used to live under a regime that had no regard for democracy. We lived under a dark cloud of fear where anarchy pre-
[ Page 3277 ]
vailed, and we were continuously threatened. These were the very reasons why I left that country.
The recent activities remind me of those conditions, and I am ashamed of these methods. The organizations that deploy these destructive tactics could, in my opinion, use their abilities more constructively and help us to rebuild our province.
We live in a society that is civilized, where the tenets of democracy are the very essence of our being Canadians, where dialogues are employed to iron out differences and where confrontations take place around tables and not on the streets. These are values that demonstrate the markings and makings of a civilized society.
Those who are dissatisfied with the actions of the government have avenues open to them to bring forth their concerns. After all, we are all wanting what is best for British Columbians.
People spoke loud and clear in the last election and gave this government an overwhelming mandate to effect changes — changes that would correct the ills of the past. It is understood that some sections of our society may have philosophical differences. But these differences should be dealt with through a democratic process and not through unruly, unlawful and violent means.
I stand here today in the House to deplore these activities that contradict the very principles of decency and a civilized society. I pray that a better understanding may prevail.
WORK OF EMERGENCY
S. Orr: This week is Emergency Preparedness Week, and the theme is "Keeping Canada Safe: Emergency Preparedness Begins with You."
Six thousand volunteers are registered with the provincial emergency preparedness programs in emergency social services. These volunteers provide immediate help to people who are forced from their homes because of fires, flood, toxic spills or a major catastrophe such as an earthquake. These wonderful volunteers not only give of their time but are trained to provide emotional and physical support, as well as food, shelter and clothing.
On a more local level, in my area Mr. Bob Kennedy is the Emergency Social Services Association's regional representative for Vancouver Island. Bob and his team do a remarkable job, and I have firsthand experience of this.
Like all my fellow MLAs, I keep a watchful eye over my riding of Victoria-Hillside, and whenever there is a disaster that requires Bob's services I try to attend, especially when it involves my constituents losing their homes.
The most recent example for me was the fire at one of our local hotels in which 50 of my constituents lived. This blaze started in the early hours of a very cold morning and raged most of the night. At 2:30 in the morning I arrived, and as always, there was Bob with his volunteer team already fully set up and organized. They had a B.C. Transit bus, warm and waiting, to make sure that everyone had somewhere to go and sit and be warm while they gathered all the information they needed from the hotel guests and my constituents. The Salvation Army Beacon Bus was there to set up, serving hot coffee and snacks not only to the victims of the fire but also to the firefighters.
He had already organized an emergency centre for people to go to so they could find everyone alternate accommodation, and the list goes on. At the end of that long night and day, the emergency social services volunteer team took care of people. They made sure everyone was safe. That is their job, and they love doing it.
I am very glad that we have proclaimed this week Emergency Preparedness Week, and I am glad we are able to officially thank all those wonderful volunteers for their dedicated work. What I am really glad about is that they are here and that they take care of us.
IRENE CHANIN'S POSITION WITH BCBC
J. MacPhail: Yesterday we asked the Premier why a new position was created at the B.C. Buildings Corporation for his Deputy Minister of Public Affairs, Irene Chanin, and he didn't answer the question.
So today I ask the minister responsible for BCBC: what is Irene Chanin doing, and how much is she being paid?
Hon. S. Santori: As many of you are aware, BCBC is undergoing a considerable amount of transformation in the corporation. Irene Chanin has been seconded to BCBC. There has been one early retirement in the communications area as well as one on leave, and BCBC looks forward to the expertise and skills that she will bring to the corporation.
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Opposition has a supplementary question.
J. MacPhail: As of this morning there were no vacancies again in BCBC. I asked the minister to specify how much Ms. Chanin was being paid.
The Premier said he wanted to change the way government handled communications, and that's why he hired Ms. Chanin as part of that strategy. We were told in estimates that Ms. Chanin was a career public servant and would be the right person to do the job. But as we know, the Premier's communication strategy has been an embarrassing failure.
Will the minister for BCBC table today the terms and conditions of Ms. Chanin's secondment agreement to the B.C. Buildings Corporation?
Hon. S. Santori: Once again, I will repeat my response to your previous question. BCBC is looking
[ Page 3278 ]
forward to the skills that Ms. Chanin brings to the table.
If you're looking for specifics on the rate of pay, I'll take that on notice.
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Opposition has a further supplementary.
J. MacPhail: The secondment that the minister talks about was never put to any open competition. There are no new positions at BCBC. In fact, it was made up out of thin air in order to sweep a problem under the rug.
It's been well known for months that Ms. Chanin's responsibilities have been taken over by the Premier's office staff, Martyn Brown and Andy Orr, and the government is hiring an expensive ad agency to put things back on the rails. But it was only in the last few weeks that the BCBC job was found for Ms. Chanin.
Can the Premier tell the House if at any time the government paid Ms. Chanin a deputy minister's salary to sit at home?
Hon. G. Campbell: No.
J. Kwan: One of the Premier's…
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. Order, please.
J. Kwan: …signature efforts to reorganize government has been a complete failure. Rather than admit that he's made a mistake, the Premier has tried to hide the error by quietly rewarding Ms. Chanin with a cosy, well-paid job.
British Columbians have a right to know how much this failed experiment is costing. This secondment is nothing more than an expensive cover for the Premier's mistakes.
To the Premier once again: Ms. Chanin was due for a performance review at the end of June. Instead of parachuting her into a new job with a six-figure salary, why did the Premier not proceed with Ms. Chanin's review and terminate her contract if it was found that she was not up to the job?
Hon. G. Campbell: Ms. Chanin has been seconded to BCBC. When she was hired by government, she was hired on a three-year contract. She has been seconded to BCBC. As I said during estimates, we are in the midst of a major transition with regard to communications. The details of that will be available to the public in June.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant has a supplementary question.
J. Kwan: That's not the same thing, and it's also not the same thing as what the Premier said.
The right thing to do would have been for him to proceed with Ms. Chanin's review and end her contract. We all know how hard it is for the Premier to admit when he's made mistakes. I'll give him one more chance. Instead of ordering the Crown corporation…
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. Order.
J. Kwan: …to cover his tracks, would the Premier today cancel Ms. Chanin's secondment agreement and do the right thing: review her performance in the position she previously held and then decide whether or not she deserves a six-figure salary?
Hon. G. Campbell: As I said earlier, as I said yesterday and as I will say tomorrow, Ms. Chanin has been seconded to BCBC. When she was hired, she was hired by government on a three-year contract. We are in the midst of a major change in communications. The details of that communications change will be available to the public in June.
REFERENDUM ON TREATY NEGOTIATIONS
K. Johnston: My question is to the Minister Responsible for Treaty Negotiations.
The treaty referendum is an exercise in direct democracy. For the very first time all British Columbians are being given the opportunity to have a say on the principles that should guide this province's treaty negotiation process.
With a week remaining in the referendum, can the minister responsible update all British Columbians on the number of voters who have mailed in ballots?
Hon. G. Plant: Yes, I can. The information I received earlier today is that there are 670,000 returned ballots. I do want to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the member's interest in the subject to encourage all members of the House and all British Columbians to cast their vote and make sure the ballot is returned to Elections B.C. before May 15.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Vancouver-Fraserview has a supplementary question.
K. Johnston: The referendum on treaty principles has been viewed by many of my constituents as an issue that only affects rural and northern communities across British Columbia.
Can the Minister Responsible for Treaty Negotiations tell my constituents why it is very important, regardless of where they live, to vote in this referendum?
Hon. G. Plant: All communities will be affected by treaties. Rural and urban British Columbia will be affected by treaties. We all live as British Columbians, as neighbours, with and among first nations. The treaty
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process will be improved by a referendum that has given all British Columbians the opportunity to provide input to government on the principles that should guide the province's approach to treaty-making.
As we move forward through treaty-making to build a stronger, more prosperous province for all British Columbians, whether you live in a city or small town or in the country, you've got an interest in the future of the province — an interest in treaty-making and an opportunity to participate in a democratic process that will help build a stronger province for all of us.
SCHOOL DISTRICT FUNDING
R. Sultan: My question is to the Minister of Education. The government's new-era platform states that more of each education dollar is going to be devoted to the quality of education and less of it to bureaucracy. Now that the new funding formula has been announced and the school districts have received their budgets, can the Minister of Education tell us how this election promise has been fulfilled?
Hon. C. Clark: A couple of ways. First, we are always encouraging school districts to minimize their administration costs. That's one of the reasons the legislation we've introduced to the House encourages school districts to enter shared-services agreements, which we think will help them really minimize their administration costs.
Also, we have created a new funding formula that will do two other things. It will allow school districts to keep any efficiencies they're able to find in their budgets.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please.
Hon. C. Clark: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
It will also reduce the amount of reporting and paperwork they have to do by a third. That means school districts will become much more interested in what they're achieving…
Mr. Speaker: Order, please.
Hon. C. Clark: …as opposed to reporting all the time on just how they're going to get there.
Mr. Speaker: The member for West Vancouver–Capilano has a supplementary question.
R. Sultan: The media has reported expressions of outrage from certain school boards and from the teachers union over cuts in the school budgets. However, the fiscal plan from the Ministry of Education shows that education spending has actually been increased this year. Could the Minister of Education clarify this confusion?
Hon. C. Clark: We made a commitment in the election to protect the Education budget. Not only have we done that, but we have increased the Ministry of Education budget by $20 million this year. This is in the context of the largest government restructuring in British Columbia's history. We are the only jurisdiction in the country that I'm aware of that has undertaken this kind of restructuring and protected the Education budget.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please, order. Order. Will the Leader of the Opposition please come to order so that we may hear the answer.
Hon. C. Clark: We are the only jurisdiction in the country that I'm aware of that has protected the Education budget in the context of a governmentwide restructuring that is this large. That speaks very clearly to every British Columbian about how dearly we value a quality education system for every student.
SALE OF VANCOUVER
CANUCKS HOCKEY TEAM
J. Kwan: It's just a bit much to listen to the Minister of Education. Everybody else is wrong except…
Mr. Speaker: Order, please.
J. Kwan: …for this Minister of Education.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please, so that we may hear the question.
J. Kwan: On Monday the minister responsible for bailing out the Canucks said no to a subsidy. He did not say no to using lottery moneys to help the team. He did not say no to a special sports lottery, but the question remains of just what it is he's prepared to do to assist the sale of the Canucks.
To the Minister of Competition, Science and Enterprise: will the minister confirm today that no new or existing revenues from gaming will go to subsidize the sale of the Vancouver Canucks — yes or no?
Hon. R. Thorpe: Let me be clear once again for the member over there. Our government is not in the business of providing subsidies to any business in British Columbia.
But, Mr. Speaker, let me tell you what our government has done for the economy of British Columbia.
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We've cut taxes 17 times in the first ten months of being government. We've reduced personal income tax by 25 percent, so people throughout British Columbia…
Mr. Speaker: Order, please.
Hon. R. Thorpe: …have more money in their pockets to do what they want. We are committed to cutting red tape by one-third, and we're well on our way to achieving that goal.
Let me tell you, British Columbia used to be number one. They took it to number ten, and now we're rebuilding the economy of British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please.
2010 VANCOUVER-WHISTLER OLYMPIC BID
M. Hunter: I regret that my question is not for the Minister of Competition, Science and Enterprise. I have a question for the Minister of State for Community Charter and the 2010 Olympic bid.
People around our province are excited about the possibility of hosting the world for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. Order, so that we may hear the question.
M. Hunter: I know that Salt Lake City recently announced a surplus resulting from its hosting the 2002 games this past February. Can the minister responsible for the 2010 Olympic bid please tell the House what a successful bid for the games is going to mean to the people, the economy and the future of this province?
Hon. T. Nebbeling: Let me tell the member and the House that next year in Prague we will be designated as the 2010 site for the winter games, there is no doubt that the announcement….
Mr. Speaker: Order, please, hon. members, so that we may hear. The minister has the floor.
Hon. T. Nebbeling: As I said, when in Prague next year, Whistler-Vancouver will be designated as the 2010 winter games site. With that, no doubt, will be a tremendous boost to our economy. It will become a catalyst for a tremendous boost to our economy.
It will create tens of thousands of jobs and tremendous new income for the province. Some of that money, certainly, will help and assist young athletes to find new levels of competition and make them better athletes.
When we were in the last Olympics in Salt Lake City, it was overwhelming when we saw our young Canadian athletes on the winners' podium. The pride that was shared by many Canadians and many British Columbians was felt strongly.
We want to make sure that in 2010 we have more Canadian winners on the podium, and for that reason we have created a program called Legacy Now. It is a fund that will assist young athletes to compete in national and international competition. Further funds will be made available for training programs that will make our young athletes better athletes, will make them better champions, and no doubt in 2010 more champions will be on the winners podium.
[End of question period.]
J. Kwan: I have the honour to present three petitions today. The first is signed by 808 British Columbians who oppose the government's cuts to health care, Pharmacare, income assistance for single parents and social housing. The petition asks the government to live up to its election promises and reinstate funding for these programs.
Mr. Speaker: Please continue.
J. Kwan: The second petition is from End Legislated Poverty. There are 2,034 British Columbians who oppose the government's cuts to B.C.'s social safety net, including programs for seniors, refugees and single parents.
The third petition is also from End Legislated Poverty and is signed by 630 British Columbians opposing changes to income assistance. The petition argues that these changes will hurt children, single-parent families and women.
Orders of the Day
Hon. G. Collins: I call second reading of Bill 39.
Second Reading of Bills
PROTECTED AREAS FORESTS
Hon. M. de Jong: I move that the bill now be read a second time. This bill, Mr. Speaker, applies the Forest Act's existing compensation provisions to outstanding claims arising from the establishment of parks, protected areas and ecological reserves under land use
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planning initiatives, the bulk of them having occurred in the last decade.
I guess the question, as it is with most pieces of legislation, is: why is the bill necessary? In this case that is a particularly appropriate question, because during the last decade the previous administration did make a series of decisions around land use planning, around the establishment of parks and certain reserves, decisions that fall squarely within the ambit of a provincial government. There is a legislative provision…. Or maybe I should back up before I get to the Forest Act and section 60.
When governments make those decisions, they at times have impacts on the interests of others. Those land use decisions and land designations impact on people, organizations, agencies, companies that have other activities taking place, other rights in those particular areas. That doesn't mean the decisions shouldn't be made, but it means that perhaps as a society and as government we have to take account of the impact those land use decisions are having.
Happily, the Forest Act, by virtue of section 60, takes account and contemplates and anticipates those kinds of decisions being made and actually sets out a methodology or a framework by which compensation can be paid in response to those land use decisions, compensation to those parties whose interests have been affected by those land use decisions. There is a mechanism for invoking the provisions of section 60 and applying them, coming up with a calculation, embarking upon a discussion with the affected party and settling that issue of compensation.
So if that mechanism existed and those decisions were made, I guess the question that arises is: why are we here today with a piece of legislation that is going to apply back to decisions that were made starting in 1995? Well, the reason we're here and having to do that, Mr. Speaker, is that the administration that was in power, the NDP government that was in power, at that time chose not to invoke those provisions of the Forest Act.
It would be mere speculation on my part to try and explain why that is, given that the legislative provisions existed by which that compensation could be calculated, but they didn't invoke those provisions. It was not a particularly onerous or complicated manoeuvre in order to do that. They chose not to. In at least a couple of cases that has given rise to claims, and there are perhaps other claims associated with those land use decisions.
The problem is this. By virtue of the previous NDP government's unwillingness to invoke those provisions of the Forest Act, the taxpayer has been left exposed to claims that will be brought via the courts and uncertainty associated with the methodology or the formula that might be employed, absent the application of section 60, to calculate what that entitlement is for parties whose rights have been affected by those land use decisions.
It was that failure to act that has in turn put the taxpayers at risk, which we are seeking to address by virtue of this legislation today. The bill will address inequities that exist or will continue to exist or would otherwise exist in the compensation process when those harvesting rights and the improvements that licensees may have made to the land were lost through the creation of those protected areas.
I should say this as well, Mr. Speaker. I point this out because it provides me with an added degree of comfort in bringing this bill before the House. Some of this has been litigated before the courts already. Some parties have chosen to negotiate with the government. In some of those cases those negotiations have proved fruitful and compensation packages have been settled upon, but some of them have proceeded to the courts. The courts have heard argument. In a previous decision of the B.C. Supreme Court, the ruling was that section 60 of the Forest Act is the appropriate mechanism and does provide the best means for settling these compensation claims. In a sense, one can say that this act, in part, is our attempt to codify something that the courts have already offered an initial ruling on.
The bill contains three main provisions to apply the Forest Act's compensation provisions to the establishment of those protected areas. Firstly, the bill deems parks, protected areas and ecological reserves to be deleted from applicable forest tenures and timber supply areas on the date those protected areas were created. That ensures that the boundaries of those tenures and areas reflect the establishment of those protected areas.
Secondly, for area-based tenures such as tree farm licences and woodlot licences, the bill deems the deletion of land from the tenure to be, in fact, a deletion pursuant to section 60 of the Forest Act. This in turn allows the compensation provisions of that section to apply to those tenures.
Thirdly, for tenures that operate in timber supply areas, Bill 39 deems any reduction in the allowable annual cut of these tenures that resulted from the establishment of the protected area to be a reduction, again pursuant to section 60 of the Forest Act. As with the area-based tenures that I referred to a moment ago, this allows the compensation provisions of section 60 to be applied towards determining what, if any, compensation entitlement exists.
Bill 39 also contains provisions to ensure that compensation for protected areas is only paid as justified. In making that calculation, there are several things that are considered. Any compensation payable to a forest tenure holder is reduced by any financial benefit that was conferred on the holder because of the creation of the protected area. In addition, the bill ensures that compensation is not payable to tenure holders, pursuant to these statutory provisions, who have already settled a claim with government. There are several examples of that.
Lastly, Bill 39 contains provisions to ensure that compensation payable for protected areas is limited to
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the amount determined under the Forest Act regardless of any court actions that may be underway, and there are at least a couple that fall into that category. I guess the final point is that Bill 39 is brought to this House founded on the principle that the existing compensation provisions of the Forest Act are the proper vehicle to address compensation for protected areas.
This bill will ensure that forest tenure holders are fairly compensated and will bring clarity and consistency to the compensation process for the Crown, for the forest industry, for forestry tenure holders and for the taxpayers, who at the end of the day are obligated to make good on whatever those compensation settlement packages end up arriving at.
The preferred course, obviously, would have been for the previous administration to clearly invoke the provisions of section 60 that were at their disposal at the time they made these decisions through the latter part of the 1990s. They chose not to. We don't know why that is, and it is pointless now, I suppose, to speculate. They chose not to do that.
We are here today by virtue of Bill 39 to bring clarity, fairness and certainty to the process by ensuring that those existing provisions of the Forest Act, section 60, are the methodology, the formula, that is applied towards calculating and negotiating those compensation claims to the extent they may arise. Those are my comments at this stage on second reading.
Hon. M. de Jong: I move that the bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 39, Protected Areas Forests Compensation Act, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
Hon. M. de Jong: I then call second reading on Bill 40.
AMENDMENT ACT, 2002
Hon. M. de Jong: I move that Bill 40 be read a second time now.
This bill, the Forests Statutes Amendment Act, 2002, contains a number of amendments — some of them of a technical nature, some of them of a housekeeping or clerical nature and one dealing specifically with the small business program that I will make some comment upon. It's the type of bill that probably lends itself to scrutiny at committee stage, given the nature of its composition.
The amendments relating to the small business program will specifically allow timber harvested under the program to be certified. In addition to that, we'll establish a framework for the extension and surrender of small business agreements. The certification provisions of this are, I think, important.
The world has changed, and in British Columbia we are acutely aware of the need to ensure that our product — really the best product in the world harvested by the most talented foresters, harvesters and processors in the world — is viewed as emanating from a process that in every way maintains the highest possible environmental standards.
There are people in this House who are well acquainted with the strides that have been made in British Columbia in achieving and moving along the path of third-party certification. There are a number of different systems available, whether they're international, such as ISO, or CSA, FSC. A number of these processes exist, and what our licensees, processors, harvesters are understanding is that in addition to their other interest in preserving the highest possible environmental standards, there is a sound business case to be made for being able to say to our markets around the world that we have the benefit of that third-party certification.
If I can, just for a moment, talk about those provisions. The amendments in this bill will enable environmental certification standards to be included in small business licences. Certification, as I just mentioned, does involve an independent agency verifying that the agency, harvester and licensee standards for forest management have been met. Enabling forest management practices to be certified by an independent agency is clearly something that is of growing importance.
I think the question we need to focus on with respect to this bill is its benefits to small business and smaller licensees within the province. It will allow them to respond to the increased demand for certified timber and wood products. That demand may be for their own products, but the reality is that many small businesses and small licensees in British Columbia sell to major licensees. It may be, in part, that if they wish to continue supplying those major licensees, they need to be in a position to demonstrate that they are complying with the certification standards that their customer, the larger licensee, has already adopted.
I should say, as well, that this amendment is entirely consistent with and, in fact, motivated largely by the government's new-era commitment to ensure that we are not only practising sound forest and environmental management practices but that we are telling the world and ensuring that the world is aware of that fact as well.
The last thing I want to say about the certification provisions is that there is a recognition — and I think this point needs to be made — that the cost associated with independently achieving certification through some of these international agencies or even North American agencies can be prohibitive, particularly for a smaller licensee. What we are saying by virtue of this bill is that we, as the Crown, want to be in a position to add a condition to a small business licence that says: "You will conduct yourself in accordance with these
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standards." That will allow us to achieve certification for the timber that falls within the ambit of the small business program, sparing that small business person the cost associated with the administration and the paperwork that is part and parcel of receiving certification but giving them the benefit, as long as they maintain the standard. That's key. As long as they conduct their operations in a manner that is consistent with that third-party certifying agency, they will enjoy the benefits that accrue on the marketing side of the equation.
This forest statutes amendment bill also contains amendments that will set out a framework for the extension and surrender of small business licences. The amendments are designed to ensure that bidders for small business licences are aware of their options and obligations in advance, should they be successful in their bid. The amendments relating to extension will allow a small business licensee to extend the term of their licence, provided they meet specified requirements such as the prepayment of stumpage. The intent of this section of the bill is to give licensees some flexibility over the harvest schedule, while at the same time encouraging licensees to harvest timber during the term of their licence.
The amendments that relate to the surrendering of a licence will allow small business holders to more readily surrender the agreement before it expires if, again, they meet certain specified requirements, which in most cases will involve paying a portion of their security deposit to the government. The importance of this — and that is specifically in allowing an agreement holder to surrender their agreement instead of holding it and not harvesting — is to provide the ministry and the Crown with the opportunity…
Hon. M. de Jong: …quite frankly, to hear the angels. [Laughter.]
It will provide us with an opportunity to resell the timber and get it out into the marketplace to someone who can use it, wants to harvest it and therefore will be employing people and deriving collectively the benefits that are associated with that activity. It is, in short, to give others an opportunity where the original licensee decides that they are not in a position or no longer wish to proceed.
The extension and surrender amendments will not become effective until regulations are developed to support the changes. We're going to consult with forestry representatives in the development of those regulations.
The small business amendments in Bill 40 will enable small business licensees to respond to market demands and will provide the consistency, certainty and transparency for licensees and the government around the administration of the program.
IRENE CHANIN'S POSITION WITH BCBC
Mr. Speaker: The Premier seeks the floor.
Hon. G. Campbell: I just want to clarify a response I gave in question period today to a question from the member for Vancouver-Hastings. She asked if at any time the government paid Ms. Chanin a deputy minister's salary to sit at home. I answered no. I want to clarify that response.
On my return to my office, my deputy minister informed me that he did instruct her to go home and to take some time off during this period of transition, and she did that.
Hon. M. de Jong: Continuing, then, with Bill 40, these are the more technical and housekeeping amendments. One of the technical amendments reconciles the accepted practice of administering Forest Act agreement harvest levels with the provisions of the act. The Forest Act requires licensees to harvest a minimum amount of their allowable cut during a five-year cut-control period. In certain circumstances licensees are allowed to carry forward unharvested volumes of timber from one cut-control period to the next. However, we have discovered that the method by which carry-forward has been administered differs in different parts of the province. While differing means of administration were accepted by both the government and the licensees, we want to ensure that there is a standard means of doing it and consistency across the board. The amendment validates the records of the ministry in respect to carry-forward. And it provides a definitive starting point for future administration, while respecting the past understanding that existed between the ministry and licensees.
Another technical amendment contained in this bill ensures that holders of Forest Act agreements can still access Crown land after their agreements expire in cases where they need to do so in order to carry out outstanding obligations. This amendment provides certainty for agreement holders and ensures operations under these agreements are in full compliance with all regulatory requirements.
Then, in terms of a couple of the other provisions, I'll mention two of them. One of these amendments is to the Forest Practices Code to clarify the circumstances under which a licensee may be exempted from the requirement to obtain government approval of a road layout and design. A road layout and design shows the location of the road and includes drawings of culverts and bridges. Licensees are not required to submit them for approval in areas of low risk. However, they are still expected to prepare them. Unfortunately, the requirement to prepare a design was lost when the exemption provisions were moved from the regulations to the act. The amendment restores the requirement for licensees to prepare the layout and design.
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At the same time we're taking the opportunity to match the exemption criteria for woodlot licence holders more closely to the forest practice requirements that are applicable to these licensees. This will make it easier for woodlot licence holders to qualify for an exemption where, again, it is appropriate for them.
The last amendment I'll speak about is one which is a result of the creation of the new Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management. One of the functions of the new ministry is in respect of inventories. As a result, we are repealing the provisions of the Forest Act which require the chief forester to maintain an inventory of forest lands.
Those are my comments at this stage with respect to second reading.
Hon. M. de Jong: I move that the bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 40, Forests Statutes Amendment Act, 2002, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
Hon. M. de Jong: I call Bill 41.
FOREST (FIRST NATIONS DEVELOPMENT)
AMENDMENT ACT, 2002
Hon. M. de Jong: I move that the bill be read a second time now.
Let me make these general observations, Mr. Speaker. One of the commitments the new government made in the lead-up to the last election, and certainly since that election, was our desire to ensure that opportunities for first nations were fully taken advantage of — opportunities to ensure that economic development and the desire first nations have to develop their local economies to the benefit of their peoples. Where we could identify where obstacles to that occurring existed, we have committed to dismantle those obstacles and find ways around those obstacles.
For many first nations, by virtue of where they live, where their traditional territories are, perhaps one of the most obvious entries into economic development activity relates to the forest. One of the things that I have learned very quickly is that by virtue of how forest-management policy has evolved in British Columbia — not over years or even the last decade, but over generations, decades — there are a number of impediments to allowing that to happen.
We are confronted by the sad anomaly of a first nation on the west coast of Vancouver Island where they very much would enjoy and profit and benefit by being more fully integrated into the forestry economy. They are surrounded by timber but have virtually no opportunity to participate. It must be very frustrating.
I say this recognizing that there is another activity taking place called treaty negotiations. That, too, is a fundamental priority for government, for the Premier and for the minister responsible, the Attorney General. It is something that the Minister of Sustainable Resource Management is cognizant of. We're all aware of it, but we're also all aware that it has taken years since the advent of the treaty negotiation process — a decade with some progress but little tangible results.
This government and this Premier have said: "Let us turn our minds not exclusively to the process of sitting down at a table to negotiate a comprehensive treaty settlement, but let's actually turn our minds to what we can do more immediately to improve the lives of first nations." As I say, for many first nations people that means finding a way to integrate them more directly into our forest economy.
This bill actually has two main components. It has provisions that govern how a first nation can be awarded forest tenures, and it has provisions relating to the suspension or cancellation of those tenures if the first nation, for whatever reason, finds it cannot comply with the terms of the agreement which gave rise to that award of tenure.
I will also say this parenthetically. When I took this job, one of the comments I heard from first nations and others involved in the forestry economy was that there was general recognition and acceptance for the proposition I have just made: first nations have a legitimate interest and an equal desire to be involved in the forestry economy, but we haven't adapted our public policies to facilitate that in an open and transparent way.
We are confronted time and again by situations where there is at least a suspicion that when the Forests ministry offers out a timber sale licence, the offering is made in a way that people believe is deliberately designed to lead to a particular result. Of course, it's always unspoken; it's rarely explicit. It does nothing to facilitate a sense of cooperation amongst those people, first nations and other licensees, who are competing for that wood.
There is a sense that if we are genuine — and this government is — about our desire to ensure that first nations are given the opportunity to develop the capacity, which in many cases already exists, to participate in the forestry economy, then let's be open about it. Let's actually identify where those opportunities exist and say to everyone: "We're going to take advantage of that opportunity." Let's do it openly and be candid about it.
I know a lot of times governments present legislation, and we ask the people watching and other members to have some faith that this is what our intention is and this is why we're doing it. Happily, in this case we can actually point to an example. In the short life of a new government, we have done this already.
We did it with respect to a situation on the west coast where last year we passed a bill — a specific bill, admittedly, that addressed a very specific situation. With the difficulties associated with ensuring that the
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agreement-in-principle with the Sliammon could be honoured while at the same time acknowledging that honouring that agreement was going to have an impact on another licensee, finding a way to navigate through those waters proved horribly difficult. It gave rise in part to my belief that the Crown needed an additional tool if we were going to be serious about getting on with facilitating economic development on the part of first nations.
We will obviously invite first nations participation. We will invite their application. Their applications for licences and agreements will be evaluated under an open and transparent system. It will admittedly be tied to their ability to demonstrate a sound business case. That will very much be a part of this. In all cases the licence or agreement must be in support of a treaty-related or economic measures agreement between the first nation and the government. That will ensure that tenures awarded under these new provisions are directed, as well, at supporting our government's commitment as set out in the New Era document to move ahead with interim measures and to ensure greater certainty as we move ahead with the broader treaty-negotiating mandate.
Bill 41 also contains provisions which allow forest tenures to be directly awarded to parties other than first nations to deal with the effects that these parties may feel from treaties, agreements-in-principle or treaty-related or economic measures. That speaks directly to the kind of situation I just referred to that we were confronted with last year on the west coast, where in order to abide by the terms of a previously negotiated agreement-in-principle, we were confronted by the reality that a couple of small logging operators were going to have their rights impacted. We needed a means, and we need a means, to ensure that people are treated equitably. This represents a tool which will allow for the government to do that.
The second component, which I referred to briefly, does aim at ensuring that first nations honour the treaty-related or economic measures agreement, which forms the basis for this direct award of timber. The bill allows a provision to be placed in the directly awarded tenures requiring the first nation to comply with the treaty-related or economic measures agreement. What follows, of course, is that there can be a suspension or cancellation of the direct award if the first nation does not comply with that economic measures or interim measures agreement.
Those suspension and cancellation powers are vested in the minister rather than a ministry official. I hope, and I intend to say to the House, that it is a signal of the import of that particular power. I am actually confident of the rarity with which it would have to be utilized.
Bill 41 does support the government's commitment to assist first nations in expanding their entree into the business world in exploring and exploiting economic opportunities close to their home and where they live. It is about increasing economic opportunities and providing stability in first nations communities that many of us take for granted where we live.
I will offer this anecdotally. In the short time that I've had this job, I have had an opportunity to visit many first nations communities, whether the Ditidaht on the west coast of Vancouver island or elsewhere in the province. The pride that people — any people, first nations or otherwise — take in their homes, in their community when they're working is a notion that I think everyone in this House understands. It is not unique to first nations or non–first nations. It's just that the opportunities for first nations to participate more fully in the forestry economy have been much more limited. This is not going to solve that overnight, but it is, I think, a step in the right direction. It provides a tool that will help us address that problem, and it is why the bill comes to this House, obviously, with my recommendation and my request for the support of members.
M. Hunter: I rise briefly to just speak about this bill, because I have to confess that when I first saw the title and the words "first nations development," my mind was cast back ten years or more to an initiative of the federal government which went under a similar titular head. It was called the aboriginal fisheries strategy, and its purpose was to provide for economic development opportunities, amongst other things, for aboriginal people.
I was taken by the minister's statement that many of our co-citizens, aboriginal people, are surrounded by trees but provided no opportunity to benefit. I heard those words ten years ago in the world of fisheries said by federal officials, senior officials of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans from Ottawa, so I was a little bit nervous, and the minister knows I was nervous, when I first heard of this initiative.
It is with considerable relief and, in fact, gratitude that I read the bill and see that this bill sets out not the rather perverse approach of the aboriginal fisheries strategy, which took from Peter to pay Paul, which created penury in formerly very vibrant aboriginal communities in coastal British Columbia to benefit other aboriginal people. Rather than do that, this bill sets out clear objectives of using natural resources which we are entrusted to manage for the people of British Columbia, our forests, to improve the economic viability of our co-citizens who are aboriginal people in the clear context of the purpose of moving forward with treaty negotiations and supporting that very important objective.
I find, Mr. Speaker, that being the central purpose of this bill — its transparency; its attempt to be reasonable, rational, to take a sound and sober approach and leave the power to make these important allocation decisions in the hands of a minister accountable to this House and to the people of British Columbia…. I find that this bill is indeed a long, long way from where, when I first read the title, I thought it might be leading us.
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I believe that this bill, in fact, represents one more step in a number of steps this government is taking to develop the kind of clarity and certainty that the forest business needs. It sends signals outside of the forest business community that we intend to develop relationships with our aboriginal people using our natural resources in a sensible and transparent way. On that basis, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to offer my support for this bill.
G. Trumper: I would like to add my support for this bill.
I come from a riding that has a large aboriginal population. Some of it is in the semi-urban area of the Alberni Valley, but some of them live on the west coast and are isolated in many ways and have not been able to participate in the growth of economic development for themselves.
One of the things I hear all the time from my aboriginal friends is that they want to be part of the economic diversification and the prosperity that goes with it for their people. Some of them live in conditions which are not satisfactory and which I find very disturbing. They have a very high unemployment rate in their areas, and they want to have the opportunity to participate with their friends and neighbours in the areas that they live.
I have been, over the years, very involved in treaty negotiations at the local level. I have also been the community representative on some of the groups, which included aboriginal and Ministry of Forests and the forest companies, trying to come to some agreements for them to be able to do forestry in their various areas. It's been difficult for them to get agreements between the various parties. I was very privileged to be asked by the aboriginal community to be the community representative sitting at the table. Those discussions have gone on over the years. Some of the discussions have been very fruitful and successful. There have been agreements that have been worked at and agreed to in my area between some of the companies and the aboriginal nation.
I believe that Bill 41 will enable them to participate in the industry, will enable them to be part of the industry that takes place in my area and also right through British Columbia, but will also enable them to come to some agreements. I have always said that the treaty is the icing on the cake. We need far more agreements between aboriginals and other economic ventures to improve their way of life and their standard of living in their particular areas. This is part of it.
I want to commend the Minister of Forests for putting this bill forward. I think it is a great step forward for all people involved in the industry. I look forward to seeing some of those results taking place and seeing growth take place in the aboriginal communities in my area and also right through British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker: The question is second reading on Bill 41.
Hon. M. de Jong: I move the bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 41, Forest (First Nations Development) Amendment Act, 2002, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
Hon. M. de Jong: Mr. Speaker, I'm calling Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 35.
Committee of the Whole House
AMENDMENT ACT (No. 2), 2002
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 35; J. Weisbeck in the chair.
The committee met at 3:29 p.m.
Sections 1 to 21 inclusive approved.
On section 22.
J. MacPhail: Could the minister please explain the intent behind section 22?
Hon. M. de Jong: I'm joined by Mr. Grieve from the ministry.
In short, the section allows for the provision of a pilot or pilots or trial that will allow for the allocation of timber-cutting rights on the basis of area as opposed to volume. The member may have more questions about why that is deemed to be worthy for us to investigate. I'm happy to provide her with that additional information.
J. MacPhail: As I understand it, section 8 of the Forest Act currently regulates it on the basis of volume. Is that correct?
Hon. M. de Jong: That is correct.
J. MacPhail: So this implements a trial program expiring about five years down the road on regulating AACs based on area of land, as the minister has said, rather than volume. What does the trial program entail?
Hon. M. de Jong: The first thing I'd like to tell the member is that what's contemplated here is a consensual arrangement between licensees and the Crown where the licensee is actually interested in making the shift that would require some adjustments to the terms of the licence itself.
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I'm advised that there are three TFL holders at the moment who have expressed an interest. We would define, obviously through negotiations, the area, make the adjustments to the licensing documents and then proceed on the strength of the defined area as opposed to the volume. To anticipate where we might go with this exchange, the notion in part is that there will be licensees who believe they may be able, through advanced practices like intensive silviculture, to improve the return on the land. If their licence is guided purely by volume, there is less incentive, obviously, for them to make those advancements.
J. MacPhail: How will the government be monitoring progress on this trial program?
Hon. M. de Jong: Certainly, all of the other statutory provisions that govern forest practices continue to apply. The member knows, because she has commented in the past, that some of those statutes — the Forest Practices Code in particular — are under review at the moment.
I may have misunderstood the question, and the member may be speaking to how we judge the success of the program. If that is the thrust of the questioning, then I think that over the longer term it will relate, in part, to whether or not the practices employed will lead to improved harvest volumes. That's obviously something that takes some time to measure. Is that, in part, the…?
J. MacPhail: I'm just trying to figure out how the government will judge whether this should be expanded as a trial program. I'm trying to figure out the benchmarks of success. Secondly, then, on this, are there any parties interested in pursuing this?
Hon. M. de Jong: The answer to the second question is yes, there have been expressions of interest.
With respect to the first question, there are measurements as they relate to forest sustainability. That is something, as the member knows, that the chief forester verifies on a regular basis and actually makes determinations around annual allowable cuts. There is an immediate measure.
I also want the member to know that we are, at the moment, exploring the degree to which defined area management in certain geographic areas of the province might represent a more viable and more efficient means by which to manage forests. That relates to things like we've just talked about.
Annual allowable cut determinations are obviously a measurement as they relate to forest practices and performances, and there's a component of requiring coordination amongst licensees themselves who might be operating in a defined area. I don't think there's any secret about an interest in many quarters to examine this with a view to its possible broader application.
Sections 22 to 26 inclusive approved.
On section 27.
J. MacPhail: This repeals sections that provide environmental safeguards by requiring a designated environmental official to review a forest development plan that covers an area that includes a community watershed. Particularly, 41(7)(b) states that the environmental official must approve the portion of land under question if "the designated environment official is satisfied that the portion will adequately manage and conserve the forest resources of the area to which it applies."
The way this will now work, I assume, after the repeal of that section is that the district manager will be the only person to approve the forest development plans. That's how I read it. To the minister: who will ensure that the forest development plan adequately manages and conserves forest resources now that this section is being repealed?
Hon. M. de Jong: I don't quarrel with the first part of the member's analysis. In effect, the point I want to make is that all of the rules as set out under the guiding legislation continue to apply under the present regime. Two government officials sign off on the plan. Once this amendment has passed, if it does, one official will sign off on the plan.
The assessment by both ministries with responsibility under the present regime is that the duplication served no purpose and that all of the safeguards as they are set out in the regulatory regime apply and will continue to apply. Instead of getting two government signatures, the licensee or the applicant will need to get one.
J. MacPhail: The two officials that had to sign off before were a forestry official and an environment official. Let me just create a scenario for the minister, then, of why I'm curious about this. It is because it's also no secret that this government is moving toward self-regulation by resource-based companies, and I'm wondering what stutter steps are in place in a move toward self-regulation solely with the companies self-regulating.
Who is there to maintain the environmental initiatives? Who is there to uphold the environmental principles? Forestry managers are going to be incredibly busy with their own role in relationship to the industry, and now we have a situation where it's just the district forest manager signing off on a plan that will increasingly become subject to a self-regulating industry. Those are my concerns. Perhaps the minister could address them.
Hon. M. de Jong: I can, and I appreciate this is the appropriate forum for the member to put her concerns on the record. Let me try to deal with this in two stages. The advice from both ministries, compelling in the way it was presented, was that all of the regulatory safeguards continue to apply. There was no purpose served in having sign-off by two officials where they were applying precisely the same set of considerations.
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Admittedly, this is a deregulation bill, where the minister of state responsible has attempted to identify areas where that degree of duplication exists, and we've candidly dealt with it. This is an example of that. Now, the member speaks to another issue, and we're going to have ample time to discuss that in the weeks and months ahead through the discussion around the results-based Forest Practices Code discussion paper.
My hope is that we will have legislation that I know will be vigorously debated with this member, but I think and I know that we can maintain those standards. In fact, in some cases, we can heighten the standards within the ministry and, with dedicated enforcement and compliance officers, ensure that those standards are being applied.
I should say that dedicated compliance and enforcement officers, in a way, haven't existed heretofore because of the manner in which government has been structured and the ministry has been structured. We will at last, if and when we get to restructuring around a results-based code, have people who are dedicated entirely to the function of ensuring compliance and ensuring that those standards are met.
That is admittedly a discussion and a debate for us to have at another time. I think it will probably be a prolonged debate, because there are many issues and questions that people have about a pretty significant shift from a prescriptive regulatory document to one that is built around achieving certain objectives.
J. MacPhail: My concern here is that the deregulation is taking place where somehow this government identifies duplication as assuming that the district forest manager and the environmental official have absolutely common interests. That's not the case; it's not the case at all. There's a tension between those officials, and rightly so — rightly so.
Here, under the guise of duplication, the environmental official's sign-off is being removed, and it's left up to the district forest manager to sign off. I understand that the debate is down the road, but this is, under the guise of deregulation, taking a very concerted, one-sided approach to forest management.
Sections 27 to 29 inclusive approved.
On section 30.
Hon. K. Falcon: I move the amendment to section 30 standing in my name on the order paper.
Section 30 as amended approved.
Sections 31 to 35 inclusive approved.
On section 36.
J. MacPhail: Can the minister explain the necessity to repeal this part that deals with the Hospital Foundation of British Columbia?
Hon. C. Hansen: This particular provision for a B.C. Hospital Foundation was put into the act a number of years ago to take advantage of certain federal tax advantages that were in place at that time. Since the federal tax rules have changed, there is no longer a need for this particular provincewide foundation that was set up as an agent of the Crown of British Columbia, totally distinct and separate from the various hospital foundations that we have set up as societies and not-for-profit organizations throughout the province. This is simply removing the reference to this provincial Crown-owned foundation, as it is no longer required.
J. MacPhail: The minister is offering reassurance that this affects in no way any individual hospital-based foundations.
Hon. C. Hansen: Yes, that's correct.
Sections 36 to 44 inclusive approved.
On section 45.
J. MacPhail: I'm just curious as to this one. This is a bill dealing with deregulation, and this amends the Mineral Tenure Act. It repeals paragraph (p) and replaces it with (p), (q), (r), (s), (t), (u) and (v). Just help me here with how this is deregulation.
Hon. R. Neufeld: Actually, I agree. I asked some of the same questions, but it got placed in this bill. It's there. It actually facilitates the ministry to improve the ability to manage mineral titles by introducing more regulatory-making powers. It makes the ability to make more regulations.
J. MacPhail: Maybe the Minister of State for Deregulation could answer this question. Tell me how this particular section contributes to the tally. How many get added to the plus side, and how many get taken away?
My question to the Minister of State for Deregulation is: removing one section and adding seven — just help me with where the tally stands after we pass this amendment.
Hon. K. Falcon: Just to clarify. This is actually an enabling section. This would enable the regulations to be brought forward, which would then, of course, be included in the tally.
J. MacPhail: Yup, it enables prescribing, specifying, specifying, respecting, requiring, prescribing and then
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any other matter if we haven't covered it in those first ones.
We've got a tally going here. I think there's a big board somewhere. I think there's a two-for-one principle that applies to the board. Just help me.
Hon. K. Falcon: I think the key for the member to understand is that this says they may prescribe. Until they actually do prescribe, we wouldn't include it in the tally. That's a very important distinction. We want to make sure that there's accuracy in the tally. You need to understand the distinction between enabling and actually prescribing.
J. MacPhail: Well, then back to the Minister of Energy and Mines: did the Ministry of Energy and Mines ask for this? If so, what's the intent of use?
Hon. R. Neufeld: Yes, we asked for them.
J. MacPhail: I guess we'll be expecting the Ministry of Energy and Mines to use it pretty soon. There are seven different ways in which he can do his business. Let me count the ways: seven. Does the Minister of Energy and Mines have to get rid of seven, 21 or 14 different regulations?
Hon. R. Neufeld: Maybe I can help shed some light on this. Actually, the regulations are in place. The regulations were there under the last administration, but they were not legally enforceable without these changes.
What we have done is make the regulations that were in place under the previous administration now legal through the addition of these.
I appreciate that it's not removing a whole bunch of statutes, sections or whatever. But that's basically what it does. I think that's pretty straightforward. I appreciate that it's adding some. I guess I'm going to have to figure out a way to take away some more, and you and I can have another debate about that at another time.
J. MacPhail: I appreciate the rescue by the Minister of Energy and Mines. As always, he's forthright. I was just curious as to a tally. I appreciate his explanation.
Here's why I'm just curious. We've been here Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I think the majority of questions at committee have been asked by two people in this chamber. We try to limit our questions in this chamber. We were looking for deregulation in the bill, as opposed to re-regulation. That was only my curiosity, through to the Minister of State for Deregulation. I sure hope I'm not letting other things slip through that perhaps are re-regulation under this bill.
Section 45 approved.
On section 46.
J. MacPhail: Could the minister explain the intent of this section, please?
Hon. R. Neufeld: This is a deregulation much similar to what the Forests minister explained before. Responsibilities are transferred from the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection to the Ministry of Energy and Mines. Rather than having two approving officers, you now have one approving officer with one statute that covers what happens on the mining site. It's an ability just to have the responsibility with one person, but with the same responsibilities that would have been under the act with the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection.
J. MacPhail: I'm wondering: did the Minister of Energy and Mines consult with the Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection on this change?
Hon. R. Neufeld: Yes.
J. MacPhail: I'm curious to know what the Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection said, because here's what this section does. We're repealing the requirement under the Mines Act for the owner or manager to submit a site profile if they're applying for a permit or if they're applying for revisions to conditions of their existing permit. According to the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection website — pretty current, actually — site profiles are forms that require information about the past and present uses of a site, as well as basic land descriptions. They require readily available information and should not require the assistance of a consultant to complete.
The Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection goes on to say, specifically in relation to the mining industry: "Site profiles are an important new mechanism for the province to screen potentially contaminated sites." Given that fairly enthusiastic support by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, what was the reply when the Minister of Energy and Mines consulted with her?
Hon. R. Neufeld: Actually, again, I'm going to say that the specific amendment — I'm going to read this to her — to the Mines Act eliminates the need to submit a site profile under the Waste Management Act when mining operation has already been permitted under the Mines Act.
J. MacPhail: Yes, I'm well aware of that, but what we're trying to figure out — and there are many thousands of people in this province trying to figure out — is what the commitment is to sustainability in this province and to land use in a sustainable way.
What this amendment does is say the Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection, who was until this amendment an enthusiastic supporter of these site profiles and goes as far as to say: "Don't worry, companies; you don't need a consultant; don't do a lot of money…." They've done everything possible to make it as company-friendly and business-friendly as possible. That's gone now. The overview, the protective watchdog nature, of the Ministry of Water, Land and Air
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Protection is gone. It's up to the mine owners themselves to tell us all of these issues.
Perhaps let me ask this: is this a further step toward industry self-regulation?
Hon. R. Neufeld: The Mines Act has similar if not almost identical requirements on minesites. That's all we're doing. I know it's a hard concept, but we're trying to move away from having hundreds of people run around the province when we can do it more efficiently with less and still retain the high environmental standards that we have in our mining industry in the province of British Columbia and have had for a long time.
I'm sure the member would agree with me that the mining industry is very environmentally conscious about what goes on, on the land base. They're very careful about what goes on and have been recognized for that many times over. This is in no way to treat the environment any differently than we have before. It's a simple streamlining.
J. MacPhail: Well, perhaps we're repealing the section under the Mines Act that requires this. Were there two sections in the Mines Act that were exactly the same? Perhaps the minister could point to the section and read out of the Mines Act the section that now does exactly the same thing.
Hon. R. Neufeld: Section 10(1), and I'll read it:
J. MacPhail: It's the minister's view that that replaces what now is required as a site profile under this section?
Hon. R. Neufeld: Yes.
J. MacPhail: Thank you for that.
My final question is: where is the requirement that the chief inspector must not approve an application until that is done — all that is taken into account? That's what this section says.
Hon. R. Neufeld: Again, in section 10(1) it says: "Before commencement of any work…a permit must be obtained."
Sections 46 to 55 inclusive approved.
On section 56.
Hon. K. Falcon: I move the amendment standing in my name on the order paper to add 56.1 to the bill:
Section 56 as amended approved.
Section 56.1 approved.
Sections 57 to 68 inclusive approved.
On section 69.
J. MacPhail: This section dissolves the B.C. Health Research Foundation. Could the minister explain the recent history of the B.C. Health Research Foundation?
Hon. C. Hansen: This, like the Hospital Foundation that we were describing earlier, was set up as an agency of the Crown specifically to take advantage of the federal tax rules that were in place at the time. Those particular tax provisions no longer exist, so there's not the advantage there that there was prior. Now, with the establishment of the Michael Smith Foundation, the functions that were undertaken by the Health Research Foundation have been moved over to the new Michael Smith Foundation.
Sections 69 to 75 inclusive approved.
Hon. K. Falcon: I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete with amendments.
The committee rose at 4:07 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Reporting of Bills
Bill 35, Deregulation Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), 2002, reported complete with amendments.
Third Reading of Bills
Mr. Speaker: When shall the bill be considered as reported?
Hon. K. Falcon: With leave of the House, now, hon. Speaker.
Bill 35, Deregulation Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), 2002, read a third time and passed.
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Hon. G. Bruce: I call committee on Bill 37.
Committee of the Whole House
FOOD SAFETY ACT
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 37; J. Weisbeck in the chair.
The committee met at 4:10 p.m.
Sections 1 to 32 inclusive approved.
Hon. C. Hansen: I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 4:10 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Third Reading of Bills
Bill 37, Food Safety Act, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. G. Bruce: Can I ask for a short recess? We're just getting the troops down here, and I will be calling Bill 27.
Mr. Speaker: We will just take a five-minute recess.
The House recessed from 4:12 p.m. to 4:13 p.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Hon. G. Bruce: I call committee on Bill 27.
Committee of the Whole House
EMPLOYMENT AND ASSISTANCE
FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ACT
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 27; J. Weisbeck in the chair.
The committee met at 4:15 p.m.
On section 1.
Hon. M. Coell: Hon. Chair, I move the amendment to section 1 standing in my name on the orders of the day:[SECTION 1, in the proposed definition of "dependent child" by deleting "a child who" and substituting "a child, other than a child who is 18 years of age and is a person with disabilities, who".]
On the amendment.
J. Kwan: The amendment makes reference to the definition of a dependent child. It looks to me like the major change here relates to the age of a person, changing it from 19 back to 18 to qualify. Is that correct?
Hon. M. Coell: Yes, that is correct.
J. Kwan: Could the minister please advise: is the change of the age from 19 back to 18 a result of the community advocating for that change?
Hon. M. Coell: Yes, that's correct. The community pointed out that there was a potential gap in service between 19 and 18, so we've changed it to 18.
J. Kwan: I understand that in the act there are two definitions, one that relates to a dependent child and then another one that relates to dependent youth. Could the minister please explain the differences between these two definitions?
Hon. M. Coell: A dependent youth is a person who is 16 to 18 years old, and a dependent child is under 16.
J. Kwan: I'm sorry. The minister says the dependent child is someone who is under 16, but yet the act actually says a dependent child is someone who is 18 years of age and is a person with a disability. There's a discrepancy with respect to what the minister just advised the House.
Hon. M. Coell: Dependent youth is a subset from 16 to 18, and dependent child is 18 and under.
J. Kwan: From a qualification point of view, how does that differ? Is there any difference?
Hon. M. Coell: These are children in a family where the family is on income assistance, so you have…. Children under 16 are required to be in school, so they would be covered by the School Act. The subset, 16 to 18, would be children that we would want to work with to have an employment plan and to work with, with the employment programs.
J. Kwan: Is the minister saying that a dependent youth means an individual who has reached the age of 16 and that when a youth has reached the age of 16, they're expected to engage in an employment plan with the ministry if they're not in school or even if they are in school?
Hon. M. Coell: If for some reason they're not in school, then they would be required to have an employment plan. Now, that employment plan might well say that you are involved in a school program other than school. It could be a training program. They
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would either be part of training programs or be returning to school at that age.
J. Kwan: A dependent child, according to the definition of the act with the amendment, is anyone who is age 18 and under. A dependent youth is anybody who is 16 and over. There is a two-year period in which there's an overlap — you're both a dependent youth and a dependent child.
Hon. M. Coell: The dependent youth is a subset of the zero-to-18 dependent child. The reason for that is so that someone who had reached the age of 16 would be covered under the School Act and be required to attend school. From 16 to 18 that would allow for an employment plan to assist a 16-, 17- or 18-year-old in developing some plans for their future.
J. Kwan: If an individual is, let's say, 19 or 20 and the individual is still in the home with the family, is that person then still classified as a dependent youth?
Hon. M. Coell: At age 19 they would have the right to apply for income assistance on their own and wouldn't necessarily be part of a family.
J. Kwan: Yes, but if they don't apply on their own, if they're not living independently, are they still qualified as a family unit for income assistance? Or would that person be required to go and work, under the employment plan definition?
Hon. M. Coell: There's no change from the legislation now. When someone reaches 19 on B.C. Benefits, they would apply on their own. It's the same in the new act.
J. Kwan: I'm sorry; I don't think the minister understood my question. I know of cases where people have not applied on their own. They stayed with the family unit when they reached the age of 19. In that instance, I'm asking the minister: would that person be classified under the definition of a dependent youth and would therefore still be classified as a family unit for the purposes of collecting income assistance?
Hon. M. Coell: I think the only area where that might happen is if someone was 19 and attending school. They would let you continue to finish the school year even if you had turned 19, but at the end of your school year you would be able to and have the right to apply as an individual. The person is now considered an adult.
J. Kwan: Just for the purposes of discussion, let's just use the age of 20. If the person is 20 years old and is still attending school, then that person is eligible to receive income assistance with the family unit under the definition of dependent youth. Am I correct in assuming that? Let's just start with it piece by piece.
Hon. M. Coell: No. In B.C. Benefits legislation that isn't the case, and it wouldn't be the case in this legislation as well.
J. Kwan: I know of a case where a person was older than 19 and needed to collect income assistance, and an individual was behind in their schooling — fair enough. Because the individual was an immigrant and there was much catching up to do, she was behind by several grades. By the time she was 20, she was only in grade 11. The ministry did try to cut her off and told her to go get a job at McDonald's. The matter was appealed, and the case was won. She was allowed to stay with the family unit, so she was not cut off income assistance as a family unit. Is the minister now saying that under this act, that is no longer the case — that the person would indeed be cut off, and she would not be qualified as a dependent youth for the family unit?
Hon. M. Coell: I'm not familiar with that case, but there is no change from B.C. Benefits to this act.
J. Kwan: I'm not asking the minister to be familiar with that case. I'm illustrating, simply by bringing that case forward, to get clarity in terms of the definitions of the eligibility that would apply under this act, what is deemed to be a dependent youth and what is deemed to be a dependent child. In that instance that person was qualified to continue to receive income assistance. If there's no change, then one would assume that if a case like that surfaces today, that individual would be qualified to receive income assistance with the family unit. Is the minister saying that that is not the case? I personally know of a case as such.
Hon. M. Coell: As I say, I'm not aware of that case. There has been no change between the BC Benefits Act and this act for eligibility.
J. Kwan: I just want the minister to advise me. In that scenario, if there's no change and because I know of a case where someone is qualified and is deemed to be able to receive income assistance with the family unit…. Can the minister then advise me: should a person like that come forward today and need to receive income assistance with the family unit, would that person be qualified, and what category would this person fit — under what definition?
Hon. M. Coell: Clarification. Under the current legislation and under the legislation that's in committee stage, a person could still live with the family, but they would have income assistance as an individual. They wouldn't necessarily be part of the family package of income assistance, but they could still live with the family and collect income assistance over the age of 19.
J. Kwan: Is the minister then saying that that individual would be eligible for income assistance in the full amount? Or what portion of the income assistance
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would this individual be qualified to receive? Is it the shelter and the support portion?
Hon. M. Coell: It would depend on the circumstances, and I don't have enough information to be able to tell you exactly what level of income assistance that individual would be entitled to while living with a family unit.
J. Kwan: What kind of special circumstances would the minister consider? Under the current act before any changes, if an individual is qualified for income assistance and is living with a family unit…. As I mentioned, I know of a case where a person is over the age of 19 and is qualified for income assistance as a family unit, so the rate which the individual is getting within the family unit is how many people there are, and then they get the rate accordingly.
The minister is saying that perhaps varies in different circumstances. Under what circumstances would it prompt a different rate for this individual? I'm unclear. Maybe the minister could advise under what definition a person would be qualified and then qualified for what.
Hon. M. Coell: I really don't have enough information on this case, but the guidelines are the same in B.C. Benefits as they are in this act.
J. Kwan: Then let me ask this question of the minister. It's unclear to me in the definitions of this act, and perhaps it's because the regulations are not ready. The minister does not have the regulations with him, so he's unclear as to who is qualified for what under what definition. Let me ask the minister this question.
The minister has said that if you're 19 and over and you're still living with a family unit, then you're qualified to receive income assistance on your own. Let's just say there's an individual who is 20 years old and still living with a family unit. The family unit is not qualified for income assistance. Is this individual then qualified for income assistance on his or her own?
Hon. M. Coell: I'll do the best I can for the member. If they're 20 years old and living with a family unit that isn't on income assistance, as I heard the member say, if they meet the income and asset test personally, they can apply and receive income assistance.
J. Kwan: Then, in that instance, would the person be eligible to receive income assistance both for the shelter portion and for the support portion?
Hon. M. Coell: A single employable would receive the $185 support and then up to $325 shelter, based on actual costs, if they were paying rent to their parents and had a cheque or a receipt. That's no different than it would be today.
J. Kwan: If the family unit is qualified for income assistance and you have an individual who is 20 years or older who is also qualified for income assistance, then would that be deemed to be two separate family units that are eligible for income assistance?
Hon. M. Coell: Yes, that's correct.
J. Kwan: They would be processed separately as two separate family units. That is to say, both family units would be entitled to the shelter portion as well as the support portion separately.
Hon. M. Coell: It's the same as in B.C. Benefits. The shelter costs would be shared pro rata, depending on the size of the family as well.
J. Kwan: Alternatively, the family unit could pool their resources. Let's just assume for the purposes of discussion that each family unit is entitled to $325 for their shelter portion. If their rent is $650, they could rent a place for $650 and each pay $325?
Hon. M. Coell: Yes, that's correct.
J. Kwan: The minister advised that the changing of the definition of a dependent child from 19 to 18 — the amendment we're debating right now — was a result of advocacy groups lobbying for the government to make that change. Could the minister please advise who he consulted with that yielded the change?
Hon. M. Coell: The main groups were the Canadian Mental Health Association, the B.C. Association for Community Living and the B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities.
J. Kwan: Under the dependent child definition, if a person who has a child with a disability…. When that child turns three, is it expected that the parent or parents look for work?
Hon. M. Coell: Just to clarify. That question would probably be under Bill 26. The answer is that the person would not be required to seek work. They would be exempt.
J. Kwan: I could be incorrect, and I would appreciate clarification from the minister. I believe this fits under Bill 27, unless the minister is advising me that if a family unit — let's assume it's a single parent — has a child under the age of 18 who has a disability and the family unit is in need of income assistance, the family unit goes to apply, that family unit, I would assume, because the child has a disability and is under the age of 18, would qualify for income assistance under this act. Or is the minister advising that is not the case, and that family unit would only be eligible for income assistance under Bill 26?
Hon. M. Coell: Again, there's no change between the BC Benefits Acts and the act in committee stage.
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The parent is not a person with a disability in both acts. It's because the dependent is under 18 that Bill 26 would be the bill that the person would apply under.
J. Kwan: The minister keeps on saying that there's no change between this bill and Bill 26. I just want to point out there are substantive changes between this bill and the former BC Benefits Act. The BC Benefits Act did not threaten to cut people off income assistance after they've been on income assistance for two years. It did not cut people's rates for different family units in terms of different sizes and so on. There's substantive difference in that. I would appreciate it if the minister didn't portray it as though these changes are essentially the same, because they're not. There is substantive difference here relative to the application of assistance to British Columbians.
The minister is saying that for people who have a child with a disability, if the parent does not have a disability, they would not be able to get income assistance under Bill 27. The child who has a disability would not be able to get assistance under the definition of "dependent child."
Hon. M. Coell: Yes, the same as it is currently.
J. Kwan: Then what is the purpose of the "dependent child" definition? The adult who doesn't have a disability but has a child who has a disability under the definition of "dependent child" in this act is not qualified to receive the disability rate. So what's the purpose of having a dependent child with a disability in the definition of Bill 27?
Hon. M. Coell: Maybe just a clarification on the amendment. The amendment works, actually, the opposite way that the member is looking at. We're moving from 19, and the amendment is 18. So a person can apply on their own, if they have a disability, at 18 rather than 19.
J. Kwan: If a person is able to apply for income assistance under Bill 27 — when that person is independent of age, that is to say — then the only criterion that would be required is an age limitation — but not to say that is an age limitation, as well, in a person with disabilities. One would assume that when you're eligible to apply under Bill 27 for disabilities on your own, you're a person with disabilities already. There's got to be a reason why there's a definition for "dependent child" and for defining the age of what is deemed to be a child and then also to say that you must be a person with disabilities. This whole act, for anybody who's qualified, already applies to a person who has disabilities.
Hon. M. Coell: Clarification: the dependent child is 18 in this act and 18 in BC Benefits. It allows them to apply on their own and, if approved, to have the benefits that they're eligible for. The amendment is moving that to 18 so that there isn't a service gap between 18 and 19.
J. Kwan: That's not what I'm asking. I understand the age change, and I agree with the age change. That was part of the lobbying of the broader community, which I support — for them to reduce the age to 18 from 19, which it formerly was.
The question I have for the minister is this. This definition of a dependent child doesn't just address the issue around the age. It also stipulates that that child is a person who is 18 years of age and has a disability or disabilities. I'm asking why the minister has that phrase in this definition if it makes no difference to the rate at which the family is entitled to support.
One would have assumed that if you were an individual, an adult, who is caring for a child who under this definition is someone who is 18 years or younger and has a disability, it would entitle that family to a different rate of qualification. That's why I would have assumed that in the phrase which says it's a person, that "and is a person with disabilities" is included in it. If that serves no purpose whatsoever because the evaluation for eligibility is based on the adult, and if the adult doesn't have a disability, then that person doesn't even fall under the application for income assistance under 27. That person has to go to 26.
The fact that this act says a dependent child is a person "who is 18 years of age and is a person with disabilities" leads one to think there is a special reason why it is written in such a way — that it is identified as a person with disabilities. One would assume, then, that a child who is 18 years of age or under and with a disability would entitle that family unit to qualify under Bill 27, but the minister is saying that is not the case. I am confused as to why and what the purpose of this is.
The minister had also said that once the person reaches the age of 18, that person is entitled to receive benefits on his or her own. If it is a person with disabilities, then that person would be applying under Bill 27 on their own. If they can identify the disabilities, they then qualify for the disabilities rate. There is no need, then, for the highlighting of the phrase that says "and is a person with disabilities."
I'm not understanding why that phrase is there. What purpose does it serve? Maybe the regulations will tell us something. We don't have a copy of them, so I'd like the minister to please explain that.
Hon. M. Coell: I'll try and explain. If they're 18 and have a disability, they can apply on their own under Bill 27. If they're 18 and don't have a disability, they would still be a dependent child.
J. Kwan: I know that. If they're 18 with a disability, they apply for it on their own, as though they were an individual. They're not defined as a dependent child. But if you were 18 without a disability, you're still a dependent child, and if your parent has a disability,
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you're still a dependent child. But if your parent was not a person with a disability, then you apply under 26. So what difference does it make if you are a dependent child, under Bill 27, if you have a disability or not? It makes no difference whatsoever. Am I right?
Hon. M. Coell: I'm having difficulty understanding the question, and I apologize for that. Could you repeat it for me, please?
J. Kwan: Let me just go through the scenario again for the minister.
We're talking about Bill 27. Under Bill 27 there's an amendment that the minister has tabled. The definition for a dependent child is "a child, other than a child who is 18 years of age and is a person with disabilities." It goes on to describe the associated clause with that. The main piece here is that this child is 18 years of age and is a person with disabilities.
Now, if you have a situation where an adult has legal guardianship or custody or is the parent of the child and has a disability, then that adult is able to apply for income assistance under Bill 27 and is entitled to receive the higher rate, the continuous definition for disability — for two people. So, it's just the adult and the child, 18 years of age. Irrespective of whether that child has a disability or not, the rate is the same that this family is entitled to receive under the act. If the adult is a person who does not have a disability, irrespective of whether that child is 18 years of age or has disability or otherwise, that family unit is only entitled to receive income assistance under Bill 26.
That's what the minister told me: under Bill 26. Maybe I'm wrong on this. I'm just going to pause here for a moment and let the minister respond to see whether I'm right so far.
Hon. M. Coell: The question was: if someone has a child with disabilities and they're on income assistance through Bill 26, what happens when that child with disabilities hits 18? The child would then apply under Bill 27. So the parent may still be receiving income assistance under Bill 26; the child at 18 would be receiving income assistance under Bill 27.
J. Kwan: That's not my question at all. Here's my question. In this act the minister has brought forward an amendment to define a dependent child. In that definition there are two pieces associated with it. One is an age requirement — 18 years of age or younger. That qualifies the person to be a dependent child, and that child is also a person with disabilities. So there are two aspects to a dependent child under Bill 27.
If you were a family unit…. Let's just assume for a moment that this is a single-parenting family unit with two people, the child and the adult. If the adult is a person without disabilities, then that person, even if the child has a disability per the dependent child definition under this act, that family unit is only able to apply for income assistance under Bill 26. That's what the minister told me.
If that adult is a person who has disabilities and is also with a child with a disability or a child without disabilities, that family unit is entitled to receive income assistance under Bill 27 — the continuous category. So my question to the minister is this: what is the purpose of highlighting the dependent child on two aspects — not only the age aspect but, more particularly, on the aspect of the person with a disability? What purpose does that serve?
The fact that it is here — it's not and/or; it says that a dependent child is a person who is 18 years of age and is a person with a disability — leads me to think there is a reason why that phrase about a person with disabilities is there. What is the intent behind that phrase?
One would assume that it allows for the family to receive continuous assistance for the family unit. Maybe the minister can clarify that. I don't understand. If this serves no purpose at all, why is it here? The fact that it is here with a distinction under the amendment, then it has to serve a purpose of something. What is that purpose?
Hon. M. Coell: Let me just try this for clarification. The term "dependent child" with respect to a parent means a child, and then we have other than a child — the key word is "other" — who is 18 years of age and is a person with disabilities. It goes on to say "who resides in the parent's place of residence for more than 50 percent of the time of each month."
J. Kwan: So the minister is saying it serves no purpose whatsoever. It serves no purpose whatsoever, then, if you're a child who is 18 years of age and with a disability. In any event, if you're an adult who has qualified for income assistance and you don't have a disability, even though your child has a disability, you have to apply under Bill 26. So it serves no purpose at all.
Hon. M. Coell: I'll try this for clarification. The intent is that if a child with disabilities reaches 18, they can now apply for Bill 27 and receive a higher rate of assistance.
J. Kwan: When a person with a disability becomes an adult and is qualified to receive income assistance, they apply on their own. That person is not a dependent child anymore; that person is an individual on their own. One already knows that, without the definition of a dependent child. You already know that is the case, so the person is able to apply on their own as long as they are able to establish that they have a disability. That applies to everyone.
It still eludes me why there's a distinction in the act where the minister identifies that a dependent child is a child who is 18 years of age and is a person with disabilities. Maybe there's a rate difference, but it appears
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that there isn't a rate difference. That's what the minister is advising — that there is no rate difference.
Maybe the minister can advise me, then: if you were an adult without disabilities who has a child under the age of 18 with a disability, what is the rate for that family unit under this act? Maybe the minister can advise me of that.
Hon. M. Coell: It would be the basic income assistance rate.
J. Kwan: Well, then, it strikes me that there is no purpose in the phrase that says "a person with disabilities." It just seems to me that if you're a person who is 18 or above, you are determined to be an adult and are able to apply on your own for income assistance for a person with disabilities. Then you're not a dependent child, so it doesn't make any sense to me.
I appreciate the fact that the age limitation has changed from 19 to 18, because that is the right thing to do. It's something that both my colleague and I have been lobbying the minister to do — to reverse the age from 19 to 18. I'm glad that the minister is listening to the community on this issue. I hope that as we go through the course of the bill, there will be other changes within it that would demonstrate that the minister had actually listened to the advocate community in British Columbia.
On section 1 as amended.
[H. Long in the chair.]
J. Kwan: In the definition section there are two pieces that I would like to get clarification on from the minister. They relate to the family unit or the spouse part of the definition for the purposes of qualification and eligibility.
Oftentimes people face the challenge where there are two individuals formerly together as a couple but who have split up, and for the purpose of reducing living expenses the two individuals may choose to live under the same roof but as separate family units, if you will — two separate individuals. People often face difficulties in trying to qualify for income assistance as two separate individuals because they were formerly partners.
In the definitions of "family unit" or "spouse," could the minister please advise what is required for individuals to show they're separate units? When these two individuals might have once been together as a couple but are now separate, what is the onus of proof required from the ministry for them to show that to the ministry — even if they share accommodations?
Hon. M. Coell: I think the simple answer is that they need to show they're not sharing income or assets. That, I suspect, would be simple enough to do.
J. Kwan: If both of their incomes come from the ministry, provided the ministry approves and recognizes that they are separate entities, then they're able to establish that. That's sort of like putting the cart before the horse. If you're applying so that you can show that your incomes are separate, because you have no other source of income, it's very difficult for people to do that.
On the question around assets, in terms of sharing assets, in most instances people who are applying for income assistance, as the minister knows, have very few assets. The few assets they might share as they're living in the same house or the same apartment or the same unit might be a couch or a TV, but they're not sharing anything else. Is that enough for the minister in terms of the onus of proof?
Hon. M. Coell: There are many instances now, and there will be in the future, where people do share accommodation. The factors — just a few, and there would be more. I could elaborate on more of them, but separate bank accounts would be one. It's not a marriage-like relationship. They're not a couple. I know of cases where they're roommates. Whatever their relationship was prior to that, they would be judged on what the relationship is today.
J. Kwan: So then, as an example, a separate bank account would suffice as the onus of proof to show they're not a couple.
I suppose the question around whether or not they're living like a couple centres around whether or not they sleep in the same bed, as an example. Often that information is the word of the individuals who are applying. It's very difficult for people to prove that. I don't know how people go about proving that.
Sometimes even in roommate situations — and I know of roommates who do this for the purposes of economizing, as an example — they share a grocery bill. They buy bulk foods together, and then they share the food, not because they're living together as a couple but because they're living as roommates and they're just trying to share and reduce expenses. In that instance, some of those expenses are even shared.
Again, they're not necessarily in a couple relationship. I just want to be clear. From the minister: how does one go about proving this? I know of people often having a lot of difficulties on the question around onus of proof. Particularly, they would need the assistance of an advocate to go and justify their case. Given that legal aid is now no longer going to be doing poverty law, advocacy and the support of advocates is going to be severely diminished in the broader community.
I want to be clear for people, so they understand what the onus of proof is. More particularly, I want the social workers to understand that distinction, so I'd like the minister to put that on record to make it as easy for people to qualify as two individuals sharing accommodations as for two separate units, even though formerly they were a couple.
[ Page 3297 ]
Hon. M. Coell: This is actually in the B.C. Benefits regulations now, and we're putting it into the legislation for clarity. There won't be a change in procedures.
J. Kwan: Am I right, then, in understanding from the minister that a separate bank account would be sufficient proof that these two individuals, who might once have been a couple, no longer are? Is that sufficient?
Again, I want to go back to this. The minister keeps on saying that there isn't any change, or sufficient change, from the BC Benefits Act. The fact of the matter is that Bills 26 and 27 revamp the entire approach to income assistance. People are going to apply it with a different point of view and a different approach. I want to be very clear so that people's rights are not diminished as a result.
This is a big question that I know surfaces all the time, even under the BC Benefits Act, no doubt. Now with this change, with Bills 26 and 27, I worry that it is going to be even more difficult for people to qualify for income assistance and the rights they would be entitled to under these bills.
Hon. M. Coell: Briefly, as I said, I don't believe there will be a change. A separate bank account is one of the factors that the ministry looks at now if it's not a marriage-like relationship — they're not a couple. We look at parenting considerations. The financial aid workers would look at all those considerations. I don't believe their rights would be diminished by this exam at all.
J. Kwan: Again, in the list that the minister read out, the solid piece, if you will, that one could identify and show and bring to the worker to identify that they're not a couple would be the bank account issue, but not some of the other pieces. It's the word of the individual. I would assume, then, that the word of the individual is sufficient for the workers to process these applications.
Can I ask the minister this question? Oftentimes for people, when they share accommodations as roommates, they get one rent receipt. Oftentimes people just get one rent receipt and not two. If they don't have two rent receipts, would that be a barrier for people to qualify for income assistance separately, even though they were formerly a couple?
Hon. M. Coell: No, it wouldn't.
J. Kwan: I'll ask the minister the questions around the employment plan. Could the minister please advise what kind of employment plan people with disabilities would be expected to produce?
Hon. M. Coell: With regard to employment plans, I would think people with a disability designation and on continuous assistance…. There would be few people who would have employment plans, and they would be tailored to their needs and worked in conjunction with the strategy for employment for people with disabilities as well.
J. Kwan: Is the minister saying that not every person who is entitled to receive income assistance under Bill 27 is required to produce an employment plan?
Hon. M. Coell: Yes, it's discretionary and designed for those people who are able to work, even if they're only able to work part-time or on a cyclical nature.
J. Kwan: Could the minister please advise how many letters he sent out advising people on disabilities that there are changes coming and that they're expected to look for work?
Hon. M. Coell: We haven't sent any seek-work letters to people with disabilities at this point.
J. Kwan: Well, I know of people who have received letters from the minister advising them that they have to go out and look for work, which is why there is so much anxiety in the broader community. The minister is saying he didn't send one letter out? Maybe it's not under the minister's signature; maybe it's under a ministry staff signature.
Hon. M. Coell: To our recollection, we haven't sent letters to people with disability designation, and I don't believe staff have either.
J. Kwan: Well, to my recollection, I know of people who have received letters from the ministry, but I'll take the minister's word for it. He's saying that he didn't. Well, then how will one be able to distinguish who is required to do an employment plan and who is not required to do an employment plan?
Hon. M. Coell: There would be an assessment and a follow-up done, if an employment plan was applicable. The majority of people now on disability 2, for example, will just roll over into the new continuous category. There are people on disability 2 who have said that if there were employment programs, they'd like to be involved. The employment strategy will involve those people.
J. Kwan: Is it acknowledged by the ministry, then, that people with disabilities would like to work, but because of their disabilities they're unable to for whatever reason? Is that premise accepted and acknowledged by the minister?
Hon. M. Coell: Yes, that's correct. There are many people with disabilities who are unable to work and a number who are and have tremendous barriers put in front of them. One of the things that we're trying to do with the strategy is level the playing field for those people with disabilities who want to work but because of the barriers haven't been able to find employment
[ Page 3298 ]
or, in many instances, can work part-time or cyclical in nature.
What we've done is have the earnings exemption at $300 and have continued medical benefits if someone leaves income assistance to work. Then the strategy looks at doing a combination of technical aids, workplace accommodation and then follow-up support on the workplace with the fallback position that if someone with disabilities tries to work — and many do — and finds that their health is affected or they're not able to, they're rapidly reinstated with their disability status and with the benefits that are in the program.
J. Kwan: If that premise is accepted by the minister, then one would assume the premise that when an individual approaches the FAW and is going through the process of determining whether or not that individual has to do an employment plan…. If the individual advises that he or she is unable to do so, would that be accepted?
Hon. M. Coell: I think, as it is now, there is an assessment done of your medical health background and your ability to work. What we're looking at is the people with disabilities who say they want to work. There the strategy is designed for someone who is motivated and wants to get into the workforce. I think there will be many instances where people want to work from time to time and then at other times aren't able to work as well.
J. Kwan: Then only those who say they're able to work would be required to do an employment plan?
Hon. M. Coell: It would be based on the assessment of employability and also based on their capabilities of being able to work.
J. Kwan: How does one define whether they're able to work?
Hon. M. Coell: The clarification is that there's an assessment process now. There would be an assessment process that looked at past work history and the extent of the disability. If you want to carry on with that, I'll answer any others.
J. Kwan: I'm trying to determine what is required under the employment plan, who is required to do an employment plan, how one defines who is able to work and not able to work, who does that assessment and how often a person would be assessed. This is the set of answers I'm trying to arrive at.
It is unclear to me because, on the one hand, the minister has said: "We understand that people with disabilities are unable to work even if they wanted to." He advised that he accepts that as the basic premise for people with disabilities, yet at the same time the minister is saying one must be assessed to determine whether or not they are able to work.
The minister has in the last few moments backtracked on what he said he accepted as a basic premise for individuals, because there's a whole process of evaluation that will therefore require the employment plan to be in place for these individuals. That is exactly the kind of situation that is creating a lot of confusion and anxiety in the broader community. People don't know what is going on. Maybe the minister can explain.
Hon. M. Coell: A number of issues. Some people with disabilities are able to work. There are tens of thousands of people with disabilities who are working in British Columbia today, but they have a 50 percent higher unemployment rate, and a lot of that is the barriers to employment that they face. There would be an initial assessment based on the definition, which would then designate the individual.
I'll give you an example. If a person had severe disabilities, they would not have to have an employment plan or an assessment.
J. Kwan: The operative words the minister uses are "a person with severe disabilities." How does one define severe disabilities?
[R. Stewart in the chair.]
Hon. M. Coell: The definition is actually in section 2 of the act.
J. Kwan: Yes. Section 2 talks about persons with disabilities, and then it goes on to describe the different things associated in determining a person with disabilities. That definition, as I understand it, qualifies the person for whether or not they are entitled to be classified under the continuous category, not to determine whether or not the person is required to do an employment plan. I'm trying to determine what the threshold is for determination of who is required to do an employment plan.
Hon. M. Coell: The definition doesn't speak to employability because we didn't want it to be punitive. Some people are able to work, and some are not. We'll have an assessment tool that will also be discretionary.
J. Kwan: The minister says it's discretionary, but at the same time the minister also said he accepts the premise in which people say — when they are qualified for the continuous category — that they're unable to work and accepts the premise that people do want to work but oftentimes they're unable to do so.
What I'm trying to get at is this. If the minister accepts that premise, but yet the minister would require people to develop employment plans to look for work, for people with disabilities that may just add more pressure and more stress for the person and ultimately make the person perhaps even sicker than they already
[ Page 3299 ]
are or cause the person to be under enormous hardship as a result of this requirement.
I'm trying to determine, under this definition section of an employment plan, who is required to do that, even though the minister accepts the premise that people on income assistance who qualify for the continuous benefits are people with disabilities and that even with the disabilities, while they want to work, they are unable to do so.
Hon. M. Coell: I appreciate what the member is saying. There's some underlying principle here. We're not going to require, pressure or stress people with disabilities into work. What we want to do is offer the opportunity for people with disabilities who want to work — to make sure the field is level and that they don't have a 50 percent greater unemployment rate than people without disabilities.
The employability and assessment tool is still under development. It's discretionary. It will take into account the individual's circumstances such as the level of disability, their education and their skills.
I want to stress that the 50 percent higher unemployment rate is the motivator for the employment strategy for persons with disabilities and to have specialized training programs and aids that actually help people success if they're able to work.
J. Kwan: The words the minister used are "to offer the opportunity for people who want to work." I am working under the premise that people who want to work are already trying to seek work. I'm not operating under the assumption that the people who want to work are not working, that people who want to work and are able to work are not working.
For the minister to suggest that he wants to offer the opportunity to work for people who want to work implies that the people who are able to work don't want to work. Is that what the minister is saying?
The minister said on the one hand no, he accepts the assumption that those who have a disability are unable to work. Therefore they are not working, which is the reason why they're on income assistance. But if you accept that premise, then the statement that the minister wants to offer the opportunity to work for people who want to work is a complete contradiction of that basic assumption. One would assume that the people who want to work and are able to do so are already doing it. The minister doesn't need to offer them any more opportunity. Requiring an individual to do an employment plan simply puts pressure on the individual and potentially causes further hardship.
Hon. M. Coell: I think the fact that people with disabilities have a 50 percent higher unemployment rate speaks to the fact that there are probably lots of people with disabilities who want to work and who are looking for work but are unable to. That's why we've got a 40 percent increase in that section of the budget that will require the ability to have training programs, disability supports and the referral to the job placement programs.
There are a number of issues that weren't there for people with disabilities, which are there now. The goal would be to see that 50 percent higher than people without disabilities start to disappear.
The Chair: The members are now debating a number of principles related to the bill in section 1, the interpretation. I would urge us to be quite specific that we are dealing right now with…. Our debate ought to be relevant to interpretation of the definitions.
J. Kwan: Under the definitions of employment plan, I'm trying to decipher from the minister who is required to do an employment plan, what that employment plan looks like, what assessment is being done to require a person to do an employment plan, and so on. It is under this definition that a person would be required to do an employment plan, so that's the relevance in terms of the questions that I'm asking the minister.
Let me just ask the minister this question. The minister says that the individual will be assessed to determine whether or not they are required to do an employment plan. How often would they be assessed?
Hon. M. Coell: It would depend on the disability. You know, someone who is in a community care facility probably wouldn't be reassessed. Someone with a severe mental handicap probably wouldn't be reassessed. But it would depend on the disability. I would imagine a five-year assessment or not at all, in some cases.
J. Kwan: The minister uses the time period of five years. Is the minister advising the House that for a person who's qualified for disability under Bill 27 in the continuous category, that individual at maximum would be reassessed every five years and some would not be reassessed at all?
Hon. M. Coell: Try this clarification. It would depend on the individual's condition. That may change over time. There are disabilities that do change over time. There are many that don't, and that's why I said there are some people who would not be reassessed because of the level of their disability. Others would probably, as I said, be in a five-year range, and there would be others whose disability would require an assessment earlier than that.
J. Kwan: What is the minister envisioning for a person who has to develop, for the purpose of this section of the act, an employment plan? What is the minister envisioning for the individual who would have to be reassessed — for those with changing conditions in their disability? Is it every year? Is it every two years? The minister mentioned five years for those who per-
[ Page 3300 ]
haps have a greater or more permanent disability. But for the minister's definition of a lesser permanent disability, how often will they be assessed?
Hon. M. Coell: I could give you this example. If a person has a condition that their doctor says will last three years, then the review would be in three years.
J. Kwan: So the notion of reassessment for the purposes of developing employment plans will be based on the information that's provided by the individual's physician?
Hon. M. Coell: I would say that would be a key factor, yes.
J. Kwan: Is that going to be included in the regulations?
Hon. M. Coell: I believe that would be included more in policy than regulations.
J. Kwan: Then it will be included in the minister's policies for reassessment that the reassessment is based on the information provided by the doctor, the person's physician.
If the person's physician says this person has a permanent disability, then that person is not required to do an employment plan, one would assume. Am I right in following this logic?
Hon. M. Coell: I'll try this clarification. The permanent disability doesn't speak to employability, whereas you might want to…. I'll give this as an example. If someone completed training or education, that might change their ability to be employed as well.
Hopefully, that's helpful.
The Chair: The requirement for an employment plan appears to be under section 9, and I wonder if the member may want to pose her questions related to the requirements and the details associated with employment plans under section 9 rather than under the definition.
J. Kwan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Yes. I will have a lot more questions for the minister when we get to section 9, in much fuller detail, which is why I'm sort of just trying to get some broad definition here in terms of the requirements for an employment plan — who is required to do it and so on. We will get into the full details of that when we get to section 9.
The minister says, on the issue around identification from a doctor who says that you have a permanent disability, that it does not exclude a person from having to do an employment plan. If a person is required to do an employment plan, would the doctor then have to indicate that this person is not employable on a permanent basis?
Hon. M. Coell: There would be an employment assessment as well as the criteria assessment done by a doctor, as well as other people who are capable of it also.
J. Kwan: Who is going to do the employment assessment?
Hon. M. Coell: The ministry will do the employment assessment.
J. Kwan: The information they would receive for the purposes of determining employability would be based on information that is provided by the individual's physician?
Hon. M. Coell: That would be a key factor, yes.
J. Kwan: In other words, it is the individual's physician who will provide the information to determine whether or not that person needs to do an employment plan. While that needs to be checked by the ministry staff, the person who would ultimately advise the ministry staff whether or not this person is able to work or is employable would be the physician. So, if the physician says that this person is unable to work for — I don't know — two years, five years or permanently, then that would suffice for the individual to establish in the ministry's view whether or not they have to do an employment plan.
Hon. M. Coell: As I mentioned, that would be a key component, but it would also take into consideration the person's education, skills, training. I can give you an example. We have many people who work for the provincial government who have permanent disabilities but do work full-time. Again, the assessment would take into consideration a medical component, but it would also look at the education, skills and training of an individual.
J. Kwan: Then what the minister's saying is that it's up to the FAW to judge whether or not the person ought to be working, and not the doctor. I will have a lot more questions around this point when we get to section 9, then. It seems to me that there's a lot of discretion around it in terms of what the requirements are. How to assess one on these fronts is not clear at all to me.
I want to ask the minister this question. Under the definitions section, there is a clause that reads: "The Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council may prescribe other circumstances in which a child is a dependent child of a parent for the purposes of this act." What does this mean?
Hon. M. Coell: That, I believe, is the same as in Bill 27. It gives us the ability to have shared parenting through regulations.
J. Kwan: Is it just for shared parenting? Are there other circumstances? It reads as though there might be
[ Page 3301 ]
other circumstances, because it says that it "may prescribe other circumstances in which a child is a dependent child of a parent for the purposes of this act." Is it just for shared parenting then?
Hon. M. Coell: Yes, it is.
J. Kwan: So there are no other circumstances. Then why doesn't the act say that for the purposes of shared parenting that a child is a dependent for the purpose of this act?
Hon. M. Coell: I think the easy answer is: that's legislative drafting.
J. Kwan: I want to ask the minister this question. In a situation where the child is a dependent child from the point of view that the adult is taking care of the child but the adult does not have custody of the child, would that child be entitled to receive income assistance if the family unit is qualified for income assistance?
Hon. M. Coell: Yes, if the parent had the child more than the 16 days, they would fall into the dependent child category and be eligible.
J. Kwan: If an individual has a child that he or she doesn't have custody of or legal guardianship or any such thing, but that child stays with the adult for more than 16 days, then that child is entitled to receive income assistance if the family unit is entitled to receive income assistance?
Hon. M. Coell: Yes, that is correct.
J. Kwan: If in the scenario where an adult has custody of a child who is not under the protection of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, but that family unit is just barely not entitled to receive income assistance — it might be extra assets or something like that — would that child who is staying with that family unit for more than 16 days be deemed to be a dependent child and therefore entitled to receive income assistance?
Hon. M. Coell: I just require some clarification. Would that be the parent of the child?
J. Kwan: No, not necessarily. It could be a grandparent; it could be a relative of some sort.
Hon. M. Coell: I think the answer to that is that they could be eligible for Child in the Home of a Relative under Bill 26.
J. Kwan: Then I'll canvass that issue under Bill 26.
The definitions of this act provide the definition of "supplement" to mean "any form of assistance specified by regulation, other than disability assistance, hardship assistance or financial assistance provided under section 7 and, without limitation, includes access to programs established or funded under this act."
Could the minister please advise what the supplements are as defined in this section?
Hon. M. Coell: In its basic form it's a new term for "benefit." It would still include crisis grant, bus passes, Christmas allowance, health allowance, guide dogs.
J. Kwan: Are the terms that the minister read into the record the only ones? I don't think I heard "diet allowance." Maybe the minister said it, but I couldn't quite hear with the background noise in the chamber. Did the minister say "diet allowance" as well?
Hon. M. Coell: I gave some examples. Diet allowance would also be one of those.
J. Kwan: Does the minister have an exhaustive list of what supplements are included in this definition?
Hon. M. Coell: If it's all right with the member, I'll get her that list, and then she can have a hard copy of it.
J. Kwan: Perhaps, then, this is a good time for us to report out before dinner so that the minister can provide that information during the half-hour or so dinner break. I would move that the committee recess until 6:35.
The committee recessed from 5:56 p.m. to 6:36 p.m.
[J. Weisbeck in the chair.]
On section 1 as amended (continued).
J. Kwan: Prior to the dinner break the minister had committed that he would provide me with the list that would apply under the supplements definition. The minister had advised that he would be providing that to me sometime tomorrow morning. Great.
I just want to ask the minister…. Under the supplements portion in the act, it states that it is identified under section 7 in terms of qualification — on section 7. I just want to double-check, because when you flip to section 7, it doesn't tell you very clearly when and how a person is entitled to receive supplements per the definition of the act.
Section 7, "Financial assistance to service or program providers," reads: "The minister may provide financial assistance to a person who, or a group of persons that, undertakes to provide a service or program that, in the minister's opinion, will promote the purposes of this act." It is very vague in terms of what that means. The word "supplement" is not even included in section 7 of the act.
Maybe the minister can assist by advising me: within this act, where else does it reference when a
[ Page 3302 ]
person is entitled to receive supplements, and how would they be entitled to receive them?
Hon. M. Coell: The regulations will determine the eligibility for supplements, as the regulations actually determine the eligibility for benefits in the BC Benefits Acts.
J. Kwan: Well then, once again we're left with a situation where we don't know how a person is entitled to receive their supplement or what supplements they'd be entitled to receive. Given that the minister has a list of the supplements that are defined under this act, which I'll get tomorrow, then I would assume that the minister has some sense of how a person would be qualified to receive supplements. Maybe the minister can advise at this time.
Hon. M. Coell: They all actually have different criteria. The natal allowance would have a set of criteria that goes with that. The bus passes for people with disabilities and seniors and the Christmas allowance for children all have a different set of criteria. If you meet them, then you're eligible for the supplement.
J. Kwan: Because we don't have that information with us, we don't know what the eligibility criteria would be for a person to receive each of the respective supplements. Is the minister anticipating that this work will be completed sometime soon so that people will know, or is the work already completed? Is it just per the regulations that are already in place now, or is the minister anticipating changes relative to that?
Hon. M. Coell: They will be part of the regulations when the act is brought into force, so they're being worked on.
J. Kwan: Are we anticipating changes?
Hon. M. Coell: At this point they haven't been developed, but if there are any, they would be minor in nature.
J. Kwan: I have to say that I'm really disturbed in terms of the process that we're engaging in here. Here we have, even just under the definitions section…. I've referenced section 7 because it references section 7, to which assistance would be provided under the category or the definition of "supplement" in section 7. When you turn to section 7, it doesn't actually tell you anything around eligibility or around what kind of supplements the person is entitled to.
The minister advises that that information would be developed under regulation and that there won't be any substantive changes — that there will be changes but not substantive changes. Now, that's the opinion of the minister. What we've seen so far — when the minister keeps on saying that this is very similar to the previous act — and what we know is that with Bills 26 and 27, both of these acts have huge ramifications in terms of substantive changes for people who are seeking government support and government assistance.
It gives me no assurance at all that individuals would be able to get the supplements and how they would go about getting them, because that information is simply not with us. Maybe the minister can engage in this question. Why would we want to press through with Bill 27, even when we're engaging in the debate with respect to the supplements and the definitions associated with it? That information is not available for the opposition or for British Columbians to review so that one could judge whether or not that's something they would want to support.
Hon. M. Coell: I guess the simple answer to that is that this bill is very much an enabling act, similar to BC Benefits, where a lot of the eligibility and supplements are actually in regulations and policy. I can say that the regulations and policy will be done in a timely fashion and available before the act is implemented.
J. Kwan: The minister says the regulations will be done before the act is implemented, yet we've already seen changes relative to the act itself because letters have been sent out. People have been told that they're going to be cut off, the rates have been reduced, but the acts of the bill have not yet passed nor have the regulations been put in place. We are already seeing changes. Is the minister then saying that all the changes that have already taken place effective April 1 are now void; therefore BC Benefits will still apply until such time as this act is passed — and not only that, until such time as the regulations are in place?
Hon. M. Coell: Actually, the power to make those changes was using the BC Benefits Acts through regulation. Those regulations will be reflected in the new act, but the policy won't be implemented until the regulations are done.
J. Kwan: I have with me information from the minister's website dated May 2, 2002. This was posted on the website, and the language within the website speaks as though the act has already been passed and that the minister has said the regulations will not be brought into force until the summer. I think the minister, at several different times, had said the regulations would be brought in at the same time as the legislation. Then later on that was changed to say shortly after, within weeks, and now it's into the summer. That scenario has changed several times already, but the website information talks as though the act has already been in place.
I know for a fact that changes have already taken place as though this bill is now in place. I use an example that I did in Bill 26, and that was in the case of a senior woman who came to my office and applied for income assistance, although under Bill 26. The individual, because of the extra cash that she had — I think
[ Page 3303 ]
she had at that time $200 in the bank — was deemed to have too much money in the bank, too many assets. So she was denied income assistance.
It was through much advocacy from my office that she was able to get qualification for income assistance from the welfare office. I spoke with the worker myself, and he told me that there was nothing he could do, and these regulations that he had received and information that he had received told him that he had to apply the act as though the act had passed in the House. The reality of what's going on out there is not matching what the minister thinks is going on. People are acting as though these bills have already passed in this House and the regulations are already in place.
Hon. M. Coell: Again, it's the B.C. Benefits legislation that gave the power to make the changes that were made on April 1, and they were done through regulation changes and posted.
J. Kwan: The minister says this is the BC Benefits Act. What was brought in place under the BC Benefits Act did not say to people that if you have $200 in your bank, that was too much asset. It did not say that; the regulations did not say that. That was something that was brought in by this minister, by this government, so there is a substantive change and difference in terms of what people qualify for under the BC Benefits Act versus what is now happening today.
I have to say that if we don't know what the qualifications are for people who would receive supplements under Bill 27 but yet the minister has a list of what those supplements are, how could we engage in this debate when actually we don't even know how one would qualify? Nowhere in this act does it tell us that, so how could one proceed? How could one decide whether or not they want to support even this section of the act?
Hon. M. Coell: The ability to pass and change regulations happens within government on a regular basis. Again, the B.C. Benefits legislation provided the authority to make the regulatory changes that have happened as of April 1. There are other changes in Bill 27 that can't happen without this act being proclaimed, but there are opportunities in the B.C. Benefits legislation to make the changes that we had desire to move forward on.
J. Kwan: Well, as I say, I'm very troubled by this. Let me just go to another definition. Here we have "hardship assistance," and "hardship assistance" refers us to section 6(1) of the act. When you turn to section 6(1), here's what it reads: "6 (1) Subject to the regulations, the minister may provide hardship assistance to or for a family unit that (a) is eligible for it, and (b) is not eligible for disability assistance."
Then section 6(2) says: "6 (2) If hardship assistance is repayable, before providing it the minister may specify and require a particular type of security for repayment."
So I want to explore, then, hardship assistance. Could the minister please advise the House who is eligible for hardship assistance?
Hon. M. Coell: The eligibility for hardship is in regulations now in BC Benefits, and it will be in regulations in the new act.
J. Kwan: Are we expecting those regulations to change?
Hon. M. Coell: Not substantively.
J. Kwan: We've heard that over and over again. Every change the minister talks about he defines as not substantive change, but that's a matter of opinion. I know that when he is cutting the rates for single parents on income assistance, the minister says he doesn't think that is a substantive change. He actually thinks that's somehow helping the child or children and the single parent in that instance.
With all due respect to the minister, I disagree. With all due respect to the minister, many single parents disagree. It is a matter of an individual's definition, I guess, so when the minister says it's not substantive, he will have to accept my perspective that, quite frankly, I don't trust the minister's definition.
It's not a personal issue. I simply don't trust what this government is doing and how they've gone about making substantive changes to date that actually put a lot of hardship on individuals, the people who are most vulnerable, people who are most marginalized and most disadvantaged in our community. While those changes are taking place, this government is meanwhile saying they are protecting services for these individuals. The community says otherwise.
I think the case in point that shows it better than other ministers, perhaps, would be none other than the Minister of Education. She says she's protecting education. What we see in school districts all throughout B.C. is educational programs being cut. The minister pounds her desk with other members in the House, and they say that this is great for B.C. and that they're protecting education. The reality speaks otherwise.
On this issue around hardship assistance, the minister advises that the regulations will not change very much and that these are not substantive changes. Could the minister please advise specifically what changes they are so that we, the opposition, can make that evaluation and that judgment on our own and so the broader public, British Columbians themselves, can make that evaluation on their own?
Hon. M. Coell: They are still being developed, but they will be available prior to the implementation.
J. Kwan: Maybe I can ask the minister this question. Would a person who is a refugee claimant be qualified for hardship assistance?
Hon. M. Coell: Refugee claimants would be under Bill 26, and they still will be while we have discussions
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with the federal government to hopefully have them provide some assistance to refugees.
J. Kwan: I would assume that a person who has a disability and is a refugee would, if they were applying for hardship assistance, be under Bill 27. Am I not right?
Hon. M. Coell: Presently the hardship is provided on one level for all refugees. We will continue to do that, and they would still apply under Bill 26.
J. Kwan: For a person, then, who has a disability and is applying to receive income assistance under Bill 27 in the continuous category…. In the meantime, while the person awaits the processing of that, the individual has no other resources and no other support. Would that person be entitled to receive hardship under Bill 27?
Hon. M. Coell: They would receive income assistance under Bill 26.
J. Kwan: So there is no hardship application that would apply to people with disabilities under Bill 27.
Hon. M. Coell: I wonder if the member could clarify whether she was still referring to a refugee or to a person with disabilities being able to get….
J. Kwan: A person with disabilities.
Hon. M. Coell: Okay. A person with disabilities who was not entitled, for a variety of reasons, and who had to come back on income assistance would be entitled to hardship, but it would be, the same as it is now, repayable.
J. Kwan: The example I used was an individual who is not a refugee and is applying for continuous assistance under Bill 27. In the meantime, while that person awaits the processing of that, the person has no other resources. Formerly, under the BC Benefits Act, the individual would be able to get hardship to tide them over until such time as they were able to get through all the eligibility requirements and so on. I'm asking the minister if that would still be the case. People could apply for hardship while they await the evaluation from the ministry determining whether or not they are eligible for income assistance under Bill 27.
Hon. M. Coell: While they're waiting for designation, they would receive income assistance. They wouldn't need hardship; they would be on income assistance.
J. Kwan: The minister is saying that they would be receiving income assistance but not hardship. Does that apply to people with disabilities only?
Hon. M. Coell: You only get hardship if you're ineligible for income assistance. That will be in both acts.
J. Kwan: That is a substantive change from the BC Benefits Act. Formerly, under the BC Benefits Act a person would be entitled to receive hardship because they had not qualified just yet for income assistance. In the meantime, as they were being evaluated and whatever stuff was being done, there was some hardship assistance to them, because the person had no other resource to support themselves. They went to the ministry's office, and they were entitled to receive hardship.
Is the minister now saying that a person would not be entitled to receive hardship unless they qualify for income assistance?
Hon. M. Coell: I'll try this for clarification. Currently, a person with disability status would be eligible for income assistance while they are waiting. That's current, and that won't change.
J. Kwan: Is the minister now saying — and he's changed his position, then — that you don't have to be eligible for income assistance in order to receive hardship?
Hon. M. Coell: I guess the difference is that hardship is provided for individuals who aren't going to be eligible for income assistance. That's current, and that won't change.
J. Kwan: So there is hardship assistance under Bill 27 for a person who's faced with a disability. It would apply under both Bill 27 and Bill 26. If you're a person with disabilities, you can apply for hardship assistance for the shelter and support portion.
Hon. M. Coell: A person would be able to get hardship under both acts. Actually, it's an improvement, because it wasn't in the disability act before. They had to get it in other acts. This would allow persons to apply for hardship under both acts.
J. Kwan: Then the person with the disability would be able to get the higher rate under hardship under Bill 27.
Hon. M. Coell: Yes, it would be a higher rate under Bill 27.
J. Kwan: Through the evaluation process under this new act, a person who is currently receiving income assistance under the DB-2 category would be reassessed and, if they qualified, would then receive income assistance under the continuous category.
If the person, through that reassessment, was deemed not to be qualified for the continuous category — if the ministry made the determination that the person was not qualified — and that person appealed the
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decision, while the person was appealing the decision and awaiting the outcome of the appeal, would that person be entitled to continue to receive the higher rate under the continuous category? Or would they not be entitled to receive that? In other words, under the definition section of this bill, would that person still, while they awaited the appeal decision, be deemed to be a person with disabilities?
Hon. M. Coell: The clarification would be that if there was a review and the ministry decided there was a change, they would keep that benefit while the appeal went on.
J. Kwan: The minister is confirming that the individual would be able to keep that benefit until the appeal was completed and a final decision was made. If you were a person receiving disability 2 and were being assessed under the new act for the continuous category and you appealed because it was determined through the assessment that you were not qualified for the continuous category, when the appeal was in process and until the final decision was made, you would still be qualified as a person with disabilities under this act?
Hon. M. Coell: That is correct.
Section 1 as amended approved.
On section 2.
The Chair: Now, section 2 has two amendments. We'll deal with those amendments separately.
Minister of Human Resources, could you give us the first amendment, please?
Hon. M. Coell: Hon. Chair, I move the amendment to section 2 standing in my name on the orders of the day.
First amendment approved.
Hon. M. Coell: I move the amendment to section 2(3)(b) standing in my name on orders of the day.
On the second amendment.
J. MacPhail: From what I understand here, this is amending the definition of assistive device. Is that correct? Sorry, perhaps the minister should explain the amendment before I comment.
Hon. M. Coell: I hope I didn't confuse the Chair in moving those amendments, but subsection (3) is the service of an assistance animal — that is, a guide dog — and that's what we're adding.
J. MacPhail: There are two amendments before that, Mr. Chair. One is by deleting "or" at the end of paragraph (i), under subsection (3)(b) and deleting "or" at the end of subparagraph (ii). Then it also is adding "(iii) the services of an assistance animal." What's the purpose of deleting the "or" after subparagraph (i)?
Hon. M. Coell: Just grammatical.
J. MacPhail: Subsection (3)(b) will be assisting in defining subsection (2), which is who gets designated as a person with disabilities. Under this new qualification with this amendment, am I correct in assuming that a person who requires help in a daily living activity is defined as a person who (1) requires an assistive device, (2) may require the significant help or supervision of another person or (3) may require the services of an assistance animal, and that one doesn't have to meet all three, but one matches the definition by qualifying under one of those three or more?
Hon. M. Coell: That is correct.
The Chair: Shall section 2 as amended pass?
J. Kwan: It would just be for the amendment to pass with lots of questions on section 2.
Mr. Chair, you said: "Shall section 2 as amended pass?" I just wanted to point out that while we don't have difficulties….
Second amendment approved.
On section 2 as amended.
J. MacPhail: I assume that the amendment that we just passed under section 2, which is the definition of persons with disabilities, is the section that we're dealing with now. It's fair to characterize that this section is a series of definitions that apply strictly to people with disabilities and, therefore, are not common with Bill 26, the sister act — one might call it the ugly sister act, but nevertheless it's the sister act — and that these definitions are exclusive to this legislation, the Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act.
My colleague and I appreciate the amendment that the minister has introduced. It was, I hope, at best — or at worst, perhaps I should say — an oversight to not include animals as assistive animals.
This change was signalled in a letter to the Times Colonist from the Minister of Human Resources dated April 23, when he outlined a series of correcting statements — if I might put it that way — of people who
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were, in his words, misinterpreting the legislation.
At the time he said: "No, don't worry. People who need the use of guide dogs or hearing dogs would be, of course, defined as persons with a disability." There were several other qualifications he made as well. Clearly, what the minister was doing in his letter was completely changing the legislation. He was saying that these would be defined in regulation, but the regulations were completely out of sync with the legislation.
To his credit, the minister realized that he couldn't just change by regulation when the regulation would be in direct contradiction to the act.
There were other qualifications and clarifications that the minister made in that letter of April 23. Will there also be legislative changes on those clarifications then? Those clarifications — as the minister, perhaps, would define them — can't be put into regulation because the regulations would be in direct contradiction to the legislation.
Hon. M. Coell: With regard to the services of an assistance animal, that was a drafting error and an oversight that we corrected. The clarifications in my letter were aimed to correct some misinformation that was in the media.
J. MacPhail: Well, I just want to perhaps bring to the attention of the minister again that if, indeed, he ever offers as an answer to my colleague and me: "Don't worry. That'll be clarified in regulation…." One cannot, as a government, no matter how big the majority, introduce regulations that are in direct contradiction to legislation.
So either the government has to introduce amendments to legislation to bring the bill into line with perhaps their changed perspective after consultation, or they have to live with the spirit of their bill. A government cannot have it both ways. A government cannot stand up and say, "That matter will be dealt with in regulation," when the regulation goes entirely against the spirit of the bill.
I just put the government on notice that there were several other aspects of that April 23 letter. To his credit, the minister understood that there was a drafting error in not including guide dogs and hearing aid dogs as a method by which we define people with disabilities. But all of the other clarifications will require legislative change, not just regulatory change.
I'd like to then move to the definition of daily living activity in the legislation. It says that daily living activity has the prescribed meaning. Perhaps the minister could expand on that.
Hon. M. Coell: The only part of the definition that is in regulation is the daily living activity. I can give you some examples: self-care, mobility, day-to-day living tasks.
J. MacPhail: So what this legislation says is that the prescribed meaning is contained in regulation. We have the BC Benefits regulations here with us. Could the minister tell us where that is, please, just for ease of reference?
Hon. M. Coell: I'm referring to the new act.
J. MacPhail: I'm sorry. Are those regulations published? It would sure help. My gosh, we've got our research team here that's done the best it could to get all of the published regulations. For instance, what the minister just read from — is there a site we could go to now and get that information?
Hon. M. Coell: The regulations are under development now. I was just giving you examples of what they could be.
J. MacPhail: Well, then is there an interim set of regulations that are being discussed amongst a broader community that my colleague and I could have access to? It does kind of limit the nature of debate we can have here.
Let's face it: the government has changed its mind fairly frequently over the course of the last weeks. They stand up one day and say: "Hey, we found some new money. It's called transition money." Or they stand up and say: "Turns out we made a typographical error, and we're changing that." Today we heard on several occasions: "This matter will be clarified in regulation."
It would sure assist not only the debate but the understanding of people whose lives will be radically affected by this legislation to know what the ministry is working with in terms of regulation. Could we please understand what document the minister is working from, and could we have it?
Hon. M. Coell: As I said earlier, those regulations are under development. We're debating a bill which is an enabling bill, very similar to the enabling powers that were in BC Benefits, which were tabled without regulations and debated without regulations.
J. MacPhail: Well, under the B.C. Benefits legislation daily living activity included performing daily living activity within a reasonable time. That was pretty clear, and that isn't there anymore. We're going to have to rely on what the minister means by daily living activity.
By the way, I know that the member for Vancouver-Burrard is absent, but this is a very specific concern amongst the community of people with HIV/AIDS — the change here and the implications of it. Even though there are members and ministers sitting in this chamber that want to ram this through, these are all questions we've been asked to present to the minister.
The Chair: Shall section 2 as amended pass?
J. MacPhail: I'm sorry — I had a question for the minister. I said that the previous definition of daily
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living activity included performing daily living activity within a reasonable time. Is the working regulation the same?
Hon. M. Coell: In the previous act daily living tasks were undefined. What we're doing is defining them.
J. MacPhail: No. Under the previous legislation the regulation defining daily living activity said daily living activity that could be performed within a reasonable time. Is that regulation going to continue?
Hon. M. Coell: That, I believe, was in the act, not the regulations, and wasn't defined in regulations.
J. MacPhail: Did the previous application of the definition of daily living activity include performing daily living activity within a reasonable time? Yes.
Hon. M. Coell: "That's within a reasonable time to perform daily living tasks" doesn't say what the daily living tasks are. It isn't considered a definition, and it was never defined in regs. What we're trying to do in Bill 27 in the regulations is define what daily living tasks are.
J. MacPhail: Okay, I've got the track. I've got the flow of information that would inform this debate. The Disability Benefits Program Act, which is now repealed and replaced with this new legislation, said this. It's a definition: "'Person with disabilities' means a person who at the time this section comes into force was a handicapped person under the Guaranteed Available Income for Need Act or a person" — and then we go down — who "requires extensive assistance or supervision in order to perform daily living tasks within a reasonable time." That's the old act. It was legislation. It was stronger than regulation. It had the full force of legislation.
Now this government has defined daily living tasks as something that will be prescribed in regulation, and here's what the community of people with disabilities is saying. Again, it's particularly those with perhaps invisible disabilities or disabilities that don't require an assistive device or an assistive dog, where part of the therapy and part of the recovery of the disability is to make sure that one remains independent through feeding and clothing oneself and bathing oneself. Because of the disability, that can take an inordinate amount of time, but it's better than having someone else feed or clothe or wash you.
Now, what this is saying is that daily living tasks could be defined as: "Hey, man. If you can feed and clothe and wash yourselves, even if it takes you eight hours, you're not disabled." The minister, then, needs to explain to me why the words from the last act are deleted in moving to this current act. Why the deletion?
Hon. M. Coell: What we're attempting to do is give more clarity in the definition. An item such as "reasonable time" would be considered by the health professional in the assessment.
J. MacPhail: No, the minister has to do better than that. People's lives are being affected by this. The old act said "to perform daily living tasks within a reasonable time." If a person required extensive assistance or supervision to do that, that qualified as an indication of disability. What this government has done is remove that and now say that daily living activity has a prescribed meaning of which we know nothing — of which we know absolutely nothing.
Perhaps the minister will say: "If they can perform daily living tasks between the time they get up in the morning and before they go to bed, that's fine with us. That means they're not disabled." What is the intent here?
Hon. M. Coell: We'll set out a definition in the regulations that respects people with disabilities and defines daily living tasks with clarity so that they can be designated as a person with a disability.
J. MacPhail: Well, that's exactly the concern of people with disabilities, where this government has deleted the concept of performing daily tasks within a reasonable time by which to measure things and going to a specific list of tasks. Here's where the disability tax credit eligibility criteria are restricted to such things as feeding, dressing and grooming. If you can do those, you're not disabled. That would be a severe, huge step backward for people with disabilities in having their disabilities recognized. Is that the kind of criteria the ministry's moving toward?
Hon. M. Coell: This is consistent with progressive definitions that are based on functional assessments.
J. MacPhail: There's nothing progressive about definitions that are based on functional assessments — nothing progressive about it. Indeed, if that's where the ministry is going, that is a step backward to the sixties in this province. Functional definitions go directly against the healing exercises that many people with disabilities do.
Let me read you this. I had hoped that the member for Vancouver-Burrard would do as he said he would do and raise these questions on behalf of the community of people with HIV/AIDS, but let me do it. His silence indicates that he's not going to ask these questions.
Here's the question from PAN. I want to make sure I get the organization correct: the Pacific AIDS Network. Here's what they say. This is in a letter to the member for Vancouver-Burrard, asking him to raise these questions. It was dated April 17. It says:
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Again, have we misread the bill's intent?
Hon. M. Coell: The time it takes will be taken into account in the professional's assessment. I can, and I'll try to, clarify it for the member by listing the types of things that would be in regulations. They would be things such as taking medication, banking, mobility, hearing, sight, bathing. Those would be some examples.
J. MacPhail: I can see where the government's going on this one. People with invisible disabilities are going to be left behind. People with mental illness are going to be left behind, because there isn't one aspect of that to suggest why a person with a mental illness will qualify at all.
I want to read into the record a letter dated April 24 to whom it may concern. Several people in this Legislature have received this letter.
This is a woman that struggled hard to stay in the workforce but couldn't. She probably could feed and clothe herself, and she probably could comb her hair and take a bath. How is that person going to be affected by this change?
Hon. M. Coell: It is not our intention to exclude. We believe the definitions here will include people like the writer of that letter.
J. MacPhail: How would one know?
Hon. M. Coell: I think the answer to that is that health professionals will be doing the assessments.
J. MacPhail: But health professionals will be using a regulation defining what daily living activity means that none of us knows a whit about — not a whit.
The previous legislation said "if a person required assistance to perform daily living tasks within a reasonable time." My gosh, all sorts of us could assess what that meant. If it took an hour to feed oneself, but you could feed yourself, then that means you probably have a disability. If it meant that you had to struggle to bathe yourself for an inordinate period of time, it probably meant that you had a disability.
Now the test of reasonableness is gone. Of particular concern are those who have invisible disabilities, people with mental illness. I'd love the advocate for people with mental illness to be joining us in this debate. People with mental illnesses are particularly concerned about that, as are those with HIV/AIDS.
There must have been a reason why the government deleted that qualification. Is there a reason why they're keeping secret what they're replacing it with?
Hon. M. Coell: I am confident that this act will recognize and respect people with a range of disabilities, including those with mental illness and HIV/AIDS, and that they will have the comfort and security they'll need through continuous assistance.
V. Anderson: I think this is a very important discussion. To highlight the significance, let me put it in another context.
When we came into the Legislature in 1991, there was conflict-of-interest legislation, and that legislation indicated that if you were in conflict of interest, then you were guilty. But the wisdom of the Legislature then was that that wasn't sufficient, so it was changed so that if you had the appearance of conflict, that was enough to make you guilty under that particular act. What we're discussing here at the moment, on one hand, is whether this act clearly defines what will be or whether it gives the appearance of what will be or will not be.
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I know myself that I had put a whole series of question marks beside this, because it's under suggestion that its appearance…. But daily living activity is left completely undefined. The appearance is that if it is left undefined, then there has to be a reason why it is left undefined, so that's a problem. It's particularly a problem when it's a change, as has been pointed out, from the previous act. Now, if it had been redefined, then you could argue about the meaning of the change, but when it's simply left out and left vacant, it's very easy and very understandable that it gives a false appearance.
That's really what we're arguing about at this point — the appearance it gives or, if you put it the other way, the assurance that it gives within the context of the act. I think it's very important that there be a definition there. If the words had been left out, perhaps that might have been something else. But since "daily living activity" words have been put in without the definition which would logically go with them, then the appearance is, apart from the reality: what does it mean? Therefore there's an uncertainty, and I think that's a flaw, a very significant and very important flaw.
It's a particularly important and significant flaw for the people who have disabilities and whose future hinges on the definition of this and how people at a later time will define it, because there's no direction on a definition at this particular point. I think that's a flaw that we're working on. I'm not sure how we're going to get around it at this point, unless a definition can be put in there, even if it is…. If you have the definition that was in there before, there would still be and there was always the attempt to redefine within a normal period of time. But at least it set the direction of the definition, a direction of how a social worker, a doctor or somebody else could begin to work with it.
Here there's nothing for the social worker or the doctor or anyone else to work with, and it's that appearance which is giving us difficulty at this present time. I hope we can find a solution for it.
J. Kwan: Well, I thank the member for Vancouver-Langara for those comments, because it does add to the comments that my colleague from Vancouver-Hastings has just made. The act is fundamentally flawed. It does create a lot of uncertainty, if you will, in the minds of the public, particularly those who have disabilities and those who are advocates for people with disabilities. There has to be a reason why the legislation has changed as such.
There's got to be a rationale behind it, because the issue that's been raised by the member for Vancouver-Langara and my colleague from Vancouver-Hastings…. They centred the issue around the daily activities provision and the issue in relation to performing daily living tasks within a reasonable time. That's not the only change.
That's only one part of the change, because if you look at further changes in the definition of people with disabilities under the former act, Disability Benefits Program Act, versus Bill 27, which reads Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act, the other change that is substantive that is in the previous act a person qualifies for disability benefits if that person, as a "result of a severe mental or physical impairment, (i) requires extensive assistance or supervision in order to perform daily living tasks within a reasonable time, or (ii) requires unusual and continuous monthly expenditures for transportation or for special diets or for other unusual but essential and continuous needs…."
I'm going to stop there for a moment, because there are other changes related to the definition of disability. That was the former act. If you look at this act now, there's nothing in here that talks about, as a result of their disability, a person requiring additional expenditures to survive, whether it be expenditures incurred for transportation, for a special diet or for any other costs. That is another substantive change.
When you look at these two pieces together, combined, you do have to ask the question: why did the government change the definition of disability in this way? By that change, is the government indicating that it will be more difficult for people to qualify for disabilities under the new act, Bill 27?
On the issue around daily living tasks, there are no parameters to define what assistance you need, what is reasonable and what's not reasonable. One would assume that if you say, "Reasonableness would apply on the basis of people's common sense," if it takes me, as an example, four hours to get ready to go to work — to get out of bed, shower, feed myself, change and get out the door — that's not reasonable.
I'm not bad at getting ready for work for the most part. It takes me about half an hour. I literally roll out of bed, jump into the shower, brush my teeth, get dressed and — boom — I'm out. I'm eating breakfast while I'm on the road. That's how I normally function. Some days I know you can tell, but never mind. I get myself out the door, and I'm on my way to work.
For somebody who has to spend hours getting ready for work, it is an effort for them to get out of bed and into the shower. It is an effort for them to get dressed, and it is an effort for them to get themselves breakfast and all of those issues associated with it. I would assume that if it takes a person four hours to get dressed, under any test of reasonableness, all members of this House would agree that that's not reasonable.
That parameter for defining the ability to perform daily living tasks is gone in this act. That is one indicator that tells people it is going to be harder for them to qualify for income assistance under the disability.
Then you have that issue coupled with the notion of whether or not extra costs or expenditures are required as a result of the disability. I know many people can manage it, in spite of the tremendous effort for them to get ready for work and what not — all the daily activities that they need to perform. They have a tremendous amount of dignity in being able to perform those tasks, but not without extra expenses.
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For some people it might mean transportation expenses, extra costs to get there. I could walk to work, bike to work or drive to work. People with disabilities may not be able to do that. In order for them to do that, it may cost them extra moneys to get around. That, under the previous act, was recognized as a cost for people with disabilities. For that, they were recognized to be qualified for disability benefits. This act has taken that away.
Maybe the minister can explain. By taking these two things away, what kind of signals is the minister giving to people with disabilities in the broader community in terms of their eligibility?
Hon. M. Coell: There isn't another jurisdiction in Canada that uses medical costs in the definition. It's more progressive to use a health assessment and the activities of daily living.
I can give a couple of examples. People with mental health disorders may not be included in the former definition, because they didn't have higher costs. I believe they will be included in Bill 27. The definition also is consistent with human rights case law that uses functional limitations.
The member used a couple of examples. I think, obviously, a person who takes a long time would be considered to require assistance.
J. Kwan: I'd like to say: so what if other jurisdictions are doing whatever it is that they're doing? It's irrelevant, I think, for the debate here today.
I also want to point out to the minister that the previous act had two options. For the purposes of determining disability, it is based on (a) that as a result of your disabilities, mental or physical, you require extensive assistance or supervision in order to perform daily living tasks within a reasonable time. That's one criterion for eligibility. That criterion is consistent with the new act that recognizes the need to have assistance to perform daily living activity.
Where it is different and substantive in nature are the parameters in which it defines the person's ability to perform those daily activities. The parameters that were provided for in the old act were that a person ought to be able to engage in and perform daily living activities within a reasonable time frame. That is now gone from this act. One could argue that it is a medical definition in terms of what's reasonable and what's not reasonable. A doctor would be able to make that determination, as an example. But now that provision is gone.
The second one. Again, I go to the issue around cost, because that is particularly important for the people who struggle really, really hard to help themselves. They have a lot of pride and dignity, and they don't want to seek out help even though they may need it. By not seeking that help, they might need other supports in order to carry on. Those other supports may well mean extra expenditures. It gives you two options to determine eligibility: (a) the ability to perform daily living tasks within a reasonable time limit or (b) extra expenditures as a result of your disability. Both of those provisions in relation to defining disability are now gone. That, in my view, has to signal to the people that it is now harder for British Columbians to be eligible for disability benefits.
[H. Long in the chair.]
That's not all, Mr. Chair. If you go further into the act — on the notion around permanency of the disability, if you will — the former act talks about someone who is a person with disabilities who has confirmation from a medical practitioner that the impairment referred to in paragraph (b) exists and is likely to continue for at least two years or is likely to continue for at least one year and is likely to reoccur.
If you look at this new act, the provision that says "or is likely to continue for at least one year and is likely to reoccur" is now gone. That means for someone to be qualified for disability under the new act, the restriction is even tighter. You must have a disability that lasts for at least two years. Even if it was one year and it's likely to reoccur, you no longer qualify for disability in accordance with this act.
You've got to ask the question. All of these things combined signal very clearly that it is going to be more difficult for people to qualify for disability. Even those who have qualified for disability benefits 2 under the former act, when they go for reassessment for continuous benefits under the new act, under this new set of definitions they may well not meet that criteria. While the minister can say, "Don't worry, be happy; the regulations say there won't be any substantive changes," you will pardon me if I don't take that as a comfort, because the act in legislation signals something very different. If it's not the intent of the government to signal that, why change the language?
Hon. M. Coell: If I can just read the definition, and then I'll make a couple of comments:
I think that definition will capture people with disabilities and give them the comfort and the security they need. I think the definition is broad enough that it will incorporate a greater extent of people with mental disorders and incorporate the people who are in need.
The Chair: Shall section 2 pass as amended? Oh, member for Vancouver-Langara, I didn't see you.
V. Anderson: I know I'm invisible down here. I'm wondering if there's a way around this, because the
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minister has expressed that the intent is not to narrow definitions but to take modern research and modern study research into account and to get a definition that more specifically describes than the previous definition. This is what we are about in this new undertaking.
I appreciate that, and I'm wondering if there's a possibility — you can't help but wonder when you look at assistive device what it means, and health professional and daily living — we could stand this one down overnight, since we're going to be here for a little while, and get a simple definition which expresses what the minister has been putting forward as the increased and improved direction in which he is moving the act forward. If we could do that, I think it would greatly help the community as well as the discussion that we're doing this evening if the minister was prepared to do that. Stand it down, and bring forth a new definition that would encompass the vision that he's presenting. I like the vision. It's just that we need to have it put forward so we can understand it.
J. Kwan: My colleague from Vancouver-Hastings and I would be happy to work with the minister and the member for Vancouver-Langara in consultation with the community to come forward with a better definition for the act to define people with disabilities. We would be happy to support the proposal to stand down section 2.
Hon. M. Coell: The definition reflects the vision we have for persons with disabilities, and the regulations will clarify the daily living tasks, so I don't see a need to stand down at this point.
S. Orr: I have been, obviously, listening with intent to the debate on Bills 26 and 27 and have made a point of not speaking on every single section, because there is a lot already repeated in the previous four acts that's all down in these two acts. But I do want to speak on this particular section, simply because it has a lot of my constituents concerned, including me. I have taken the time to research it well and go to the technical briefing. I have read this, and I have read it very, very thoroughly.
The minister just repeated subsection (2). I'm not going to repeat subsection (3), which obviously refers back to subsection (2). It says very clearly: "For the purposes of subsection (2)."
Because there has been a lot of debate, I want to do something that has a little more clarity. I appreciate what my colleague is saying, but I think sometimes clarity can come with more example. I have to defer to my constituents. With that, I need to go back to the question of my constituents who have HIV/AIDS or are socially unemployable women, particularly, who may be suffering with bipolar. What I would like to hear is how those people fit into the definition of this section.
Hon. M. Coell: We were very cognizant of people with HIV/AIDS and also people with mental disorders when drafting the legislation. I guess I'll give two examples. I would expect a person with AIDS would qualify, with the simple thing that they would need assistance due to fatigue if nothing else. There would be many other reasons why they would fit in. I would expect someone with bipolar who would be, as you said, socially unemployable to qualify. I think the definition is broad enough to encompass both those examples you give.
S. Orr: I'm glad you actually responded with that answer. I read subsection 2(2)(a), where it says clearly, as you said: "(a) in the opinion of a medical practitioner is likely to continue for at least two years…." If, in the opinion of a health professional — which, under the definitions, is a medical practitioner, a registered psychologist, a registered nurse, a registered psychiatric nurse or an occupational therapist — a person is unable to work, does it mean that person, although they don't need daily assisted living but may need some help, as someone said, going to the bank, would be covered?
Hon. M. Coell: As I said, the regulations aren't complete at this point, but I gave some examples before of what could be part of the regulations: taking medications, banking, mobility, hearing, sight, bathing. The two examples that you gave would fit into those categories.
J. Kwan: The broader community is very concerned about the changes being proposed under Bill 27. Let me just use one example of the concerns to highlight them for the minister and show why this change — I'm going to reference the change relative to the issue of extra expenses — will affect whether or not a person is going to qualify for income assistance under Bill 27. In particular, this is in relation to people with HIV and AIDS.
Under the new act, persons living with HIV/AIDS will only have one avenue to establish eligibility — i.e., restriction to perform daily activities. Because critical criteria for assessing disability have yet to be developed in regulations, it is difficult to predict the impact of these changes on persons living with HIV/AIDS. However, there may be a few individuals who receive disability 2 because they were HIV but not symptomatic, who may meet the new definition.
This is the concern that's been brought forward by BCPWA. The member for Vancouver-Burrard, as I understand, was supposed to raise the issues in the House. He's not, so I'm going to raise the issues on behalf of this community group.
Based on the definitions here under Bill 27, the provision that takes away eligibility with respect to extra expenses will preclude people with HIV/AIDS who may not be symptomatic but may have extra expenses as a result of their illness. Formerly, under the old Disability Benefits Program Act, those individuals would qualify for disability 2. Now, in this definition, they
[ Page 3312 ]
would not. What assurance can the minister give to these individuals?
Hon. M. Coell: Currently, under BC Benefits HIV-positive do not qualify on the basis of diagnosis, because they have to show either a severe mental or physical impairment. That won't change.
J. Kwan: No. That is not the case. I know of some individuals who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, and I read from the documents by BCPWA: "There may be a few individuals who received DB-2" — disability 2 — "because they were HIV but not symptomatic, and now they may not meet with the new definition." There are individuals who may not be fully symptomatic of HIV/AIDS, but because of the extra expenses associated with their illness and because the illness has been diagnosed as a permanent illness that would have potential severe ramifications for those individuals, those individuals were qualified for DB-2, because the previous act allowed for the provision: "…requires unusual and continuous monthly expenditures for transportation or for special diets or for other unusual but essential and continuous needs." That was a criterion that allowed people to qualify. It was coupled with the notion that it "is likely to continue for at least two years or…is likely to continue for at least one year and is likely to recur."
If you've been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, the diagnosis indicated that it's likely going to continue for two years and is likely going to reoccur if it is less than one year, and because of the extra expenditures, it qualified the person for disability 2 under the former act. Now, without the provision of extra expenditures, the only way that the person would qualify is if the person needed significant help or supervision to perform their daily activities.
That is a significant difference. With that change in the act, if you read the act, it tells people that in those cases, those with HIV/AIDS that have extra costs as a result of their illness yet may not be totally symptomatic at the time would not be qualified.
Hon. M. Coell: I think the easy answer is that if someone is diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, they will qualify.
J. MacPhail: Well, my gosh. No one would be able to understand who does qualify and who doesn't from this debate, I must say.
Let me ask this question of the minister. So far he seems to think there isn't a problem, and every single case put before him means that the person would qualify. Why did he bother changing anything?
Hon. M. Coell: I think the answer there is clarity. This will be clearer. I believe it will encompass the people who need assistance who are disabled.
J. MacPhail: Removing a qualification does not provide clarity. Previous to this, as several speakers have indicated, the qualification defining a disability of having to be able to do daily living tasks within a reasonable period of time, or the inability to do so, was clarity. Removing that and putting it in regulation makes it muddy.
I will put this to the minister. The reason why the definitions are being changed is because the minister believes too many people are qualifying for the disabilities portion of income assistance — too many are. In fact, I believe the minister thinks that the numbers ballooned in recent years and, therefore, the change in definition.
J. Bray: My apologies if these questions have been asked. I haven't been able to follow all of the debate. Just a couple of questions. Most of my other questions have been asked and answered by my colleagues.
One is around the definition of health professional. In the past, when an applicant has applied for either GAIN for Handicapped or disability benefits level 2, there has often been the opportunity for the financial assistance worker to add comments. In some cases, they may have had more interaction recently than some of the other people. Is an area for the financial assistance worker to provide any comment on the client themselves still contemplated in the new application process?
Hon. M. Coell: I believe there is an area for comments now. We would see that staying as well.
J. Bray: I'm pleased to hear that answer. Often, especially for clients who may have moved, it's the financial assistance worker who may have had the most contact with the client, so that's a very helpful avenue.
Most of my other questions on this section have been canvassed. With respect to dealing with the need for other people for supervision and assistance to perform normal daily functioning, I just want to make sure I clarify this. It is the intent of the definition to say that the health professional indicates the need for that assistance. The health professional isn't required to confirm that the assistance is actually being provided in terms of making the definition viable. Is my question clear?
Hon. M. Coell: It's that the assistance is needed. There are many cases where it's not provided, but it is needed.
J. Kwan: I just want to follow up on the line of questioning my colleague the member for Vancouver-Hastings had started. The minister has said that the act is very clear in defining who is entitled to receive disability benefits and who is not. In less than half an hour — I'd say in the last 20 minutes — when I asked the minister the question relating to people with HIV/AIDS, the minister first said that if people now under the BC Benefits Act were not symptomatic with their illness, they were not entitled to receive DB-2.
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When I stood up and challenged the minister on that issue because I know otherwise, the minister then changed the tune and said: "Gee, they are entitled to receive continuous benefits under this act." Even within the last 20 minutes or so, the minister who says this is very clear indicates that it's not very clear even to himself, because his answer had changed in the last 20 minutes.
It's not just the people with HIV/AIDS who are concerned with the deletion of the provision that reads, in defining people with disabilities, that they require "unusual and continuous monthly expenditures for transportation or for special diets or for other unusual but essential and continuous needs."
The B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities has also stated: "The government has made an amendment to the act at second reading. It has reverted back to the 18 years of age for qualifying." Then it goes on to say that a letter written by the Minister of Human Resources to the Times Colonist on April 23, 2002, stated that assistance would be available to anyone 18 years and over. Now I understand that the minister has changed the age issue per the concern of the B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities.
The coalition continues to say that section 1(b)(ii), which is the section I just read out from the Disability Benefits Program Act about the requirement for unusual and continuous expenditure, etc., includes in the definition of disability anyone who "requires unusual and continuous monthly expenditures for transportation or for special diets or for other unusual but essential and continuous needs."
No longer will people who expend large amounts of money monthly on transportation or special diets be defined as persons with disabilities as defined under the Employment Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act. They go on to say: "This will likely affect people with HIV/AIDS, soft tissue injuries and other people who have ongoing costs associated with a disability but who may not need income assistance; for example, people who require purified water, expensive transportation and fresh food."
In a letter to the Minister of Human Resources from the Voice of the Cerebral Palsied of Greater Vancouver dated April 22, 2002, they say: "By eliminating unusual and continuous costs from the definition, people who are disabled will either be pushed deeper into poverty or be forced to forgo spending money needed for the care and management of their disability. Their quality of life will be adversely affected as their health deteriorates. The health care system will also be strained as people are hospitalized due to poor health." This is a quote from a letter they had written to the minister on April 22.
Others are concerned. An analysis was provided by the executive director of the Tiger's Eye Society. The executive director is a person with a disability who presents workshops for people with disabilities, helping them to navigate the system. She has also provided a great deal of help to us in preparing for this discussion of Bills 26 and 27.
I'd like to ask the minister this question on behalf of these many groups who have these concerns. I'm very dismayed that the member for Vancouver-Burrard has not come into the House to ask these questions of the minister, as an example. Perhaps other members ought to be raising this question.
Let me ask the minister this question: where will people be able to find support for the added medical costs incurred because of a disability?
Hon. M. Coell: I want to return to the example of HIV-positive and clarify that. The member was commenting on HIV-positive. Currently, under BC Benefits they do not qualify on the basis of the diagnosis. If they show they have a severe mental or physical impairment because of that diagnosis, then they would qualify. That won't change in the new act.
A person with AIDS will need assistance for a range of reasons. One of them could be, as I said before, fatigue. They will qualify.
J. Kwan: The minister is mistaken to make a suggestion that when persons are diagnosed with HIV or AIDS and as a result of their illness are incurring extra costs associated with their illness — and their illness exists for at least one year or is likely to reoccur — those individuals are qualified for disability 2. I know of people who are qualified for disability 2. For the minister to suggest otherwise is false.
Under this new definition, what the minister is suggesting is true. The requirement for eligibility where a person incurs extra costs as a result of their disability is not in this act anymore. By virtue of that, those individuals would not qualify under Bill 27 — not under the previous act. I want to be very clear on that. The minister has now said this twice to imply that people would not be qualified, and the minister is wrong in making such a suggestion. That is true only if
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this bill passes under Bill 27, so let's just be clear about that.
The minister flip-flopped. Later on the minister said that under Bill 27, a person who is diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and has incurred costs as a result of that disability and that person may be symptomatic — not all of the time, but some of the time perhaps…. The minister was trying to suggest that the person would be qualified for income assistance under the disability portion of Bill 27. Is that correct, or is that incorrect?
Hon. M. Coell: I'll try and clarify it for the member. If someone is diagnosed as having HIV and AIDS, they will qualify. I want to be very clear on that.
J. Kwan: Okay. The minister just said if a person is diagnosed with HIV and AIDS, they would be qualified. Are there any qualifiers that would be attached to that eligibility?
Hon. M. Coell: They will meet the medical assessment and the daily living.
J. Kwan: Okay. So the minister just said they would have to meet the medical assessment and the requirement for daily living tasks — the ability to perform daily living tasks. It brings us right back to where we were, then, on the issue around daily living tasks.
If you were a person who required assistance for daily living tasks, that's one thing. But if you were a person who was trying really hard to live independently and not seeking assistance for daily living tasks, it might take you four hours to get ready in the mornings to get out and about. That is not defined in the act. In the old act that would have been deemed to be unreasonable for a person to perform daily living tasks. Now under this act there is no qualifier. There's no definition of what is reasonable in terms of the person's ability to perform daily living tasks.
That's one significant difference. The other significant difference is this: if a person has HIV and AIDS and the person is able to perform daily living tasks, but as a result of performing those daily living tasks the person has to pay extra expenses for a variety of reasons for their medical condition, under the old act that would qualify them for disability benefits. In this act, is the minister saying that would not qualify them?
Hon. M. Coell: Just to reiterate again, we fully expect that someone diagnosed with HIV/AIDS will qualify.
J. Kwan: The minister is, I think, deliberately trying to mislead British Columbians.
The Chair: That's unparliamentary language. Please withdraw.
J. Kwan: Thank you, hon. Chair, for your guidance.
Then I would ask the minister to please state clearly. When a person has HIV/AIDS….
The Chair: Pardon me, member, but I asked for a withdrawal. Order. I asked for a withdrawal of the comment.
J. Kwan: Thank you for that guidance, Mr. Chair.
The Chair: I asked for a withdrawal of the comment.
J. Kwan: I will withdraw the comment, but I want…
The Chair: Thank you, member.
J. Kwan: …the minister to be clear about who is qualified and who is not. He is not telling British Columbians clearly who is qualified and who isn't. He's trying to pretend that nothing has changed under this act he has introduced, which would disqualify people for income assistance under the disability portion, when everything has changed. He's not coming clean, quite frankly, in advising what the intention of this act is and who will be qualified and who wouldn't be qualified. When he says that people with HIV/AIDS would be qualified and he stops there and sits down and when I get up and ask the question, "What are the qualifiers attached to that eligibility?" then he spouts out another condition for qualification. The minister is not advising this House in an appropriate manner to be clear about who is qualified.
I want the minister to rise up in this House and be clear on this issue, because people with disabilities are wanting to know. They need to know, because this impacts their lives in fundamental ways that nobody can imagine, unless you're a person with disabilities right now who is dependent on government assistance.
Mr. Chair, I think that the minister is going to rise up to answer, and I just want clarification from him whether or not he will.
Hon. M. Coell: Mr. Chair, I want to be very clear. The definition will mean that HIV/AIDS will qualify for continuous assistance.
J. Kwan: And what are the conditions that are attached with this act?
Hon. M. Coell: I don't know how many times I have to assure the member that the definition is quite clear and that someone with HIV/AIDS will qualify under this definition.
J. Kwan: No, Mr. Chair, less that 20 minutes ago the minister said a person with HIV/AIDS would be qualified. Then he added that is provided the person meets the criteria on the issue around the ability to perform
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daily living tasks and that is medically defined. That's what the minister said earlier. Has he changed his mind again?
The Chair: Member, the minister has answered the question appropriately a number of times.
J. Kwan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you for your guidance, but the fact of the matter is that in less than 20 minutes the minister has changed his answer and has been unclear in this House. One cannot determine what exactly is the intention of this government or this minister. The minister, when I asked a question on HIV/AIDS….
Is the minister now saying that people with HIV/AIDS would be qualified — period? If you've been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, you'll qualify for income assistance for the disability portion under Bill 27, and there's nothing that is attached to it — nothing about the requirement to perform daily living activities, nothing about the requirement for extra expenditures. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. M. Coell: I don't know how many times I can clarify this. We would expect someone diagnosed with HIV/AIDS to meet the medical assessment and also to meet the daily living. The example I used was fatigue. If it takes someone a long time to do the daily living, they would obviously need assistance.
J. Kwan: So then BCPWA's concern with respect to the new act…. Persons living with HIV/AIDS will only have one avenue to establish eligibility, and that is the restriction to perform daily activities.
Hon. M. Coell: The first is the health assessment, and the second is the assessment for daily activities.
J. Kwan: The assessment for daily living activities is the criterion in this new act under which a person would be entitled to receive disabilities benefits. There's nothing else attached to it under subsection (2)(a) and (b).
Then, when you look at subsection (3), it will require that a person has a severe or mental impairment including a person with mental disorder and a person requiring help in relation to a daily living activity if, in order to perform it, the person requires an assistive device, the significant help or supervision of another person or the services of an assistance animal.
The Chair: The minister on a point of order.
Point of Order
Hon. G. Abbott: I know we've all been listening in an admiring way for the last two hours to the minister very patiently answering questions with respect to section 2. It appears the member's questions on section 2 are exhausted. She's now gone on to section 3. Given that is the case, I say let's move on.
The Chair: Member for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant, on section 2 as amended.
J. Kwan: Mr. Chair, if the minister would like to read the act, he will actually note what I was referencing is within section 2 of the act. He might just want to care and take one moment and take a look at the act itself. He'll understand that what we're debating right now is actually under section 2 and not section 3.
Maybe, Mr. Chair, you can direct the minister accordingly.
The Chair: The question has been repetitive, and we have given it a lot of leeway at this time.
On section 2 as amended, the member for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant.
J. Kwan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for recognizing me. I'm not done asking questions under section 2. This is unbelievable.
Before I was interrupted by the Minister of Community, Aboriginal and Women's Services, who couldn't be bothered to look at the act to see from what section these questions are arising…. I can only assume he couldn't be bothered to care about the people with disabilities and wanted to jump ahead and shut down debate and questions in this House. I want to continue on section 2 debate. Under section 2 debate, the act now as proposed no longer requires the individual to establish eligibility if the person has extensive costs associated with their disability.
It is my understanding that BCPWA has been advised that those who are seeking to qualify for disability 2, the continuous category under Bill 27, would continue to receive the application from the ministry and be processed by the ministry in a positive manner, even with the passage of Bill 27. That is to say, they were led to believe that nothing will change if, in fact, Bill 27 passes. People who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and who may not necessarily show that they're impacted — that their disability impacts them in such a way that it significantly restricts their ability to perform daily living activities…. Even if the person doesn't meet the criteria, if they have extensive costs associated with it, then they will still qualify.
It is only in that instance, then, that the person would qualify. According to the minister's point of view, it's only in the instance where the person is able to show significant restrictions in their ability to perform daily living activities. If that's the only reason why a person would qualify, it differs significantly from the previous act, which allows people to demonstrate if they have extra expenses associated with
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their disability, and they would still be able to qualify.
Is the minister advising people from BCPWA that there would be no changes for people with disability to qualify for continuous benefits under Bill 27?
Hon. M. Coell: I guess, simply, the applicant will not have to show higher expenses to qualify with this definition.
J. Kwan: Am I not right? The applicant would have to show that as a result of their illness, it significantly restricts the person's ability to perform daily living activities. They would have to show that, would they not? Or is the minister saying no, they wouldn't have to show that, and they wouldn't have to show that they have extra expenses either?
Hon. M. Coell: They would have to show the need for assistance with daily living, as does everyone in the definition of a person with disabilities.
J. Kwan: That is the point. The former definition allowed for two options. One is that you can show that you have disabilities, and as a result of your disability, you require assistance for your daily living activities within a reasonable time limit. Two is that as a result of your disability, you have incurred extra costs. Under this act, you only qualify for disability if you show that it significantly restricts the person's ability to perform daily living activities. Then, what BCPWA is saying is true. Under the new act, persons living with HIV/AIDS will only have one avenue to establish eligibility: restriction to perform daily activities. Isn't that correct?
Hon. M. Coell: There are two avenues: the medical assessment and the need for assistance with daily living tasks. Now, if I can expand on that, an applicant doesn't need to show that the assistance is being provided. What they need is…. It's not whether you get it; it's whether you need it. That's an example. Someone who takes a long time, as the member suggested, to dress and to do daily living activities would obviously require some assistance. They may not be getting that assistance, but they require it, so they're eligible.
J. Kwan: The issue around qualification. There's no question around the requirement of showing restrictions to perform daily living activities. I'm not disputing that. That's what the minister is saying. The concern I have with this is that in the old act it is identified that if you require assistance to perform daily living activities within a reasonable time frame, that was enough to establish disability, but this new act has taken away the provision of reasonable time frame. It just says you're required to show that your disability significantly restricts the person's ability to perform daily living activities. The minister has said that, and that applies to everybody if they're to qualify for income assistance or not. That is a must. You have to qualify for that, and that qualification continues on to say either "(a) continuously, or (b) periodically for extended periods."
There's nothing in here that allows for a person to qualify for disability other than that one piece. If it is, I would ask the minister to please advise: under which subsection of this bill does it say the other qualifications for eligibility for disability?
Hon. M. Coell: Those are the qualifications.
J. Kwan: Well then, again, BCPWA are right when they say that under the new act, persons living with HIV/AIDS will only have one avenue to establish eligibility — i.e., restrictions to perform daily activities. The minister said there is no other provision for determining whether or not a person is eligible. Then BCPWA is right. Then the assertion, to say to them and to advise them, that persons living with HIV/AIDS currently on disability 2 should not be impacted by this change in definition is wrong. The people who have advised BCPWA of this information are wrong.
J. Kwan: At least we got that clear. The minister is not rising up to respond to the information that BCPWA has asked me to ask in this House. Although they've asked the member for Vancouver-Burrard to raise these questions in the House, the member is not raising these questions in the House, so I'm asking on behalf of BCPWA, and the minister is not responding.
BCPWA — they're right, and they have been misinformed. They have been misinformed by the ministry staff that persons living with HIV/AIDS currently on disability 2 should not be impacted by this change in definition. They have been misinformed. They would only be qualified for disability benefits if they meet the criteria that say it significantly restricts the person's ability to perform daily living activities. I just want a confirmation from the minister on that point.
Hon. M. Coell: I don't know how many times I have to say that, but I believe this definition will enable people with HIV/AIDS to qualify for disability benefits continuously.
J. Kwan: Then the people at BCPWA are right. I'll be sending them the Hansard of this debate so that they know. The minister is not disputing what I've said, so they're right, and they've been misinformed by ministry staff on this matter.
Section 2(2)(a) and (b). Previously people with disabilities had to show that their disability had existed for two years continuously or that it was likely to continue for one year and then recur. Under the proposed legislation, the definition of disability requires that the disability will continue for at least two years and that it remains either "continuously or periodically for extended periods."
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This is definitely a tightening of the eligibility requirements which the B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities say will likely impact individuals with neurological disabilities such as MS, as well as people with cyclical disabilities such as rapid-cycling bipolar depression and anxiety disorders.
A letter to the Minister of Human Resources from the Voice of the Cerebral Palsied of Greater Vancouver dated April 22, 2002, stated: "By removing the one-year and likely-to-recur duration test from the definition, people with cyclical disabilities will be cut from benefits."
In a government press release dated April 23, 2002, the Minister of State for Mental Health and the Minister of Human Resources say: "Mental illnesses or mental disorders, like physical conditions, can be episodic or cyclical. The legislation recognizes this by acknowledging that a person can be significantly restricted in his/her ability to perform daily living activities, either 'continuously or periodically for extended periods.'"
What this legislation does, in fact, is limit the definition by requiring that the disability continue for at least two years either continuously or periodically for extended periods of time. Under the Disability Benefits Program Act people had to confirm that the disability would likely continue for one year and then was likely to recur.
While the minister attempts to dissuade fears in the community, it is undeniable that there is a tightening of the legislation that will impact people.
The Minister of Human Resources has stated over and over again that the vast majority of people on disability level 2 will roll over onto continuous assistance. Well, we don't know what number or percentage corresponds to "vast." We appreciate the minister's opti-mism in anticipating that this new definition will capture the vast majority of people currently receiving disability level 2 benefits. However, there is a real concern among people on disability level 1 and those on disability level 2, who do not make up the vast majority, as to what benefits and support they'll receive.
What will the Minister of Human Resources do to ensure that people with disabilities receive the continuous financial assistance they need?
Hon. M. Coell: The two years the member comments on — that's tied to the physical impairment and recognizes that physical conditions can change.
J. Kwan: I have many more questions on this section.
Noting the time, I move that the committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.
The committee rose at 8:59 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Committee of the Whole (Section B), having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. G. Abbott moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 9 p.m.
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2002: British Columbia Hansard Services, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada