1982 Legislative Session: 4th Session, 32nd Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
TUESDAY, JULY 20, 1982
[ Page 8871 ]
Police Amendment Act, 1982 (Bill 68). Hon. Mr. Williams
Introduction and first reading –– 8871
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Universities, Science and Communications estimates. (Hon. Mr. McGeer)
On vote 84: minister's office (continued) –– 8871
On vote 86: government telecommunications –– 8876
On the amendment to vote 86 –– 8877
Election Amendment Act, 1982 (Bill 13). Committee stage, (Hon. Mr. Wolfe)
On the amendment to section 3 –– 8877
On section 10 –– 8877
On the amendment to section 10 –– 8878
Hon. Mr. Wolfe
On section 14 –– 8878
On section 22 –– 8878
On the amendment to section 22 –– 8878
Hon. Mr. Wolfe
On the proposed section 23A –– 8880
On the proposed section 24A –– 8880
On the proposed section 24B –– 8881
Appendix –– 8882
The House met at 10 a.m.
Introduction of Bills
POLICE AMENDMENT ACT, 1982
Hon. Mr. Williams presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Police Amendment Act, 1982.
Bill 68 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.
Orders of the Day
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Davidson in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF UNIVERSITIES,
SCIENCE AND COMMUNICATIONS
On vote 84: minister's office, $165,088.
MR. LEGGATT: I just have a few remarks to make on the minister's estimates. I've been fascinated with the general communications policy that the minister has espoused for some time. It is essentially a Liberal policy. Although he is fond of having his conflicts with the federal minister, he is supporting what has been Liberal communications policy for a long time. That is that the airwaves don't belong to the public, they really belong to the private sector. We therefore establish regulatory agencies to regulate the airwaves for the benefit of the private rather than the public sector. Any careful examination of broadcasting policy will confirm that. The long-term effect of this kind of broadcasting policy is that the best and cheapest way to fund broadcasting is to allow Mr. Turner in Atlanta to take British Columbia advertising, send it up on a satellite and then beam that signal down to the consumers of British Columbia, with the result that employment in terms of programming, direction and other work goes to the United States and not to Canada.
Because of modern technology overcoming any possibility of intercepting those signals.... On that point, I think the minister is on the right track. It's impractical at this late stage to try to tell people what they can or can't see from the satellite. That should never have been the objective of a decent communications policy. The objective of a decent communications policy should be the provision of Canadian and British Columbia programming, and the promotion of actors, directors and production teams — yes, small enterprise in the production field — in Canada and British Columbia.
This isn't too fast for you, Mr. Premier, is it? You're catching all of this.
MR. LEGGATT: Good, I'm glad. It's not going over your head. I'm glad to hear that.
That kind of communications policy, which is a policy which would try to provide jobs in production and acting here in Canada, not in the United States, could only have come about if the Liberal communications policy, which both Mr. Fox and the present minister in this government espouse, had not been adopted years ago. If we had decided that the cable system and the new technologies were public property, that the airwaves were public and not private property, out of those revenues the minister could have developed rich, Canadian programming so good that people would turn to it, because it would compete effectively with the mass market in the United States. Our overall communications systems problem is that, given the economies of scale, we have a terrible problem competing with U.S. production techniques. Wonderful television shows like "Barney Miller" and so on come across, and obviously it's very hard for Canadians to compete with that kind of entertainment. It's excellent mass entertainment. No one's criticizing it. But because of the short-sighted Liberal and McGeer policy on this question of communications, we have dried up our capacity by not providing any kind of meaningful funding — yes, funding that could go to the private sector. I'm not suggesting that only the CBC can produce programming. If private production companies were given the proper opportunity in a long-view communications system, with the objective way down the line of first of all providing rich Canadian and B.C. programming, which would provide increased employment in British Columbia.... But that kind of policy is not in the minister's mind. He has been much more interested in putting his satellite dish outside and using a little civil disobedience to make a point on open skies. He's right on open skies; you can't censor what's going on around the world. Someone will soon invent a disc which you can hide in your machine, and then how does the inspector control you?
I submit that the weakness in the minister's policy is that the initial philosophy was wrong. To give companies a cable licence is to give them a licence to print money. Right now, for example, the great cable companies are running race horses in Ireland. They have siphoned off tremendous amounts of capital which should have been used to provide employment in Canada and in British Columbia for actors, production technicians, electricians — all of those wonderful skills that go into this.
We are now faced with the situation that a few American entrepreneurs will dominate Canadian airwaves through the use of satellite technology. In fact, in Canada we haven't even had the wits to have our own satellite; we allowed Anik to be partly privately owned, which was a big mistake. The Anik satellite should have been publicly owned. There should not have been that kind of mix. That philosophic mix of private and public has destroyed our communications hopes to provide employment for Canadians and British Columbians. It's that mix, it's that compromise — that Liberal compromise which the minister and Mr. Fox still believe in — that drives up revenues to make more meaningful Canadian production. Now, of course, we're running into a problem with the public broadcasting system in the United States, PBS, which most of us, I think, support and listen to — a good many people here, I'm sure. We're very proud to continue to support the PBS and think it's excellent programming, but because of Reaganomics that, of course, is now in some serious trouble. Because of that kind of ideological fanaticism which says that you should not use government funding for private broadcasting at all, you will then all have an opportunity to watch "I Love Lucy" reruns for the rest of your life. In order to provide rich funding, in order to provide rich programming,
[ Page 8872 ]
government must play a role, because, you see, you can't reduce television to a level of mediocrity, which is what will happen.
AN HON. MEMBER: It's there now.
MR. LEGGATT: I agree. This happens because of the numbers game that everyone plays. This happens because if you get a certain Nielsen rating, you're going to survive; if you get a bad Nielsen rating, you're probably dropped off. Well, if you appeal to the broadest average, sometimes the lowest common denominator — that's probably putting it too harshly — you wind up without having meaningful, interesting, rich programming; you get a blandness in what you can see on television.
MR. LEGGATT: It's a bit of the same principle as supporting the Vancouver Symphony, as the member for Kamloops (Mr. Richmond) is saying — you know, you get government dictation. Who dictates to the Vancouver Symphony? They wouldn't survive without cultural help. The ballet doesn't survive without cultural help. If you decide that everything is going to be pay-as-you-go free enterprise, you will have nothing much to watch on television; it will be boring, boring, boring, but it will probably have a mass audience.
So the alternative, of course, is to find revenues for government in the new technologies, and this has been where government has fallen down, both federally and provincially. The revenue should have been coming to government from the cable systems; the revenue should have been coming to government from the satellite systems. With those revenues they then can provide rich, meaningful programming — Canadian programming, British Columbia programming; they can provide employment, production, work for people here, and a growth industry. But by using nothing other than the idea of an open-skies policy and not considering the other half of that policy, you are still faced with the satellites coming from the United States. If they take Canadian advertising, siphoning off capital from Canada and British Columbia, you'll see Woodward's on Ted Turner's signal coming out of Atlanta, and I don't want to see that. I think that is a very real risk with the open-skies policy. So what we have had is essentially the same communications policy from both the federal and provincial governments.
I don't object to the minister's position of saying that there are areas in provincial television where there is provincial jurisdiction. He has said many times that he shouldn't let the courts do his work, and I think that with tougher negotiations we might have had an agreement on it. Nevertheless, we are looking at, in terms of the jurisdictional question.... I agree completely with the minister that there are natural areas of provincial jurisdiction, such as the burglar alarm system, the Telidon systems and so on. But broadly — I think the minister might agree, although he's made some statements which are perhaps a bit equivocal — on a communications basis, that is probably appropriate in the federal area. Now that's going to be resolved shortly, since the minister is going to court, but we can't have a successful communications policy in Canada unless government has a role to play.
The government can't step right out of the communications industry. It can't adopt the U.S. system, which is simply a system in which private entrepreneurs are regulated by the FTC. Here we have a different kind of history and a different kind of problem. Canada was formed in cooperative ways. Because we are such a massive geographic area, we essentially formed the CBC because the private sector couldn't handle the communications question. We also formed public broadcasting to do certain public things, and it's not just selling soap that's important in the world of communications.
The minister has the Knowledge Network. I want to congratulate him on the Knowledge Network. I think it's a very worthwhile operation. It could probably use some improvement. I would like to know what his listening audience is; I suspect it's still pretty low. But there is a wonderful challenge in this business of communications. Because of the new technology and the number of channels that are going to become available, we will have an opportunity, as a public receiving these signals, to specialize and see things like symphony which you can very rarely see. You can see things that aren't broadly popular, but of great interest to certain narrow segments — auto mechanics and all kinds of things that do not have mass appeal, but have sectional appeal. That's very important. The great miracle of communications is that, with all the new channels, we are going to be able to start to satisfy some of those narrow areas.
MR. LEGGATT: The member for Prince George South (Mr. Strachan) says: "Only if we leave it alone." If we leave it alone, which they have done in the United States.... They have developed a very inferior television system, and most American critics agree with that; I'm not being anti-American. For example, the systems of television communication in France, Sweden and Britain are the envy of the United States. They have the opportunity there of providing a multiplicity of subjects and channels. Their educational work is extremely rich. We have a lot to learn from other systems.
To return to the principal point, I did want to congratulate the minister on the Knowledge Network. I think it's just the beginning. It's a very exciting thing, and I wish him all the success in the world with it. I think a little more funding would perhaps be good, and hopefully that can come about. It is certainly not the worst channel available for people to watch. I don't know whether he'll ever be able to persuade the powers that be to take it off the converter. I guess we'll be on the converter permanently in terms of the Knowledge Network. Nevertheless, I wish him every success on that, and I hope the listening audience continues to grow.
MS. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, I just want to raise a couple of issues with the minister. I'm sure he knows what I'm going to be talking about: specifically, the engineers. As a result of a lot of public pressure, and the position taken by President Kenny last spring, the engineers have made a commitment to discontinue publication of that pornographic newspaper they have been publishing for the last number of years. However, the outgoing president of the engineering undergraduate society gave a commitment two years ago that the Red Rag, in its present form, would not be published in
[ Page 8873 ]
the foreseeable future, and that commitment was not honoured. The other thing that the outgoing president made absolutely clear on a number of occasions is that the other activities of a pornographic nature which the engineers indulge in will continue. I'm speaking specifically of the smoker that they have each year, which is a live sex show, and also their weekly publication which is almost — although not quite — as bad as the RedRag. The Red Rag, one must admit, was the worst, because it was not pornographic just in terms of how it related to women and homosexuals in particular; it was also very racist in the way it dealt with minority groups, immigrants, and even disabled people. It was in such poor taste that it even had caricatures of disabled people.
I'm pleased about the commitment: that this institution, which is funded with public funds, has decided, certainly because of President Kenny's position, to discontinue publication of that newspaper. However, I have not heard the minister comment on the activities of the engineers; nor has he, as a person responsible for this publicly funded institution, indicated dismay at some of the activities that the engineers indulge in, specifically the smoker. I know that most people think the Lady Godiva ride is funny, so much so that this year they used a nude man instead of a nude woman. Why a place of learning, an institution of higher education, feels it necessary to tolerate that kind of behaviour I'm not sure. I certainly would like to have the minister's comments on the statements made by the engineering undergraduate society that they intend to continue with their annual smoker and with their weekly publication — which as I say is only slightly less offensive than the Red Rag — and certainly with their Lady Godiva ride. Does he think it's appropriate to tolerate such behaviour in an institution which is run on public funds?
The second thing I would like to bring to the minister's attention is the impact that financial restraint is having on women's programs in all of the universities. I realize that the minister himself does not go to the universities and say: "These are the programs which should be cut." I realize that this decision is made by the universities themselves. However, it might be possible for the minister to do something to protect these programs. Certainly the Minister of Education, as far as the community colleges are concerned, could, by working closely with the minister responsible for universities, explore the possibilities of bringing on some additional funding specifically earmarked for women's access.
Originally the women's access programs were started under the present minister when he was the Minister of Education. His original deputy, Mr. Hardwick, was the person who first put those programs into place, and they have proliferated throughout the community colleges; in some of the universities they are still in place. However, as a result of the tight financial situation that both community colleges and universities are facing, we find the decision being made to phase out the women's programs, to cut back on them. They are perceived as not being basic or essential to these educational institutions; they are actually being viewed almost as fat which can be cut.
The third area, again one which affects women specifically, concerns Simon Fraser University, which is suffering as a result of the financial restraints on funding to their day-care centre. The day-care centre at Simon Fraser University has got to be one of the best in British Columbia, and probably one of the best in North America, because it has pioneered in so many fields and explored the whole area of early childhood education and of early cognitive learning for children. It has also made it possible for a number of parents of very small children to attend university or accept jobs on the university campus, either as staff or on the professorial level. Everyone uses the Simon Fraser day care. It is also a model for other day-care centres. However, the university is finding, again, that as a result of the tight financial situation, their funding and contribution to the Simon Fraser day care is being reduced, and the day care faces the very real possibility of having to close its doors within the next year or two. Again, I'm wondering whether the minister has explored the possibility of protecting a part of the institution as important as the Simon Fraser day care. As I mentioned earlier, it operates not just as a day care, but also as a learning institution for other child-care centres. It plays a very important role in early childhood education research.
My final point that I want to raise with the minister is the fact that the entire economic situation which we are experiencing at this time is beginning to limit the access of all students to universities. Most students are not able to find summer employment, certainly not at the level that would make it possible to meet the fees and expenses involved in attending university. We're finding that more and more British Columbia students are being limited in their access to university. I wonder if the minister has given this matter any thought, and if he's come up with any solutions. The student employment program announced this year is certainly not sufficient, because it's half the amount of time for half the money at the same time that student fees are being increased on all of the campuses. At the University of Victoria, UBC and Simon Fraser, all students are facing increases in fees at the same time as they face a decrease of their earning power. We're going to find that fewer and fewer students are going to be able to attend any of the universities. I wonder whether the minister has taken a specific look at this and has come up with any ideas about how he can extend access of students to university, rather than have them face the limitations which they now experience.
I'd appreciate a response to those three questions.
MRS. DAILLY: I also have a few questions for the minister. The first question really follows what my colleague from Burnaby–Edmonds has just brought up. It's my concern, as it is with many: the decreased opportunities of access for the majority of our students because of the economy. I want to say to the minister that I realize that he alone cannot solve all these problems for all the students, but I do want to ask him to explain his priorities to this House. When we're limited in our money expenditures, we particularly must look at the priorities of a government which, although it's limited in the moneys available to it, often misappropriates the money they have into wrong areas, in my opinion.
My first question to the minister in charge of universities is: why did he approve — and obviously takes great credit for it — the expenditure of $3.4 million for a nine-lane superhighway to UBC at a time when that could probably have provided a number of opportunities for students in this province? If you had taken that $3.4 million and added it to grants available for students to get to university, I think the money would have been far better spent. I want the minister to explain to the House why, in a time of great restriction, he saw it necessary to have a superhighway built to the University of British Columbia.
[ Page 8874 ]
May I point out that the people of Burnaby North are suffering from tremendous traffic congestion on Hastings Street. There are problems in gaining access to and from Simon Fraser. It's causing problems on Parker-Curtis. I could go on and on. Yet this minister got a superhighway to UBC for the cost of $3.4 million. I quote from two news clippings about it at the time:
"Pat Carr, executive director of operations for the Ministry of Highways, said he does not know why the UBC project was given top priority. 'It's a couple of years now since I was working on that'.... Highways minister Alex Fraser was not available for comment.
"McGeer said that highway access all around Vancouver is 'inadequate.' Asked if UBC's new highways are a demonstration of the advantages of being represented by a cabinet minister, he said: 'That's probably a fair statement to make.' "
What complete arrogance! Really, I think the minister owes an explanation to this House and to the students of British Columbia for why he puts more emphasis on blacktop in the area around which he resides and in the area of the university of which he is still, I believe, a member of the faculty on leave.... I wonder if he could explain to the House why he considers that a priority. That's number one.
Number two, Mr. Chairman, is a question on the Knowledge Network, and here too I want to be kind to the minister and say that I enjoy the Knowledge Network and I put it on quite often. I'm quite impressed with it, and I think it's a major step, but I have a concern here about expenditures, as great as the Knowledge Network is. Frankly, I'm wondering how much money is really budgeted for it; are you able to make it? I read somewhere where former Deputy Minister Walter Hardwick was talking about having to try and make money from private sources to keep the network going, and I was wondering if the network is in financial difficulty. What plans do you have? I'd like to see it continue, but in times of economy, if it's a choice between expanding the Knowledge Network and perhaps enabling more students to get into university, I think I have to take the latter choice, because I think the Knowledge Network, good as it is, may not at this time be providing degrees to students in the same manner that the students could actually get them from universities. I regret to say that, because I hope that in good times we can expand it. Would you tell us the status of that?
I have another question, but I've lost it. 1'm sure you don't want any more, do you?
HON. MR. McGEER: Sure, go ahead.
MRS. DAILLY: Well, I was wanting to express just general concern about the area of priorities and again point out to the minister that it's the matter of accessibility that really concerns many of us, because I'm concerned that only those students who come from families who happen to be fairly well off can continue going to university. That means that once again our universities will become just places for the elite and not places for students who have the ability but not the economic viability to go. Will the minister, therefore, please give an answer on his priorities. As the member for Burnaby–Edmonds (Ms. Brown) asked, what is he doing to provide more equal access in times of economic depression in our province? I think that's it for now.
HON. MR. McGEER: I can deal quickly with the questions that have been raised. First of all, the highway, of course, is under the Ministry of Highways, but I'm very proud of the fine job they've done. I'd like to invite the member to the official opening of that highway, which will take place on Friday afternoon. It was a fine, excellent piece of work, long overdue. I think that in the 20 years that I've been a representative, this will be our first opportunity for a highway opening. We haven't had the kind of fine highways in Point Grey that the member was able to enjoy, for example, in Gaglardi Way up to Simon Fraser University. We're going to have a grand opening. That's a beautiful entrance to our senior public institution, and I think, Madam Member, it's long overdue.
With respect to the Knowledge Network, no, its not in financial difficulty. We are going to have to pay for our transponder starting early next year. The federal government donation to that comes to an end, and probably the remarks you heard that Dr. Hardwick made related to the fact that we will have to pay.... But while I thank the members for their compliments to the Knowledge Network, almost all the credit is due Dr. Hardwick. I still think it's the best value that we get in education, and as far as I'm concerned, because it goes to everybody in British Columbia regardless of their financial circumstances, geographic location or previous academic achievement, in my view, it deserves top priority. If anything, I would say we didn't spend enough money on it. Now the member may differ with me in that, but, in any event, I'm glad that the opposition members are pleased with its performance, because I certainly am.
Now with respect to access to our institutions, Madam Member, through you, Mr. Chairman, I'm honestly not persuaded that we have a serious problem in that respect, because our student aid program in this province is so very generous. What students give up, and what in my view has been the greatest deterrent, is earning power. The cost to them is so minimal compared to what they give up in income that the true sacrifice they make is being out of the labour force for a period of time. If they're seeking a degree it's four years, and if they're seeking a graduate degree it's maybe seven or more years. It's that withdrawal from earning power that the student has got to match against the value of his degree. At today's earning power, the value of that degree to the student must be very high to justify his withholding his time. That's why we see some institutions in North America having a little bit of difficulty attracting students. They cannot give the students a degree and an education which matches the earning-power sacrifice.
MRS. DAILLY: You're living ten years ago.
HON. MR. McGEER: Well, you know, if people can work at Safeway for $12 or $14 an hour today, then they're going to have to think pretty carefully: "Is my degree going to be worth the time I spend?" But if evidence can be provided that access is a genuine problem, then, Madam Member, we should really take a serious look at our program of student aid.
[Mr. Strachan in the chair.]
For the first two or three years, when I was the minister doing all fields of education, student aid money was left on the table. It wasn't that we hadn't done our best to make funds
[ Page 8875 ]
available. People had access to it if they were genuinely in financial need. I must say, I continue to believe that the chance to earn is the greatest deterrent. By the way, that's one of the reasons why in difficult economic times student attendance at post-secondary institutions tends to go up rather than down. We may well see that happen this fall — only time will tell.
Although the member for Coquitlam–Moody (Mr. Leggatt) isn't here, I'd like to say just a word or two about communications policy. If the members who are here would carry the information back to the member, I'd be grateful. I realize, of course, that he attempted to wound me deeply by suggesting that my policy was the same as that of the federal Liberals. That's a vicious and cutting remark. I'll bear the lash marks of that with some resentment.
The other aspect of the member's remarks that I resented is that I engaged in civil disobedience by providing the members opposite and others with a sampling of what satellite reception can bring to every citizen. That wasn't civil disobedience at all. I stand here in my place to say that I resent that suggestion being made. What it was intended to do was establish a very simple fact. The Department of Communications does not have parliamentary authority to do those things they are attempting to do to Canadian citizens today. Court cases prove that they do not have that authority. If they wanted the authority they would need to go back to parliament for a new act or a revised act, which they would never get. The people who are the elected MPs in this country are not fools. They know the degree of resentment abroad in this country against federal bureaucrats and the federal minister who backs them.
In this province we have a policy of open skies. We're for freedom. We want to give every single citizen of this province an opportunity to have the whole breadth of culture, entertainment and education that is available. We know their preferences are going to be for Canadian entertainment, but we're certainly not going to attempt, or abet anybody else who attempts, to erect an electronic barrier at the 49th parallel any more than we're going to try to keep out foreign magazines, foreign newspapers or foreign books. It's all the same thing. Our people are going to be richer Canadians for having had the opportunity to receive and enjoy all of the entertainment, education and culture that's up there.
It's paradoxical that we have to assert our constitutional authority by an act of this Legislature to regulate so that we can deregulate. The only way we can keep the federal people out of our back yard is to say that these are our constitutional rights to regulate, and we choose not to do so. Then we could give the people of this province the full freedom and opportunity that should be theirs.
We've got one other job in addition to giving them freedom. We have to promote the technology to the point where they can afford to take advantage of what is up in the airwaves and landing on their property. That is something my ministry is working very hard to promote. The difficulty is that everybody doesn't have our policy. If they did, there would be a sufficient market for satellite receivers that the cost would soon come down to the level of a television set — or less. So once more we are swimming against the tide, but we're going to get there.
As far as Canadian production is concerned, the advent of satellites has given Canadians the greatest opportunity they've ever had: that is, to have Canadian production for international markets. This is the opportunity to export our culture and our talents. But to do that, we need Canadian superstations, just like Ted Turner in Atlanta. We could do that in Canada. We could do it from right here in Victoria. All you need is an up-link; we've got the satellite channels. But one other thing is a licence. They don't give them permission in Canada.
The member for Coquitlam–Moody should reflect a little on what's taking place in Europe. The most successful cultural and broadcasting jurisdictions are not Sweden and France, as the member suggested; they are Luxembourg and Monaco. Europe listens to Luxembourg and Monaco, these tiny, insignificant principalities, and why? Because they are the least regulated in Europe. The secret for exporting Canadian culture, for bringing wealth to production and opportunity for our people, is not to regulate us more, but to regulate us less. If we were less regulated than the United States, rather than more regulated, we would have the superstations, not Ted Turner in Atlanta. We would have the production, not somebody else. We are our own worst enemies. We get bureaucrats and pay taxes to people to wrap us in red tape, and then we wonder why we can't compete.
I would plead with the member opposite who raised the question — with all of you opposite — to give some thought to this. The opportunity is there, but it's not going to be achieved by having the CRTC, a building full of regulators in Hull, Quebec, aided and abetted by the vested interests in Ontario, telling us what to do in British Columbia. I read an editorial in the Vancouver Province — a typically misguided one — that said we ought to turn all of that over to Ottawa, not recognizing that our problem has been Ottawa. We've been more regulated, we've been inhibited, and so we've been, as we so often are in Canada, our own worst enemies. We are trying to protect ourselves against ourselves.
I am in some distress, Mr. Chairman, that the member opposite has not had the insight to identify this as our problem. Sure, we can go ahead and subsidize the CBC. Canadians like the CBC. It's costly, its inefficient, it's hog-tied by unions. If they were to subcontract some of their production, and if they had made this a policy in the past, then we might have had independent producers in Canada who would sell to both sides of the border, and internationally. If anything, I would say that if you want to subsidize, subsidize through the CBC and have them subcontract, but don't tie the hands of those people who are trying to bring services to individual British Columbians and to Canadians.
With respect to the matters of day care and women's programs raised by the member for Burnaby–Edmonds (Ms. Brown), these things have to be decided by the institutions themselves. We provide an overview. We give them as much money as possible. We promote autonomy and non-interference, because we think that's the way the institutions will be the healthiest.
With respect to the capers of undergraduate engineers, I'm not going to comment on that. I really think it's too trivial an item to be raised in the Legislature. I would leave that not even to the administration of the universities, but to lower levels than that.
MS. BROWN: Well, it's interesting to find that the minister thinks that the kind of pornographic material that's handled in the Red Rag and the kind of abuse disabled citizens and members of minority groups receive are too trivial to be raised on the floor of the Legislature. I think that's a very interesting comment of his, and I'm pleased to find out just
[ Page 8876 ]
what his priorities are. Unfortunately I don't share those feelings. I do not think that the kinds of destructive, insulting and violently abusive things which the Red Rag deals with are trivial in the way they affect women, nor do I think it's trivial the way the Red Rag deals with disabled citizens, nor do I think it's trivial the way the Red Rag deals with members of minority groups. Of course, I have a vested interest in that, since I belong to two of those groups myself.
I have never learned to consider trivial the pornographic, violent depictions of women which are seen in the Red Rag. I am sorry if the minister thinks that it is too trivial to be raised on the floor of this House. I do not share that opinion. That is the kind of issue which cannot be kept off the floor of this House, because the attitude towards women in our community, certainly as they are fostered in our places of learning, are very important to the way in which we as women are treated in this province. As trivial as it may be to the minister, Mr. Chairman, as long as I am in this House, I intend to raise those issues.
I think it's unfortunate, the position the minister has taken. I think it is unfortunate that he considers the abuse of women trivial, the depiction of women in violent scenes trivial, and the depiction of women in insulting scenes trivial. I think that is unfortunate. I am not going to compound that situation by endorsing the minister's position on this issue and remaining silent. The Red Rag is not just an insult to women; it's an insult to everyone. It is an insult to men of good will and men of decency. It should be an insult to the minister, and that the minister considers it trivial would explain one of the reasons why the Red Rag remained doing the things and printing the kind of things it did until the president and the dean of the university, who did not consider it trivia — and thank God for that — decided that the Red Rag should cease its publication.
It is absolutely appalling that the minister responsible for higher education in this province would dare to stand on the floor of this House and chastise a member for raising a matter of such importance to everyone. It is a measure of his arrogance, Mr. Chairman, his insensitivity and his lack of understanding of what it means to be a victim of pornography. I am made less as a result of that minister's statement. All people are made less as a result of that minister's statement. Because that minister is the highest power in terms of the education of the citizens of this province, through his Knowledge Network and through his responsibility for the universities and colleges — not the community colleges but the universities — what that minister thinks is important is reflected in those institutions. What that minister thinks is trivial is also reflected in those institutions. More than 51 percent of the people who live in this province are women, and every single one of them stands insulted today by that minister's statement that to raise the issue of pornography on this floor is trivial.
The minister, Mr. Chairman, also included in that statement the fact that Red Rag also deals with, ridiculing the disabled in the most vicious and cruel ways; of less importance to the minister, I'm sure, is the fact that it ridicules the members of minority groups, also in cruel and vicious ways.
The minister has not heard the end of this. Everyone — the media and various groups — from time to time says that there is no need for a women's movement anymore because women have achieved everything that we started out to fight for. There are a lot of us who really believe that. But it is not until one has to hear someone with the kind of importance this minister has, standing on the floor of our House of government, commenting that the depiction of women in cruel, vicious, exploitative and degrading ways is trivial that one can really understand that we haven't achieved anything after all.
As long as there are people around, either in places of authority or not, who believe that it is trivial to exploit and degrade women in these ways, we are once again brought sharply aware of our position as oppressed people in this society. I cannot repeat strongly enough how hurt and disappointed I am to hear the minister responsible for universities stand on the floor of this House and say that to raise the issue of the disabled, women and minority groups in insulting, sexually explicit, exploitative and often violent ways, in the way that this magazine does, is trivial.
The other statement he made about day care shows that he obviously didn't understand what I said about Simon Fraser day care, because in fact the day care was fully subsidized by the government when it opened in 1976. That has been decreasing since that date. As a matter of fact, there was 90 percent funding for it in 1976, and that decreased to a level of 45 percent in 1981. To speak to a minister about day care who thinks that the exploitation of women in degrading ways is trivial is really a waste of time. If his contempt of women is so profound as was embodied in that statement of his recently, it really is expecting too much to expect him to care that access to universities is being cut off to women, either because there is no funding for day care or because programs specifically directed at them are being cut.
The only thing I would like to apologize about, Mr. Chairman, is that I was really naive enough to think that the minister responsible for universities, the member for Point Grey, had some respect for women — enough respect, quite frankly, to care to make some kind of public statement about this insulting and disgusting magazine, which even the president of the university and the dean of the faculty of engineering had to put a halt to. The fact that on June 6 the engineers published in the Ubyssey newspaper that they would be black in business by September 1 was the reason that prompted me to suggest to the minister that this was an opportunity for him to make a public statement saying that he did not condone that treatment of women, the disabled and minority groups. I must apologize for my naivety.
Vote 84 approved.
Vote 85: ministry administration and support, $9, 224,510 — approved.
On vote 86: government telecommunications, $24,352,193.
MR. MITCHELL: I've got one question for the minister. When the committee from his staff appeared before the hearing on the B.C. Tel rate application, they did an excellent job. As an intervener, which your ministry was, you could have made an application under the CRTC regulations for funding for the cost of your presentation to the hearing. Did the ministry make any application for funding as an intervener?
HON. MR. McGEER: We didn't. We'll pack our own freight for that, and we're happy to do it.
[ Page 8877 ]
MR. MITCHELL: One of the reasons I asked that is leading up to what we're going.... I notice the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Curtis) has left the House again. He's always looking for sources of funding to assist his deficit, and this ministry has not made any attempt to get money that was available. They're overspending, they're wasteful — as has been the tradition — and they have regulated salaries from 8 to 12 to 14 percent, while cutting welfare for mothers back to $55. I notice in vote 86 this minister made no attempt to not only cut his budget, but even to keep it within the 14 percent where it was last year. In a year of restraint, he's allowed travel to increase 57.6 percent. The minister has admitted that he never made any attempt to recover money where money was available. He never helped his colleague the Minister of Finance. I don't know how many pencils or paper clips or what else he has to buy, but his budget for office expenses has gone up 20.7 percent.
Therefore, in the true tradition of the opposition, we are asking this House to support us in restraint, to stop the waste and the frittering away. I would therefore like to move that vote 86 be reduced by the sum of $31,260.
Amendment negatived on the following division:
YEAS — 21
NAYS — 29
An hon. member requested that leave be asked to record the division in the Journals of the House.
Vote 86 approved.
Vote 87: universities, $363,596,359 — approved.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Divisions in committee ordered to be recorded in the Journals of the House.
The committee, having reported resolutions, was granted leave to sit again.
HON. MR. GARDOM: Mr. Speaker, I call committee on Bill 13.
ELECTION AMENDMENT ACT, 1982
The House in committee on Bill 13; Mr. Davidson in the chair.
On the amendment to section 3.
HON. MR. WOLFE: Mr. Chairman, when we adjourned yesterday we were considering the amendment on the order paper dealing with Armed Forces personnel. The member for Comox (Ms. Sanford) presented this motion.
Mr. Chairman, the intention of the motion is, I think, a good one, and I'd like to thank the member for her proposal. We've had discussions with legislative counsel as to the wording of the motion. The intent is to provide the same recognition of residence to spouses or children of Armed Forces personnel who retain that residence definition by virtue of section 4(i) in the present act. At the suggestion of legislative counsel, I propose to introduce an amendment which would accomplish the same objective. I believe the member has a copy of it. I would ask, with her permission, that she may withdraw the present amendment so that we could introduce this one.
MS. SANFORD: Mr. Chairman, this is rather a rare display of nonpartisan cooperation, and I appreciate the fact that the minister wishes to put my amendment in more legalistic language. I'm pleased that the minister has seen the good sense contained in the amendment and hope that he will see the good sense contained in all of the amendments that we now have before us. With pleasure, Mr. Chairman, I would ask leave to withdraw my amendment, so that the minister can introduce his.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The motion in agreement has been withdrawn with consent.
HON. MR. WOLFE: Now, Mr. Chairman, I therefore move an amendment to section 3.1, which reads as follows:
"Section 4 is amended by adding the following paragraph: '(j) where the spouse or a child of a person to whom paragraph (i) applies accompanies him in his absence from his place of residence the spouse or child shall not for that reason lose or be deemed to have lost his residence in this province or in any electoral district.' "
Section 3 as amended approved.
Sections 4 to 9 inclusive approved.
On section 10.
MRS. DAILLY: When any government makes a major move, such as involving themselves in the whole area of redistribution, I'm sure it would want to be sure not only that it is impartial but that it gives the appearance of being impartial. That is why I have produced an amendment here which would set up an impartial boundaries commission. The make-up of that three-person commission would be an all-party committee, with a unanimous vote. Without going into
[ Page 8878 ]
all the details of such a commission, which I know the government would quite readily produce for us, I consider the principle behind a non-partisan commission to be absolutely vital to all future campaigns by this government and any new government in this province. On behalf of the official opposition, I take great pleasure in moving the amendment which appears in my name on the order paper. [See appendix.] It is a new section, which would establish an impartial boundary commission.
On the amendment.
HON. MR. WOLFE: This is a very broad amendment, providing for automatic appointment of an electoral districts boundaries commission. When you consider the detail of the amendment, it goes quite far in terms of the mandate of such a commission; by that I mean far beyond what could be termed an electoral districts boundaries commission. For instance, it would deal with such other matters relating to the electoral process as the commission considers appropriate. In other words, it's a very broad mandate, providing for automatic appointment of such a three-member commission every so many years.
The government cannot accept this amendment. We debated the matter in detail in second reading. There are many jurisdictions in Canada where there is no such mandatory provision in their Election Act to provide for a commission. I don't argue with the intent of this. We, of course, have a commission currently appointed to consider representation of various constituencies and this matter as well. But until now we've not provided it as an automatic procedure under our act, and the government does not propose that at this particular point in time.
As the member knows, it does contravene standing order 67, as it involves expenditure of funds. I point out that the amendment as it now stands is not an acceptable matter as far as the government is concerned.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. members, the minister has informed the Chair that this is in contravention of standing order 67. As such, it is therefore out of order, and the Chair would so rule.
Sections 10 to 13 inclusive approved.
On section 14.
MRS. DAILLY: First of all, I want to thank the minister, and Mr. Goldberg particularly, for so expeditiously furnishing, for the first time, the voters' list to the candidates and the MLAs. On behalf of our side, anyway, we certainly appreciate it. We've never had that before, and we really appreciate it.
However, I would like to move an amendment that would provide for those voters' lists being furnished to political parties, rather than to the candidates, in the future. Perhaps the timing could be soon after the writ is dropped, rather than after nomination day, halfway through the campaign, which is the procedure now. Without going any further in explaining that — I think it's pretty self-explanatory — I move the amendment appearing in my name on the order paper. [See appendix.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. members, there appear to be three separate amendments in section 14. To help us deal with this, could we possibly deal with subsections (1), (2), (3) and (4) as one amendment, separate from subsections (5) and (6). If that would be in order, we could then address the matter by that method.
Amendment to subsections 14(l), (2), (3) and (4) negatived.
Amendment to subsection 14(5) negatived.
Amendment to subsection 14(6) negatived.
Section 14 approved.
Sections 15 to 21 inclusive approved.
On section 22.
MRS. DAILLY: This is a very important section. We are pleased that there have been some changes made in this section which will allow for registering on election day. However, we are concerned that it apparently only applies to rural areas. We understand that this is by regulation. Only in rural areas do you find that a person could turn up to vote, find out they're not on the list, ask to get on the list, and be told: "Yes, you can, if you do certain things." However, if you are in an urban area, you must go to a specified area in which to register on voting day so you can vote.
The amendment to section 22, which I have produced here, would provide that election-day voter registration shall be available in every poll. I see the minister nodding. He's quite aware of our concern over this. Because our fears are not allayed — that this will happen — I feel it necessary to put in an amendment, the reason being that there are many people who, when they arrive to vote and are told they can but are then told they've got to go from here to here to one special spot to register.... Many are older people who don't have transportation and are in areas where it's very difficult to get around, even in a city riding, and I don't think it's quite fair that these people are perhaps not going to have the same opportunity as those in rural areas. We're glad it's in the rural areas, but we really feel that if you would accept this amendment it would ensure that everything possible is being done to allow registration to take place on election day. It may appear minor to some people, but it is not a minor amendment. We appreciate the first move. We're now asking you to complete it by allowing this. I therefore move that amendment standing in my name on the order paper. [See appendix.]
On the amendment.
HON. MR. WOLFE: I can appreciate that the intention of this amendment is good. We've examined very closely the possibility of having a place where a person could register available in every poll. This is the first time we have attempted polling-day registration in British Columbia. A decision has been taken from an administrative point of view that in urban areas there will be special polls for registration purposes, and these will be very accessible to everyone who wishes. This will be well advertised so that no one will be prevented from registering. They will be directed to a special poll in the urban electoral district so that they can become
[ Page 8879 ]
registered. Until we've gone through at least one or two experiences of polling-day registration, which is new in British Columbia, I would hesitate to advance that proposal to have registration available in every poll. There are some very large and busy polls, so at this stage we're providing for special polls for registration in urban areas, and in the non-urban areas there will be registration available in every poll. I cannot accept your amendment, although I know the intention is good. I don't think anyone is going to be prevented from registering; they will simply be directed to a special poll for that purpose.
MR. HALL: Having just heard the minister say that.... If he believes that, then he has no right whatsoever to say what he did some months ago — that everybody will be entitled to register to vote on polling day.
MR. HALL: You did say that. And now you are, in making sure that there will only be designated polls in urban areas.... In places like Surrey, where there's going to be over 100,000 people on the voters' list, they will not have the same opportunity to register on voting day that other people across the province will have. You had no right to make that statement three months ago. We've been waiting for this kind of an announcement from you for nearly four months, and now we've got it. Mr. Chairman, this minister has stood in his place on a number of occasions, made press releases, and has enjoyed the plaudits and congratulations of many people in the province for saying that people will be able to register on voting day. He's now produced a completely meaningless piece of legislation.
Let me tell the minister what happens on polling day, because it's quite apparent he hasn't got the slightest idea. When you've got a polling booth — for instance, in North Surrey — with over 2,500 people on the voters' list in one poll, and you're going to designate some polls where this takes place.... I've heard it already being said: "That's not what we really mean at all. What we mean is that where polls are all put together in, say, a school, we'll designate the school." Well, say so. Designate each poll in that school. I want to tell you, Mr. Minister, that if you tell some old-age pensioners that they've got to go from wherever they've turned up to vote to somewhere else, they're not going to do that. You can say as many times as you like that you're not preventing them from doing it, but you are preventing them from doing it.
And let me say this to you, Mr. Minister. This isn't some form of getting your motor vehicle correct after a number of adjustments over a number of models. We're talking about an elections act here. We're talking about the right to vote and about enfranchisement. We're talking about a charter of rights here. Let me tell you this: unless everybody's got the same right in every part of B.C., from Atlin to Surrey, there's going to be somebody challenging you in the courts. To come here with this kind of mealy-mouthed attitude that we're going to do it for the rural ridings, but in the big ridings we'll have a few goes at it.... Well, a few goes at it is going to take you about nine years, and I haven't got the time to wait.
Now that I've got that off my chest, I want a better explanation. This minister had better come up with the idea that every single one of my constituents in Surrey and White Rock can go to wherever he or she has been directed by the first member's election address — or my election address, because I think we're both running again. They had better be able to register to vote when they get to Holly School; otherwise, your promise of three months ago is worthless. To tell them, when they get to Holly School, that no, they've got to go down to Fleetwood School, or to Whiterock or somewhere else, is useless. That's just Surrey. My colleague here in Victoria has had no doubt the same kind of argument.
Frankly, I don't care whether you accept this amendment, but if you're going to mess around with the Election Act, for goodness' sake get it right the first time. We've been talking about a new election act not for one year, not for two years, but for years and years, and this kind of inaccurate draftsmanship is not acceptable — not to this member anyway. You have all the credit that you're entitled to for standing up on your hind legs and saying that everybody will be entitled to register on voting day; now produce that fact. In the event, produce the action. Don't just say that we're going to send them somewhere to some special polls. You have another problem coming up if you treat those voters any differently whatsoever than the normal voter, but we'll most likely deal with that under another amendment.
I implore you: you've got to make sure that every voting place in the urban ridings, where we're getting polls that have, as I say, hundreds of voters in them.... I had an opportunity to examine closely the voters' list in Surrey following the enumeration. I haven't seen any polls gazetted yet, or new outlines within the constituency indicating the size of the polls, but I know what kind of polls there were last time, and this will not work. If the minister wants to fulfil the promise that he's taken all the credit for, he better has to do better than this.
MR. REE: It's obvious that the member for Surrey hasn't gone outside the borders of Surrey, because there are other parts of this province and other priorities and problems arising in the conduct of an election. I can't accept the amendment that's put forward here. When you're conducting an election, there are places where you cannot sufficiently train each and every poll clerk and DRO to handle the sometimes thousands of people who come in to cast ballots in this special manner, plus taking the ordinary poll. As a returning officer, I found that in order to facilitate voting by those people who have made the effort to register before an election — those people who have gone out of their way to ensure that they're on the voters' list — it's been desirable to have another location for those people who haven't taken the effort but think they should be on the voters' list — those who have voted under the previous section 80. Or even to make it easier for absentee voters in the metropolitan area of Vancouver, we can have a separate place where they can go to ensure that their affidavit envelope is properly completed and that their ballot is going to be counted when it gets back to their home constituency.
Mr. Speaker, this amendment would only frustrate that. It would frustrate the ordinary voter, because we would have all the strangers in the ordinary polling place. It would frustrate the ordinary voters who are registered by having people who haven't taken the effort to go out and register. Mr. Chairman, I think it's necessary that a returning officer — registrar of voters — have the authority, where it's deemed necessary, to be able to establish separate polling places for the section 80 ballots, whether they be registration ballots, absentee ballots or transfer ballots, where the returning officer can have
[ Page 8880 ]
properly instructed people to take the ballots and ensure that those ballots will be counted on election day.
Mr. Chairman, I will have to vote against the amendment as proposed in the Orders of the Day and in favour of the government amendment.
HON. MR. WOLFE: Mr. Chairman, I listened very carefully to the concern of the member for Surrey over this. I really think his concern is highly exaggerated. I say that sincerely. He knows as well as I that we have here a completely new procedure. We're talking about people who are not on the voters' list, and trying to provide a means for them to vote which we did not have in the past — polling-day registration. A lot of people will want to come forward and take advantage of this, where they're not currently on the voters' list.
We have something else new in B.C. We have a new enumeration every five years, so you're going to have a much more up-to-date list with more people on it who are eligible to vote. So there should be fewer people desiring to vote under what we used to call section 80, or currently under the new section providing for polling-day registration, than we've had before.
The member made a big case of preventing people from voting by saying that they had to go to some special poll. I can advise him that plans are already in place that, if necessary, there may be more than one such registration poll in any given urban riding, such as Surrey. He need not fear that people won't be properly advised where to go to register; but it would be very difficult to provide those means in every poll in British Columbia the first time we try this process, particularly in urban areas. It's the same in other jurisdictions.
In conclusion, rather than pursue this matter further, we cannot accept the amendment for the reasons I have outlined. I am also advised that the amendment itself is out of order under standing order 67 because it does involve the expenditure of public funds.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. members, standing order 67 having been drawn to the attention of the Chair, the amendment is therefore out of order and fails.
Sections 22 and 23 approved.
On proposed section 23A.
MRS. DAILLY: I have another amendment which has to do with the section 80 vote, and I'm sure the minister has had time to look at it. We are concerned that.... Let's consider voting day. Somebody goes there, and is told he's not on the list and is given the opportunity to vote. Unfortunately, in urban ridings they will not be given as easy an opportunity, as we have just pointed out. I and others am concerned that there are people who, when they are told that they must sign their names on the outside of an envelope, inside which, as we know, the vote is sealed — in other words, they are being singled out to cast that vote, even after they've been allowed to vote, in a different way than a voter who is already on the list — may feel that that is an invasion of their privacy as voters. By this amendment, we're saying to the minister that it is unnecessary to put this block in front of the voter, who has now been given the right to register on voting day, but is told he cannot vote the way the regular voter will vote. Therefore my amendment is saying that the section 80 vote will be treated — for the person who registers at the poll on voting day — the same way as the regular vote would be treated. I move that amendment standing in my name. [See appendix.]
HON. MR. WOLFE: With the greatest of respect, we cannot accept this amendment, because it involves a commitment to place these newly registered ballots in the ballot box on election night There needs to be a time period to verify the eligibility of those registrants. That's part of this new process. Until official count day, it really would be highly inadvisable to place those ballots in the regular ballot box.
As to the concern over privacy, before those ballots are counted on official count day, with the scrutineer in attendance and so on, those ballots will be removed from the envelope and placed in a separate ballot box before they are counted. The privacy aspect has been duly considered in that process. I say once again, we cannot accept this amendment.
Amendment to section 23A negatived.
Section 24 approved.
On proposed section 24A.
MR. HANSON: In March of this year I wrote a letter to the Provincial Secretary, indicating to him the plight of a large number of voters in British Columbia who have never had the right to vote. They are the people who are physically disabled to the point that they cannot get to the polls themselves.
This was brought to the attention of the standing committee by the report of the Special Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped from the House of Commons, chaired by Mr. David Smith. He has issued two reports. One indicated that the letter ballot, postal vote system of Manitoba was the way that both the federal government and all the provinces should proceed to enfranchise the disabled shut-ins of this country. One thousand people use this system in Manitoba, and it is estimated that about three to four times that population would be using it in British Columbia.
In my own constituency of Victoria, as all members know, there is a large population of senior citizens. The retirement population is dominant, as it is in my colleague's riding of Surrey and the area of White Rock. Numerous constituents have brought to my attention that they are good citizens, they pay taxes and they want to participate in the democratic process in this province. They have asked me to proceed and introduce amendments.
I brought this dilemma to the attention of the minister in March, and I received the following reply on March 18:
"I will ask the provincial chief electoral officer, Mr. Goldberg, to research the Manitoba Election act, as well as the experience they have gathered to this point in time. He will also be asked to examine other Canadian electoral jurisdictions to determine what they are doing with respect to voting by the incapacitated.
"When Mr. Goldberg's report is received, consideration will be given to the possibility of establishing a provision for voting by incapacitated persons unable to leave their own homes."
[ Page 8881 ]
As I read the Election Amendment Act introduced by this minister, there is no such provision. In other words, the major amendments being put forward to the Election Act of British Columbia at this time make no effort to accommodate the voting rights of people who, through no fault of their own, are physically unable to get to the polls.
The Manitoba experience is very simple and straightforward. It's a postal vote system whereby an incapacitated voter indicates to the electoral officer, with a certain lead time, that they are unable to get to the polling station. There are various safeguarding provisions in terms of co-signatures, and the letter containing the ballot is then introduced back to the electoral officer.
The Letter Carriers Union of Canada is in support of this program. Its membership fully endorses the postal vote system in Manitoba. I received a copy of a letter written by Mr. Robert McGarry, the national president of the Letter Carriers Union of Canada, dated April 30, 1982, which says:
have today written to the Hon. Andre Ouellet, minister responsible for
the Canada Post Corporation, copy attached, to seek his support in
bringing forth legislation that would amend the Canada Elections Act to
permit handicapped and shut-in citizens to vote through the mail with
assistance from the participants of the Letter Carriers Alert Program,
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your letter of April 14, 1982, in which you draw my attention to the efforts of the MPs in Victoria to amend the British Columbia elections act. I will keep you informed of any progress that is made nationally to have the Canada Elections Act amended. No doubt you are aware that such amendments do take a considerable amount of time to be processed through parliament these days, but we can hope. Thank you for your work on behalf of the members we represent."
Mr. Chairman, I'm asking the Provincial Secretary why he did not consider instructing the chief electoral officer to incorporate provisions to allow incapacitated, shut-in people to vote. However, I have put the amendments on the order paper, and I would like to move the amendment standing in my name on the order paper, which will grant for the first time in British Columbia voting rights to incapacitated people unable to get to the polls. [See appendix.]
AN. HON. MEMBER: Come on, Evan. Be a sport!
HON. MR. WOLFE: I am a sport.
Mr. Chairman, I have considered this amendment very carefully and, as the member has correctly stated, he's brought it to our attention previously. It's always been a matter of concern to try to provide access for everybody, including the handicapped, to participate on voting day. We cannot accept the amendment at this time, for the reason that.... As you're aware, there are only two other jurisdictions where this has been introduced. You mentioned Manitoba; they've just conducted an election. We're developing information from that.
You might want to know why there would be such concern.
HON. MR. WOLFE: There is a member joking over the matter of accessibility to the polls over there, Mr. Chairman. I wish you'd bring him to order.
As I was asking the member, through you, Mr. Chairman, you might wonder why there is concern over trying to provide access through a proxy vote. One of the primary reasons is the lack of confidentiality of the name of the person who has indicated, through the write-in situation.... He loses his confidentiality, and his identity could be established, in terms of the final disposition of that ballot.
You mentioned correspondence with the Letter Carriers Union and the mail service. We would have to, through this provision, provide a guaranteed mail service to guarantee that the ballot would arrive at the applicant's residence not later than five days prior to polling day. There are certain confinements where we need to guarantee postal delivery at a certain date and time. What would happen to the ballots which arrived too late? You have to try to provide a means of verifying whether the applicant is or is not eligible to vote by proxy. There are a number of concerns that need to be satisfied. I don't say that to cast the whole matter aside; we have it under review. But we would not want to move on it at this time, because we've only had this other jurisdiction where we've attempted to bring this into place for the first time. Until I receive a complete report on the matter, we're not prepared to accept the amendment.
MR. HANSON: The Provincial Secretary's remarks are totally spurious. The amendment standing on the order paper under my name is the Manitoba provision. The report by the Special Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped, an all-party committee of the House of Commons, recommended to the federal government and to all provincial governments the Manitoba postal-vote situation. The amendment is identical in all aspects. The Manitoba experience has now been tried in two elections, not just one. It has proved to be totally without difficulty. The chief electoral officer of Canada, who is responsible for administration of the Canada Elections Act, said of the Manitoba experience that there is no difficulty, no problem, from an administrative standpoint; that in his next report he will draw to the attention of the Speaker of the House of Commons the need for a postal vote.
We have a province in this country that has taken the time and given consideration to these people who cannot defend themselves, who sit in their apartments or their homes totally alienated from the outside community. They have no possibility of getting the vote other than on the floor of this House today.
The Provincial Secretary could easily adopt the Manitoba provision. There is no difficulty. There is no need for research to test safeguards. You could take these amendments. They have proven themselves in Manitoba. The last time there was a wholesale amending of the Election Act of this magnitude was in 1949. It may be some years in the future before it's done again. Why not do it now, and give these people the right to vote.
On proposed section 24B.
MRS. DAILLY: We lost that one, which I think is really sad. I can't reflect on a former vote, so I'll move on to my next one.
[ Page 8882 ]
My next amendment isn't taking care of the concerns expressed by the last speaker. But at least, if it's accepted by the government, it may alleviate some of the problems that the disabled people have in this province when it comes to voting.
Basically, the amendment I wish to propose specifies that polling places shall be wheelchair-accessible, that voters do not have to climb stairs to vote, and that where this is not possible the polls shall be moved temporarily outside the polling place for purposes of taking such persons' vote. I think it's self-explanatory. I therefore move the amendment standing in my name on the order paper. [See appendix.]
On the amendment.
HON. MR. WOLFE: The amendment is, in effect, unworkable. Right now the registrar of voters strives for this at all times. The first priority at every poll is that it be accessible. If this amendment were to be followed, it could prove to be an offence under the act if you had any poll at any time which did not happen to be on-grade with the street. I'm told that there is a substantial effort made to comply with this as it stands now, without having that amendment in the act. Furthermore I find the amendment involves public expenditure, and it is therefore out of order.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Section 67 having been brought to the attention of the Chair, the amendment is therefore out of order and fails.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
The committee having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. Mr. Gardom moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 12 p.m.
AMENDMENTS TO BILLS
13 Mrs. Dailly to move, in, Committee of the Whole on Bill (No. 13) intituled Election Amendment Act, 1982 to amend as follows:
SECTION 10A, to add a new section as follows:
"23.1 (1) There is hereby established a commission which shall be known as 'The Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission'.
"(2) The commission shall comprise 3 impartial persons nominated by unanimous vote of the Special Committee of Selection.
"(3) In the year 1983, and each 10th year thereafter, the Special Committee on Selection shall appoint the commission with instructions to report within 6 months to the Legislative Assembly on
(a) the area, the boundaries and the name of the electoral districts in British Columbia;
(b) the number of members of the Legislative Assembly;
(c) such other matters relating to the electoral process as the commission considers appropriate.
"(4) The commission shall take into consideration
(a) the desirability of one member of the Legislative Assembly per electoral district;
(b) the community or diversity of interests of the population;
(c) the means of communication between the various parts thereof;
(d) special geographic conditions, including the distribution
and relative rate of growth of population in a region of the province, the accessibility
of a region of the province, and the size or shape of a region of the province;
(e) all other similar factors which the commission considers relevant.
"(5) Before making any determination of the area and boundaries of the several electoral districts, the commission shall appoint such times and places as it may deem necessary and suitable as the times when, and places where, it will hear representations from any person as to the area and boundaries of any electoral division and such other matters relating to the electoral process as the commission wishes to consider.
[ Page 8883 ]
"(6) The commission shall give reasonable public notice of the times and places it will sit to hear representations as provided in (5)."
SECTION 14, to amend the proposed section 29.2 as follows:
1. In subsection (2), line 1, by deleting "candidate at an election" and substituting "local constituency association of a registered political party".
2. In subsection (2), line 3, by deleting "in which he is a candidate".
3. In subsection (2), line 4, by deleting "candidate" and substituting "the local constituency association".
4. In subsection (2), line 5, by deleting "his" and substituting "that", so that the subsection would read:
"(2) Every local constituency association of a registered political party is entitled to 20 free copies of the list of voters referred to in section 29, prepared for the electoral district, but where a list has been prepared for all or part of an electoral district under section 29.1, the local constituency association is entitled, in respect of the whole or those parts of that electoral district, also to obtain 20 free copies of the list prepared under section 29.1."
5. To add subsection (3) which reads:
"(3) The deputy returning officer shall make available the copies of the list of voters as it is on the day that the writ of election is issued within 48 hours of the issuance of the writ of election;".
6. To add subsection (4) which reads:
"(4) The deputy returning officer shall supply 20 copies of the names of voters registering after the issuance of the election writ and before closing day to the local constituency association on the day after closing day."
SECTION 22, to add new subsection (3.1) which reads:
"(3.1) The returning officer shall designate a person to receive applications to register on election day for each polling place, and the returning officer shall instruct the person designated to be available in the polling place during the hours that the poll is open."
and in subsection (4), line 4, to add the words "and current residence" after "identity", so that the subsection would read:
"(4) A returning officer or person specially designated under subsection (2) shall, when acting under this section, require an applicant to produce at least 2 documents that provide evidence of the applicant's identity and current residence satisfactory to the returning officer or person specially designated."
SECTION 23A, by deleting the reference to "section 80" in the following sections: section 87 (3), section 119 (6), section 120 (3), section 122 (1) (e), and section 128 (1).
SECTION 24B, to add a new section which reads:
"91.1 As far as possible, a returning officer shall locate polling places in premises to which the voters have access from the street without going up or down stairs.
"92.2 Where a voter contends that a polling place is inaccessible, the deputy returning officer at that poll shall, for purposes of enabling that voter to exercise their franchise, move the poll temporarily outside the polling place, where the deputy returning officer shall take all reasonable steps to maintain the secrecy of the poll as the voter casts their ballot."
13 Mr. Hanson to move, in Committee of the Whole on Bill (No. 13) intituled Election Amendment Act, 1982 to amend as follows:
SECTION 24A, to add a new section as follows:
"103.1 Where a voter is unable to go in person to the polling place because of physical incapacity, he may apply in writing to the returning officer at least 10 days before the day on which polling takes place at the election to vote at the election by mail.
[ Page 8884 ]
"101.2 The applicant for a postal vote shall attest in the application that he satisfies the qualifications for voting at an election held under the provisions of this Act.
"101.3 If the applicant is not otherwise registered to vote, the application for a postal vote shall be deemed to be an application filed under section 93.
"103.4 Where the returning officer is satisfied that a voter who has applied under section 103.1, is entitled to vote at the election and is physically incapacitated, he shall initial a ballot paper in the form prescribed under section 86, and shall send to the voter
(a) the ballot paper so initialled;
(b) a ballot envelope with instructions printed thereon;
(c) a certificate envelope with a certificate of identification printed thereon;
(d) a prepaid outer envelope with the address of the returning officer printed thereon; and
(e) instructions as to how to vote by mail as described
in section 103.7;
to arrive by ordinary mail at the residence of the voter not later than five days before the day on which polling takes place and shall cross the name off the voters' list for the polling place at which the voter was entitled to vote.
"103.5 The returning officer shall keep a record in a separate poll book of the names of the voters to whom he has sent ballot papers under section 103.4.
"103.6 Except as herein otherwise provided, a voter to whom a ballot paper is sent under section 103.4 shall mark the ballot paper and vote in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
"103.7 A voter voting by mail shall follow these instructions:
(a) The voter shall mark the ballot as required for the purposes of the election.
(b) The voter shall insert the marked ballot in the ballot envelope and seal the ballot envelope.
(c) The voter shall insert the ballot envelope in the certificate envelope and seal the certificate envelope.
(d) The voter shall complete the form of certificate of identification on the certificate which shall be certified by the signature of another voter authorized to vote at the election in that electoral division.
(e) The certificate envelope shall be inserted in the outer envelope and the outer envelope sealed.
(f) The voter shall deliver the outer envelope containing the ballot, the ballot envelope and the certificate envelope, to the returning officer not later than the close of polls on the day on which the polling takes place at the election.
"103.8 Upon receiving a ballot paper sent by mail under section 103.4, the returning officer shall remove the certificate envelope from the outer envelope, and
(a) if he is satisfied from the examination of the certificate on the certificate envelope as to the identity of the voter whose ballot is enclosed, he shall open and destroy the certificate envelope and place the ballot, still enclosed in the ballot envelope, in a ballot box maintained by him for that purpose; but
(b) if he is not satisfied as to the identity of the voter whose ballot is enclosed, he shall retain the certificate envelope unopened and treat it as a spoiled ballot.
"103.9 At the close of polling on polling day, the returning officer shall open the ballot box maintained by him for the purpose of mailed ballots, open the ballot envelopes contained therein, and count and distribute the votes recorded on the ballots to the respective candidates, observing as nearly as possible the procedures applicable to an ordinary poll.
[ Page 8885 ]
"103.10 The returning officer shall prepare a statement of his poll of mailed ballots similar to that required under section 122, and shall take the statement into account in counting up the total number of votes for each candidate."
13 Ms. Sanford to move, in Committee of the Whole on Bill (No. 13) intituled Election Amendment Act, 1982 to amend as follows:
SECTION 3A, to insert a new section as follows:
"4.1 For purpose of registration of voters under this Act, a person shall not lose or be deemed to have lost his/her residence in this Province or in any electoral district by reason only of the fact that the person has been absent from his place of residence as the spouse or child of a member of Her Majesty's Armed Services, or a chaplain, surgeon, nurse or any other person attached to and serving with Her Majesty's Armed Forces."