1988 Legislative Session: 2nd Session, 34th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 1988
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Presentation to House of Second Member for Boundary-Similkameen (MR. Barlee) 5383
Presenting Reports 5384
Private Members' Statements
Government data banks and the title search industry. Ms. A. Hagen 5384
Hon. Mr. Brummet
Health care system. Mrs. Gran 5385
Ms. A. Hagen
Working for Boundary-Similkameen. Mr. Barlee 5387
Programs for the learning disabled. Mr. Mercier 5388
Ms. A. Hagen
Northwest Baptist Theological College Amendment Act, 1988 (Bill PR406). Mrs. Gran
Introduction and first reading 5390
Life Bible College Act (Bill PR402). Second reading
Mrs. Gran 5390
Life Bible College Act (Bill PR402). Committee stage. (Mrs. Gran) 5390
Vancouver Charter Amendment Act, 1988 (Bill PR403). Second reading
Mr. Mowat 5391
Vancouver Charter Amendment Act, 1988 (Bill PR403). Committee stage. (Mr. Mowat) 5391
Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), 1988 (Bill 52). Second reading
Hon. B.R. Smith __ 5391
Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 1), 1988 (Bill 36). Committee stage.
(Hon. B.R. Smith) 5391
Hon. Mr. Davis
Forest Amendment Act, 1988 (Bill 28). Report. (Hon. Mr. Parker)
Third reading 5394
South Moresby Implementation Account Act (Bill 57). Committee stage.
(Hon. Mr. Parker) 5394
Family Relations Amendment Act, 1988 (Bill 48). Second reading. (Hon. B.R. Smith)
Hon. B.R. Smith 5395
Mr. Sihota 5395
Hon. Mr. Richmond 5396
Hon. B.R. Smi. 5396
Hydro and Power Authority Privatization Act (Bill 45). Second reading.
(Hon. Mr. Davis)
On the amendment
Ms. Edwards 5396
On the main motion
Mr. Williams 5397
The House met at 10:09 a.m.
CLERK OF THE HOUSE:
Mr. Ian M. Horne, QC,
Clerk of the Legislative Assembly,
Re: By-election Boundary-Similkameen Electoral District June 8, 1988
1 am pleased to enclose herewith a copy of a letter from Mr. Harry M. Goldberg, chief electoral officer, certifying the election of Mr. Bill N.L. Barlee as the member to represent the Boundary-Similkameen electoral district in the Legislative Assembly.
Melvin H. Smith,
Deputy Provincial Secretary.
Mr. Melvin H. Smith,
Deputy Provincial Secretary,
Re: By-election June 8, 1988 Boundary-Similkameen Electoral District
The December 10, 1987 resignation of James J Hewitt, the first member for the Boundary-Similkameen electoral district, created a vacancy in the membership of the Legislative Assembly. A writ of election was issued on May 11, 1988, requiring that a by-election be held to fill the vacancy. Accordingly, June 8, 1988 was designated as election day. The completed writ of election has been returned to me, and I hereby certify the election of Bill N.L. Barlee as the second member to represent the Boundary-Similkameen electoral district in the Legislative Assembly.
Your very truly,
Harry M. Goldberg,
Chief Electoral Officer.
Motions on Notice
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I have a motion 'm presenting on behalf of the Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mr. Veitch). It's under his name and signed by him. The motion is this: "That the letter of the Deputy Provincial Secretary and the certificate of the chief electoral officer of the result of the election of the member be entered upon the Journals of the House.
MR. HARCOURT: I have the honour to present to you Mr. Neville Langrell Barlee, the second member for the electoral district of Boundary-Similkameen, who has taken the oath and signed the parliamentary roll and now claims his right to take his seat.
MR. SPEAKER: Let the hon. member take his seat.
MR. HARCOURT: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to introduce to members of the Legislature today the family of the second member for Boundary-Similkameen: his wife Kathy, his daughters Gwen and Veronica, and Veronica's husband Tom. Would you please give them a warm welcome.
As well, I just noticed in the visitors' gallery my predecessor Bob Skelly, who is visiting on holiday and ~between engagements - and hopes to be engaged again shortly. Would we give Bob Skelly a very warm welcome.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I have a couple of introductions to make. First, I'd like to introduce to the House Mary Pattison, Ron Pickerill, Margaret Woods and Fred Punko, who are representing the Certified General Accountants' Association.
Second - and this is from the fourth estate, from a very good friend of the assembly - we'd like to introduce his son. The young lad we're going to be introducing is from the Mount Lehman community of Matsqui, in the riding of Central Fraser Valley. He is only 13 years old but is already an accomplished sportsman as well as a good student. He successfully completed grade 8 at Clearbrook Junior Secondary. He's a soccer player on a senior team in the Fraser Valley, although he's only 13 years old. He does very well scholastically as well as athletically. Would you please welcome Thomas Turnbull, the son of Malcolm Turnbull.
MR. BLENCOE: Mr. Speaker. we'd also like to welcome Tom Turnbull to the House. His father, Malcolm, was quite concerned that he be welcomed by both sides of the House, in fairness and objectivity of the fourth estate. Tom is indeed an accomplished sports player. but I understand that he has an abiding interest, at a very early age, in the honourable profession of politics. As yet, though, he is still ascertaining on which side of the arena he wishes to participate. I'm sure all interested members will have a chat with this young lad. We'd like to welcome Tom Turnbull to the Legislature today.
MR. PELTON: Hon. members, visiting us today from that great city of Seattle, Washington, is Mrs. Marilyn Berthoud. and I would ask everyone here to make her welcome. please.
MR. LOVICK: I notice in the visitors' gallery an old friend of mine from the Qualicum Beach area, Mr. Les Skipsey, who is a major player in the Phi Delta Kappa fraternity, Vancouver Island division. I would ask the House to please join me in welcoming Mr. Skipsey.
HON. B.R. SMITH: May I have leave to speak on the welcome of the new member?
HON. B.R. SMITH: I want to welcome the new member for Boundary-Similkameen on behalf of this side of the
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House and say to the Leader of the Opposition that this man has very formidable accomplishments. He comes here with those accomplishments. You'd better look over your shoulder. His tennis game is much better than yours, and he's liable to thrash you.
Mr. Pelton presented a report from the Select Standing Committee on Standing Orders, Private Bills and Members' Services, which was read as follows and received:
"Mr. Speaker, your Select Standing Committee on Standing Orders, Private Bills and Members' Services begs leave to report as follows:
"The committee, having waived the standing orders with respect to late filing, recommends that Bill PR406, intituled Northwest Baptist Theological College Amendment Act, 1988, be introduced; and further, the preamble having been approved, the committee recommends that the bill proceed to second reading after introduction."
MR. PELTON: I move that the report be adopted.
Private Members' Statements
GOVERNMENT DATA BANKS
AND THE TITLE SEARCH INDUSTRY
MS. A. HAGEN: My topic this morning is related to the land registry industry. Land registry agents are small businesses which, as every one of us in our ridings knows, exist and operate to serve the public. Over 25 years they have developed a service industry based on title search in the extensive registries of government: land titles, corporate registries, the motor vehicle branch specifically, For the record, there are 70 companies in the province. They employ 800 people, and their annual payroll amounts to $12 million.
The data bases that they access in their title searches have been computerized, and this makes direct access now possible. Last fall the registry agents learned, almost by accident, that B.C. Systems Corporation was proposing a new service called Info B.C. which would be operated within that Crown corporation and provide on-line service for the cost of the statutory distribution fee for such searches. Such a service would be in direct competition with the registry agents, but with either no charge other than the statutory distribution fee or a very nominal charge for servicing the search.
Government agents are also able to offer direct access to title search. However, although they are presently doing this in some government agent offices, originally this involved no fee for counter or staff time, toll charges or hard copy of the search materials. Moreover, some agents were actively marketing their new service as a money-saver for banks, realtors and lawyers in their communities. Again there was a direct competition with the existing registry agents' companies.
On June I the agents were advised by government officials that two pilot projects for direct access were scheduled to begin soon: July I for assessment information and September I for land titles through BCSC. Direct access to government data banks is not only possible, but also it will be advantageous to businesses that require information and a sufficient volume to maintain dedicated lines.
Use of government agents for access is also an additional service to the public for a fee that reflects the service. However, these services, I maintain, should not be offered in direct competition with a long-established service industry unless two conditions are met:
1. The title search industry should, and indeed must, be consulted on the implementation of direct access services. They deserve to be consulted with openness and integrity. The industry has assisted government in the development of an accurate computerized registry, and it has enabled government to provide service with much reduced staffs in recent years. To this end, in this industry we have government and entrepreneurial business working cooperatively in the interest of their mutual "consumers, " with responsibilities and roles for each.
2. The cost of direct access should reflect the actual cost of the services to government. There shouldn't be a hidden subsidy through the government agent or through B.C. Systems Corporation. The service should not be at a cost that does not include the dollars involved for staffing time, toll lines, follow-up or other services that may be associated with the search. There should be no financial incentive for large users to receive data from BCSC at charges that do not include the reasonable costs of providing that service. To set up such a service would be to rob the agents of their goodwill and to enable others to capture their market and monopolize it without the competition being fair.
Government representatives have made commitments to the registry agents that they will not proceed with direct access programs until a comprehensive policy is developed in consultation with the agents. I believe that commitment to be fair and reasonable. However, if the pilot project for direct access goes ahead on July I and September 1, and if government agents continue to market services in direct and unfair competition with the registry agents for title searches, that commitment is hollow.
Members on both sides of the House have been looking for an honourable and fair solution which will allow the registry agents to compete in this important service industry and at the same time allow everyone to take advantage of the technological sophistication we now have available. I would like to ask this morning that the government delay piloting through direct access until it can: (1) develop the direct policies in consultation with industries; and (2) establish fair schedules which provide for a competitive base on service levels as well as the title search fee. I would note that the ministries involved are the Provincial Secretary ministry, the Attorney-General ministry, the Finance ministry and, although to a lesser extent on direct dial-up or direct access, the motor vehicle branch.
I'd like to commend the member for Yale-Lillooet (Mr. Rabbitt), the vice-chairman of caucus, who has been active in participation and consultation with government in support of the registry agents receiving a fair resolution.
I would like to note in conclusion that I have been brought to an interest in this particular issue by a registry agent in my own community who is the kind of employer we would like to see be able to continue her business. She has a very excellent business with good working, wage and benefit conditions. She is an employer who seeks to provide opportunities for women in this field. She has some very innovative and productive work conditions, including a child care centre in her place of work. I want to see this person be able to continue a business that she has built up over the last 15 or 16 years in
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fair competition with others who may, through technological advances, be able to access directly. I hope that government would respond in fairness to this issue.
HON. MR. BRUMMET: I'm responding on behalf of the Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mr. Veitch), and also with information provided to me by the Minister of Finance and Corporate Relations (Hon. Mr. Couvelier). No question about it: the technological age is upon us; it is a fact. The government has been moving in a direction to make it possible for the citizens of this province to benefit from that.
Having said that, though, there are a number of issues that need to be resolved, and it is clearly the intent of the government to consult with the agency and their representatives to make sure that we end up with a fair competitive situation. I know that there are many issues yet to be resolved, and I know that representatives of the society have already met with the Provincial Secretary and made their concerns known. I'm sure we'll continue to meet with others.
The type of things that need to be resolved are the privacy and the freedom of information, the data security, government liability, customer support and fee structure which must be- carefully considered before deciding to electronically distribute government information to the public. I can assure you that the new pricing structures for on-line title search must be established such that the search companies can compete on equal terms with government supplied- access. Implicit in that is that the pricing will assure what the member has been asking - that there will be no subsidy to government agencies to provide this service.
So the comprehensive policy regarding the electronic distribution of government information has to be established before any further initiatives are undertaken by the government. A lot of the policies associated with this still have to be worked out. The pricing structure needs to be worked out so that it is fair and competitive. I don't have too much information on the pilot projects, but it would seem to me that a couple of pilot projects, which could provide useful information, could go on concurrently with the establishment of the pricing policy.
.1 suppose there's really a great deal that could be said on it, but the gist of the government's position is that there will be consultation. The pricing policy will be fair and competitive. I have every reason to believe that the registry agency members will be able to provide good service and compete -if they're on a level playing field. That is what the government is assuring them. So hopefully the agency representatives will be able to continue to benefit from this, as will the members of our society, so that we can all benefit from the age of technology.
MS. A. HAGEN: I thank the member for his comments on behalf of the Provincial Secretary. I'm sorry he is not here today to reply directly. There are two or three points that I'd like to respond to. Given the commitment of the Minister of Education that policies and fees will be developed in consultation with the industry, the request for a delay in the pilot project is an entirely appropriate one. Let me explain the reason for t hat.
We are really looking at some competition here between the service industry that's already established and a government Crown corporation. There is the goodwill this industry has developed over time in terms of its market. To establish a pilot project without the policies and the pricing structures in place, I would submit, is not appropriate. There are implications in terms of the competitive nature of this service industry that could develop out of the pilot project being in place with, perhaps, the unfair fee structures that were originally proposed. So I would urge that the discussion that has suggested a delay in that pilot project be a decision that would result in the delay of that pilot project.
I would like to note also that BCSC is one of the corporations that is possibly scheduled for privatization, and it seems there is inherent in this whole operation some possible conflict of interest - in respect to that corporation and the services it may be developing for itself as a Crown corporation and would then continue to offer as a private service.
We have to be very sensitive to that, because we're really dealing right now with a private industry that has been very competitive and has served government well, as well as serving its clients well. So in dealing with fairness and their continuing ability to operate without unfair advantage to a Crown corporation that may be competing with them at some time in offering that service, I think those policies need to be looked at very carefully.
I would urge that the pilot project be delayed. I think there is some initiative to that regard, and I want to go on the record as supporting that initiative. I welcome the comments of the Minister of Education. that policies and fee structures will be set up so that private industry competing in this marketplace, as they have for 25 years, will be able to do so without any unfairness imposed upon them by decisions of government.
The discussions to date have been productive and open. There has been progress. I think the minister has made commitment to that ongoing activity, and we'll look forward to some of the decisions that will see consultation and decisions on fair practice in place.
HEALTH CARE SYSTEM
MRS. GRAN: I rise this morning to make a statement about our health care system. My statement is not intended to be defensive; it is a statement on my feelings about our health care system as a politician and as a resident of the province of British Columbia.
First of all. I would like to say to the members of this House and to you, Mr. Speaker, that we have without a doubt the best, most comprehensive and progressive health care system in the world. It's a system that we should all be proud of, every single British Columbian. In fact, Canadians should be proud of their health care system.
Within our health care system are many professional people who have dedicated their lives to the enhancement of that health care system and the health care of the citizens of this province. I think. as politicians, we don't recognize often enough how much these people put into our system and how much they care about the health of our citizens.
We have come a long way in the last 50 years in curing diseases, in controlling diseases. in assisting people with the pain that they must endure with some diseases that are incurable; and I think, again, as politicians, we fall short in that area in not recognizing that. It's all too easy to criticize a system, and it seems a much more difficult chore to talk about the positive aspects of a service. This service, above all others that are offered in the country that we live in, is one that we should be constantly talking about in a positive way.
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I'd like to mention how people have an individual responsibility in our health care system, as they do in all of our society. People create a lot of their own illnesses. Smoking has been proven to be a cause of many costly illnesses. Excessive drinking has had the same effect. Overeating has a devastating effect on health. And drugs - I don't think we know the cost to our health care system by the use of drugs, both prescription and illegal. I believe that when as politicians we deal with the issue of health care, we must deal with it a lot differently than we have been over the last ten years that I have been involved in politics.
I have seen the health care system used politically in a way that we in this chamber should be ashamed of. We have maligned and degraded a system. . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Who are you thinking of?
MRS. GRAN: I'm thinking particularly, hon. member, of the members on the opposition side, and I'm thinking also of some of the people in the health care system who choose to further their own ends by using the health care system politically. That includes hospitals, ambulance services and all those who choose to use a system for their own political end.
This government has had the courage to come forward with user fees. This system that we value so much will not survive in this country without the participation of the people using it, and the sooner we get used to that idea, promote it and talk about it in a positive way, the sooner we are going to know that we are going to keep a system that we value.
Many challenges are ahead for our health care system -and I say challenges, not problems. We know that in the next 20 years the population of people over 65 years of age is going to increase by 50 percent. We know that citizens 65 years and over account for almost 50 percent of the health budget. It doesn't take a brilliant person to understand that down the road some changes are going to have to be made in the way we deliver health care to our citizens. People aged 65 and over make demands on the health care system, but that doesn't mean that it's going to cripple the system. It doesn't mean that it will change the system particularly. What it does mean is that we are each going to have to pay our fair share to keep a system.
This year's budget was increased 10.2 percent, or $1, 300 for every man, woman and child in this province. I think it speaks well for a province that cares so deeply about the citizens who live in it.
I'd like to talk about the commitment that this government has to deinstitutionalizing mentally handicapped people and how difficult it is for our society to accept what we are doing - and it is our society; it isn't the government. The government can provide the funding for group homes, but only society can provide the love and compassion to allow those people to live peacefully among us. In my own constituency a group home for mentally handicapped people was proposed, and the residents violently opposed that home. I say that that is sheer ignorance and lack of understanding on the part of our citizens.
There is no one more able to carry the message to the people they represent than those who sit in this House. I call on all of the people in this chamber to take the message home that we have a good health care system that will improve and that we must all be individually responsible.
MRS. BOONE: It gives me pleasure to rise and respond to this. There are a lot of things that I can agree with the member on.
We certainly have a good health care system, but we must protect that system, because it has been under attack for some time. There are some attacks going on right now. We don't see the commitment that this government talks about. We are talking in terms of the privatization that is taking place. We are talking in terms of the privatization that is taking place; we are talking in terms of the lack of commitment from this government to stop the Mulroney trade deal, which will have a devastating effect on our health care system. . . .
MRS. BOONE: It is really interesting to hear how much this other side wants to listen. We listened respectfully while the other member gave her points of view, and I'd appreciate that.
It is interesting that you talk of commitment to the people in the health care system; that is one of the things we've been talking about for months - the people in the system. I stood on this very floor and talked about the nurses in our system and the number of working hours they have compared to other people; the number of patient-hours per nurse; the level of care, which they are very concerned about; the pressures our nurses are under to perform in a situation where they're understaffed. That is a commitment to people: to provide adequate staff.
On numerous occasions we have heard this government attack the doctors, and you are saying: "Why are you attacking the people in the system?" We have heard the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Couvelier) attack the doctors in the system, yet they say there's a commitment to the people. With government employees, we see contracting-out taking place constantly throughout mental health services and in an area that should still be in Health - alcohol and drug programs. The contracting-out going on in that area is doing nothing to raise the morale of the people working in the system.
There is absolutely no doubt that we need a review of our system; our system is under attack right now. We require a total review of our system to determine our priorities. That is something we have not done. We have not undertaken a full review; we do not have a goal; we do not have our priorities set. We're flying by the seat of our pants; we're establishing set things down in Victoria. We are trying things out somewhere else and promoting some forms of health care without ever really putting them in place.
The member for New Westminster would like a few minutes at this point, so I will sit down and let her finish.
MS. A. HAGEN: I want to thank the member for her comments. I know she is a person who cares deeply about the subject she has been discussing today.
I would like to make a positive suggestion to the House at this time, and that is that the committee she chairs have an opportunity to address some of the issues, particularly in relation to elderly people, so that we can review them. She and I know that we have a common concern on this issue and that it would be well resolved, not by quickly and poorly devised policies on user fees or changes in government delivery of services, but by careful consideration; and that both sides of the House could and should contribute to that discussion.
I would urge that member, and through her the members of her party and the government, to develop a process for
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some of that kind of dialogue, which unfortunately we have never had any opportunity to engage in through that standing committee. There have been issues that we have taken to this House that we are concerned about, and we will continue to do that. But we would welcome opportunities to look at some of the problems that face the health care system, and we would welcome a constructive dialogue that would involve all members of the House. That member chairs one committee - a government committee on social policy - but at no time since I have been a member of this House has there been a dialogue between the two sides of the House on issues of health, education and social policy. I urge this member to act with her considerable influence to achieve some of those kinds of important consultations.
MRS. GRAN: The Minister of Health (Hon. Mr. Dueck) is in the House, so hopefully he will have heard what the member for New Westminster had to say. I agree - it's probably an excellent idea.
I think the two members who just spoke from the opposition side demonstrated what I was trying to say in my opening comments: that is, the fear that we as politicians instill in people when we talk about the health care system the way some members of the opposition do. If I can just use an example, the second member for Vancouver-Point Grey (Ms. Marzari) and I were guest speakers at a women's meeting in Vancouver last week. I heard with my own ears her say that we were privatizing the ambulance system, and that's not true. The transfer of patients by the private sector has been going on for a very long time, but you're talking about the entire privatization of the ambulance system. Had a member of the government side not been there, those people would have gone away believing that we had privatized the ambulance system. That's the fear that I'm talking about.
The fear that is being instilled in senior citizens over longterm care is the other one. Both sides, quite frankly, are guilty on this. The government, in my view. when they are ready to announce a program, should announce it with all the details and not leave it hanging. That's the responsibility we have in that. But on the side of the opposition is the fear they have instilled in those people that they are going to lose their homes. We're talking about income testing, and you're talking about means testing. There is a complete difference. People out there think that they're going to have their homes and assets assessed, and that is not true. We're talking about income testing.
Hon. members, all I know is that through the debate in this House and at meetings that we all speak to, we have confused people out there. It isn't just the government side: it's both sides. The responsibility for that lies with the members of this House. It's time that we all grew up and started treating our health care system the way it deserves to be treated.
I have a great deal of affection for many of the members on the other side, but I ask you, I implore you, that you not go back to your constituencies and tell. . . .
MRS. GRAN: No. But you see, I can't say that you are telling a lie, because then I would be thrown out of the House. All I am asking, hon. members, is: tell it the way it really is.
WORKING FOR BOUNDARY-SIMILKAMEEN
MR. BARLEE: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the electorate of Boundary-Similkameen for placing some confidence in me during the by-election on June 8. It's rather a singular honour, I think. to represent the riding. Our family has been in that riding for almost 100 years. I would also like to take time to thank Mr. Russ Fox. who was the Social Credit candidate. I believe that he is a very ethical and honourable individual; the campaign was conducted that way, and I was quite impressed.
I would like to take the liberty of very briefly describing the riding, and I have a long-term interest in the riding. I have lived there for over a quarter of a century, was born in Grand Forks, in that old ghost-town country of the Boundary, and have a special affection for the riding. It's rather an interesting riding and has many cross-currents in it. Many of the old towns I knew as a kid. . . . Grand Forks and Greenwood, of course, are still standing. but many of the other towns were ghost towns which I wandered through with considerable interest - places like Phoenix, Cascade City, Camp McKinney and all those storied old towns of the past.
The riding itself is quite fascinating in that it has many interesting features. The southern part of the riding is part of the great American desert. It's the only part of Canada where the annual precipitation is under ten inches, and you can actually wander through the desert and see the flora and fauna of that particular region. We're rather lucky, Mr. Messmer and 1, in that there are other parts of the riding that are rather fascinating too - the south Similkameen is indeed quite an interesting part, and much of the Indian country and the pictographs through that area I find equally fascinating. We're rather fortunate in representing what I consider one of the most picturesque ridings in the province. Of course, I am slightly partisan.
The remarks I am about to make should not be interpreted strictly as partisan. During the election campaign I found that there were people of all political persuasions who were worried about a number of different things. Their concerns, I think, were crossover concerns. These would include many long-time Social Crediters, many honourable Conservatives and traditional Liberals. About 4, 000 or 5, 000 of these people saw fit on June 8 to switch their allegiance because they were concerned about a number of things.
There are certainly difficulties in the riding. I believe that everyone will concur that there are problems in the agricultural industry, and these problems will be exacerbated by the impact of the free trade deal. There are also other things that are concerns of many people: the environmental issue and the tourism issue, especially the impact of the Coquihalla cutoff when it comes into play. Medicare was definitely an issue in many parts of the riding. as was the privatization of the highway system.
I was rather intrigued with the response of the public in this respect: a lot of long-time people who had supported other parties for many years were concerned that perhaps some of these issues ~ad not been looked at too closely. I should mention that I am quite concerned. I think that Mr. Ivan Messmer and I are very capable of cooperating for the good of the riding as a whole. I think that I will be able to pledge my cooperation with Mr. Messmer, regardless of anyone's political persuasion, and that I will represent the riding to the best of my ability. Thank you very much.
MR. MESSMER: I would like to congratulate the second member for Boundary-Similkameen on his recent election -
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a very great election for him - and for his kind remarks to the people who ran against him in the by-election. The second member for Boundary-Similkameen is taking the place of a member who served this House and Boundary Similkameen well since the year 1975. As we all know, he was elected in '75, went into cabinet shortly thereafter, and served in cabinet for many years. Last year he decided to leave this House and go to a different occupation, that being with Farm Credit Corporation in Ottawa.
I guess my words to the second member for Boundary Similkameen are that if we have any farmers who have any difficulty with the Farm Credit Corporation, rather than us take the blame, we'll certainly get hold of his telephone number and ask him to come back and help us out.
He brought up many concerns that were talked about during the recent by-election. Agriculture, tourism and privatization were issues that were discussed. I welcome any input you may have on those. Certainly through the development areas that we have in the province of British Columbia, I invite you to any meetings that we do have, and I hope that you will take the time to sit in on them. Together with the other MLAs in Boundary-Similkameen, we'll discuss the agricultural problems that we do have.
I brought up Mr. Hewitt. All politicians, of course, have hobbies, and his hobby happened to be golf. He was accused many times of having his golf clubs in his car all the time. I'm a little worried about the second member for Boundary Similkameen because we all know that his great interest lies with history and mining. I'm somewhat concerned that when he gets out and goes to work, if I try to get hold of him, I'll have to go back up in the hills and find out where the mining and gold claims are in order to talk to him.
Anyway, we all know that the television show that he had - I don't know if he still has it or not - was certainly a great one and gave us a lot of the history of Boundary-Similkameen country. It's true that the member has lived in the area for many years and is well known. I look forward to the years ahead of working with him on different projects within our area.
I guess the one little word of advice that I have to throw in just at the end is to remind you that there was also another member who was elected from the NDP in the northern part of the Okanagan, and he was only there for a short while.
MR. BARLEE: I thank the first member for Boundary Similkameen for his generally non-partisan remarks, except for the last one. Yes, there are many areas we can work on. I feel there is great potential in the valley, and if the agricultural community is hard hit by the free trade deal, I think there are other alternatives in the valley. Certainly our tourist potential, which is the number one business in the world, is a business that we can concentrate on.
We have a number of things going for us. We have what we consider to be one of the great tourist attractions in the area, the old SS Sicamous, which is the last and greatest of the stem-wheelers in western North America, and also the abandoned KVR line, the old Kettle Valley line, which Mr. Rabbitt alluded to the other day in his speech. The Kettle Valley line is one of the singular lines of North America. It's possibilities are virtually unlimited.
The rail has been torn up, but the line is still there. The engineering has been done, the right-of-way is still there, the tunnels are still there, and if you've ever walked some of the those trestles at Myra and other places in the Kettle Valley, you'll agree it is probably the most interesting railroad line in North America. We seem to be a little bit behind the pace in some respects. They have a little line coming out of Durango, Colorado, and it's a little narrow gauge line. They pack 100, 000 people a summer on that narrow gauge line. The Kettle Valley line makes that line coming out of Durango, Colorado, look like it doesn't count at all.
I think the first member for Boundary-Similkameen and I will be taking a close look at other alternatives in case the agricultural community is hard hit. I should also add that we are working now - I'm discussing with my colleagues - on a so-called green belt concept. In California, the second biggest draw after Disneyland is the Napa Valley. Indeed, we have somewhat the equivalent of the Napa Valley in the southern Okanagan and the southern Similkameen. So I think there are lots of areas we can look at very seriously as far as the number one business in the world is concerned, and that is tourism.
PROGRAMS FOR THE LEARNING DISABLED
MR. MERCIER: It's interesting to hear the new member, and I welcome him to the House. But as he's a former broadcaster, it's interesting how well he fits into the flow when he's speaking.
MR. BLENCOE: It's just a start.
MR. MERCIER: We'll find out about the content later. Right?
After examining the very complex government systems, I've come to believe that learning-disabled children are really orphans of the bureaucratic system. When you're elected an MLA, you're elected for many reasons. Each of us has things we would like to concentrate on and, hopefully, achieve. Something I've spent a lot of time working on is the way we handle learning-disabled children in our government system. I do not want to appear to be criticizing the Minister of Education, but more ourselves - all the MLAs - for the way the social problem is not well handled because of the complexity of the government system.
I take this opportunity to preface a report that I put together on the subject of learning-disabled children. The draft is approximately 25 pages and has taken place over the last 18 months, starting with a compilation assisted by legislative intern Nancy Carter. What I'm attempting to do is to outline the relationship of learning disabilities to juvenile delinquency and social problems and to draw the focus to the long-term reallocation of resources.
My study of this subject has confirmed for me that the very complexity of our government system can result in well-meaning individuals not really understanding how certain problems of society fall between the cracks. We can't really blame anyone in particular; government is only a reflection, from time to time, of the wishes of the people who elect us, and government itself is a very laborious process. What we can do - and what I intend to do - is to focus on a problem that seriously impacts on at least three ministries and which will require a cooperative effort of those ministries to not let these children drop out and miss the full enjoyment of their abilities.
It's a global view, in my opinion, that apart from physical and mental well-being, the most important advantage is
[ Page 5389 ]
education. The Education ministry has a large staff that does many things well; but I'm not satisfied that the ministry and the local components of the education system are dealing at all well with certain aspects having to do with the learning disabled. In fact, it's my contention that the learning disabled are orphans of the system. We need early identification of problems. We need to work with special support persons like child psychologists and others who are knowledgeable in the area. And we need to communicate and cooperate effectively with the parents of these children.
Those who disagree with my observations, including some that might work in the different ministries, may take the position that I don't understand the system. Well, that's the purpose of the report I've put together, which should be finished in a week or two. The second thing they might say is they don't have a focus on this one particular problem, you might call it, compared to all the other things they are dealing with. I say we can change that focus. Third, they might say they don't have the resources, and that's really what I'm talking about today. We want to support the dedication of greater dollar resources to the Ministry of Education to help them improve the way we deal with the learning disabled.
How do I know about this problem? It started when I became a director of Kenneth Gordon School for children with a specific learning disability, namely namely dyslexia. That led me to check the system in the Burnaby school system, one of the largest in the province, and I came away still not satisfied that we were doing everything we could with the problem.
In the meantime, I got elected as an MLA, and I thought that while I was here, as a special project, I would delve deeper into the system. I was very fortunate this year to complete my research through the excellent work of a legislative intern, Geoff Belsher, a bachelor of arts graduate of Simon Fraser University. From the work he's done and from what I've learned, I've seen that there is a tremendous gap between the reality viewed by the parents and children and the reality viewed by the members of the different ministries involved. The gap is unintentional. Each ministry is chugging along doing the best it can with the resources they have for the job they are assigned. The gap is because the children don't stay under one ministry.
The main theme of the report is not to condemn our system but to improve it. It's to enforce the concept that we either pay now by giving the Ministry of Education more funds, or we pay a lot more later. That's a hard concept for politicians who deal in immediacy, because it takes a period of time. First we have to have the focus, then have the resources, then do the project.
In conclusion, there are certain school districts where certain persons are working with a focus in this area, but they are not really getting the support needed, and provincewide we are not doing enough.
Schools like Kenneth Gordon School have proven that with time and with the proper resources - which they are not getting - they can cause a difference. We're losing the multiplicity of talents, the very special talents of children that don't fit the standard mould. Corrective action must start from the top down. We must focus on the efforts and support the school system in this special project.
MS. A. HAGEN: I want first of all to commend the member for not only bringing the statement to us but for obviously having done a considerable amount of study. It's interesting that he should mention the Kenneth Gordon School, because that school was founded by a very close friend of mine whose son was a contemporary of my older sons. They went to school together, and I lived to some extent through the growing pains of that particular school and know a number of the staff, who have done excellent work over the years with children with special learning needs. I would agree with him that that school is one of the alternatives that has helped many children.
My comments today will be very supportive of the statements of the member for Burnaby-Edmonds. His emphasis on cooperation among ministries is something that every school board in the province and many parents and teachers would heartily endorse. It's a difficult piece of work to achieve, because these ministries are large and complex, with many mandates. But there's probably no more important task that they can undertake than to work with children from the time they are very young, to identify needs and bring into play the resources that those children need for their formal education, their social needs and the support that their families need.
The member has very correctly identified the relationship between what happens with these children as they go through the education system successfully or not successfully and outcomes that have very grave costs for society in later years. We don't need to mention more than briefly the fact that prison populations have very large numbers of people who have had a learning disability.
Another point I would like to make is that in this process we need to be very careful not to label children. I'd like to commend to the member - and I perhaps will give him a reference later on - some of the writings of Sylvia Ashton Warner, a New Zealand teacher who worked with Maori children, who taught in the United States and spent some time at Simon Fraser, who said she had never known a learning-disabled child.
She still had the same problems, but she had learned that there were keys to unlocking in diverse ways the problems that children have in learning. Very often we do not utilize the creativity of many professionals and also of many caring people in unlocking the abilities of these children, because many of them are, in fact, gifted children who need to have some help in unlocking their giftedness. So we would support the initiatives that the member has brought to us this morning. We would emphasize, however, that his work will fall to no results unless there is some very real effort, not only to deal with communication and better coordination between ministries, but with additional resources.
For example, the Ministry of Education has capped the dollars available for special needs children, including the learning disabled. Disabled people often tell us that we are all disabled in some way. I think every one of us can describe some disability that each of us has, but each of us learns through support and available resources how to overcome those disabilities, and that's what we need to do with children.
I would like to emphasize very specifically the need for early identification, good child care centres and child development centres. We know those initiatives pay dividends in children being able to overcome some of the conceptual problems that produce learning disabilities or make them less able to learn in the conventional setting. The more parents have opportunities to have people with whom they can discuss the character and nature of their children and their
[ Page 5390 ]
children's learning, the more opportunities children have to be in settings where some of those needs can be identified early. The more we can get at those early, the better off we will be with those children as they come through the system. As I know the member is aware, very often those children -once they have had that support - move through the regular system with very great success. I look forward to reading his report, and I commend him again for the work he has done with great care and dedication.
MR. MERCIER: I thank the member for New Westminster for those comments. To illustrate what happens in the system: you talk to a high school teacher who knows a child who had trouble getting to grade 10 or 11, and you ask them: "Whatever happened to that child? Do you ever see them again?" The answer is: no, they don't. But they will appear in the Minister of Social Services' network or the Attorney-General's network.
Then you talk to a teacher in Coquitlam in a primary setting, and that teacher will tell you that with the child she has identified with a difficulty and is struggling to teach, she might not have the support even of the parents, because the parents don't understand that that does not mean their child is stupid. It means their child has a specific disability and with proper remedial treatment, that child will have many assets to offer society.
How do you get this message to that teacher who has a work burden and might need a helper? How can we tell the Minister of Education that we would like to divert funds from other projects and help him in his ministry give the backup support that he needs, especially with psychological testing and other types of testing, to deal with the problem?
The conclusion that Geoff Belsher and I have come to is that children handicapped by learning disabilities are at risk in our society. The learning disabilities appear to be one of the important causes of juvenile delinquency. While it may not be the entire cause, it is one that should not be ignored. There are significant long-term costs to the government and to society in general, if learning-disabled children do not receive appropriate remediation.
I won't give you the whole report in this minute I have left, but you can see where I am heading. We have to change the focus. We have to think longer term, and we have to say to the Attorney-General and the Minister of Social Services that we can allocate funds now to education that will save their ministries funds later on. We have to make the connection when children drop out of school to follow their course and help them without unduly interfering with their lives. In closing, we have to support those teachers and parents who are now struggling along without sufficient resources, and we can rescue these children who now fall between the cracks - orphans of a system who can be treated a whole lot better.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I ask leave to proceed to private bills.
Introduction of Bills
NORTHWEST BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL
COLLEGE AMENDMENT ACT, 1988
On a motion by Mrs. Gran, Bill PR406, Northwest Baptist Theological College Amendment Act, 1988, 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.
LIFE BIBLE COLLEGE ACT
MRS. GRAN: I now move second reading of Bill PR402.
MRS. GRAN: Mr. Speaker, I ask leave to refer Bill PR402 to a Committee of the Whole House forthwith.
Bill PR402, Life Bible College Act, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration forthwith.
LIFE BIBLE COLLEGE ACT
The House in committee on Bill PR402; Mr. Pelton in the chair.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I'd just like to point out there are two bills in the bills book. The bill we're referring to has the words, "As amended in the Select Standing Committee on Standing Orders, Private Bills and Members' Services, " on the title page. That is the one we're dealing with.
On section 1.
MRS. GRAN: I move the amendment standing under my name on the order paper. [See appendix.]
Section 1 as amended approved.
On section 2.
MRS. GRAN: I move the amendment standing under my name on the order paper. [See appendix.]
Section 2 as amended approved.
Sections 3 through 13 inclusive approved.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I move the committee rise and report the bill complete with amendments.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Bill PR402, Life Bible College Act, reported complete with amendments. I
MR. SPEAKER: When shall the bill be read a third time?
[ Page 5391 ]
HON. MR. STRACHAN: With leave of the House now, Mr. Speaker.
Bill PR402, Life Bible College Act, read a third time and passed.
MR. MOWAT: Bill PR403, Mr. Speaker.
VANCOUVER CHARTER AMENDMENT ACT, 1988
MR. MOWAT: Mr. Speaker, this is an annual bill that we bring forward for the Vancouver Charter for the city of Vancouver. This bill deals specifically with: illegal suites; allocation of some services for Simon Fraser University moving into Harbour Centre; areas dealing with the Vancouver Parks Board; some zoning bylaws; and other miscellaneous amendments to put the Vancouver Charter in proper working order for the city to conduct its business.
I move second reading.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: With leave, I move the bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House now.
Bill PR403, Vancouver Charter Amendment Act, 1988, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration forthwith.
VANCOUVER CHARTER AMENDMENT ACT, 1988
The House in committee on Bill PR403; Mr. Pelton in the chair.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: At the outset, this is the same procedure as the last bill. There are two bills in your bills book, hon. members. The bill we are discussing in committee has on the title page the words: "As amended in the Select Standing Committee on Standing Orders, Private Bills and Members' Services." So you can distinguish between the two bills.
Sections 1 to 15 inclusive approved.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I move the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Bill PR403, Vancouver Charter Amendment Act, 1988, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Second reading of Bill 52, Mr. Speaker.
AMENDMENT ACT (No. 2), 1988
HON. B.R. SMITH: I move second reading.
Bill 52, Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), 1988, 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. MR. STRACHAN: Committee on Bill 36, Mr. Speaker.
AMENDMENT ACT (No. 1), 1988
The House in committee on Bill 36; Mr. Pelton in the chair.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I'm indebted to the Whips for supplying us with a colour-coded format for debate on Bill 36 this morning, I will advise the committee that by agreement we will be debating this bill over a period of two days, and we have Friday's agenda before us in green. We will be going to section 3 first. I see you have the same arrangement, Mr. Chairman, so we can all follow the script and debate along those lines. We will, of course, ask the committee to adjourn after section 35.
On section 3.
MS. EDWARDS: I see that this is the repeal of a bill that would have made it easier. would have helped along or in fact provided an incentive, to process copper in British Columbia. Copper is the most valuable metal product in British Columbia - we have to mention again that coal is the most important mined product - and none of it is processed in the province. With the passing away of this bill, my question to the minister is: what means does the minister have in mind to encourage the processing of copper within the province?
HON. MR. DAVIS: I think the most effective way to encourage the processing of resources in the province, including mineral ores, metal ores and copper ores in particular, is to reduce some of the costs encountered by the industry - in particular, power costs, for example; also some of the taxes paid by the industry which are really unique to British Columbia, which are not paid in other jurisdictions where copper is processed. I would hope - and this is perhaps only a hope - that we can reduce the water rental fee, for example, which Cominco claims is a deterrent to the processing of not only domestic ores but foreign ores at Trail.
Those are the best ways in which we can encourage processing here: reducing costs and ensuring that we're competitive; not imposing legislation such as the act which section 3 proposes to wipe off the statue books. That is an act that gives the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources the authority to set copper prices, to make grants - in effect a subsidy - available for processing. In other words, it's to reduce costs, not to subsidize the operations.
MS. EDWARDS: That's an interesting definition of reducing costs. Certainly what it looks like is that this bill is
[ Page 5392 ]
being repealed because under the proposed Mulroney Reagan trade agreement, I assume, the minister thinks that this would be countervail able or simply not allowed. My question, of course, is: are the other measures he proposes . . . ? What basis is there to suppose that a tax break is any different? Does he intend, in other words, to give those tax breaks? The copper industry should be refining its copper in the province.
HON. MR. DAVIS: The free trade agreement prevents the establishment of import duties and export taxes, and questions specific assistance to an industry - the rifle approach, if you like, to particular industries. If we have, say, a two-step water rental fee, one which applies to small volume users across the province and another one to large volume users or resource processors, that would not be questioned. In other words, it would have to be assistance which was generally available in the country and in the province. It's a lesser tax, if you like, but it must be a tax of general application, not one specifically aimed at a particular plant in a particular area.
MS. EDWARDS: I guess the point is that the minister is already revising the way we treat our producers - to go along with a proposal the government has said it agrees with, I'll grant you that; but already we're moving around to meet that without looking at the need but moving from the need. The minister seems not to be addressing the question in terms of the needs of the copper producers, but of the needs of the proposed FIFA.
HON. MR. DAVIS: Frankly, Mr. Chairman, it hadn't occurred to me that eliminating this particular legislation would appear to be - or would, perhaps, in fact be -moving in the direction of the free trade agreement. My incentive was to remove some unnecessary, irrelevant and misleading legislation from the statute books - we have a couple of other acts we're eliminating.
There's been no application of this act since it was introduced. It does give the minister unusual powers; it does involve exceptional subsidies, which have never been granted; and it gives the minister power to set prices for copper ore, copper concentrates and refined copper. 1 don't believe this government, with its free enterprise and relatively free trade philosophy, should leave legislation like this on the books.
MR. CLARK: Or relatively free enterprise philosophy.
MR. CLARK: That's right.
I was interested in your analysis of free trade in a broad sense, and I wanted to ask a simple question: is it your interpretation that it's really an enshrinement of GATT-like rules that allow for subsidies for broad social goals as long as they're uniformly applied, as opposed to a subsidy? Maybe the minister could confirm that, because I don't think that's a uniformly held interpretation of the free trade agreement. Secondly, given that same definition, would this act probably be a contravention of the free trade agreement?
HON. MR. DAVIS: I think the hon. member's right. If the act which we are about to repeal was used in such a way as to favour a particular development in a particular place, and the same assistance was not generally available in the resource processing and the industry generally, I think there's a possibility it would be in contradiction of the essential philosophy of the free trade agreement.
Again, if we have laws of general application, fine. If industries in B.C. and Canada buy power from a public utility, the bonds of which are guaranteed by the province, that's a law of general application. I don't see that as a problem under the free trade agreement. However, I see a problem if we were to apply this kind of legislation to a particular smelter, particularly to create a new one, if the product was to flow, in large part, to the U.S.
MR. CLARK: Of course, it would be a new one because there aren't any in British Columbia. I think this highlights one of the concerns we have about the free trade agreement. The minister may not agree with me. I have some of the same aversion to subsidy that the minister has, but the problem I have is the infringement of our ability to do that if we decide to. It's not a question of whether we want to do it or not; it's a question of having the sovereign right to do it. I find removing this kind of act offensive because I think, first of all, that that's part of the motivation. I know the minister said it hadn't occurred to him. I suspect it had occurred to his staff, and that's why we're seeing this miscellaneous amendment today.
I want to make one further comment, if I could. I think it's one of the great failures of British Columbia that we haven't developed further processing in the copper industry in British Columbia. I know there have been quite a few studies and initiatives over the years that probably gave rise to this act in the first place, and I think this act was applied. I believe Afton took advantage of it. We might differ on whether or not subsidy is the correct approach, but I feel very strongly that there is a market. The economics are right for copper smelting in British Columbia. I would encourage the minister to look at this, although this act removes some power that might be used to help stimulate the industry here. I say that because the economics of copper-mining, which are dubious to some extent, depending on the price, are different from the economics of copper-smelting. In fact, because of certain capacity problems around and because of what's happening because of transport costs, I suspect that copper-smelting may be more economic in British Columbia today than it has been for a long time.
Unlike the free enterprise philosophy of the minister and the government opposite, I think that the fact that we don't have one here points to some market failure which may have to do with the size of the industries involved, the multinational nature of the companies. It may have to do with a variety of factors other than the economics - because I think the economics may warrant it. Even if they don't, I think it could be arranged such that they did.
If we want to get more value added from our primary resource industries, we have to promote both backward and forward linkages. This government hasn't done that. Neither did the previous Social Credit governments. I think the kinds of planning agreements that we could have with the copper mining industries to try and encourage that kind of further processing would make sense.
I grant you - I want to make the point - that copper in some respects is a sunset industry, given displacement with aluminum and fibre optics and a few other things that are
[ Page 5393 ]
happening. But given the shrinkage of the worldwide market, I think there's a real potential here.
We'll be opposing this section not because we agree with every clause in the original act, but because it removes that lever that could be available to government to try and encourage that industry here, and also because the main purpose of it is to be concerned about the free trade agreement. I think that whether or not you're going to use this act, it would be nice to have that option, the sovereign right of the province to do that if we so desire.
HON. MR. DAVIS: Most of our copper concentrates go to Japan, where they are converted to copper metal. The Japanese subsidize their copper-smelting and refining to a very large extent. The power rates are next to nothing. The costs are immense, it's heavily subsidized, and it's difficult to compete with that kind of subsidy. If we had free trade in the ultimate sense, of course, the Japanese wouldn't be doing that, and we would have a site refining copper perhaps in the Ashcroft area, Highland Valley vicinity, on one of the major railways. B.C. Hydro's rates are not that interesting. There would have to be a unique local power development to produce a rate that was interesting. Of course, the water rental fee presents a problem in any case. But the economics aren't there as long as the Japanese and others are prepared to subsidize their refineries to the extent they do today.
Section 3 approved on division.
Sections 5 and 6 approved.
Sections 14 and 15 approved.
On section 18.
MR. SIHOTA: I just want to question the Attorney-General. I'm not too sure, looking at the section, what needed to be remedied. I'm just wondering if I can get some clarification from the Attorney-General on this one.
HON. B.R. SMITH: I'm sorry, would you just repeat that? I was in conversation.
MR. SIHOTA: I'm not sure what you're trying to get at here. What were you trying to remedy?
HON. B.R. SMITH: The problem with developing shoreline property has been around for some time. As the member probably knows, under the Land Title Act, section 108 (2), there is an automatic reversion to the province without compensation of any land covered by water included within a subdivision plan adjoining Crown land. This amendment will authorize the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council to exempt designated shore land from the automatic application of this rule.
I'll give you an example of how this section might be used: a subdivision plan which includes the shore land that is to be filled in the course of the development. By exempting the plan from the operation of that section, the owner of the land could proceed with the subdivision of the upland without losing control over adjacent shore land development. Any proposal for exemption has to receive the consideration of cabinet to determine whether or not it's appropriate and in the public's interest.
It allows some shoreline development without reversion, which may be desirable in terms of a waterfront development scheme. Under the old act there was automatic reversion of that interest.
MR. SIHOTA: Let me see if I got that right. Under the old act the shoreline used to revert to the Crown in the event of what? In the event of sale or transfer of the property? What caused it to come back into the hands of the Crown?
HON. B.R. SMITH: Subdivision. The old section provides that on deposit of a subdivision plan, all lands covered by water revert without compensation to the Crown. It's the filing of the plan that would cause that to happen, and that clearly may not be desirable if a prospectus is put out on Crown land which includes invitations for development over water lots. The old Land Act required that reversion. An owner would be in the position of having his interest in that revert to the Crown without compensation.
MR. SIHOTA: I take it the concern here is one of compensation. Am I correct on that? Is that the ultimate concern9
HON. B.R. SMITH: Not really. It's the development of land covered by water, because with a development, it might be desirable to have included in it some of the land covered by water. Upon the filing of a subdivision plan, all parts covered by water would revert to the Crown. It's not so much the compensation; it's the reversion. We're not trying to prevent the compensation; we're trying to prevent the reversion. Otherwise we couldn't do any of these developments at all.
Section 18 approved.
On section 19.
MR. CLARK: I'll just quickly say that this is exactly the same as the copper-processing act that we talked about. The only reason we can see for removing it is that it's countervail able and not allowed under the free trade agreement. I think it's regrettable; I think that's the kind of thing that we should be promoting. Despite the fact that the minister says it potentially allows for subsidy, it also allows for ministerial discretion to move processing material, which might be in the best interest of the province but not necessarily in the best interest of the company involved - and I think we should retain that power.
HON. MR. DAVIS: Mr. Chairman, this act, which we're about to repeal, dates from 1970. It allows the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources to direct concentrates from British Columbia mines to smelters located in the province. The minister can direct a smelter in the province to process such ore and at a price set by the minister. This act was established as part of a strategy to encourage further processing of minerals in British Columbia. but it has never been used. Other incentives, such as lower power rates and more appropriate tax regimes, will be used instead.
Section 19 approved on division.
On section 20.
MS. EDWARDS: As I understand it, this no longer requires approval or rejection by the minister of a reclamation
[ Page 5394 ]
program within 60 days after the recommendation from the reclamation committee. The minister is also no longer empowered to revise the program on his own. The nuts and bolts of this are not that the minister doesn't have power anymore, because until he passes and allows the plan, the company is not allowed to proceed with its mining. The question is: why has the 60-day deadline for the decision been removed in the amendment?
HON. MR. DAVIS: Mr. Chairman, the 60-day time limit is removed basically because 60 days often weren't enough. It didn't allow enough time for a reasonable appraisal. A decision was rushed, to be within the 60-day limit. Now it's within reason; it could well be beyond 60 days before a decision was rendered favourable or not favourable to the particular development. It gives more time to the ministries to decide pro or con a particular development.
MS. EDWARDS: I'm certainly in favour of the ministry taking a good look at these permits, but I also have heard the mining companies.... I know how they sometimes do their planning: they decide to go ahead with something, and they need to have a decision within a certain length of time. I have to assume that the length of time will be very closely tied to a recognition of due process and also a recognition that the mining company deserves an answer as quickly as the ministry can give it.
HON. MR. DAVIS: The notes I have read as follows
This amendment removes the 60-day time-limit imposed on the minister to reject, approve or amend a reclamation program submitted by a mining company. It has often proved to be impossible for the minister to comply with the time limit. Companies eager to begin permitting often submit an application that is premature to cabinet approval in principle being granted, or is incomplete, and therefore there is insufficient time to allow the minister to make his decision or to request additional information prior to a decision.
The amendment allows time to request additional information without having to reject an incomplete program. When the 60-day time-limit is not complied with, the letter of the law is technically violated when permits are subsequently issued. The amendment prevents the situation from developing in the future.
Section 20 approved.
On section 21.
MS. EDWARDS: Here, where the chief inspector requires a reclamation permit for a placer mine or any mine in the exploration phase, no production shall take place until that permit is obtained. Mr. Minister, why is it that all placer mines are not automatically covered, and why is it that all placer mines are not allowed to proceed until they have the permit?
HON. MR. DAVIS: I would assume, certainly from all advice I've had from the ministries, that a permit is required before any mining can occur, whether it's placer mining, hardrock mining or whatever. My quick reading of the amendment itself simply states the obvious, which is, in part: " . . . no production or work shall be carried out unless the owner, agent or manager holds a valid permit . . . ... Perhaps the earlier legislation wasn't all too clear on that point, but I think this wording is very clear. They must hold a valid permit issued by the chief inspector. I think basically it clarifies a section of the Mines Act which was not clear earlier.
MS. EDWARDS: The note says, "where the chief inspector requires" a permit, but if you are telling me that everyone who is going to do some mining will require a permit, that takes care of my question.
Section 21 approved.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Minister of Forests requests leave to make an introduction.
HON. MR. PARKER: I would like to introduce to the House and ask the House to make welcome the Points North swim team, consisting of some 30 promising young swimmers from Terrace, Kitimat and Prince Rupert, who are visiting today, accompanied by some parents and their swim coach, Bill Nash.
Sections 23 to 25 inclusive approved.
Sections 29 to 33 inclusive approved.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Members will note we have 35 on our list as well, but that's a commencement section which speaks to the commencement of sections which are not passed, so we will leave 35 alone for today and move the committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.
The House resumed; Mr. Ree in the chair.
The committee, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Report on Bill 28, Mr. Speaker.
[Mr. Pelton in the chair.]
FOREST AMENDMENT ACT, 1988
Bill 28, Forest Amendment Act, 1988, read a third time and passed.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker, 1 call committee on Bill 57.
SOUTH MORESBY IMPLEMENTATION ACCOUNT
The House in committee on Bill 57; Mr. Pelton in the chair.
Sections 1 to 5 inclusive approved.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Chairman, if you could rise and report to ML Speaker - whoever he might be - the bill complete without amendment....
[ Page 5395 ]
The House resumed; Mr. Ree in the chair.
Bill 57, South Moresby Implementation Account Act, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
[Mr. Pelton in the chair.]
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Second reading of Bill 48, Mr. Speaker.
FAMILY RELATIONS AMENDMENT ACT, 1988
HON. B.R. SMITH: I will make a short statement on the bill in second reading because it does have a theme - not many themes - and an important theme.
This bill is brought in to establish that all parents will have the same rights before the law. It is the intention of the government that unmarried mothers be treated with dignity and that support be based upon need and not on marital status. The amendments reflect society's expectation today. We believe that all parents are equally responsible to support and maintain their children.
Within the Child Paternity and Support Act, with regard to children whose parents are not married, the role given to the superintendent of family and child service is considered by many in our society to be outdated and paternalistic. The superintendent, by that act, is empowered to represent mothers who happen to be unmarried and are seeking maintenance for their children.
The Child Paternity and Support Act has been challenged under the Charter of Rights, as it provides a remedy to mothers which is not available to fathers. The Family Relations Act, however, is a much more comprehensive and modern piece of legislation providing a broad range of provisions relating to family matters. The remedies within the bill apply equally to mothers who are married and not married and apply equally to mothers and to fathers, so this broader and more comprehensive piece of legislation has a number of advantages over the Child Paternity and Support Act.
I am just going to list a few of the advantages that the Family Relations Act has.
First of all, it has no time-limit. There is no time-limit relating to an application for child maintenance in the Family Relations Act, whereas the old Child Paternity and Support Act had a one-year limitation, after which no application for maintenance could be heard.
Also, a broader range of orders available under the Family Relations Act provides for custody and access orders, as well as for maintenance orders.
A uniform order of proof is required because the Family Relations Act does not require that the mother's evidence as to the paternity of her child be corroborated by other material evidence. A mother applying under the Child Paternity and Support Act has to meet a very high burden of proof, much higher than that of a mother applying under the Family Relations Act. It is undesirable that this higher burden of proof continue to exist. The amendments to the Family Relations Act will include presumptions for determination of paternity in accordance with the uniform child status act.
Fourthly, the reciprocal enforcement provisions of the Family Relations Act make it possible for an affiliation order to be made under that act when the putative father is absent from British Columbia. There is no procedure in the old Child Paternity and Support Act to do that if the putative father was outside the province of British Columbia. Of course, it removes the discrimination based on marital status.
Fifthly, the Family Relations Act treats all parents equally regardless of marital status; therefore all children are treated equally, whereas the Child Paternity and Support Act provides for services to a particular group of persons defined by their marital status and gave the superintendent of child welfare an outdated and patronizing role in representing mothers who happen to be unmarried. So it removes those considerations and sexual discrimination as well as marital discrimination, because the old act provided a remedy to mothers that wasn't available to fathers.
I hope my colleague the Minister of Social Services and Housing will speak briefly as well, because he has been really a pioneer in this legislation, and we have been more or less the draftsmen- architects of the framework. But I must give tremendous compliments to him and Leslie Arnold, the superintendent, who have worked to bring this about. It's been of concern to both ministries for some time that this old procedure continued to exist. The service delivery agreement was worked out between the two ministries, and it should work very well.
First, where a mother is in receipt of income assistance, the director of GAIN will apply for maintenance or enforcement of maintenance on behalf of the mother for the child. Second, where a mother is not on income assistance and is over 19 years of age, family court counsellors will assist those mothers by providing information, conciliation counselling and assistance in making their own applications to the court. Legal services will be provided by government to mothers over 19 who are unable to afford their own legal counsel. Thirdly, mothers who are not on income assistance and under 19 years of age may have their application made by the mother's guardian. Legal services will also be provided by government to the guardians of under-19 mothers when the guardians are unable to afford legal counsel.
In cases where a minor mother has no guardian available or willing to act for her, the director of GAIN will bring the application on behalf of the minor mother. Supportive services provided by the superintendent of family and child service to unmarried parents which are mandated under the Child Paternity and Support Act will continue to be available to any parent under this new legislative umbrella.
There is a potential for reduction in services only in the sense that free legal services will no longer be provided to persons who have means to pay for their own. But legal services will be available when required to all applicants in receipt of income assistance.
That briefly summarizes the features of the amendments. I move second reading.
MR. SIHOTA: We're going to support this legislation. I've taken a look at what is encompassed here, and I think it's about time we entered the twentieth century with respect to these matters.
As a practitioner in the family law field, I can tell you. . . . I didn't do a lot of it. but I did enough of it to know that this was a real minefield and a bit of a mess in terms of trying to get support, particularly for children. The Attorney-General interestingly said that it puts all parents on an equal footing. I'd prefer t~ say that it puts all children on an equal footing with respect to the availability of maintenance.
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It endeavours to resolve a Charter of Rights argument. I'm not sure if it will. Perhaps that's better left for committee stage of debate. But certainly I have no problems with this legislation.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I just want to add my words of commendation to the staff in the Attorney-General's and my ministry for the way this act was put together. A lot of thought and hard work went into it - and special compliments to the superintendent of family and child service, who is charged with administering this act, even though it does come under the jurisdiction of the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General has explained it very well. There's really little left to say about the functioning of the act, except that it is a good act and it does bring the Family Relations Act into the 1980s. With that, I'll take my place.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Members are advised that pursuant to standing order, 42, the minister closes debate on second reading.
HON. B.R. SMITH: We certainly agree on this side that the two things the bill does in principle are to remove discrimination against children based on the marital status of their parents and to give dignity to single parents when applying for maintenance in a paternity matter - and it puts it under more modern, comprehensive umbrella legislation.
I have the honour of moving second reading.
Bill 48, Family Relations Amendment Act, 1988, 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. MR. STRACHAN: I call adjourned debate on second reading of Bill 45. 1 note that the second member for Nanaimo (Mr. Lovick) adjourned debate on the amendment, which is a hoist amendment. I'm also advised that he's designated speaker, and so far he has spoken for 21 minutes.
HYDRO AND POWER AUTHORITY
On the amendment.
MS. EDWARDS: There were a number of requests that I stand up at this moment, and the designated speaker on this bill very kindly acceded to my request, because I wanted to speak to this. I think that a little desk-thumping at another appropriate time for the second member for Nanaimo would be in order for this generous favour he has done the House.
I want to speak in favour of the hoist motion, because I think it's very clear that this bill, which could have such important consequences, has not had the kind of consideration necessary. It needs more time for the kind of consultation that this government says it wants with the people of British Columbia. I think that was very clear in the move the minister made in bringing in an almost immediate amendment to his own bill when it was brought to him the kind of deep and abiding resentment there is in the interior of B.C. for moves at the centre to use the water of this province to create energy for people other than those of us who make way for the electric generation. I think that was very much part of the reason he made that amendment. There would be enormous public resentment and concern and uproar over the ability for, out of nowhere, a very quick move to sell B.C. electric hydro generating; also the water licences that went with it, which the minister mentioned very clearly. That has now been amended. But it does not relieve the pressure for the other moves that are being made - and the moves that could be made - under this legislation.
I would like to point out again some of the things that could happen under this bill. I do so in order to point the minds of the members to the fact that we need to look it over. We need to have a better and more clearly defined direction from the government before we pass legislation which allows such an extraordinarily significant change in the way we deal with this huge Crown corporation.
When I spoke on second reading of the bill, I pointed out some major difficulties with the proposal if the minister, under this legislation, were to privatize the Hydro rail section. I talked about the difficulties this could provide for the southeast coal producers. I may go back to that if I have time, but I also want to add to the impacts that could happen under this legislation. I want to talk about B.C. Hydro Rail again, and the fact that its two goals, as I've heard them articulated, are to provide competitive rail freight and industrial development services. According to the study that was assisted by Thorne Ernst and Whinney, they do that extremely well.
Hydro, Rail goes from Huntingdon, which is the border crossing, up through some of the lower mainland communities and into New Westminster, as well as on to Roberts Bank. It runs a huge amount of freight. In fact, the majority of Rail's business is the transfer of competitors' railcars onto their line and delivery to the customer. That is a very significant function Hydro Rail provides in the lower mainland area. They provide it with at least two scheduled trains - called switcher trains - a day. They move in and out between the coal trains, run by CP and CN, coming in from northwestern Alberta and southeastern British Columbia. These trains sort of network through that area. They move rail freight and cars from other railways, and so on and so forth.
They are very busy. They provide this business, which they do very well. According to the report, they do it very efficiently. They make money for the corporation. In fact, the prediction is that they would continue to net approximately $3 million a year - just Hydro Rail itself. That's a pretty significant amount of money.
It's also interesting to note that Hydro Rail competes not only with Canadian National, Canadian Pacific and Burlington Northern; it also competes effectively with all other kinds of freight - truck freight and so on - and does a good job at it. It does the same kind of job as it used to do on CP lines, on what is referred to as the V&Ll track in Vancouver. As we all know, the CPR owned that track. Hydro Rail ran it - in other words, bought use of the track; I believe they paid wheelage - did the provision of freight services in the Vancouver area and served two major breweries, sawmills and various other industrial establishments that needed that kind of service.
We may also be aware that about three years ago Canadian Pacific decided to run that line itself. Since that time Canadian Pacific has applied to abandon that service. I don't know why, if Canadian Pacific, Canadian National and Burlington Northern, all of which operate with much larger
[ Page 5397 ]
systems than Hydro Rail and have an outlook that looks to a much larger and very different system. . . . Certainly the predictions I have heard from various people involved are that whichever one took over Hydro Rail would apply very soon to abandon the line.
It may not sound that way from the things that I've said. I've said that it's predicted it will make $3 million a year and it's a very active thing. In fact, that rail line controls the access to the Annacis Island port and the Roberts Bank port. What happens the minute that rail line goes into the hands of a national corporation is that a number of things change. The economics of it change, not only because of the way the freight is run but also because of the kinds of things that have happened to-Hydro Rail within B.C. Hydro as a corporation.
The consultants said very clearly in their recommendation that Hydro Rail is not a standalone entity. When you pull it out, it has a lot of roots that are going to disrupt the earth all around it, to use a rather instant and perhaps not totally effective metaphor; but I think you get the idea. It cannot operate by itself or in a larger corporation with the same kind of profitability as within Hydro.
One of the points made is that the electrical group uses many of Hydro Rail's rights-of-way to run transmission lines. Of course, this could go either way. It may mean that they can also charge Hydro; a private company could do that. It becomes a matter of considerable complexity, and the consultants who looked at it recommended that Hydro Rail not be put up for sale to another corporation, because it didn't serve the public. I assume that the main criterion of the report was the service of the public interest.
What the consultants said was that the company should look at amalgamating Hydro Rail with B.C. Rail, which, as the Speaker may know and some of the other members may not, owns the rail line at Roberts Bank. That is contiguous to Hydro Rail and would make a considerable amount of sense. I suppose it's possible under this legislation, but the minister and the government have certainly said that that is not one of the plans being proposed. In fact, it's being said that that will not happen. If that recommendation is not being followed, why would we not want to take a longer look at this legislation?
I want to follow up a bit on the idea of access to Roberts Bank, which is something that concerns the coal producers in my area. What they want is the continuation of an outlook which favours the competitiveness they need in order to stay in the world market, on the basis that they are already there without subsidy in that area of many major . . . or direct proportion, compared to the other major coal-mining area in B.C. What they want is to ensure that the rates will not be able to be boosted up right away. They have some major concerns about that.
We might take a look at the reason why B.C. Rail was given the rail line at Roberts Bank. At the time Roberts Bank was established, the then Premier, W.A.C. Bennett, made it very clear that B.C. Rail was to have control after Hydro Rail. There were these two major conglomerates, CP and CN, bringing coal in there, and in order to ensure that neither one of them got into any particular games that would impact negatively on the other, he assured that B.C. Rail has that section of rail.
Another suggestion is that there's no reason to allow legislation that would put this part of Hydro Rail and the control of access into the hands of one or another of the major corporations, who have the interest that could mean they want it to work in their own favour. It's just by sheer logic, Mr. Speaker, that Hydro Rail is such a strategic piece of rail that it should not be given to open bid in this case. Burlington Northern - who has also said, evidently, that they're interested in looking at this piece of rail because they operate in the area - is a foreign company and certainly would not have any particular reason to be interested in the whole network of service around here. Certainly there's some wondering as to whether Burlington Northern would be any better than the other two, as far as wanting to carry on the local freight service - which is extremely important - from New Westminster through Delta, Langley and down to the Huntingdon crossing.
Basically, Mr. Speaker, I think that before we pass legislation which can allow privatization of even the four parts of B. C. Hydro that the minister says will proceed right away, we need some time for the public to take a look at them and for the government to clarify what it wants to do and how it would answer the questions that I have put to the minister: how do we assure that the industrial development function and the competitive rate rail freight function are carried out, even if there is a privatization? We need to look at the question of access both to Roberts Bank and to the Annacis Island port facilities. We want to have at least six months to discuss this issue with the people of British Columbia.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. members, I'm now going to call the motion.
Motion negatived on the following division:
YEAS - 13
NAYS - 28
HON. B.R. SMITH: Point of order. Did I hear the name Barlee? I'm sure I wouldn't have, because he missed most of the debate.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
On the main motion.
MR. WILLIAMS: I suspect that the Minister of Energy has an interesting taste in his mouth these days; it's either that of sweet revenge or sweet irony. Let's remember that the
[ Page 5398 ]
present Minister of Energy was one of Dal Grauer's whiz-kids at the old Electric Co. when it was a private corporation.
MR. BLENCOE: That's a long time ago.
MR. WILLIAMS: A long time ago. The venerable minister is still handling things very well.
At the same time, it's fascinating that a group of very different whiz-kids is operating at B.C. Hydro these days. Those whiz-kids had a meeting at Whistler December 5 and 6 last year, and it was there that we first learned the phrase: "Let's strip B.C. Hydro down to the wires. " The brains trust that met at Whistler - the chairman of B.C. Hydro and his colleagues - December 5 and 6, discussed this whole idea of stripping down the Crown corporation.
MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Larry Bell, yes.
There is no accident in the drafting of this legislation -no accident at all. It's no accident that, as my colleague from Vancouver says, it means they could sell the corporation off dam by dam.
AN HON. MEMBER: The whole damn thing.
MR. WILLIAMS: The whole damn thing, yes.
The amendment that's on the order paper doesn't seem to fully deal with the loophole in terms of the electrical division. There are significant parts of the electrical division. The earlier study carried out for the former minister in charge of privatization, the member for Vancouver South, was carried out by another former Deputy Minister of Finance, just as Mr. Larry Bell was - Mr. David Emerson. In that earlier study, they looked at some of the options for selling off chunks of the corporation. They looked at the Kootenay canal project, for example, on the Kootenay River between Nelson and Castlegar, and at what their cost was on the books and what they might get if they sold it off. They talked about selling it off to West Kootenay Power and Light in that report of April of this year.
So it's no accident that the legislation was drafted the way it is. This is a conscious program in terms of being ready to sell off, in effect, the rivers of British Columbia. That's what that represents: selling off the birthright, the rivers of British Columbia.
We know what a storm there was in the Kootenay region and in the Okanagan with the sale of West Kootenay Power and Light. The Consumers' Association that our new colleague is familiar with has thousands and thousands of members opposed to the selling off of British Columbia rivers, opposed to foreign ownership of these important natural resources. These are the rivers of British Columbia.
The minister sort of kicks Hydro. This is an administration of 30 years in this province, basically running this corporation, the B.C. Hydro and Power Authority. And you're saying, in effect, that you and your colleagues in the past have been monumental failures in terms of running a public enterprise. You are saying you're incompetent and just have to get out of the business. You're incompetent, but the people of British Columbia have to put you out of the business. This isn't the way to do it.
I remember when I first came here. W.A. C. Bennett was Premier. I was young then, like the minister was young at the electric company. I thought, "Let's listen to what this old chap has to say, " and I wondered if he really had much to deliver. He was talking about B.C. Hydro actually. I have to admit that I was impressed - I didn't come here expecting to be impressed by Mr. Bennett; that changed over times, but in many ways I was impressed by him. He talked about Hydro and said: "My friends, you never sell off the equity. You never, ever sell off the equity. " He said: "That's the birthright of all British Columbians. We can borrow. We can take out bonds and all the rest. We can do borrowings, but we never, ever sell off the assets." The assets are the rivers of British Columbia. That's really what the plan has been here: to piece by piece, in effect, loot the province of British Columbia. That's the way I see this privatization game. All too often it's a looting of the public assets of the province.
MR. LOVICK: Like vandals.
MR. WILLIAMS: That's right. The business of selling off West Kootenay Power and Light in the Kootenay canal project is the sixth- or seventh-largest operation in the province. Can you imagine selling that off to a Missouri corporation, UtiliCorp? That is seriously being looked at by the advisers to the ministry. They estimate the annual revenue out of that at something like $88 million. They suggest that they might actually have a value of $1 billion in the Kootenay canal project. I suspect that a billion dollars looked very tempting to Mr. Bell and Mr. Emerson.
Then you start thinking about the other assets of this corporation: Peace Canyon, Bennett, Seven Mile, Revelstoke, John Hart and all the others. We're talking, truly, about a great natural heritage here in the province. The potential losses to the Crown over time would be absolutely monumental.
The Hydro Rail idea, as the member for Kootenay says.... How much sense does it really make to sell off Hydro Rail - even to Mr. Emerson, an ideologue of your ilk? It didn't make any sense to him. It made some sense to look at merging it with B.C. Rail, but it didn't make any sense to him to sell it on a standalone basis.
The minister has since privately and publicly said: "We're not going to sell off the right-of-way." I'm not entirely sure what that means, but we don't have any protection in this legislation against selling off the right-of-way, Mr. Minister. That right-of-way proved incredibly beneficial when building SkyTrain through Burnaby and the east side of the city to New Westminster. That right-of-way was provided free for a commuter system. In the same sense, Hydro Rail can provide a commuter system from Surrey to Chilliwack, south of the river - the fastest-growing area in British Columbia. It makes all the sense in the world to use that rail line as an extension - surface commuter rail that's not expensive for the growing south side of the river.
The question of whether that's going to be available or not is a neat question. We obviously have to have access to the tracks and have use of the tracks in terms of a timetable for rush hour and all the rest. The people at Hydro Rail all say that it's workable, that they tested it during Expo and it was successful. That they can do that in the fastest-growing area of the province makes absolutely no sense. As the member for Kootenay (Ms. Edwards) said, they have strategic control with respect to the right-of-way out of Roberts Bank and Annacis Island, important industrial areas in the heartland of our economic bread-basket in British Columbia - exclusive rights-of-way to those places.
[ Page 5399 ]
The communities served are North Surrey, North Delta, Kennedy, Newton, Cloverdale, Langley, Fort Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack, and it simply doesn't make any sense. The assets on the books are $47 million, and just in terms of commuter rail values it far exceeds that figure.
Think about the R and D division in terms of separating this group: 90 percent of their work is for B.C. Hydro. The logic of privatizing is clearly not there. Mr. Emerson makes it abundantly clear as well. He said that it had a weak potential for privatization. That's Mr. Emerson, the former Deputy Minister of Finance, speaking in April of this year, saying it has a weak potential for privatization, but you're proceeding regardless.
The gas division, Mr. Minister: about 9, 000 kilometres of pipe in the lower mainland. You have a contract, as I understand it, with Westcoast Transmission to last until 1991. It's not a good contract. As soon as you're out of that contract, the opportunities. . . . You talk about freezing prices for three years in terms of customers of the gas division. In 1991 they are out of unsatisfactory contractual relationships with Westcoast Transmission, and presumably the opportunities then of cheaper gas from the fields will be available on a throughput basis to the system in the lower mainland. That should leave a very healthy margin for the new corporation, a very healthy margin that either would have gone to the consumers or to B.C. Hydro, the Crown corporation, but will flow through to this company during this time period. That's the sleeper in the deal for the gas division.
The current arrangements, which are unsatisfactory based on older gas prices compared to the potential of new gas prices in the field. . . . The whole exercise gives one an uneasy feeling around the area of privatization in this province. There's a kind of looting mentality that pervades the government ranks. It was there in the sale of the public assets of the Expo lands. When you reflect on the kind of deal that was made, where two-thirds of the price of the lands will be paid in the last three years of the deal, some 15 or 20 years later, then you realize the kind of looting that represents in terms of decent pricing of public assets.
The other test operations in the Okanagan and elsewhere sold for a pittance, justified by the Premier in his recent to trip to Alberni. On the CBC, he said to the workers at the mill in Alberni:
"You want to maintain your present level of wages; you want to have the present level of services we have in British Columbia. If you want that, then you've got to accept the privatization of all of these other activities, because we can't maintain services in British Columbia at their present levels unless we privatize and we can't maintain wage levels in British Columbia unless we privatize. "
What kind of voodoo economics is that, Mr. Speaker? What kind of phony scare tactic is that to try and peddle to the public of British Columbia' We are a wealthy province with great natural resources. If we don't squander them the way you want to squander them currently under these various programs, we can see to it that in the future all British Columbians will have a better economic chance than they have today. None of this poor-mouthing of British Columbia. We have a gross national product that increases annually; we have a gross provincial product that increases annually. We are a wealthy people here. We do not have to sell off our birthright to pay the bills and to pay decent wages.
The intent here was clearly a carte blanche to allow the new prodigies over there in B. C. Hydro under this Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources to sell off the outfit piece by piece-, indeed, "to take it down to the wires" -that's their quote, Mr. Speaker, not ours. Those are the top people in B.C. Hydro talking about taking Hydro down to the wires. That's their quote, that's their view of the operation and that's their measure of the failure of this administration in managing a public enterprise and Crown corporation.
I have to reflect again on Mr. Bennett and those early days in this chamber. He had profound and simple advice for us. He said that we should never. ever sell off this birthright; we should never, ever sell off the equity. That's why we're opposed to this bill. It's very clear what the strategy of government is, and it flies in the face of administrations in this province for decades.
We urge the minister to reconsider the amendment that he's got. It clearly needs tightening. Then we might have some assurance that the pieces of the electrical division will not be lost. We are not assured at this stage by the decisions made to date or by the statements of the Premier.
Mr. Williams moved adjournment of the debate.
Hon. Mr. Davis moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 12:42 p.m.
AMENDMENTS TO BILLS
Pr 402 Mrs. Gran to move, in Committee of the Whole on Bill (No. Pr 402) intituled Lilke Bible College Act to amend as follows:
SECTION 1, in the proposed section I by adding "of Canada" after the words "Life Bible College".
SECTION 2, in the proposed section 2 by adding "of Canada" after the words "Life Bible College" in lines I and 2.