2011 Legislative Session: Fourth Session, 39th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
official report of
Debates of the Legislative Assembly
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Volume 25, Number 3
Cesar Chavez award recipient
Introductions by Members
Office of the Auditor General, report No. 7, 2011, Follow-up Report: Updates on the Implementation of Recommendations from Recent Reports
Introductions by Members
Introduction and First Reading of Bills
Bill 2 — Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act
Bill 6 — Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act, 2011
Bill 5 — Personal Property Security Amendment Act, 2011
Hon. S. Thomson
Bill 4 — Offence Amendment Act, 2011
Hon. S. Bond
Bill 3 — Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act, 2011
Hon. M. MacDiarmid
Statements (Standing Order 25B)
Community Living Month
Supreme Court ruling on supervised injection facility
Arts Centre and Theatre in Maple Ridge
Construction industry jobs and timeline for elimination of harmonized sales tax
Hon. C. Clark
Forest industry jobs and log export policy
Hon. S. Thomson
Court system funding
Hon. S. Bond
Classroom composition and class organization fund
Hon. G. Abbott
Hon. I. Chong
Orders of the Day
Throne Speech Debate (continued)
Hon. P. Bell
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TUESDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2011
The House met at 1:34 p.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
CESAR CHAVEZ AWARD RECIPIENT
K. Corrigan: The Cesar Chavez Black Eagle Award was established to recognize extraordinary individuals and organizations for making exceptional contributions to the fight for justice in Canada's agricultural industry. I am pleased to announce that our colleague the MLA for Burnaby-Edmonds is the recipient of the 2011 Black Eagle Award for his selfless service to the farmworkers struggles and that he and other award winners will be honoured at the 12th annual awards dinner and ceremony hosted by UFCW Canada and the Agriculture Workers Alliance on November 2 in Toronto.
I hope you will join me in congratulating him.
Introductions by Members
Hon. M. Polak: It's become a bit of a custom in the House for people to introduce their grandchildren. It seems as though I'm a number of years off from my daughter deciding to give me any, so I've adopted the grandchildren that arrived to my staff. They are my family.
I would like to make a very special introduction today, introduce you to a new British Columbian who is only 18 days old, 51 centimetres tall. Her name is Maya Russ Costa. She was born on September 16 at 10:42 a.m. here in Victoria, weighing in at 8 pounds 11 ounces to her lovely mother, Claudia Costa; big brother, Noah Costa; and her father, Frank Costa. Would the House please congratulate them.
M. Elmore: I'd like to introduce Lavina Shaw, who is visiting us here today from Coquitlam. She's a great friend. She's also one of the founding members of the social justice and peace film festival in Coquitlam and has really dedicated her work to peace and social justice. I ask everybody to please make her very welcome.
B. Simpson: I want to introduce a young man that's in the gallery today, Sean Quinn. He's originally from Alberta. We will forgive him for that, because he moved here to Victoria to study at the University of Victoria, where he got a BA in history, and he's now settled down here. He's very keen to experience question period firsthand, especially the promised new tone, so please make Sean feel welcome.
J. McIntyre: This is a bittersweet introduction for what I must term now my former MLA colleague Iain Black, who is still with us in the House today but in a different chair. Many of you likely know that Iain resigned his seat yesterday to take up his new duties as the president and CEO of the Vancouver Board of Trade. So I'm asking the House to join me in thanking Iain for his over six years of public service to British Columbia.
We were both first elected in the class of 2005, and we learned the ropes together sitting side by side in the back corner of the House there on the opposition side. I think we both then went into cabinet, in June 2008. I think there were a number of members on the NDP side who were glad to see us go. In cabinet….
J. McIntyre: No, that was supposed to be friendly. We loved it over there.
In cabinet, in all seriousness, Iain served as Minister of Labour and Citizens' Services; Minister of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development; and up until this spring as Minister of Labour. He did a great job in representing all his constituents in the riding of Port Moody–Coquitlam.
I know he wishes every member here good health and much happiness as we move on and he charts a new course.
Thanks, Iain. Wishing you every success in the next chapter of your professional life.
Mr. Speaker: The Opposition House Leader has a response.
J. Horgan: I wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to say so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu to the best keyboard player in the Liberal caucus up until now. I have to say, on behalf of all of us on this side of the House, we're going to miss Iain's wit, his sometimes charm and his occasional panache.
I, more than any other, had the good fortune of representing Iain's mom and dad. I know they were very, very proud. His father is very, very proud of his work in this Legislature.
On behalf of the New Democratic caucus, good luck, Iain, and we'll see you in the future.
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R. Chouhan: Today I would like to speak about a great public servant who just completed his 35 years with the RCMP yesterday. He was also with the guard party for His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia.
I'm talking about our friendly cop, Staff Sgt. Maj. John Buis. He has been working with the Burnaby detachment for the last many years. He is known as a friendly cop in our community, especially in Burnaby-Edmonds where we have so many people from different countries where they don't have much respect for police. He goes out of his way to make sure they understand the role of police, and for that I would like all of you to join me to congratulate John and thank him for all the great service he has done for our country.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, I have the honour to present the Auditor General's report No. 7, 2011, Follow-up Report: Updates on the Implementation of Recommendations from Recent Reports.
Introductions by Members
R. Hawes: There was one more introduction. A man who I think on both sides of the House is known for all the work he did to introduce, or to push, non-partisan civility in the House. Rick Thorpe is in the gallery today. If both sides could give Rick a hearty welcome back.
Mr. Speaker: I think the Opposition House Leader wants to respond.
J. Horgan: Regrettably, hon. Speaker, I'm not going to take this opportunity.
Instead, I prefer to introduce Bruce and Lois Dickey from my constituency of Langford, who are stalwarts in our community — married 35 years, members of the Langford Legion. They've decided to come and spend some time here with us today. Would the House make them very welcome.
Before you make them very welcome, they are here on the same day that the non-partisan member from somewhere in the Okanagan has come to visit as well.
B. Stewart: It gives me great pleasure to announce as grandparents — Ruth and myself, and Reinhardt and Ulla Dobbener from Bamberg, Germany — that a fourth generation of Stewarts was born at Kelowna General Hospital this past June 20 — sister to Ruby and proud parents Llane and Jan Dobbener, Ginger Mary Rose Dobbener.
D. Routley: I'd like the House to help me welcome to the capital Ellen White from Nanaimo, who today received the Order of B.C. Ellen is 88 years old. She absolutely emanated grace and beauty as she walked with her stroller up to receive her award from the Premier and the Lieutenant-Governor today.
Congratulations to Ellen White.
First Reading of Bills
Bill 2 — Flathead Watershed Area
Hon. S. Thomson presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act.
Hon. S. Thomson: I move the Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act be introduced and read for a first time now.
Hon. S. Thomson: Today I introduce the Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act, which proposes to preserve environmental values in the Flathead watershed.
On February 15, 2010, the province and the state of Montana together signed an agreement on environmental protection, climate action and energy. The agreement committed to ensuring that the healthy ecosystem that exists today in the Flathead River basin will continue to be maintained in a manner consistent with current recreation, forestry, guide-outfitting and trapping uses. Today we're following through on that commitment by introducing legislation that will protect this unique area as per our agreement.
I move that the Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting after today.
Bill 2, Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act, 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.
Bill 6 — Forests, Lands and Natural
Resource Operations Statutes
Amendment Act, 2011
Hon. S. Thomson presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Forests,
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Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act, 2011.
Hon. S. Thomson: I move that the Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act be introduced and read for a first time now.
Hon. S. Thomson: Today I introduce amendments to the Forest Act, the Foresters Act and the Resort Timber Administration Act to streamline forestry processes.
The natural resource sector will benefit from proposed amendments to the Forest Act to increase coordination and extend the terms of tenures used by energy and mines sectors to cut timber. Woodlot licence holders will benefit from proposed amendments to the Forest Act that would allow the removal of private land from woodlot areas. The bioenergy sector will benefit from minor amendments proposed to the Forest Act to enable direct-award provisions for accessing wood residue and debris.
Proposed amendments to the Forest Act and the Foresters Act will help ensure more accurate submission of data to calculate stumpage fees and enable timber cruisers to be officially certified.
Proposed amendments to the Resort Timber Administration Act would make the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations the ministry that resort owners would have to deal with regarding timber issues. The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations was created for a streamlined, integrated approach to land-based management. Today we're introducing amendments that support our goals for more efficient client service delivery, permits and authorizations.
Hon. Speaker, I move that the Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting after today.
Bill 6, Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act, 2011, 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.
Bill 5 — Personal Property Security
Amendment Act, 2011
Hon. S. Thomson presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Personal Property Security Amendment Act, 2011.
Hon. S. Thomson: I move that the bill be introduced and read for a first time now.
Hon. S. Thomson: I'm pleased to introduce the Personal Property Security Amendment Act, 2011. This bill will expand the definition of "licence" in the Personal Property Security Act so that all transferable licences may be used as collateral to secure loans in British Columbia. This amendment is necessary to enable B.C. businesses to benefit from a recent Supreme Court of Canada case which determined that provincial personal property security legislation applies to licences. The narrow definition of "licence" in the act prevents the court's decision from applying in British Columbia.
I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 5, Personal Property Security Amendment Act, 2011, 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.
Bill 4 — Offence Amendment Act, 2011
Hon. S. Bond presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Offence Amendment Act, 2011.
Hon. S. Bond: I now move that the bill be introduced and read a first time.
Hon. S. Bond: I'm pleased to introduce Bill 4, the Offence Amendment Act. Amendments to the Offence Act will allow for more effective enforcement of provincial offences.
The amendments will give the court the option of imposing probation with a range of conditions and thus assist the court in tailoring the sentence to the offence and the offender. The proposed amendments will also strengthen enforcement under the act by making it an offence to breach these conditions. These amendments will improve the ability of the court and the Crown to respond to provincial offences, including street disorder offences. A few minor housekeeping amendments are also included in these amendments.
Mr. Speaker, I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 4, Offence Amendment Act, 2011, 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.
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Bill 3 — Freedom of Information and
Protection of Privacy
Amendment Act, 2011
Hon. M. MacDiarmid presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act, 2011.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I move that Bill 3 be introduced and read a first time now.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I'm pleased to introduce amendments to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The amendments to the act are the result of recommendations by the Special Committee to Review the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and from 118 submissions from stakeholders, including UBCM and the broader public sector. Over the past year B.C. Stats also conducted provincewide focus groups and surveys to help government gain a better understanding of the public's expectations of government services.
The act we have today came into force 19 years ago in 1992. These amendments modernize the act, aligning it with modern technology while ensuring that we do so in a way that maintains and enhances privacy. These amendments reflect the reality of how British Columbians interact with each other and with government today.
We worked closely with the Information and Privacy Commissioner on these amendments. We have balanced new capabilities with the addition of strong new oversight powers for the commissioner. The amendments continue government's history of enhancing the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to ensure that it remains the strongest legislation of its kind in Canada.
I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 3, Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act, 2011, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
(Standing Order 25B)
D. Black: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the late Leader of the Official Opposition of Canada, the Hon. Jack Layton. I was fortunate to have known Jack for many years and to sit in the House of Commons under his leadership. He was my friend and my colleague.
When he asked me to become the critic for National Defence, I was shocked, and I blurted out: "Are you crazy?" Jack's faith in my ability to take on such a major responsibility when we were at war, when Canada was at war in Afghanistan, is something that I will always treasure. He was able to see things in others that they didn't see in themselves.
Jack Layton was the most energetic and relentlessly optimistic person I have ever worked with. He had a genuine belief in the innate goodness of people. He gave voice to those among us without power, without wealth and without influence.
He engaged intimately with young people and had faith that they could, and in the fact that they would, work to build a more equal society in Canada. He wanted to leave our children and our grandchildren a healthy planet, a world with clean rivers and fresh air, and he worked hard on legislation to reduce the effects of climate change.
He believed in our country. He believed in all its unrealized potential. A quote from Prime Minister Harper sums up the respect he earned from all sides in parliament: "The affection and respect we had for him were rooted in his ability to mobilize others and unite them around a single cause. It was that part of his personality that made him a true leader. And the courage, dignity and optimism we witnessed during his battle with cancer only served to increase our fondness and respect."
The words Jack Layton wrote only a few days before he died have resonated deeply with Canadians: "Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world."
I know all members of this Legislature join me in extending our condolences to his wife and soulmate, Olivia Chow; to his mother, Doris; to his children, Michael and Sarah; and to his adored grandchild, Beatrice.
COMMUNITY LIVING MONTH
J. Thornthwaite: Every October, Community Living Month celebrates the achievements of people with developmental disabilities, including independent living, employment accomplishments and community participation. Community Living Month highlights an individual's right to be included where they live, go to school, work and play. People with developmental disabilities are important members of our community who contribute in valuable ways. We all benefit from inclusion.
There are challenges to be solved surrounding community living for people with developmental disabilities
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in British Columbia, and discussions must continue about how to best support them. This government is open to that discussion with people with developmental disabilities, family members and advocates. I'm very happy to report that last week there were members with the B.C. Community Living Action Group, myself, and the new minister, who met personally, and I am very grateful for that.
It is also important to recognize and acknowledge the staff of the 3,000 service providers who work with Community Living B.C. As of June of this year across B.C. 13,600 individuals were receiving residential, community inclusion and other supports from Community Living B.C. Close to 200 adults diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder or autism spectrum disorder are also now receiving supports through the new personalized supports initiative, the first of its kind in North America, which began February 1, 2010.
Each individual that is supported has their own story and their own gifts and their own abilities and skills to bring to our communities. Our goal is to acknowledge their abilities and support their inclusion and independence. This year CLBC is celebrating Community Living Month with various community events as well as a new website to give people with developmental disabilities basic safety information about what should be shared online and what to do if they feel unsafe.
I encourage all members to join CLBC and other community organizations to celebrate Community Living Month at events around the province and to visit icanbesafeonline.com.
M. Karagianis: If I list off some of the great institutions that make British Columbia unique — like ICBC, PharmaCare, workers compensation and the agricultural land reserve — there is one person's name that pops into our mind. He created the first guaranteed income program for seniors in the nation, banned the use of the strap in schools, and created a provincewide ambulance service, Hansard, question period and full-time MLAs.
Remarkably, he served as Premier of this province for only three years, from 1972 to 1975. But he left a huge legacy for all future generations, the equal of Premiers who served for decades in the province. Of course I'm talking about Dave Barrett.
First elected more than 50 years ago at the age of 29, the province's first New Democrat Premier at the age of 41, he served as a Member of Parliament in Ottawa, headed up the Barrett Commission and many more things than I could possibly squeeze into a two-minute statement. But he is most strongly remembered for those three short years that he served as Premier.
Courageous, fearless, funny, dynamic and inspirational — dedicated to the concept that government has a moral obligation to care for the most vulnerable and provide equality for everyone. Dave is currently our oldest living past Premier. This past weekend Dave turned 81. I would ask this House to join me in wishing Dave a happy birthday and many more.
J. Yap: There's a motivational saying that goes something like this. The world has two kinds of people: those who make things happen and those who wonder what happened. Since we last assembled in this House, our province has lost a man who truly made things happen.
Milan Ilich was born in Anyox, B.C., but moved to Richmond when he was one year old. His family taught him about love and compassion, while business taught him the value of a dollar and forgiveness. Milan's accomplishments are hard to state in just two minutes.
For eight years he was the owner of the Vancouver 86ers professional soccer team. He was a founding co-owner of the WHL Vancouver Giants. He was involved in Richmond's planning for the hugely successful 2010 Winter Olympics.
Besides sports, Milan took a lead role in establishing a community services facility in Richmond called the Caring Place. This building is home to 22 volunteer-based social service agencies. He not only made a substantial personal donation to this project but also encouraged many businesses to add their support.
His philanthropy extended to causes large and small. He was a major benefactor to Richmond Hospital and was known for his quiet generosity to ordinary people in need when he encountered them.
Milan was known as one of Richmond's most successful developers. He was instrumental in developing a neighbourhood known as Terra Nova. He supported the inclusion of child care and affordable housing amenities. He loved his home of Richmond and, ultimately, wanted to do what was good for the community and his province.
Milan received the Order of B.C. in 2010. Milan Ilich died at the age of 76 on June 29, after a 14-month battle with leukemia. His memorial service was attended by over 1,000 people, a standing-room-only event, so fitting for a man who left a legacy of good deeds, of making things happen.
SUPREME COURT RULING
ON SUPERVISED INJECTION FACILITY
J. Kwan: On September 30, 2011, the highest court of this land made a landmark decision that once again validated the belief that everyone in our country deserves to be treated equally. The Supreme Court of
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Canada ruled that drug addicts have the constitutional right to access health services provided by Insite. It accepted in law that Insite, the first supervised injection facility in North America, after eight years of operation has saved lives and improved health without increasing the incidence of drug use or crime in the surrounding area.
This victory means that conservative political ideology cannot trump science. It means that when it comes to public policy decisions, the federal government — even the federal government — must respect the constitution. It means that hope and humanity make sense. It means that everyone deserves the chance to succeed in life. It shows that once again the Downtown Eastside is an agent for change and a beacon of hope for a better tomorrow.
This long, hard road to victory was paved by the lives that were lost to drug overdose. The simple fact is that dead people don't detox. The victory brings back memories of a demonstration known as the killing field, where activists planted a thousand crosses in our local park, with each cross symbolizing the loss of someone's son or daughter to a drug overdose. This was a dramatic demonstration of the failure of the war on drugs.
With this Supreme Court of Canada decision, it means that it would be unconstitutional to refuse the health services that Insite offers to other communities where there is a need. There is no need for such a killing field in any community. I'm sure that all levels of government will now work diligently to ensure that the health services offered by Insite are provided to other communities where there is a need. I ask that this House join me in thanking the people who fought so long and hard for this victory, and for believing in doing what is right.
ARTS CENTRE AND THEATRE
IN MAPLE RIDGE
M. Dalton: The Maple Ridge Arts Centre and Theatre, or the ACT, is the home for culture and live entertainment in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. It's a non-profit public resource serving the artistic and cultural needs of the diverse audiences in our community. ACT offers a wide range of activities throughout the year, including live music, theatre and comedy, to classes, workshops and events.
ACT also houses the Maple Ridge Art Gallery. It overlooks the Memorial Peace Park, in a scenic natural setting. Its expansive lobby, surrounded by glass, creates a cosmopolitan introduction to our performances. ACT also boasts a 500-seat main stage theatre with comfortable seats and great surround sound, as well as the Genstar Studio Theatre.
But ACT is more than bricks, mortar and glass. It's the people that make our centre come alive. It's the audience that comes for many types of shows and performances highlighting local, national and international talent.
ACT is dependent on and appreciative of the dozens of volunteers who give their time to create the best experience for audiences. There are also dedicated staff, led by executive director Lindy Sisson, who bring the professionalism to the centre.
The Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows Arts Council operates and manages ACT through a grant from the two communities. The arts council is celebrating its 40th year of service. Fred Armstrong is the president, and the current executive includes Bonnie Telep, Mike Murray, Diane Daignault and Roger Welch, as well as other directors at large. The council provides leadership and is a conduit for great theatre and the excellent arts and crafts program that we enjoy at ACT.
CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY JOBS
AND TIMELINE FOR ELIMINATION
OF HARMONIZED SALES TAX
A. Dix: It's great to be back. My question is for the Premier today. After a year when B.C. lost 21,000 jobs, the continued delay in getting rid of the HST is costing jobs in construction and making life less affordable for families. When is the Premier going to get on with it and speed up the elimination of the HST?
Hon. C. Clark: It is indeed nice to be back in this chamber.
In answer to the member's question, the independent panel, as I'm sure he is aware, said that it would take 18 to 24 months to be able to transition out of the HST. That was information that was available long before we went to the referendum. It was part of the public discussion on it.
My government has said we will do it in at least 18 months. We are doing it as fast as we think we possibly can. If we can do it faster than that, we absolutely will, but this is not some quick work of magic to unroll the tax. It is a complicated process. It requires negotiations with the federal government. It requires retaining back new employees who've been transferred over.
We are absolutely working on it as fast as we possibly can. It is really important for British Columbia that we be able to turn the page and get on with building our economy.
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Opposition has a supplemental.
A. Dix: This is a Liberal page that's taken four years to turn. The damage that the Liberal Party has done to the
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economy with the HST, going in and coming out, is considerable. Eleven months to get in, but 19 months to get out? That's the best the government can do?
Peter Simpson of the Home Builders Association of Greater Vancouver says every day we're losing jobs in construction in the Lower Mainland as a result of this. In Kamloops, Apex Construction says they sold over 50 homes between 2005 and the day the HST came in, and three since then. The damage continues to grow.
When is the Premier going to act? Why does it take 19 months to get rid of the HST when it only took 11 months to bring it in and force working families to pay more and more?
Hon. C. Clark: Well, the member opposite and his friends worked very, very hard to try and defeat the tax, and now he says he wished he hadn't done that.
In fact, he says: "Gosh, you know, all this uncertainty that's been caused by people and all this process…." Well, am I the only one in here who looks across and sees this as crocodile tears from the member across from us? I mean, for heaven's sake. We are dealing with the tax, and we are dealing with it as quickly as we possibly can. If we can tighten up the timeline on it, we certainly will. It is a very complex process to go through, and I think most British Columbians who spend a little bit of time doing their homework will certainly understand that.
But in the meantime what we are doing is…. We have launched a jobs plan for the entire province of British Columbia so that people in every corner of this province can put food on the table for their kids. That is the most important thing. Instead of the member talking about all the things that happened yesterday, why doesn't he join us? Why doesn't he join us and work to bring jobs to British Columbia? Why doesn't he stand up and support the jobs plan, support making British Columbia a safe harbour for investment so we can put British Columbians to work?
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Opposition has a further supplemental.
A. Dix: Hon. Speaker, I'm inclined to say that we'd be inclined to support a jobs plan when the Premier produces a jobs plan. The mountain of disrespect she and her colleagues have placed on the voters since they decided to get rid of the HST…. Notwithstanding the mountain of disrespect, the fact of the matter is that jobs are being lost now. They're being lost because the Liberal Party misled people in the last election and has messed around on this issue now and will have messed around on it for four years.
Construction jobs are being lost right now. That's $800 million — that industry in Surrey — in one community in one year. Projects being lost in Kelowna and Kamloops — all over the province. Let's face it. The Premier needs to act. This is a jobs question, and they are failing the people of B.C.
When is she going to act? If it only takes 11 months to bring it in, why does it take 19 months to bring it out? What possible explanation can she have for the delay, when the delay is costing jobs, when jobs are important, when the delay is costing families money and making it less affordable to own a home at a time when young families are having a hard time buying a home? When is she going to act? Can't she do it quicker than 19 months?
Hon. C. Clark: So while the government has been busy working on a jobs plan for British Columbia, the opposition clearly hasn't been very focused on trying to come up with new questions for question period. I will say in the jobs plan this. If he takes the time to do a little homework on this, he'll see that there are lots of goals and targets set — for example, some new LNG operations for British Columbia.
Now, of course, on his left there are those who don't support it. On his right there are those who do support it. In the middle there are those who are skeptical about some of the things we plan to do in the jobs plan with specific targets for outcomes, making sure that we can create jobs across the province.
But let me say this. The member gets up and asks all these questions, which I think…. You know, just on Thursday he said: "I'm going to be positive. I'm going to be propositional. I'm going to say how we should pay for things." I could go through some of his comments from the throne speech debate, which just unfolded in the last day or two — negativity, disrespectful, admission of failure. I could go through just 19 of the tweets that have come from his caucus, which have been full of negativity. I'd ask the member this. If he believes in being positive, when is it going to start?
Mr. Speaker: Members.
B. Ralston: Mr. Speaker, residential home construction and renovation are industries that are very important to the economic activity in this province, and they already exist. They're waiting to get to work, but the industry is worried. I'm going to quote one contractor, who said: "I'm a builder who deals with more than 150 trades and suppliers on a regular basis. They rely on me for their employment. Without houses being built, many workers will lose their jobs."
When can this House expect the Premier to direct the Minister of Finance to step on the gas and speed up getting rid of the HST?
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Hon. C. Clark: I feel privileged to get so many questions in the House today. You know, the Minister of Finance, by the way, today is in Europe talking to investors about why British Columbia is such a great place to invest. While we get gloom and doom from an angry opposition, our Finance Minister is overseas convincing people who have money to invest that they should bring it to British Columbia.
You know what happens when they do that? When they bring it to British Columbia, they create jobs in communities across British Columbia. When we can capture investment for our province, that means jobs for families to be able to put food on the table for their kids. It also means revenue for government to be able to support the crucial social services that we all depend on.
I know the member would like to talk doom and gloom, and I guess that's what you can do in opposition. But when you're in government, you have to have a plan. When you're in government, you have to….
Mr. Speaker: Sit down for a second.
Hon. C. Clark: When you're in government, you have to have a plan, and our plan includes three new LNG plants that are targeted to get going in the north. Our plan includes new mines and the expansion of existing mines which are going to put British Columbians to work all over the province. Our plan includes a focus on the agrifood sector and a number of other sectors which I can talk about in just a moment, if I get the chance.
I will say this. We are focused on an optimistic future for British Columbia. We are going around the world and telling investors, "Come here, because there is something to be optimistic about," and I know that one day the member will find a way to smile too.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
Mr. Speaker: Take your seat for a second.
B. Ralston: Homebuilders and renovators across the province…. This is an industry that exists, which employs tens of thousands of people. They are genuinely worried. It's not simply enough to just blow them off and talk about investment opportunities from another jurisdiction. Let's talk about an industry where people are employed now and where there's huge potential for more jobs, if the government would begin to act.
Let me quote from a letter that was directed to the Premier from a member of the builders association. "Our industry has been the victim of the HST for far too long. We urge our provincial government to make a swift transition back to a tax structure that will allow our industry to get back on its feet, to encourage buyers to look at new homes as more than just a huge tax bite." Will the Premier accept and act on this direct advice?
Hon. C. Clark: As I've said a number of times, we are working as fast as we possibly can to transition to the new tax. But I will say this. In terms of construction jobs, 13,100 more construction jobs are active today than were there before the HST came into effect.
While the member's attempt to sell British Columbia will probably consist of, "Don't come here; it's not working; things are terrible; jobs are being lost," I am not taking that approach. My approach and my government's approach is to go around the world and tell people about British Columbia's incredible advantages, to tell investors why they should be creating jobs in this great province. In a world of economic turmoil the only way that we will be able to protect and defend jobs for British Columbia's families is if we go out there and we believe in British Columbia, if we go out there and tell people what's going right. You know what? There are a lot of things going right in British Columbia.
S. Simpson: The B.C. Liberals are continuing to frustrate the construction industry and continuing to cost people jobs. That's the reality here, and the performance of the Premier today has done nothing to alleviate that concern for people in that industry.
I quote a Kelowna builder. "The B.C. Liberals made a grave mistake, and it's their responsibility to do everything humanly possible to fix the problem in the swiftest way possible. If the government cannot come up with some clear initiative to prevent a complete collapse of a very fragile industry, we need to consider any and all options to protect our interests." That's what the industry is saying. That's their concern.
This Premier said nothing to help those people in the throne speech, and she said nothing today to give them any comfort. What is this Premier prepared to do? What initiatives will this Premier do to protect the jobs that are here today, not the ones that she's imagining somewhere in the future?
Hon. C. Clark: I think the difference between the government and the opposition is that we can imagine how things could be better. That's where making things better begins. Quite frankly, you shouldn't offer yourself up for public office if you can't imagine that you can
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make things better. You shouldn't stand for election if you don't have hope that you can create some kind of opportunity and make your community better.
I was at the Order of B.C. awards today, and I saw a whole lot of people there from communities all across the province — people like Crystal Dunahee — who imagined that they could make things better, and they went out and did it. If you don't imagine, you can't do it. So that's where we're starting, but we have a plan to back it up.
I have to say this. It is a little rich coming from the NDP — talking about job losses. In the last five years of the last administration, when the Leader of the Opposition sat in the Premier's office, 50,000 people fled the province because they couldn't find jobs. That isn't the kind of British Columbia we want to go back to.
We need to imagine how we can do better. There are 13,000 more jobs in the construction sector today than there were a year ago. We can continue to grow jobs in this province, we can continue to put people to work, and we can continue to make it easier for families to put food on the table if we imagine for once how things can be better. That's where it starts.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
S. Simpson: The problem is that all this government offers the people of B.C. is imagination. The people of B.C. would like a little substance from their government.
Another Kelowna builder had this to say: "The HST fiasco was simply half-baked from the beginning and continues to negatively impact our industry. How is it possible that something that was implemented in three months now takes 18 months to disappear?"
What will this Premier and this government do to support this industry that produces thousands of jobs? Stop making promises you can't keep. Support an industry that's here today.
Hon. C. Clark: As I said, there are 13,000 more people employed in the construction sector today than only a year ago, which the member conveniently ignores when he asks me these questions.
Let me say this about the jobs plan, and I can send him a copy if he hasn't seen it. It's premised on the success that the government had in supporting the forest industry in the last years. So 27 mills have opened in British Columbia because of the work that the Minister of Jobs and others did in opening up markets in Asia. It was a really significant change, and it was a very significant achievement on the part of the government.
That's why we're able to say that we will increase our number of international education students by 50 percent over four years. It's why we're able to say that we want to have three LNG plants in operation by 2020. It's why we're able to say that we want to add to the capacity of mining communities all across the province. It's why we're able to say we are going to put a focus on clean energy solutions that the world desperately needs.
When you look at the plan — and I'll send it to the member, because he probably needs to do a little homework on this — he'll see that there are some very specific targets in it. It's a plan that pulls together ministries all across government and harnesses all of our energy with a single focus on one thing, and that's defending and creating jobs in every single corner of British Columbia.
FOREST INDUSTRY JOBS
AND LOG EXPORT POLICY
N. Macdonald: Well, it speaks to how out of touch the Premier is when she cites forestry as the example of B.C. Liberal success. Thirty thousand jobs lost. B.C. Stats, forestry and logging: 35,500 jobs when this government took over; there are now 16,100. If you go to wood products, paper manufacturing, a total of 30,000 jobs lost.
In the spring we asked the minister about the 40 percent of wood harvesting on our west coast that is being exported as raw logs. In the spring the minister assured this House that he would revisit the B.C. Liberal policies that have so failed coastal communities. He agreed that exporting raw logs in such incredible volumes was poor public policy and that he would look for solutions. There's been a committee that has met over the summer.
My question to the Minister of Forests, the minister responsible: when are we going to see some action? When are we going to see jobs created with B.C. logs?
Hon. S. Thomson: I'd remind the member opposite of a few facts that might be important for him to know. Exports in British Columbia, overall exports from the forest industry, are up 20 percent; employment, up 7 percent; capital expenditures in the industry, up 34 percent. That is the result of a focused effort on building diversified markets for the industry, working in partnership with the industry, continuing to create those new opportunities for the industry.
We're seeing the results. As was mentioned, we've seen 27 mills opened or reopened in British Columbia. Mills like the mill in Vavenby — a $24 million investment bringing in 126 new jobs. Like the mill in Midway — 40 new jobs. We are seeing the results of the continued work with the sector in building and diversifying markets for the sector.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
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N. Macdonald: Let's see what ministry staff says. I have heard that claim before. Ministry staff reports that since October 2010 there were only eight mill openings, with two permanent closures and 13 temporary closures. At least seven of those closures identified a lack of fibre. So that's a fact. That's the minister's own staff reporting.
Every day that this goes on, there are more jobs lost. All that we have from this government is committees. Basically, what the minister is saying is that we have to wait, that there is a committee studying the issue, which is the B.C. jobs plan in a nutshell — committees studying an issue, in some cases two studying the same issue.
The question is…. It has been literally years that this has gone on. Every day is more lost jobs. When will the minister commit to keeping B.C. logs for B.C. jobs?
Hon. S. Thomson: Again, the 27 new mills opened or reopened. That's bringing additional jobs to communities all across British Columbia, additional investment in the industry all across British Columbia.
The member opposite is correct. We are reviewing the log export policy, and we will continue to do that. We've had a process underway over the summer that has worked with all stakeholders in the industry. It includes community representatives. It includes union representatives. It includes First Nations. It includes the industry. We are looking to make sure that we will have that balanced policy, making sure we have a policy that recognizes that the current export policy provides jobs in British Columbia, ensures that uneconomic stands continue to be harvested.
It's a complex policy area. We're continuing to do the work to make sure that we get it right, and we'll continue to make sure that we consult with all of those stakeholders in looking at what policy adjustments we may need to make.
B. Routley: The mayor of Lake Cowichan, Ross Forrest, has made it clear to us all that he is sick and tired — sick and tired, hon. Speaker — of watching as truckload after truckload of logs drive right through the centre of town to be exported as raw logs. We are hearing from communities all over B.C. that they want B.C. logs to create B.C. jobs. Why is this government failing to act?
Hon. S. Thomson: As I said, we are working with a multi-stakeholder group, which includes all the interests, in reviewing the current export policy to ensure that we have a balanced policy, to ensure that we have timber available for the domestic mills that need it.
The member opposite is providing some quotes and some comments. Perhaps he'd like to hear a couple of other comments. How about the comment from the Heiltsuk Economic Development Corporation, the First Nation?
"We have scheduled 1.1 million cubic metres in total government licences and agreements to be harvested in the next ten years. Present marketing conditions only allow us to operate some of the time because of the high operating costs, even higher in the north coast area. Coastal communities and isolated areas need the certainty in access to global markets presently provided by the ability to export logs. Remove this from their option, and I feel forestry will be virtually shut down and no longer a part of the local economy."
Those are comments that show that the export policy is required. It's needed. It's creating jobs here in British Columbia and will continue to do that. We will continue to work with that multi-stakeholder group to ensure that we get the policy adjustments correct.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
B. Routley: Hon. Speaker, this government says they care about jobs. They've got an opportunity to put some action into those words. The Cowichan Lake Community Forest Co-operative and the Pacheedaht band have partnered and want to access local timber to create jobs right here on Vancouver Island.
For too long this government has failed to act to help our forest communities. Will this government commit today to support Cowichan Lake Community Forest Co-operative and the Pacheedaht to create jobs right here in British Columbia?
Hon. S. Thomson: With respect to the specific First Nation and the community that was referenced, I have had the opportunity to meet with that community. We have talked about the requirements for their community forest.
As the member opposite will know, locating and landing additional fibre requirements for community forests is always a challenge in a constrained land base and a constrained timber supply area. We are continuing to work with that initiative, and our regional staff are working with them to see if we can find the opportunities to address their fibre needs for that specific initiative.
COURT SYSTEM FUNDING
L. Krog: Six charges dropped, hon. Speaker. Michael Edward Ellis walks free last week because of trial delays. Mr. Ellis was no first-timer to the courts. He was on trial for drug charges involving crystal meth, stealing a vehicle, assaulting a police officer by ramming a cruiser. The Supreme Court was forced to let him go because of delays in the Provincial Court system due to Liberal cuts.
My question is very simply to the Premier. Is she going to commit today in this House to resource the B.C. courts so that criminals, alleged and otherwise, don't walk free?
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Hon. S. Bond: Anytime there is a stay of proceedings in British Columbia, we are concerned. That is why we continue to add additional resources, and we are going to continue to do that as aggressively as possible. Over the last two years we have added 14 new judges that will be in courtrooms right across British Columbia. In fact, there'll be new judges in South Fraser, Surrey, the coast region, Kamloops and Cranbrook.
Mr. Speaker, we intend to continue to work. Even as recently as yesterday in the throne speech, new initiatives are looking to assist in providing additional resources to courtrooms across the province.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
L. Krog: Everyone in British Columbia knows we are down 16 judges from where we were in 2005. The government is appointing judges to fill vacancies that are occurring constantly because of retirements, so the response from the Attorney General is not particularly satisfying to those of us in British Columbia who actually care about crime in the streets.
To hear words like I'm going to read now from a Supreme Court judge in this province is pretty unprecedented. Supreme Court Judge Mark McEwan said: "This region once had five full-time judges and is now down to three, plus two senior or part-time judges. There have been radical cuts to support services. This is not a situation of rapid population growth overwhelming existing resources but of conscious government policy to reduce the courts' ability to function."
I don't suppose the Attorney General is going to want to argue today with a Supreme Court judge, and I don't suppose the Premier is going to want to argue with a Supreme Court judge. But the Premier has it within her power today, instead of scribbling notes on napkins about riot TV, to actually do something about criminal behaviour in this province and resource the courts appropriately.
I want to hear her today in this House stand up and commit that this government will appoint the Provincial Court judges necessary so that we actually deal with criminal behaviour in this province.
Hon. S. Bond: I have just answered the question previously. We have appointed 14 judges, five as recently as this last summer. Yesterday in the throne speech we said we're going to utilize part-time judges, and we're going to bring back retired judges. In fact, we're training more deputy sheriffs, we're adding new court clerks, and we're adding resources. We're going to continue to do that to ensure that our courts are as effective as possible in the province of British Columbia.
[End of question period.]
AND CLASS ORGANIZATION FUND
Hon. G. Abbott: I rise to make a ministerial statement.
In spring of 2011 the B.C. Supreme Court delivered its ruling on the Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act, otherwise known as Bill 28. The court gave government 12 months to reach a negotiated resolution with the B.C. Teachers Federation.
I appointed Paul Straszak on May 5 to consult with BCTF on government's behalf. He has had five consultation meetings so far, with the latest taking place on September 9. At that meeting Mr. Straszak tabled a proposal that included the provision of a class organization fund.
This fund would supplement existing resources, allow school-level planning for vulnerable learners and address complex class organization issues. It would target those classrooms that need it most and would be allocated based on input from classroom teachers, B.C. Teachers Federation representatives and school administrators. It could be used, for example, to provide additional teaching staff, teaching assistants or professional development. I was disappointed when the BCTF suspended their participation in talks following that proposal.
Government strongly believes that teachers need to be involved in finding a solution with respect to the court's decision on Bill 28. We continue to honour the consultation process. Yesterday Mr. Straszak submitted to the BCTF a revised proposal that includes $165 million in funding over a three-year period and $75 million each subsequent year as part of the class organization fund. Our main concern is ensuring that school districts have the flexibility to efficiently direct resources to help teachers deal with crucial issues of classroom composition.
I want to stress how important it is that consultations continue. We've put forth a constructive proposal that I hope will result in thoughtful discussion and, ultimately, a negotiated resolution. However, this can only happen if both parties continue to work together.
We have a responsibility to this province's students and parents to resolve this issue in a timely fashion so we can move forward with our shared goal to lift up B.C.'s great education system and make it exceptional.
Thank you for this opportunity to address the House, Mr. Speaker.
R. Austin: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to respond briefly to the ministerial statement.
First of all, I'd like to say it's wonderful to see the government acknowledging the devastation that was caused
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by Bills 27 and 28. The removal of class size and composition from the learning conditions has had a profound effect on children for the last eight or nine years. I think this at least is a step forward in the right direction in acknowledging that and putting some of the resources needed back into the system.
I would like to point out, however — and I wait to find out more details — that I'm not sure whether any of these resources will go into this fiscal year. I think it's important that they do, because my understanding of the judicial decision is that there was one year from last April to actually mitigate some of the devastation done by those unconstitutional acts. So I would hope some of that money is going in this year to fix it, because children only have one opportunity every year.
Lots of children have already lost out in the last eight intervening years, so it's important that we fix this now. I hope that the judge, who I believe is going to be clarifying her judgment in April, will see this as a positive movement but will give greater clarification.
My other concern is this. If the resources that are going back do not correspond to the needs, then what I foresee is that teachers, school districts and families will indeed be competing for very scarce dollars when what we need is that every child in British Columbia is allowed to become who they need to be. Any child, I think, who is identified as having a need, needs to have the proper resources in place. I am hoping this fund is great enough to do that and we don't have districts competing with each other.
Hon. I. Chong: Presenting a petition.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
Hon. I. Chong: I rise to present a petition that I received from a 16-year-old high school student at Prince of Wales Secondary School in Vancouver, Miss Sophie Harrison, who I understand represents an entity referred to as Kids for Climate Action. The petition, which contains more than a thousand signatures from youth primarily located in the Lower Mainland, is calling for action on climate change.
Orders of the Day
Hon. R. Coleman: This afternoon we'll be continuing the debate on the Speech from the Throne.
Throne Speech Debate
J. Thornthwaite: I am happy to respond to yesterday's throne speech, which I feel strikes a solid balance between the need for governments to navigate through these tough economic times and to ensure that we don't leave a legacy of debt for our children. Also, it works to protect and create jobs and do what a healthy society needs, which is to put families first.
The focus gives British Columbians hope for the future and demonstrates that we recognize that the world around us is changing and that we cannot be an island on our own in today's global economy.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
Together, we will work to ensure that British Columbia comes out ahead, in good shape and moving forward, and that the decisions this government has made and continues to make will ensure that we are on the best possible footing.
I feel confident that this plan is the best one for our economy moving forward and is the best for my family, my neighbour's family and our community. Quite simply, Madam Speaker, Canada starts here. Families instil character and are the first educators of our children.
The best way to help families is a job. Our government has a new leader, and one of the first things our new Premier did when she got elected was to increase the minimum wage. We recognize that the most important thing that helps families succeed is a job and that the best job is a well-paying job.
We also recognize that not everyone has a well-paying job. So to help those people, B.C. will soon have the highest minimum wage in Canada. The first increase, to $8.75 an hour, took place on February 1, 2011. The second increase, to $9.50, will take place on November 1. The third increase, to $10.25, will take place on May 1, 2012.
One of the topics that is very near and dear to the hearts of many of my constituents is the ability of non-profits to serve their community and their reliance on community gaming grants. Our new leader injected an additional $15 million last spring into gaming grant funding, recognizing that those organizations are experts at leveraging government funds in order to capitalize on their volunteers and resources into providing major services for their communities.
This past Friday night I attended a North Shore Girls Soccer Club function in North Vancouver that celebrated the opening of the new Windsor Secondary training bubble. There I was happy to be able to present a cheque for $50,000 to the North Shore Girls Soccer Club as part of the sports for youth and disabled persons category of the community gaming grants.
As a proud soccer mom myself and a former North Shore Girls Soccer Club board member and age group coordinator, I know full well the amount of volunteer hours that go into the club from parents who coach, manage and put together tournaments and functions
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such as this. To provide this sum to help leverage the volunteer hours and resources they already have is a lifeblood for many groups, and I was very happy to be able to show my support in the way.
In fact, Windsor Secondary School has already benefitted recently from many upgrades and state-of-the-art capital projects. Next week the new artificial turf at Windsor will be officially launched with all of the partners who were involved in making that great facility happen, as part of the Recreational Infrastructure Canada program through Canada's economic action plan.
The list of partners who work together to complete the entire project includes the federal government, the provincial government, the district of North Vancouver, school district 44 and the North Vancouver Community Sport and Recreational Council, Canexus, as well as the North Shore girls soccer association. This is another example of how, if we all work together — all levels of government, industry and the non-profits — we can do a better job collectively than if just one of us had to do it alone.
Many groups in my riding benefit from community gaming grants, including the North Shore Disability Resource Centre, which received almost $200,000 since August 2010 in the sports for youth and disabled persons category. North Vancouver Football Club, Vancouver Skating Club and the Lynn Valley Little League are all sports clubs that have benefitted from community gaming grants. In the arts and culture category, Deep Cove Heritage Society and the North Shore Celtic Ensemble are other ones.
Last week I joined three social studies classes at Argyle Secondary School, upon the request of their teacher, for me to discuss government and what the role is and what an MLA does. In addition to being able to explain what we do over here in Victoria as well as in my offices in North Vancouver, I was able to inform the students that we gave their parent advisory council almost $40,000 over the last year in community gaming grants.
Also this weekend I was happy to join my colleagues from West Vancouver–Capilano and West Vancouver–Sea to Sky to attend a fundraiser put on by the Sunrise Rotary Club in support of North Shore Search and Rescue Society. Last Christmas, I was happy to present the North Shore Search and Rescue Society a cheque for $100,000 to assist them in purchasing new equipment for the rescue efforts.
This morning, Madam Speaker, I was honoured to be present in Government House to join others and to celebrate Tim Jones from North Vancouver–Seymour receiving the Order of B.C. He is from North Shore Search and Rescue. As a matter of fact, just late last night Tim and his dedicated team of volunteers were once again called into action, rescuing two hikers who had been stranded on Grouse Mountain.
As much as we are all grateful for the support of the community gaming grant branch, we know there could be improvements. That is why our Premier appointed Skip Triplett to head the community gaming grant review.
I have met with Mr. Triplett and have encouraged all of the people who I know have applied for a community gaming grant to give input for this review. We all look forward to Mr. Triplett's formal report on the gaming grant review, which will be submitted to the provincial government by the end of this month and the results to be made public shortly after.
The day-to-day expenses families must incur also led to a thoughtful review of B.C. Hydro rates as well as B.C. Ferries. A review of all Crown corporations is expected in the near future, which will be welcome news to taxpayers — welcome news to families.
As our Premier has promised, there will be a designated family day in February in order to encourage families to get together and enjoy themselves. I know that I will be making a special effort to get my kids together on that day to do something special.
Oftentimes, like many British Columbians, I feel overwhelmed with the work-life balance and certainly when I spend a significant amount of time over in Victoria, away from my family. For me personally, I believe that designating a family day will help me stop and think and perhaps make an extra-special effort to ensure that we all plan something to do together, even if it is a dinner out or a dinner in.
But recognizing that an extra stat holiday may be a difficult jump for small businesses right away, our government has chosen to delay this promise for an extra year so that businesses will have the time to adjust. Just like we did with the increments of increasing the minimum wage, we will likewise introduce the family day for February 18, 2013, to give everyone the necessary time to adjust.
I was very pleased to attend the Premier's announcement at UBCM last week, for the $30 million that will go to local municipalities for recreation facilities. Eligible recreation projects will include sports facilities, community recreation spaces, fitness facilities, trails, bike paths, walkways, playgrounds and other indoor-outdoor recreational centres.
Certainly, in North Vancouver we have some aging facilities, and the North Vancouver Recreation Commission has been working very hard to prioritize and determine which facilities should be rebuilt first. In fact, I was a member of the North Van Rec Commission several years ago, and I can remember the time and effort it took to try and make a decision as to which facility needed the work most. They all need help, and this announcement is great news.
This investment will help our community serve the citizens of the North Shore. It will not only make us healthier with all the fabulous exercise programs avail-
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able, pools and gyms, but it will also provide the space for social programs — for the seniors in our communities like Parkgate or Silver Harbour, and the moms and babes social that helps moms get help with their little ones and some extra time to talk to adults and meet new friends that could last a lifetime and the pre-teen programs that help keep kids busy and safe on a Friday or Saturday night.
With regards to the economic times that we are in right now, we just had a referendum, and the people have spoken. The government has listened, and now we're acting on what we have been asked to do. We are going back to the PST system. However, our Finance Minister has said he will use this opportunity to review our tax system to ensure that it supports job creation and innovation, moving forward to Budget 2012.
In the past six weeks we've seen all around the world the negative effects of this global economic downturn in Europe, in Greece and even next door to us — our neighbours in the south, the United States. We see the unrest by the people because they fear for their jobs. They fear for their livelihood. They fear for their families.
We have also seen, globally, that governments who have been reckless with the taxpayers' money are now being punished by the financial systems around them. We cannot be an island in a global economy. We must not let that happen to B.C. We must stay the course and ensure we keep our triple-A credit rating. We must do everything we can to encourage jobs and investment in B.C. Our children will live with the decisions we make today. Their families will live with the decisions that we make today.
That is why our Premier is heading a trade mission to China and India next month, recognizing that these countries have the fastest-growing middle class and that we have the products that they want to buy.
B.C. can provide these countries with what they want, but there are other countries knocking on their doors, which is why we cannot take anything for granted. We must tell these consumers what we have. We must show them what products we can provide and ensure that our products fit their needs.
If China wants to build wood houses, then our forestry industry is there for them, and the stability of our economy will encourage them to trust us to be able to deliver the goods when they want them. We must expose the world's best-kept secret. B.C. is open for business, and Canada starts here.
But gaining more business for our companies and creating more jobs with these companies to provide the products and services abroad is not enough. We still have to keep our own fiscal house in order. Our zero mandate for collective agreements is a case in point. But that doesn't mean we can't be creative and cooperative to work with these sectors to perhaps improve working conditions.
If we cannot meet wage demands, then perhaps, for instance, as our Minister of Education just announced, we could do something about class composition. It will make things easier for teachers in the classroom but will also help children learn better in the classroom — all children, those with special needs and those typical: every child in the classroom.
Defending jobs and creating jobs. The B.C. jobs plan that the Premier and the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation announced over the last couple of weeks is a substantial plan of action designed not only to boost the number of jobs for our citizens but to increase investment and the demand for our products worldwide.
One of the things I've heard over and over again during my tenure on the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services is the slow permitting process that is not good for companies, not good for workers, not good for families and not good for communities or jobs. The province is investing almost $24 million to reduce the time it takes for businesses wanting to invest in natural resource development to get decisions on approvals and permits. This will be done without compromising environmental values or the requirements to consult with First Nations.
Once the permit and approval backlog is reduced, the target for turnaround on new notices of work for mines will be 60 days.
My fellow North Shore resident, Gavin Dirom, president of the Association for Mineral Exploration in B.C., has said: "You know, firstly, I just want to mention that explorers are very excited by this news and the announcement today. We believe it is doable. We believe the mineral exploration development community has a proven track record. We have a number of mines operating in B.C., and we know that there are many in the pipeline. In fact, there are the most mine proposals in Canada located right here in British Columbia."
Another fellow North Shoreite, Greg D'Avignon, who is the CEO of the B.C. Business Council: "If it takes nine months to get a permit approved, then you've lost that opportunity. The strength of this plan is that it really builds on our assets and creates the opportunity for us to be an investment location of choice."
The second pillar of the jobs plan is strengthening infrastructure to get our goods and services to market. Robin Silvester, president and CEO of Port Metro Vancouver, has stated: "Port Metro Vancouver is the cornerstone of Canada's Pacific Gateway. The Premier's commitment to this vital infrastructure investment enables us to reliably support growing international trade in an efficient and sustainable way. With this critical funding commitment in place, we can now focus on meaningful consultation on the proposed project with municipalities, communities and the public." We're all very familiar with the support that our Premier and our government are giving to the bid for the Seaspan.
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But the gateway is more than roads, bridges, trains and ports. It is people. The education strategy to encourage more international students will not only bring valuable funds to our education systems and increase choices in classroom size for our own students, but it will also encourage those students to stay here, to find a job here, to pay taxes here, to raise their family here and to become part of our community here.
By putting these measures in action, the B.C. jobs plan seeks to make B.C. one of the top two Canadian provinces in both GDP and job growth by 2015.
Services for B.C. families. I was pleased to see the mention on modernizing education in the throne speech. Certainly, we need to update our curriculum to take it to 21st century and personalized learning. Children are not just little widgets that we are supposed to teach and squish into the right-size boxes. Children are different and learn at different rates. They have different interests and have different ways of digesting all of the learning menus that we serve to them.
Not all kids like carrots, and if they do, they don't all like them cooked. My son loved steamed, mashed carrots as a baby, but he wouldn't eat them again until he was a youth, and then only raw, with dip.
To stereotype children into liking or not liking carrots a certain way will not serve well throughout their learning lives. We need to adapt our menu to excite them and motivate them to try new things. Teachers are the experts in bringing excitement to students and learning. Let's watch what they can do. Let's give them the tools to let them do it.
Last week I was pleased to join our Minister of Education on a tour of all the exciting new facilities being built in North Vancouver. We started out at the new Education Service Centre and Artists for Kids Gallery. This building is an excellent example of how the partnerships between the city of North Vancouver, the school board and the Ministry of Education can work together to provide newer and better facilities for our citizens. An old building gets replaced. A new building goes up in its place with market and special housing as well. What a partnership.
We then headed up to the construction site at the new Carson Graham Secondary School and then the grand opening of Ridgeway Elementary, where the heritage value of the facade of the school was maintained, thanks to the diligence and perseverance of the community and another partnership agreement between the city of North Vancouver, the school board and the Ministry of Education.
The total cost of this updating was $21.5 million, with much of the funding for the heritage restoration work coming from the sale of surplus North Vancouver school district land, the project an estimated 135 jobs. And a neighbourhood learning centre is also added, which houses a much-needed child care area managed by North Shore Neighbourhood House.
The province has invested close to $87 million for capital projects in the North Vancouver school district. There's lots going on in North Vancouver in our education system.
Healthy communities. I was very happy to join our Minister of Health as we launched the healthy families initiative this summer and challenged all communities to walk for prizes. I even held a walk and picnic in Cates Park for my community over the summer. Instead of serving the traditional hot dogs and hamburgers at a barbecue, we chose healthy snacks and healthy beverages instead.
My dietitian colleague Kathy Romses, who works for Action Schools B.C., talked about her role as a dietitian in the school system. Jennifer Hewlett, who runs Fresh Air Life, led us all in a healthy walk around the communities of Deep Cove. There is no better way to stay healthy than to get outside in the fresh air and move around.
As a former dietitian, I was equally pleased to hear of the increased services for dietetic services at the touch of a phone or computer screen. Now people can access free nutrition advice through the HealthLink services. Call 811 and ask to speak with a dietitian, free of charge. This is part of the preventative strategy which includes programs with restaurants and convenience stores in order to inform people as to what is in their food so that they can make informed choices to improve their nutrition and their health.
Prior to entering politics I was a registered dietitian, helping people make healthier choices for healthier lives. One of my jobs was working with the Vancouver Health Department at the time and local restaurants, so I'm very much looking forward to seeing how this provincewide program comes to fruition.
In addition, the province is partnering with communities in a grass-roots effort to help families live healthier life styles and prevent chronic diseases. Comprehensive consultations will start to take place with local governments around British Columbia over the next few months with the intent to launch healthy families B.C. communities in early 2012.
As part of the healthy families B.C. communities initiative, provincial health authorities will work with interested communities to develop plans to make their city or town healthier. Planning can take place in such areas as physical activity, healthy eating, tobacco reduction, healthy built environments and priority populations.
The healthy families B.C. communities initiative is a component of the healthy families B.C. strategy that was launched in May 2011. This overall strategy supports British Columbians in managing their own health, reducing chronic diseases and ensuring that pregnancy and support programs target the province's most vulnerable families. The strategy will also focus on healthy
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eating, including a greater awareness campaign around sodium and sugary drinks.
Services weren't the only exciting announcement we made over the summer months, Madam Speaker, in health care. Plans for the new $64 million Lions Gate Hospital mental health and addictions centre are now underway with the help of the province and the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation, which will bring together not only a new state-of-the-art facility but a new ambulance station and space for the UBC department of medicine as well. What a great project underway on the North Shore, and thanks to all the hard-working local MLAs that made that happen.
So I believe that the throne speech that the Lieutenant-Governor presented to us yesterday provides us with a substantial plan of action that, over the coming years, will make British Columbia an even better place to live.
It provides the foundations for building our economy and utilizing our natural resources, the so-called dirt industries, while capitalizing on our products and showing the world what we have, ensuring our human capital is ready for the challenges of the 21st century and that our natural resources are there to help pay for the increased demands of our health care system, our education system and our social services.
It's about making sure that all our citizens that are able to work can work and contribute to our society as valuable citizens and valued members — to allow them to raise their families as they see fit and help them along their way in their everyday lives. Canada starts here. Our communities are better for it, and our families will thrive and prosper.
N. Simons: It is my pleasure and privilege to stand here and respond to the Speech from the Throne, which was delivered in this House yesterday.
For those in the gallery, it was a speech that lasted awhile. But in terms of substance, I would say…. You know, it's my responsibility as a member of the opposition to point out where it might have been able to be improved.
But before I go into those details, I just want to say how lucky I am to be well-assisted in my constituency by my two constituency assistants: Maggie Hathaway and Kim Tournat, who do a remarkable job of listening to constituents when they have concerns about government policy or specific challenges they have with bureaucracy. It is my responsibility and my office's goal to ensure that people receive the services from government that are there for us to benefit from.
I also should say that, because of the geographical nature of my constituency, I do have two constituency assistants. They're separated by a drive and a ferry, so it's not easy for one to fill in for the other. That being said, I also have a very lovely group of volunteers who manage very well to ensure that our office is open five days a week in both Davis Bay and in Powell River. I thank them for their work, and I thank them for strengthening our own communities by being that voice — non-partisan voice, actually — for the people in the constituency.
I also would like to acknowledge the two chiefs who reside in Powell River–Sunshine Coast: Chief Clint Williams, from the Sliammon Nation, and Chief Garry Feschuk, from the Sechelt Nation. Along with their councillors, they are doing their best, in a challenging atmosphere of government negotiations, to do what is best for their people who have lived in Coast Salish territory, in their territory, since time immemorial.
Only now we're coming through some difficult periods in history, with colonization and the impacts of residential schools. I think that they are brave and strong leaders for their people. I do what I can, and others in this constituency do what they can, to ensure that we act as partners and friends and brothers and sisters, to ensure our constituency is cohesive and geared towards improving the lives of everyone.
Mayor Stewart Alsgard, Mayor Barry Janyk, Mayor Darren Inkster, and Regional District Chair Gary Nohr — all are committed public servants who endeavour to do what is best for their communities, along with their council and their other directors.
It's something that I think we sometimes take for granted — the challenge of elected office, especially on the local level, I think, when everybody knows where you live, and they can knock on your door and ask you why you voted this way or that way. It takes remarkable commitment, and I thank them for their commitment.
I saw a number of representatives of regional government at the Union of B.C. Municipalities last week, and they certainly have energy and ideas. I think they're as optimistic as I am and as we are on this side of the House about the future of British Columbia. We know that we live in the most beautiful place in the world — one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Canada is here. It starts and ends here, as it does in every province and territory of this beautiful country, of which I have had the pleasure to visit every jurisdiction except Newfoundland. But having sat next to the member for Coquitlam-Maillardville, I think I've had a pretty good taste of that province — Newfoundland and Labrador. She's not in here.
I'd like to also acknowledge the educational institutions in Powell River–Sunshine Coast. We are fortunate to have both Capilano University and Vancouver Island University, with campuses in Sechelt and Powell River respectively, where they offer courses in a number of areas — for some, the only places where those programs are offered, like scuba diver training programs and mountain bicycle training programs.
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They just are like a core to our community. I hope that in the years to come when we decide that it's important to invest in educational infrastructure, those institutions will just become stronger, with broader access to programs for everyone on the Sunshine Coast.
Everyone's worried about their kids leaving town as soon as they graduate from high school. I think it's a refrain we hear in many small communities across the province. Parents sort of bemoan the moving away of their kids. I think if we have strong educational opportunities and job opportunities in our communities, we'll see that trend perhaps abate somewhat.
Over this past summer many people were wondering whether there would be an election or what the outcome of the HST referendum would be. The uncertainty in the province was palpable, and on a personal level, I think the business of the constituency could not slow down. There were a number of issues that needed to continue to be addressed throughout the summer — things that couldn't really wait until the Legislature reconvened.
The concern of my constituents unique to the constituency of Powell River–Sunshine Coast has to do with the British Columbia Ferry Services. We are the only constituency in the entire province, out of 85, that is entirely ferry-dependent. Every community, every island, is dependent, except for air travel, on the marine highway.
At one time the marine highway served our communities in a way that was affordable, that supported the communities they served, that allowed workers and residents to travel back and forth, obviously at a higher cost than most highways in the province but with a service that was reliable and predictable and safe.
Since 2003, almost to a person in Powell River–Sunshine Coast, there's a story of how the change of structure in B.C. Ferries has had a negative impact on them, on a family member or on a community group they belong to, on a business they frequent, on an educational institution that they may have a son or daughter attending. Ferry fares on the Sunshine Coast on average, since 2003, went up 80 percent — 80 percent.
I've heard stories, sad stories, from grandparents whose children and grandchildren don't visit as often, stories about how businesses are threatened to the brink, how the costs of our goods and services are higher, and even our access to medical and professional services is more expensive due to the fact that to access them we must get onto a ship run by a private company entirely interested in only its economic viability, in itself questioned.
So after community members in Powell River–Sunshine Coast held rallies, they wrote letters, and they e-mailed ministers — three different ministers. They signed petitions. They came to the Legislature, and opposition members presented those petitions and put forward private members' bills. We wrote op-eds.
Community members made their own submissions. The Islands Trust, a government organization unique to British Columbia, put forward their concerns. Regional districts up and down Vancouver Island and in coastal communities like on the Sunshine Coast also put forward compelling, rational, realistic requests of government to address the spiralling up of their fares.
Texada Islanders, all 980 of them, are impacted on a daily basis from the cost of the service. Their fares increased 104 percent. When one thinks of the contribution that the coastal communities in this province have made to the building of our province, to the strengthening of its economic stature, to its contribution to the vibrancy of our communities, not to mention the revenue collected by provincial government from those communities, it's fair that residents say they deserve better.
It's fair to suggest that simply because we live in a more remote, more difficult-to-access community, we should have the right of affordable transportation. Nobody is asking for free ferries. Nobody is asking for subsidies to such a degree that it would be simply not a thought will cross their mind before getting on a ferry.
But the stories of people not leaving the Sunshine Coast and not coming to the Sunshine Coast are troubling for businesses and residents alike. School groups are forced to pay more. The teams — hockey teams, ballet troupes, skiers — all those who wish to go and compete or perform or participate with peers…. Special Olympics athletes who wish to go and meet friends in North Vancouver or West Vancouver, to participate in the games…. Every group is impacted by ferry fares making travel exorbitant and prohibitive.
So I was pleased that after the hundreds and hundreds of letters and the e-mails and petitions, the government — with the obvious approval of the opposition back earlier this year, in this 39th parliament — allowed the ferry commissioner to for once contemplate the impact of ferries on the public. The law that the government passed in 2003 specifically said that public interest is not to be considered when contemplating fare increases. It was explicitly excluded from the consideration that the ferry commissioner would undertake.
Now, after those increases I mentioned, after the lobbying efforts I mentioned, the government has said we need to look at the public interest. So I'm thankful for that. I want to be explicit in my appreciation for government recognizing the importance of contemplating the public interest. That is a good step. That's something that I will fight for.
I have a box in my office of 2,700 letters — from a community of 12,000 people — saying that ferry fares are killing their community. When the ferry commissioner visited, he first came to Gibsons on the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale. The ferry commissioner and
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his deputy commissioner listened carefully to the presentations of dozens of community members in a room packed with about 150 people.
The following day the ferry commissioner went to Powell River. They got a larger room for the event, which was lucky, and 250 people showed up to express their concerns about ferries. The following day the ferry commissioner and the deputy took the ferry from Westview in Powell River over to Blubber Bay on Texada Island, where in the middle of a Friday afternoon 125 people showed up at the Legion to express their concerns about the cost of simple travel.
I think that, judging on a nod test, people in this House, in this chamber, recognize the importance of a transportation system that serves all parts of our province. Nobody on the Sunshine Coast begrudges the snow clearing required on the northern highways. They have their own shovels.
And no one on the Sunshine Coast has any problem with the necessity of widening highways in dangerous places or investing our public money in better transportation infrastructure. I believe equally true is that there are very few people in Fort St. John or in Revelstoke or in Oliver or in Squamish who begrudge the fact that public money helps us and island and coastal communities get back and forth.
My hope was that, in fact, this issue would have been dealt with in a little bit more depth in the throne speech of yesterday, where the quote is: "We await a report on the operations of B.C. Ferries from the ferry commissioner." I was pleased that they are awaiting the report. I'm awaiting the report as well. "The government's response to the commissioner's report" — this is the part that got me a little bit confused — "will be informed by consultations and engagement with coastal communities."
Well, Madam Speaker, the entire process of the ferry commissioner's hearings is to engage coastal communities. So I'm wondering if this is a signal that the Minister of Transportation is going to follow the ferry commissioner and come and visit our communities to once again hear what has been repeated in every household and every business on the coast — that our fares are too high, our businesses are suffering, tourists aren't coming, and we need public policy that reflects the interests of our communities.
We have fewer ships in the fleet now than we did eight years ago. There are fewer ships serving our coastal and ferry-dependent communities. Yeah, and I understand that the only possible response that anybody from the government side has when I bring up issues around ferries is pointing to a public expenditure 20 years ago that they giggle about and talk about — the fast ferries.
You know, I'm long past that. I believe that we can live in the past, but I much, much prefer to live in the present with the hope of a better future. If we didn't learn from mistakes, that would be the problem. If we did learn from mistakes, as we all have, I think it puts us in a better position now to address public policy issues without bringing in our symbolic failures.
I think, ultimately, what British Columbians would like to see is a fleet of safe and reliable vessels. The Queen of Chilliwack is currently plying the Salish Sea from Comox to Powell River.
An Hon. Member: And a good ship she is.
N. Simons: And the good ship Queen of Chilliwack should have abdicated her throne many years ago. It's a bit of an adventure for many, not just to get onto the ferry, for three hours or eight hours — as the case was last year when they travelled in stormy seas. It's a ship that probably is on time about as often as I am to the Legislature. Okay, we're leaving that open to interpretation. We're not all perfect.
But the ferry services for my constituency need to be addressed. My hope is they are addressed in the ferry commissioner's report. My hope is that the government will contemplate the recommendations that he makes. My other hope is that it will not simply mean a further round of discussions about the cost of ferry fares. We were promised, in 2003, stable fares, better service and more jobs in B.C. Ferries. It took them seven years to figure out that that wasn't working and another couple to decide it was time to look into it.
There is a proposal on the table right now that 400 sailings in the system get cut — 400 sailings. I know that many of those sailings cuts are targeted in my constituency, simply because we have four ferry routes.
I haven't really talked about the Earls Cove–Saltery Bay route, which has a beautiful ship. It has an elevator built for the most beautiful building, but it wasn't built for a ship. It hasn't worked most of the time. I think that B.C. Ferries is hoping that they'll at least get it to work in one direction, but most elevators need to go in both directions — up and down. B.C. Ferries — maybe they're saving money. It can only go to the third floor, once a day.
However, you know, ferries and elevators in my constituency are a surprisingly important issue. The Queen of Chilliwack elevator got stuck the other day, causing a medical emergency, causing many to be very concerned for the well-being of passengers.
It has been suggested by B.C. Ferries that they are going to renovate the dog waiting area for people with disabilities, so that they don't have to wander far from the porta-potty they've installed on the main car deck. My constituency has many people, seniors with mobility issues and others.
I would say that if this ship existed in any other part of the province, it would have been repaired by now. We have a ship that in six months has not had an elevator
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service. The employees carry the stores up. All the deliveries are dumped on the car deck. I'm not a fearmonger, but the safety equipment on those ships is not built for people all staying on the car deck. The life rafts are located on the upper deck. If the ferry is full, I don't know how they're going to get the life raft from one end of the ship to the other.
I think that people in British Columbia, once they understand that this is our only way in and out of our communities…. It's unsafe in many situations. It's uncomfortable in many situations. I will point out that none of this — none of the problems that I have raised about B.C. Ferries — has to do with the people who work on those ships. I would even like to say that they are appreciated, even by the most frustrated of travellers. They are appreciated for the fact that they are the front line of people's travels.
[D. Horne in the chair.]
The other issue that has been getting a lot of attention in the Sunshine Coast is the fact that there have been doctors who have been operating beyond the scope of their licences. While I recognize that there has been a review into that situation, Powell Riverites and lower Sunshine Coast residents have questions that have yet to be answered.
People's lives were impacted in many different ways. Their family members were put under stress they should not have been subjected to had there been a system in place in the province where doctors' credentials were assessed, adequately categorized and classified, and where there would have been oversight.
My sincere hope is that the government — if it's interested in encouraging people to have confidence in public services, including the health care system — address this issue without any attempt at obfuscation or denial.
I'd like to just quote, as I have an opportunity to, the throne speech and the discussion of families. I'd like to just make a direct quote. I'll start at the beginning.
"Families are the first educators" — first in the line of healing and the first in protection. "They are where we turn when times are tough and when we seek inspiration. Families can extend beyond bloodlines to one's support network of friends and mentors." How we define families is "a personal choice." They build "character and make good citizens, and good citizens make a great country and a great province. With families at the heart of decision-making, the government has taken steps to make life a little bit more affordable."
As you know, I have been appointed the critic for Community Living B.C., and I have to say that the sector was pleased that specific attention could be paid to the issues of importance to them.
Their needs are unique. The needs of families of people with developmental disabilities are unique. They are challenging. They are all life-encompassing. They are rewarding. I believe they are families that need specific attention from government because they're currently in crisis and suffering.
Group homes across this province where, in one case, three men who have lived together for over 20 years with staff…. Dedicated staff, qualified staff, caring staff have cared for their needs for over 20 years. Those three men, by anyone's definition, are a family. It's one example of this government forcing families apart.
I ask this government to take a strong look at that and recognize that your very own words to describe families are either a sham in the throne speech or there's been a massive public policy error in Community Living B.C.
In group homes where aging parents have been able to look and say, "This is where my son will grow old long after I'm gone," or where someone will say, "My sister is healthier, happier — you can tell — more engaged in her community and loved by her roommates...." That's a family.
There are group homes across this province where families live in all their combinations and permutations. They are families by anyone's definition, and they should not be torn apart by government policy.
In closing, I would like to see some attention paid to the reality of families in this province. I would have preferred to see some strategic action identified to address the needs of families. Without action, the words are simply platitudes, and I think British Columbians are tired of platitudes.
J. Les: It's a pleasure to rise and take my place in response to the Speech from the Throne. It's been a while since I've had a opportunity to speak in the House.
Before I get into my comments, it would be, I think, appropriate to mention the support I get, not only from my constituents but more particularly from my family. As all members of this House know, it's necessary to be away from home a lot as we carry out our responsibilities, and my family continue to put up with that. Sometimes, I have to tell you, when I pull out of the driveway, I do it with a slight sense of regret.
Nevertheless, the work that we have to do here continues to interest me very, very much. So it's an ongoing balancing act, as I'm sure it is for all members of this House, to satisfy your domestic obligations and the needs of this particular responsibility that we all carry.
I also want to mention my constituency assistant. I have one constituency assistant in my constituency office, and she's been with me now for over ten years. She came along soon after I was elected in 2001. Her name is Pam White. She does a tremendous job, actually makes
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it relatively easy for me to be away for a week at a time. I have no difficulty at all in knowing that all of the issues in terms of my constituents are being professionally and competently dealt with.
It has not been unusual over the years for me to arrive at the office and find a bouquet of flowers on her desk. Once or twice they might have been from her husband, but I do know that from time to time that they have been from very satisfied constituents as well. I guess I could give her no greater credit than to remark on the fact that the constituents in my riding absolutely enjoy the service that they have received from her. I just wanted to mention that because we tend sometimes not to mention those things often enough.
Now to the throne speech. But before I get into some of the substance of that, I think that it's also important for us all to reflect on the circumstances we find ourselves in today internationally.
This is certainly a very difficult world financially and economically. As we look at the United States since the economic recession took effect in 2008, I think it's fair to say they have yet to find any traction to move the economy forward, in spite of a trillion and more dollars being spent on economic stimulus. There's a lot of discussion today whether or not this is going to be a double-dip recession.
If you look at Europe, there are great reasons, I think, to be very, very concerned about where Europe is going and, indeed, whether the euro, the common currency that they have adopted some years ago, is going to actually survive this economic crisis, which at the moment is focused on Greece.
But there are a number of other countries that could very easily find themselves in the same circumstances, with enormous levels of debt and with very, very large operating deficits. Frankly, I have yet to see a plan that would actually be able to get them out of the economic morass that they're in.
Even more recently — and this is very, very recent — there are some reasons, I think, to be concerned about the Chinese economy. I happened to be in Thailand on an economic development mission in 1997. Some of the circumstances I saw in Thailand then, just before the so-called Asian Tigers went into an economic funk, seem to be starting to appear in the Chinese economy now.
Now, we know that that is a large and rapidly growing economy that, I'm sure, will continue to grow over time, but we may well be looking at a hiccup in the growth of the Chinese economy. So there are a lot of challenges as you look around the world and many reasons, I think, for us all to do our very best to very carefully navigate through these challenges.
As I was in my office the other day thinking about some of these things, as I often do, I looked around for perhaps a little bit of inspiration. Winston Churchill in the past century, of course, was probably the greatest statesman of that century and left behind a number of observations, which sometimes I love to mull over and think about.
One of the things he was known to say was: "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, whereas an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." I think that there's a lot worth thinking about as we have heard the opposition leader discuss several times in the last few weeks that he now wants to become optimistic. Yet when I hear him say that, inevitably the entire speech is full of pessimism.
He really has not yet convinced me and perhaps many other people across the province that there is going to be a new attitude unfolding on behalf of the opposition, because all I hear is they've actually gone Chicken Little one better. Where Chicken Little used to say that the sky is falling, the Leader of the Opposition actually would tend to have us all believe that the sky has fallen — so, you know, taking pessimism one step further.
There are actually a lot of reasons to be optimistic in British Columbia when you look at the strong foundation that we've built over the last decade in this province. Just a few factors, I think, bear mentioning. The low taxation levels that we have in this province for personal taxation, for example. If you earn up to $120,000, you pay fewer income taxes in British Columbia than in any other province.
We have competitive corporate tax rates in the province of British Columbia. A number of years ago we finally regained a triple-A credit rating in the province of British Columbia. We lost that in the 1990s under the NDP administration, but after a lot of financial discipline in the early part of this decade, we regained that triple-A credit rating, which is a pretty rare commodity around the world. Today that triple-A designation is saving us an awful lot of money in terms of interest payments, and it is certainly worth protecting that recognition.
We had four years of surplus budgets prior to the economic recession. At the same time, we had a massive investment in infrastructure in roads, airports, railways and port facilities right across the province as we developed the Asia-Pacific gateway, which is really starting to come into play as a significant generator of economic opportunities for British Columbians.
We also invested in education. Today we have 35,000 additional post-secondary education spaces across the province. We have seven new universities providing additional post-secondary education access to thousands of British Columbia students right across the province.
We often hear discussion by others and the Leader of the Opposition as well, saying: "It's all come undone. The opportunities aren't there." Well, clearly, that is not the case. When you're talking about access to post-secondary education, it is not just the tuition. It is not
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just the interest rate on any student loans. It is also about physical access.
In the 1990s it was certainly the case that tuitions were lower than they are today, but it was also the case that most students had to do five years of study, for example, to get a four-year degree. That extra year of study costs students a lot of money as well. So we need to have a balanced discussion about post-secondary education. It's about the ability to access it, preferably near home if you can do it, and as well, it's a discussion about student loans.
We're going to continue to build on these achievements, but I am also very, very proud that in the throne speech that was read yesterday, we are resisting the temptation, wherever it might exist, to embark on irresponsible and profligate spending because although we're going through a difficult time, this is a time where we need to be financially disciplined and not embark on wild spending that only will result in an even larger mortgage on the future for our children.
I've become increasingly aware as I've looked at economies around the world that so often that has been the tendency — that the things we want today we simply write up a mortgage on the future that our children and our grandchildren will have to retire. That is unfair, particularly when you look at the demographics within our economy. We had a very good presentation a number of days ago at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention where David Foot gave us a pretty good lecture, I thought, on what the demographic trends are. The retired population in the future is going to be a rather larger one, vis-à-vis the working population.
I think that that even more urgently underlines the fact that we have to pay today for the things that we want today because the generations coming after us are already going to be fairly well stressed to look after us in our dotage. I think that we need to keep that in mind going forward.
Recently I visited quite a number of communities around the province, and every time I have the opportunity to do that…. First of all, let me say I'm delighted to do that because this is such a wonderful and beautiful province. But every time I travel this province, I am struck by the opportunities and the potential that, frankly, lie in every corner of this province. I visited communities like Kitimat and Terrace, for example, where there certainly has been a palpable change in the attitudes of those communities where admittedly some years ago they were challenged very, very significantly.
Today many more people are at work. There are very, very significant economic development projects, either already underway or on the drawing boards with every prospect of going forward. It got so good in Kitimat that recently the mayor was moved to note the fact that they now have a Tim Hortons, another sign of progress and moving forward in that community.
But you know, when you've already seen a 50 percent increase in the price of housing in Kitimat, a housing market that had become very depressed…. You see a large work camp under construction near the Alcan smelter. You hear discussion in the community about the exciting prospect of the electrification of Highway 37. You hear them talking about the partnership with the Haisla First Nation and the LNG plant that will soon be under construction there. Everybody is talking about the positive and useful things that are happening in that community, and it's certainly music to the ears to see that.
So with all of that potential coming at us in northern B.C., generally, there is more of a need than there ever was to make sure that the application processes proceed as quickly and efficiently as possible. I'm certainly pleased that we have found $24 million over two years to put into the natural resource ministries to assist in moving these processes forward. That is where the jobs are for the future, and I can think of no better way to deploy some extra resources right now to make sure that we capitalize on those opportunities.
There's an old saying where I come from. If you snooze, you lose. I don't think that this is a time to snooze. This is a time for us to be on top of our game and make sure that we realize those opportunities that are before us.
The other thing that we have to be very mindful of as you look around the challenged world economy is the spectre of protectionism. Now, we know that members opposite, you know, rather like trade barriers. They've spoken often, for example, against TILMA and other legislation like that.
But quite often governments everywhere resort to protectionism when they're in tough economic circumstances. We certainly, I think, understand today that the Depression of the 1930s was exacerbated greatly by the protectionist response to some of the economic issues of that day.
I think it's fair to say that there are pieces of evidence today that protectionism is still around. Most recently we have heard some discussion coming out of the United States that they would like to impose an additional tax on containers coming out of Canada and Mexico — for no other reason, I'm sure, than to attempt to divert more container traffic through United States ports. In spite of the advantages that we have, in spite of the investments that we've made in port facilities here in British Columbia, the protectionist response there seems to be to try and divert some of that trade through American ports. So that is something that we need to keep an eye on.
We have seen, I think, some encouraging signs on the trade front as well, where President Obama and
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Prime Minister Harper, back in February, issued a joint declaration that it was time to clean up the American-Canadian border and to address it properly so that trade can move back and forth conveniently. We have to refocus on the fact that the border is about security and is not necessarily a trade barrier, which too often it has become, through various mechanisms that are imposed by governments.
We know that as Canada moves forward in this century, I think it's fair to say that the Canadian economy is going to be more and more tilted to the west. We have tremendous resources in British Columbia, in Alberta, in Saskatchewan. The manufacturing economies in central Canada are in some difficulty, I would suggest, and the economic powerhouse of this country is going to be in western Canada. I think it's very fair to say that.
So the fact that we've adopted this notion that Canada starts here is not only a recognition of the geographic fact that the fast-expanding economies of the Asia-Pacific are going to be doing their business through British Columbia and from there into the rest of Canada; it's also a recognition of the fact that the Canadian economy is going to be more and more weighted in western Canada.
We have international education mentioned in the throne speech. I was delighted to see that. I think we have tremendous opportunities there. I was in China about three years ago, and I was in one of the schools in Dalian, called a Maple Leaf School, where they teach children in grades 10, 11 and 12 in English, and they teach them the B.C. curriculum.
When they graduate from those high schools — I believe there are five at the moment in China — they get not only the Chinese diploma for having graduated, but they also get the B.C. Dogwood diploma. Therefore, it is rather common sense that many of these students are going to end up in B.C. universities, and indeed, many of them are. It just gave me an interesting insight into the opportunities that exist for Chinese students to come to British Columbia and for British Columbian universities to cater directly to these students that are going to become so readily available.
I've got to tell you that in China there is a tremendous appetite for students to learn English, for students to be taught in the B.C. or other western curricula. So we need to recognize those opportunities. I know that many of the universities across British Columbia today already enjoy a very significant international student population as, indeed, does the University of the Fraser Valley in my community. I think that that not only brings in a student population that adds richness and diversity to our universities, but it also helps very significantly to build those economic bridges for the future.
Those economic bridges are going to be very, very important to British Columbia. I think that those jurisdictions that do well at building those connections and fostering relationships with international communities are going to do rather better in the future. So the commitment to international education and building up those portfolios in British Columbia is one that I very, very strongly support.
Just a few other matters — perhaps somewhat non-economic in nature — that I want to address, because they were addressed in the throne speech and I think bear repeating. The first one that caught my attention was the rather significant reduction in criminal activity in the province of British Columbia over the last ten years — a 27 percent reduction in violent and property crime over the last ten years. I think it clearly demonstrates that our crime prevention activities over the last ten years have borne some significant fruit.
We all know that our court facilities and our correctional facilities are under some stress. Crime prevention is actually an important strategy to help relieve some of that stress on our courts and on our correctional facilities. Having been involved in years past in some of those programs such as integrating police forces to the highest level possible; putting in place important tools like PRIME, the police records information management environment, where police forces throughout British Columbia share one common information database…. This, by the way, was a $40 million investment at no cost to municipalities. I think we have clear evidence that some of these strategies have clearly been working.
While I'm on the subject of policing, I want to comment briefly on the renewal of the RCMP contract for the province of British Columbia. My own bias is that I hope we conclude a new agreement with the federal government to provide RCMP policing for municipalities in British Columbia. I think there's a lot of discussion yet to be done. I think it also bears underlining that this is a discussion with the federal government, not with the RCMP per se. This is a negotiation with the federal Solicitor General.
This is a discussion that's about financial responsibility and accountability. I have observed this contract both previously as Solicitor General and also as a mayor in my community. I know as well as anybody that this contract needs to be improved. We simply cannot, again, sign off on an agreement that does not put proper accountability measures in place, an agreement that does not put proper financial controls in place. Those have to be key characteristics of any new agreement.
I've seen too many times where we were simply informed of new costs to be swallowed. That's not good enough. I don't think that we can leave the chequebook on the table anymore. If we're going to have a true partnership, we need to have true accountability as well, accountability to all parties to the partnership.
One more matter I'd like to comment on is the municipal auditor general proposal that was brought forward
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in the throne speech, an initiative that I very strongly endorse. We have had Auditors General at the federal and provincial levels in Canada for many years. While having been, now, on the government side for something like ten years, I can tell you that it's not always a comfortable day when the Auditor General reports out. That, I think, is just in the nature of government. You're going to always have room for improvement.
I suspect strongly that room for improvement is also available at the municipal level, and if there isn't, I would be the first one to salute that. But it is only when you mandate an auditor general that you're going to be able to make that judgment as to whether the taxpayers are getting value for money. That's what this is about: simply ensuring that taxpayers are getting value for money.
Now, I've heard it said by municipalities or their representatives: "Our books are audited every year." Yes, indeed they are. Accountants go through their books and make sure that all the columns add up and that everything balances out. And that is a necessary and worthwhile exercise. A value-for-money audit actually goes a lot further than that, and it asks a completely different set of questions.
I think if we can just allow an auditor to do his or her work and allow them to examine those questions that the auditor feels would be worth examining under the heading of "is value for money being obtained," I think that we can achieve some very worthwhile information for municipal councils to consider and for their taxpayers to consider as well.
I've heard it said that it's actually disrespectful of a provincial government to mandate an auditor general at the local level. I don't think this is about respect between one level of government or another. This, actually, is simply about respect for the taxpayer and ensuring that the taxpayers' resources are being well spent and that the taxpayer is getting as much value for money as possible.
I think we all have that obligation. That obligation certainly exists here at the provincial level, and having been involved in local government for many years, I always thought that that was our responsibility at the local level as well. The concept of a municipal auditor general is one that I think is healthy. It's worthwhile in a democratic society, and I'm looking forward to that legislation being tabled.
With that, I will conclude my remarks for today. I'm very supportive, obviously, of the direction of the throne speech. I am very keenly interested in the jobs plan that was tabled by the Premier in the last ten days, and I'm looking forward to British Columbia and the people of British Columbia realizing those opportunities, being able to exploit the future in a very positive and productive way, not only for us who are here today but also to set ourselves up for a great future for our children and grandchildren.
D. Donaldson: Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the throne speech that took place yesterday. I'd first like to acknowledge that we do our business and our meetings on the territories of the Songhees and the Esquimalt First Nations, and I appreciate the fact that they allow us to do that.
I'd like to start on a positive note. I like talking about positive things — it's just my nature — and I believe that one of the positive things around Stikine is the people. I have a few stories of people overcoming incredible obstacles and the challenges they face these days, very positive stories. Some of them excel beyond what anybody would think, coming from a small community in the northwest.
Last night I had the honour to attend the aboriginal youth internship program, which the provincial government runs. They take young aboriginal interns from around the province. There's great competition for the positions. Last night there were 20. It was a ceremony to celebrate 20 of the young interns who had completed their service and to welcome 24 more who are coming into service.
The program is a very well-run program, and it was clear last night. It runs about eight months. In the first four months the interns spend time with different government departments and ministries, and in the second four months with agencies. I was there because a very good friend, a very brilliant young woman from Kispiox, from Hazelton — Whitney Morrison — was completing the program, and she was honoured last night. Whitney's family, as I've said, is from Kispiox village. She's Gitxsan. She's part of the Wolf clan — Lax Gibuu. I'm a member of the Fireweed — Gisgaast. On her father's side is my wilp, my clan. In the Gitxsan, I would say we're related.
So it was very, very good to be there last night. She's an amazing young woman. She spent time in the Ministry of Citizens' Services, I believe, and then did work with the AFN. It was a very hopeful and uplifting evening seeing these people graduate from the program, and I wish her luck in the future. She's been a great supporter. We worked together, actually, before I became an MLA, in citizenship engagement in small communities.
Also today I attended the Order of B.C. ceremonies at Government House, and there honoured was Dr. Phil Muir, a doctor with Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton. I have known Phil for quite a few years. He was instrumental in really creating the family practice in rural areas that the hospital is so well noted for, and also for his work really outside of what you would normally think a doctor does. He's involved in the garden at the hospital, a garden that used to provide all the food for hospital residents. With his work, the garden has become a community garden now, as well, and still runs.
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He's been involved in setting up a residential building on the property of Wrinch Memorial and more recently in the Skeena Bakery, which is a social enterprise for those who find barriers to employment. It gives people in our community a good place to get experience. Also there are some amazing baked goods there, so it's a great, great place. Phil got involved in that as well as in the ice arena. So there was the Order of B.C. today.
When I think about Stikine in the last year — in 2011, in the spring…. Another exceptional person who was born and raised and went through the minor hockey system in Smithers and then in B.C. is Dan Hamhuis, who was part of that great Stanley Cup run the Vancouver Canucks were on last year. Hopefully, he'll be healthy again for the upcoming season. Last year, or a few years ago, actually, just before the last provincial election, Carol Huynh from Hazelton — New Hazelton, specifically — was the gold-medal winner in wrestling at the Olympics in Beijing.
Finally, I think also about another exceptional person in Stikine, Alex Cuba, who was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award, which he won in 2010, and was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2011, just earlier in this year.
So my point in talking about these exceptional people is that the human capital — what's referred to oftentimes as the human capital — the potential of the people in Stikine, of small communities all around B.C., is there. Despite overwhelming odds, many people become exceptional in their chosen fields, whether it's an internship in government, whether it's a doctor, whether it's athletes, whether it's artists and musicians. Then there are people also who manage to be resilient despite overwhelming odds, who survive and raise families in good ways and make contributions to community.
Again, the potential is there, and yet yesterday the throne speech did very little to help unlock this potential in Stikine and in the north, especially when it comes to local opportunities.
One of those local opportunities I want to talk about as an example of the government and the policies through the throne speech — showing that they're creating a barrier to unlocking local potential — is in mining. I was somewhat perplexed yesterday when the throne speech did little to mention mining. In the jobs plan the Premier indicated that her goal, her objective, is eight new mines opened by 2015 — that's less than four years — and nine new mines expanded by 2015 — again, less than four years.
Again, I was perplexed that that wasn't highlighted more in the throne speech. Since the jobs plan was announced, I've had the opportunity as Mines critic to meet with industry associations, and they were unsure of where these numbers came from. Eight new mines. We were asking: why wasn't it six? Why wasn't it ten? They had not been consulted about the number and were somewhat perplexed as well.
So I hope that the new mines not being mentioned in the throne speech is not an indication that these numbers were just pulled out of the air by the Premier, because that seems to be the track record on the jobs plan — objectives get pulled out of the air. I hope that that's not what we're facing here and that's not why it wasn't mentioned yesterday.
The reason I talk about mining is that the previous speaker, the MLA for Chilliwack, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier, visited Smithers just in late August. Smithers is in my constituency, in the constituency of Stikine. He was there trying to sell the jobs plan, and one of the attitudes he expressed was local jobs for local people. Now, again, this government says that and spins a good line, but the evidence in Stikine is that these are just words.
I'll give you some examples. The local college is called Northwest Community College. It serves a large part of the area of Stikine and also the northwest. They have a School of Exploration and Mining, an award-winning school, award winning from the Mining Association of B.C. It's an amazing place. I visited several times. It's a camp facility in Ganokwa, close to Ganokwa basin just north of Smithers.
The actual classrooms are walled tents, but you enter the walled tents and there are flat-screen monitors, and there's Internet. They're learning about all the intricacies of mining exploration in this setting. Many of the students there have not necessarily had great success in what we would often think of as the formal setting, the classroom setting, so this camp gives a different sense, and it also mimics what the students will experience once they graduate and find employment in exploration. It's a great school.
Unfortunately, this school, as part of Northwest Community College, has no core funding associated with it. No core funding. The commitment from the province, from the Ministry of Advanced Education, is just not there. When you don't have core funding it means you lurch from year to year. It creates instability for the instructors. They have great, amazing instructors at that school, and yet without the year-to-year funding, they're left in the lurch every year about whether they're going to be able to have a job in the next go-round with the program.
It also creates instability for the students. These programs are oversubscribed right now — a huge First Nation participation in the programs. So without core funding for that kind of program, it makes it very, very difficult to enable local people to take advantage of the local jobs. If this government was really concerned about jobs, local jobs for local people for the local opportunities, then they would see fit to fund, on a multi-year
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basis, a successful and award-winning program like the School of Exploration and Mining that is run by Northwest Community College.
We also heard, as part of the Finance Committee tour, about apprenticeship training in Northwest Community College. Now, we know that with the northern transmission line, with the possibility of mines opening and with other development in the northwest, that trades are going to be an important part of the training so local people can have local jobs.
So what did we hear from the vice-president of Northwest Community College, Dave O'Leary, in front of the Finance Committee just a couple of weeks ago? What did we hear but that the budget for apprenticeship training for Northwest Community College has been slashed by 74 percent.
How can you have a jobs plan without people — a jobs plan without a commitment to training the people locally so local people can take advantage of the local opportunities? With those kinds of policies, those kinds of decisions made by this government, it's just not going to happen.
What we'll see is fly in, fly out — people coming in from other provinces, from Alberta, from Newfoundland, flying into the community and then taking advantage of the local opportunities. This, in fact, is happening in another part of the province that we visited as part of the Finance Committee, in Fort Nelson. Twice a week in Fort Nelson they have a shift change. Over 300 people fly out of the airport, and 300 people fly in. This is in Fort Nelson in the northeast. We do not need that kind of fly-in, fly-out labour force. We can do with our own people locally, in Stikine especially, if we provide the training that's necessary.
The jobs plan is silent on the training aspect, and that's very, very unfortunate, especially for an area like Stikine where the population under 30 years old is 70 percent of the population. That's double the provincial average. That's mainly a First Nations population.
So it's a competitive advantage to have a labour force that wants to work locally, that wants to stay locally, that you can train and will stay in the area afterwards because they have a sense of connection to the land base and really don't want to leave. They don't want to go to Fort McMurray. They don't want to go to other places. But if we don't have that training, then we'll see the fly-in, fly-out model that Fort Nelson is experiencing right now.
We also heard, on the Finance tour, from George Iwama. He's the new president of the University of Northern B.C. — a very excellent, capable person who was able to be recruited to that university in Prince George. He talked about the weekend university in Williams Lake. That is a collaboration between UNBC and TRU, Thompson Rivers University, that was cancelled this year.
That was a model that he thought could be replicated throughout the province, and it was cancelled — the weekend university. It's on-site delivery, and that's the kind of training that you need in small communities in the north in order to be successful.
We heard from the presenters in Williams Lake that 40 percent of the forest workers in the region have not completed high school and that there's no strategic framework or funding in place to guide these learners through essential skills development. No framework in place. So if we're going to enable people to take advantage of the local opportunities — and in this sense, in Stikine, around mining…. But it's around forestry as well.
In other parts of the province, Williams Lake and Quesnel, the forest industry knows that they're going to decline dramatically in the next few years. Without the government having the foresight to put resources into a framework around skills development, then that's just going to leave the people living in those communities in the lurch. That is not part of a successful jobs plan.
Again, if you have a large segment of the population working in a certain sector that hasn't completed high school, you're guaranteed — and stats prove this out — to have literacy issues, literacy problems. There was no mention of literacy in the throne speech or in the jobs plan, but I recall it being a great goal not too long ago. Do you remember that? A great goal of literacy.
So this is the same government that had great goals. They've just switched out a leader, but all the people on the other side were there, many of them around the cabinet table, supporting the great goals — the great goal of literacy, which seems to have fallen by the wayside.
How that impacts communities like mine is, for instance, through funding. ASAP, aboriginal student assistance program, funding is woefully inadequate. It funds students who need to achieve the grade 11 or 12 level. That is not what our communities need. We need training and job training for people who have needs around grades 8 and 9 and 10, not grades 11 and 12.
If you're not going to address the literacy issue…. This government has tried to shift literacy into different ministries, I think, although it's been changed so often that it's still in the Ministry of Education. But you can't deal with adult literacy issues in a K-to-12 system. The people there are just not equipped to deal with that.
In the words of Alice Maitland, who is the president of the campus of Northwest Community College in Hazelton…. She's fearful that people will get left behind again with the jobs plan, that once again people will not have the training to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there.
We heard from the chamber of commerce in Terrace that this was already happening with the northern transmission line, that the northern transmission line is underway, and yet the local college programs have not been put in place by this government to achieve the
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training so that local people can take advantage of those local jobs.
A jobs plan without people is no jobs plan at all. We must address this. Otherwise, we'll have jobs without people. The development that occurs…. We'll have jobs without people in areas that we have people without jobs, and we see that already in Stikine.
Our emphasis — and my emphasis, in a throne speech by a government purportedly concerned about jobs — would have been to talk about training and spend a large part of the throne speech on that topic. That just wasn't there.
The lack of focus on what really matters on the ground in rural areas like Stikine is quite amazing. There was no mention of agriculture, for instance, in the throne speech. The potential is great in Stikine, but no mention of agriculture. And it's not a place that you have to expend a lot of money. We don't have a regional agrologist. That one position could be of great support to people wanting to develop agriculture to a bigger extent in our area. Farmers markets — there's not a great cost here, and it keeps money in the community. It's an important part of the economy in rural areas and in Stikine, and it was totally ignored in this budget.
Purchasing power by government was totally ignored. You know, government in B.C. spends $4 billion a year purchasing the goods and services it needs. That money can be used directly and indirectly to support local businesses. It happens in other areas. It's called community economic development. The Manitoba government has policies and programs that enable that to happen.
A fleeting mention of forestry — a very fleeting mention of forestry — in the throne speech. We had silviculture contractors in Stikine that have not seen silviculture contracts in two years. These people are struggling, and part of that is the size of the contracts being let by the provincial government. A very easy fix there: if you want to see people working, break up the contracts into more manageable areas, especially in areas that have a perverse level of unemployment — like Stikine, 60 percent overall. You know, it's simple.
Raw log exports. We know that that's shooting ourselves in the foot. Even the people involved in that part of the industry see it as shooting ourselves in the foot in the long run. We had the president of the chamber of commerce in Smithers make a comment on this during one of our visits with the Finance Committee tour. He said: "It seems like there are more jobs in a mill than there are just shipping trees out on a barge." I think he hit the nail right on the head with that one.
We need to be able to benefit from the opportunities and from the resources in our area, and that involves something called social licence. In order to benefit, we need to make sure that the people living closest to those resources have a large say over how they're developed, how they benefit from them and also how the job opportunities flow from them. We haven't seen that with this government.
We haven't seen anything in the throne speech about any kind of resource revenue-sharing. I know that there have been comments from this government around that, but nothing in reference to that. We had the Fair Share program, often mentioned in the northeast, which is a grant in lieu of taxation, property taxation powers, and we have an example in the Kootenays of the Columbia Basin Trust. Both of those are examples of successful initiatives implemented by the NDP government during the 1990s.
This government has had ten years of high commodity prices, ten years in resource development, to implement some kind of policy for resource revenue to come back to rural communities. Nothing has happened on that — nothing — and no mention in the throne speech on that.
We know that the HST trickle-down theory did not catch hold with the majority of people in the province. That's because it's a theory. The theory was put forth by the government that what's good for corporations is good for corporations. The people saw through that, and they said it's not necessarily good for communities.
The HST was a failure, and we're still waiting for plan B. If anybody recalls, before the referendum results were announced in August — I believe it was a week before — the Premier said: "Don't worry. We have plan B in place. We have plan B ready to go — plan B."
Here we are — what is it? — six weeks since the referendum. And still no mention of when plan B is. So there is no plan B, as far as we can tell. No plan B means more delays in the revoking of the HST and more uncertainty, more problems for business and definitely for consumers.
People have to be at the centre of a jobs plan, and people are at the centre of a rural economy. You can't have a rural economy without the people. This government, in that throne speech, failed at highlighting the people.
I just want to read from a letter that Alison Norman read to the Finance Committee during our stop in Smithers. Alison is a constituent of mine. She has Down syndrome. She graduated from high school, or finished her schooling, in June. She's 19 now, so it means that she's not eligible. She's been told by Community Living B.C. that she's not eligible for funding.
She says in the letter: "But I can't go to life skills or get help with a job in the community because I am on a wait-list. This really makes me sad, because I really need someone to help me so I can learn to do more things for myself and so I can work better in my community." Work better in my community.
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These are the people that are falling by the wayside under the policies of this government, the decisions of this government. These are the people that need the assistance that they're not getting in order to participate in an economy and participate in community.
I also wanted to quote from another person who presented to the Finance Committee in Smithers. His name is Guy Brown. He's Gitxsan from the village of Kispiox. He's a single father. He moved to Smithers, and he told his son that he was presenting to the Finance Committee. His son has special needs, and he said to his son…. "I asked him: 'Well, if you wanted them'" — meaning the Finance Committee — "'to hear what you were thinking, what would you say?'" His son said to him: "More money." Guy said: "Why would you want more money?" And he just said: "More food."
So I challenge the Premier to think about that. Imagine that, Premier. More food. That's the reality of the situation that this government's decisions are creating in communities around the province, in small communities like mine. More food.
I want to finish off about the internship program last night and the hope that was in the room. The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs' Grand Chief Stewart Phillip talked to the crowd at the end, and he said that hope was in the room. He acknowledged the families that the interns had come from, from small communities all around the province, communities like the ones in Stikine. He talked about hope.
But the problem is that it's a missed opportunity by this government. The throne speech pointed out that although there's great potential for hope, it's just not being recognized by this government. You have to make hope concrete, and the throne speech did not do that. You have to make hope concrete and despair conquerable.
That's what a good government will do for people in small rural communities. They'll address the issues that Guy Brown and his children have, that Alison Norman has. They'll be inclusive, reduce the widening disparity that we see in this province. It's about making hope concrete, not just imagining.
R. Howard: It's my pleasure to take my place today in this House in response to the throne speech for the fourth session of the 39th parliament.
Before I start I'd like to offer thanks to a few of the many people who have supported me and who make it possible to do this job. Being an MLA is a team effort, and I have quite a team behind me.
First, here in Victoria, my legislative assistant, Britney Milne, and my media relations officer, Jeff Melland, do great support work for me and help keep me organized while the House is sitting and, as well, while it's not.
In Richmond I have two constituency assistants, Siu-Wan Ng and Chris Chan, who work tirelessly to keep the office functioning while I'm away. They work to solve a myriad of issues affecting constituents who need help sorting through various government programs or who simply need to be pointed in the right direction.
Chris and Siu-Wan also produce newsletters, place ads, organize town halls, attend events with me or even for me when I'm unable. They are valuable assistants, and I appreciate their work.
Then there is my family. Without the support of my family, it would not be possible to do this job — my mother, Irene; my stepfather, Mel; my sister Roxanne; and her daughter Audrey. My wife's side of the family: Ralph, Lynn, Susan, Ted, Todd and Jean.
To my son Jay, who is always there offering support, often on short notice and without a second thought. He is there for me.
My wife and best friend, Trudy, knows well that her support is critical to my success, and I truly count my blessings that she sees something that allows her to put up with all the stuff that goes with being an MLA's wife. To Trudy, a heartfelt and heartwarming thank-you.
To my supporters on the riding executive who support me in many ways, from community outreach to special events, I say thank you.
Last but certainly not least, to the people of my constituency. It is your support that sustains me. It's an honour working for you, and I work with you in mind every day.
In addressing the throne speech, I'd like to start by offering some context, as it would be impossible to understand the status of our province without acknowledging where we stand relative to other economies in this country as well as economies throughout the world.
I'd then like to talk about the vision our Premier has set out in the throne speech, and I'll address a few specific examples of successes we have already enjoyed over the past few months. Finally, I will draw some comparisons, comparing the vision of this government with the vision the opposition offers.
To set the stage here, I will start with the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. It is my pleasure to chair the committee, and we are touring the province holding public hearings, inviting witnesses to come before the committee to give their input as to how this government can best manage our finances as we tackle the very serious challenge of balancing our budget by 2013-14.
These consultations are taking place at a time when there is much publicity around global economies and where we are seeing that governments who have not been fiscally responsible are being punished. I'm very proud to be able to say that this government stands out as one of the few in the world with a strong record of fiscal prudence and strong economic management, in the process restoring and maintaining British Columbians' triple-A credit rating.
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This has prepared us very well for these difficult economic times and is a reason why we are positioned to be a rare safe harbour for investment. Certainly, there are challenging questions ahead, which must be addressed as we work to balance our budget, questions such as: what can we to do to keep B.C. a safe harbour for investment? What can we do to further protect jobs for B.C. families? How can we find new ways to support private sector job creation?
Even though we have a very strong economic foundation from which we can manoeuvre ourselves out of this really tough, punishing global economy, we still have tough decisions to make. We embarked on a listening exercise to collect the input of British Columbians, to get their opinions on how we should best proceed to answer these difficult questions.
I guess my point in all of this is that we are the government which has earned a reputation for instilling confidence and optimism. We are the agents of change who will tackle these tough economic times and transition our economy to face this new decade with courage and an optimism that will offer our younger generation a hope-filled future, a confident future.
Also, in terms of context, there is one distinction I'd like to make, and that is regarding the type of debt. I often hear this talked about in this House and in the press. The debt that this government has agreed to results from significant capital programs.
We have built an unprecedented array of assets, including bridges, highways, schools and hospitals. This, as long as it is within reason, is good debt which arises as a result of operating deficits. This later type of debt — which, by the way, was the sort of debt so beloved by the opposition during the '90s — is like credit card debt, debt which erodes the confidence of investors and bond-rating agencies. I will discuss bond-rating agencies a little later.
As I've said, this is an important distinction to be aware of, the two types of debt — asset-accumulating debt and operating-deficit debt.
I'd like to now talk about the vision the Premier has laid out for us in the throne speech and in the context of the points I have just made. It will become evident that there is a great gap, a great difference, between the two parties in this House.
There is a great difference between this government, which as an agent of change will transition our economy for success in the next decade — a government which will create a playing field on which entrepreneurs will succeed in providing jobs for B.C. families; a government which will put us in a position of optimism, keep us as a safe harbour for investment and job creation….
In contrast, there is the opposition side, whose divisive style would lead us undoubtedly towards a kind of class warfare. This kind of through-the-looking-glass style of leadership offered by the opposition leader — the revisionist opposition leader — is highlighted by statements made in this House this very morning.
The Leader of the Opposition inferred, claimed, that the NDP cares about the whole province. I couldn't help but snap to attention when I heard that and just reflect on reality, because when I think back about representing this entire province, I can't help but think how the two different sides chose their leaders.
We as a party chose our leader with a system of weighted votes that give every corner of this province an equal say in who they want as their leader. The opposition, on the other hand…
R. Howard: …didn't enjoy quite that goal and were left with memories — as the member from Kamloops beat me to my punchline — of brown bags, with memberships in one bag and $1 bills or $10 bills in the other.
Now they speak of optimism. Yet for the 2½ years that I've been in this House, every single day, on every single issue, they deliver the "sky is falling" message, always demanding more dollars and never actually willing to put a price tag on any of their demands. I will talk about that again in just a minute.
This government is pleased to defend its record and is proud to unlock the future of this great province. We will do so by adhering to the principles set out in this throne speech.
In these challenging economic times it is worth observing that governments cannot be everything to everybody. Personal responsibility is an important concept, and we need to understand that for governments to have the resources available to help those who cannot reasonably be expected to look after themselves, the majority of us need to be responsible for ourselves.
In the recent tour around the province with the Finance Committee we have heard clearly that people want government to get out of the way so that they can be successful.
Families that are first educators for their children. Mothers and fathers that are first providers by way of jobs. First caregivers to the grandparents. And of course, first health care providers, by making smart choices, exercising and staying healthy. These are the British Columbians who we met, and they want to be responsible.
They are optimistic by nature, and they are hope-filled about their children's future and are confident that they will raise a successful family as long as government creates the conditions for them to succeed but doesn't get too involved in regulating their lives.
This is what the throne speech is about — continuing our record of prudent fiscal management and strong stewardship of the economy so that we can continue
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to pay for the services we so value and need such as health care and education, maintain British Columba as a safe haven for investment and build our advantages as Canada's Pacific Gateway so that we can prosper through strong trade ties with the dynamic and fast-growing countries of China and India.
This throne speech is all about that and about building a secure and optimistic future. It is a plan centred on respect for the taxpayers of this province which recognizes that we must not burden future generations with debt, or red tape and government regulations.
The throne speech also has a strong focus on building this secure and optimistic future through its strong focus on defending and creating jobs. We will do this by implementing the jobs plan presented by the Premier, Canada Starts Here: The B.C. Jobs Plan, which will be central to this government's work, going forward.
A number of initiatives were highlighted which will help us with this work to defend and create jobs as well as keep our province's economic foundation strong. There is the major investments office, which will be created with a mandate to work with investors to take projects from the proposal and planning stages and bring them to fruition — to make them real job-creating, wealth-creating enterprises.
There is a jobs and investment board which will be in place and ready to go in 50 days. This board will hold our feet to the fire and make sure we're clearing the way for businesses to create jobs while at the same time monitoring key economic and social indicators.
There is the government's investment of $24 million across the natural resource ministries over the next two years, which will see us eliminate the backlog in key authorizations which are preventing projects from proceeding. This is a crucial initiative which springs from this government's recognition that the best way to help our entrepreneurs and business people create jobs and wealth for our province is for government to get out of the way.
These are just some of the measures which were outlined in the throne speech and by the Premier in Canada Starts Here: The B.C. Jobs Plan.
This government is also focused on making sure that governments at the local and provincial level are more open. In the speech from the throne there is an important initiative which will see the introduction of legislation to create an office of the municipal auditor general. The municipal auditor general will be a valuable resource for local governments by conducting value-for-money performance audits.
The municipal auditor general will help municipal governments make the best of community assets by helping to identify best practices and providing more transparency and accountability for taxpayers. Of course, the municipal auditor general will not overrule the policy decisions of local officials. Instead, he or she will strengthen accountability and effectiveness at the local level.
This initiative comes from and is informed by the government's realization that in the end there is only one taxpayer and that we must do what we can to keep taxes as low as possible so that the families of British Columbia can keep more money in their pockets — money they can use to invest in their children's education, in starting businesses or by just going out and supporting existing businesses in their communities.
This throne speech ultimately is about putting families first. The changes we are introducing will make sure that our families have the support they need and that they feel safe in their communities.
There is the new family day holiday which will give families more time to spend with one another and provide a welcome mid-winter lift to everyone's spirits. I might note that it has been very enthusiastically received by British Columbians. We are proceeding with the introduction of family day in a responsible fashion by giving businesses until 2013 to adjust to this new holiday.
There is also mention of an initiative to modernize the B.C. College of Teachers. We are doing this in conjunction with measures to modernize the education system while making sure our teachers have the skills they need to give our children the skills they will need in this century — a century of great promise for British Columbia which can only be realized through deep development of our most important resource, our human resource.
I know there's an effort by the opposition, and I heard it from opposition leader this morning, to try and frame the government as anti-teacher. I want to go on the record strongly as saying nothing is further from the truth.
I hold teachers in the highest regard. They are individually and collectively at the forefront of creating our future. I so respect their value-adding and rewarding career choices, so I urge them not to let this revisionist Leader of the Opposition lead you to any improper conclusions.
There is legislation we will introduce to streamline the process around traffic fine violations, an initiative which will help to resolve disputes and free up court time.
Another initiative to free up court time is the introduction of a new family law act, which will help promote early resolution of problems in the area of family law.
Again on the topic of courts is legislation which will reduce restrictions limiting the amount of time senior part-time judges can put in.
This throne speech also makes a commitment to collaborate with non-profit groups to find innovative ways to provide services for those in our society who are most vulnerable. A summit on social innovation will be held in November, hosted by government and attended by innovative non-profit organizations.
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On the theme of protecting the vulnerable is this throne speech's commitment to expand anti-bullying policies in our schools, expanding them to include a comprehensive training regime as well as on-line reporting tools and tools for advanced threat assessment.
I am proud of the measures laid out in this throne speech. I'm proud that we're taking strong action to get out of the way of businesses and to keep British Columbia a safe haven for investment in these difficult times.
I'm proud that we're making government at the local and provincial levels more open and accountable to British Columbians. I'm also proud that were putting families first, streamlining our courts and finding new ways to help our most vulnerable.
I would be remiss if I didn't speak to a few of the recent successes of our "grow and diversify the economy" approach, especially involving our Asia-Pacific gateway.
We recently saw that China Southern Airlines announced increased passenger service to YVR. This is an excellent example of recent successes of us continuing to build on this marvelous geographical advantage that we have, to continue to work with that geographical advantage, build on the cultural advantages that we also have, and turn that into an economic advantage.
China Southern, with their announcements — increased passenger traffic to YVR — is a statement of confidence that the private sector has in this government's vision. As well, from the same airline we have a dedicated freighter service. This is a first, because most or all of previous Asia-Pacific cargo would come in the belly of air passenger traffic. So to have a dedicated cargo freighter is groundbreaking.
Again, it's a real statement of confidence that the market has that the linkages between Canada and British Columbia and the Asia-Pacific are on the upswing and will continue on the upswing.
Why do we care about that? Well, just as a for-instance, a single transpacific daily flight results in approximately 100 jobs at the airport, more than 100 jobs outside the airport in spinoffs and indirect, and somewhere between $5 million and $15 million in GDP, depending on who and what is on the plane. So it's important to us.
It's important to us in our efforts to grow the economy. It's important for us in our efforts to diversify the economy, and we are seeing some great success.
To close, I would observe that this government, despite the opposition's claim to the contrary, has managed the economy very well and has this province positioned to be very optimistic about our future.
While the opposition may claim otherwise, informed observers know that this government has managed the economy to its current strong position. It didn't just happen. Decisions have been made over the past decade which have seen our triple-A credit rating restored and maintained and which have placed us in the enviable position of being one of the very few safe harbours for investment, especially when compared to almost every other economy in the world.
But the opposition claims they are better managers. Who should the public believe? Well, let's turn to the bond-rating agencies and see what evidence they have to offer. They are arm's-length agencies that make their living judging creditworthiness. They have no emotional or political attachment to the question.
During the opposition's time in power, during the '90s, we suffered three successive downgrades, and it should be noted this was during a time when the rest of the world was enjoying strong economic growth. During this last decade this government rebuilt and then safeguarded our triple-A credit rating with seven — count them, seven — credit upgrades.
So permit me if I move to the conclusion that by this evidence, the judges of a strong and stable economy have made it pretty clear what they think. The opposition, three downgrades; the government, seven upgrades — that is quite a spread and pretty conclusive, if you ask me. So the members of this House will understand why this particular member is proud and optimistic.
I referred a little earlier to the lack of costing of the opposition's seemingly insatiable demand for more money. I think it is important to note — and I'm going to borrow a little bit from member from Chilliwack's musings on this, when he talked about 165 days after the Leader of the Opposition had become leader — that there was some costing done on the promises that the Leader of the Opposition had tallied.
It's a remarkable $15 billion for a government that has budgets in the $40-billion range, year in, year out. To think that somehow we could get our hands on another $15 billion stretches credibility, and it certainly stretches the imagination.
I know that our track record, combined with our ability to make tough decisions, to make the right decisions, will keep us on track to balance our budget, eliminate the deficit and manage our debt so that our families, our children and their children will have a prosperous and an economic future.
N. Macdonald: It's a pleasure to stand and speak to the throne speech, 2011. Let's start off with the presumption here, or the fact of the matter, which is that the throne speech represents the thinking behind this government's plan B. So if the HST was plan A, then you can only imagine and get an idea of a plan that's lesser than that and see how the public responds to it.
Before we get into the specifics of plan B, let's talk about plan A for a second. Let's talk about what the B.C. Liberals called the best thing that they could do for the B.C. economy — the harmonized sales tax. It's interesting to remember the rhetoric, too, that surrounded that plan A.
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We were told, first by an expert, the HST would create — what was it? — 130,000 jobs or something like that. I forget the exact figure. So 113,000 — not that exact figures are needed when we're talking about the HST, because it was only shortly after that a different group of experts told us that it was a completely different number. Then we had the reality of the HST, where we had something different again.
Then we were told that the return to the PST would kill jobs in mining. But then last week, I think, in our area Teck was talking about hiring an additional 250 people — great news. Not consistent with the return to the PST being a killer of mine jobs. We certainly had the Premier talking about eight new mines to open, so it's all over the place, as you would expect.
Experts have an opinion. There's no question that experts have an opinion. But it is only an opinion, and what I have found pretty consistently on the HST and other issues is that people in our communities have a pretty good sense of what works for them and what doesn't.
In Columbia River–Revelstoke the people that live there understood the impacts of the HST. They completely understood it. When you have the Premier at times stand up and suggest that their decision was a mistake or that they didn't understand, it's completely incorrect.
Heli-skiing operators, people who are running restaurants, people who are running resorts, real estate people — they would meet and talk to you and lay it out in detail, completely informed about the impact of the HST, as you would expect. It was the same for those that were in favour as well. So people understand policy and how it impacts them.
What you had in Columbia River–Revelstoke, as in the majority of ridings in this province, was that people rejected what was being forced upon them. They organized themselves. In my area it was people that I knew, people that were often active in political fights with me, but there were an awful lot of people who had never been politically active.
They came together, they organized, they put together a petition that forced a referendum, and in my area they rejected the HST. It wasn't even close in the Kootenays. With a high voter turnout, the same turnout as we had in an election, 66 percent of the people rejected the HST — a very clear vote of no confidence in the government.
I think if you look at those results, you'll see another interesting thing. You will see NDP representatives standing with their constituents. I think there are an awful lot of B.C. Liberal MLAs who couldn't say the same thing. They did have a choice to stand with the people that they represent or to follow B.C. Liberal fiats, and they made that choice.
What I can say is that you are always going to be on the right side of things when you stand with the people that you represent and when you recognize that that's where the wisdom in this province sits — with the people that we represent, people in our communities.
Let's have a look at plan B. What is the plan B? Well, it doesn't sound terribly different from anything that we've heard over the years. While it wasn't laid out as one of the three main points, there's no question that they've talked about maintaining tax cuts.
I think what we can see is that low taxes are no panacea. The ten years of B.C. Liberal rule have been described by independent observers as mediocre in terms of their economic results, and there's no question it has also created real fiscal challenges. The previous speaker talked about our debt and also our contractual obligations. They're substantial, and the way that we have to pay for those is going to be a challenge.
Now, I happen to agree with many of the things in terms of what the debt has paid for. I think that there have been some very good projects, and I think that we have to recognize that when we talk about debt, but the jobs promised just have not been produced.
If tax strategy is used as a strategy, then it has to be thought through and thought through carefully. Now after seven months of a shiny, new B.C. Liberal Party, it seems anything but shiny, it seems anything but new, and the actions seem anything but thought through. The fact is that we have seen a summer of the government fumbling, and that's why we're not into an election.
Let's talk about deregulation, which is one of the things that the Premier laid out in the so-called plan B. Again, they have to be thought through.
I think that all of us can name examples of policies that really don't make sense. Policies are often difficult to apply across the province. In rural British Columbia there are requirements that are placed on businesses that just don't make sense. But regulations are there for a reason. To stand up and say that deregulation simply for the sake of deregulation is a sensible economic plan is ridiculous.
If you look at the regulations that we work under, many of them deal with worker safety. When I was a principal at a school we had a whole host of things that we had to watch for, the regulations that we had to follow. But I can tell you: they were sensible. They were intended to make sure that people would come to work, that the children we had that we were responsible for were looked after properly.
To suggest that deregulation in the workplace is something that is going to be of economic benefit…. I think we're talking about something that has to be thought through. Regulations related to public safety, related to environmental safety…. I mean, we can all think of examples where if we did not have regulations we would be putting people at risk.
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There were also regulations around protecting the public interest. We have the B.C. Utilities Commission to make sure that the public interest is looked after. Is it something that this government chooses to use when it looks at smart meters? No, they don't. There's a whole host of reasons why you would stick with sensible regulation.
They talked about infrastructure, but I have to say that the infrastructure announcements were basically re-announcements of previous commitments with new names. It's more of a propaganda strategy, really, than an economic strategy. How many times can you announce Surrey Memorial? How many times can you have press events at Port Mann or the wood innovation centre, you know, announced again? Kitimat — announced again. Deltaport — announced again. It really shows an emptiness to any new ideas.
Then we have the promotion of Asia, the Premier travelling to Asia as an economic plan. So probably that's not earth-shattering stuff. People like it better than the HST, no doubt, but I don't think that anyone expects very much. We in the NDP have been supportive of marketing efforts. It seems somewhat obvious, I have to say, to sell to people who have money, and right now China's economy is going to likely pass the U.S. economy in size. We will sell more to China. It seems rather a predictable series of events.
Now, when the Premier talks about being the chief salesperson for British Columbia, I think it's good to remember that she was also the chief salesperson for the HST. So we need to bear that in mind before we get our hopes up too high.
Plan B seems not all that different from what we heard from Gordon Campbell — retreading old ideas. I think it's fair to say — and I think all MLAs understand this — that one of the reasons the Premier didn't go to election is that a large swath, a majority of British Columbians, have made up their mind on this government. They have decided that they cannot trust what they say.
An earlier speaker talked about the five great goals. Well, I can remember in 2005 hearing the five great goals again and again, all with targets. Now that we've come to the targets where we can measure, all of a sudden that's off the table. Where is that? Where are the five great goals? Where are the goals on literacy? We were going to…. Where are all the bar nones and the best in the continent? They're all gone. They're all gone — any chance of measuring.
Then we were going to have in our service plans things that we could measure, and then they started each year to change it. So you can't measure. Okay.
What about some of the other issues of trust that we have here with this government that has turned the vast majority of British Columbians against them? We have the HST. We have a promise not to introduce it and immediately do.
People have indicated they're not happy about that. The previous speaker on the Liberal side, from Richmond, talked about representing the people. Well, he came from an area, Richmond, where a vast majority of people voted against the HST that he supported. He knew they were against them, but he still supported it.
You had guarantees that we wouldn't have a deficit above $500 million. What did it end up coming to after the 2009 election? A fair amount — a fair way distant from what was guaranteed, you can be sure.
N. Macdonald: Well, we have the member from Kamloops–South Thompson who is reminding us of that old saying that it's the empty can that makes the most noise.
You cannot trust, and the people of British Columbia cannot trust, the ability of this government to manage. The convention centre project cost provincial taxpayers twice as much as was promised. More than promised; it was guaranteed.
Well, I'll tell an interesting story. The minister responsible for the project at that time guaranteed that $500 million, not a nickel more, would come from provincial funds. Not a nickel more. You know, if you'd take those nickels from that $400 million more and you put them edge to edge and you started here on the steps of Victoria, those nickels would lead all the way to Halifax and back. That's the truth.
So you have a promise to not go over $500 million. It just collapses completely, and why wouldn't it? They had on the board nobody with any expertise in construction. They had this hubris that just because they stand here every day and say they're good at managing, it will actually happen. But it's not only the convention centre. It's the B.C. Rail deal. Even if there's no corruption — and that's yet to be seen — it's a bad deal. It's a giveaway.
What about B.C. Ferries? For all they tried to hide what was going on at B.C. Ferries — and they tried — it has been mismanaged terribly. What about Community Living B.C.? It's one of the things we have to get right, but consistently this government bungles it and mismanages it and continues to this day. In education, what about BCeSIS? That computer program — people were told years ago that it was a waste. That was ignored, and now we find it's a waste — a big surprise, one more example of an inability to manage properly.
What drives B.C. Liberal policy too often sure seems like cronyism. When you look at the private power agenda that came when legislation was rammed through here using closure, what do you see? You see it is environmentally damaging, and the Auditor General talks about that. You see that it is democratically insulting with their Bill 30, and you see that it is fiscally
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disastrous. Those are the conclusions of the B.C. Hydro president.
So why did it go through? Why was it forced through? When you look at it, if you wonder and then look at the private power companies that benefited, look at the donations to the B.C. Liberals and look at the people who move comfortably from B.C. Liberal circles into private power and back, that's cronyism. The Premier talks about family first, but to be more accurate, it's friends first — isn't it?
B.C. Rail. As I said, even at face value it's an incredibly poor deal — $6 million, basically, to cover up what has gone on. It's not just MLAs on this side who are uncomfortable with it. It's MLAs, I know, on the government side.
We have yet to get to the bottom of this. I know that the government hopes it will go away. It will not. It is something that needs to be looked at. Otherwise, this province takes a step backward if we do not look carefully at what took place there and either find that it's all fine, or if there is a problem it needs to be dealt with. So far this government has been unwilling to deal with that issue properly.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
A throne speech that people in my area hoped for would look very different. It would be built around principles of social equity, democratic engagement and protection of the land. It would build on community resilience, and it would deal with food security. At the core of many of those principles are family-supporting jobs. In much of rural B.C. that means forestry. There is a job crisis in forestry that this throne speech, this plan B, does nothing to address.
B.C. Stats. Everyone can look at B.C. Stats. It's there for everyone to see. It provides a comparison of 2000, at the end of the NDP decade, and 2010, which I suggest is the end of the B.C. Liberal decade.
In 2000, in forestry and logging, there were 35,500 workers. In ten years of B.C. Liberals' rule that has been knocked down to 16,100. In 2000, wood product manufacturing, there were 45,900 workers. In 2010 there were 28,700. In 2000 there were 17,700 in paper manufacturing; in 2010 only 9,800. It is a job crisis B.C. Liberals have created and now ignore.
Now, what the NDP would do would create incentives for greater utilization of our wood. We have committed towards keeping B.C. logs for B.C. jobs. Over 40 percent of logs harvested on our coast went off to other countries, with only the branches knocked off. I think to most people, most British Columbians, that seems like a massive wasted opportunity, which indeed it is. An NDP government would address the issue, it would create more jobs, and B.C. logs will be for B.C. jobs again in this province.
There are mills being needlessly lost. Campbell River has all the infrastructure one needs for manufacturing. It has power, it has fibre supply, and it has a deep harbour, but by Christmas that mill's machinery could be sold off and removed. The provincial government just lets it happen. They do nothing.
The NDP would bring back the old Social Credit idea, I suggest, of a job protection commissioner. A job saved is as useful as a job created, and that's a fact. If you look at the good work that was done….
N. Macdonald: If you look at the good work that was done — if the member was informed — you would see that this was an idea that's supported by fact and supported by people, working people.
We would invest to address a crisis in forest health, because it is not just a crisis of forest employment; it's a crisis of forest health. We have outdated inventory, we have little oversight on the land, and as much as 1.4 million hectares of not satisfactorily restocked land. That is NSR that is a public obligation. When we do not look after our most valuable asset, which is our public lands, we rob future generations of the opportunity we have had, and British Columbians, especially in rural areas, will not let that happen.
Well, fall sittings have been a rarity over the past eight years. When the House sits, it gives MLAs a chance to hold government to account, and that's a responsibility we take seriously. People often will say: "Well, why are you only criticizing?" Well, the government hires 200 people, you know, to put out their message, as distorted as it is. I always find it interesting that the Premier has 200 and Barack Obama has 42, but I suppose if you're not into substance, you've got to really invest in style.
At a personal level, I want to say that there's also an opportunity to bring forward local concerns. I'll move to that now as we get towards the end of the speech. At a personal level, dealing with ministers, a lot of issues are solved for our constituents. The Solicitor General, and the Minister of community, sports and arts and their staff were very helpful with finding a new home for Golden and District Search and Rescue. I think if you were to talk to MLAs, it is not only what is said and done publicly but the opportunity to work with our colleagues that often generates some tremendous results. Certainly, that's an example.
The former Minister of Environment — before, the Attorney General — did what he said he would do with the urban deer issue in Kimberley and Invermere. Not an easy issue. It wasn't completely what was asked for, but certainly, absolutely what he promised to do, he did. These sorts of things are happening all the time.
In the riding, as well, there are some very positive developments. The Rails to Trails in Kimberley, a tremendous
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asset. Highway improvements throughout the riding, including some major improvements in the Kicking Horse, as well as Donald and Clanwilliam projects.
There is an incredible school which is the first of two schools to be built in Revelstoke, as well as improvements to Invermere and District Hospital emergency. So as always, some really positive work, but much to be done, obviously.
As politicians, a lot of time credit is taken and blame is given. I have to say — I just want to just put it on the record — that many of these projects that have been very helpful here go back to Wendy McMahon, who represented the area before me. Wendy did a lot of work, I know, to get the work on the Kicking Horse project done, and that's been a tremendous boon to the community. Wendy also worked to get a school for Revelstoke. Like I say, there are two beautiful schools. So just to pass along credit to her.
The session is also going to provide me to do my work in talking about the Trans-Canada Highway. We have a lot of work to do, as well, with the Columbia River treaty, DrivABLE B.C., WorkSafe problems that we want to bring forward, support for seniors and others that need our collective assistance. We also need proper land use decisions that include us. So there's lots to do and many issues to bring forward.
We do need much better than a plan B. We need more than photo ops. The people of Columbia River–Revelstoke want better for this province than what this government has tried to impose, and as their voice in the House, I will certainly use this session to bring their ideas and interests forward. With that, it's good to be back, and I thank the House for their attention.
Hon. P. Bell: It's an honour to rise in the House today to respond to the Speech from the Throne. I want to start out by acknowledging both the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations, on whose traditional territory we are gathered here today. We always appreciate the opportunity to be in this wonderful precinct, and both the Esquimalt and Songhees have been incredible hosts in allowing us to continue to occupy this facility.
I also want to start out by acknowledging our Premier in her successful by-election. I know that occurred actually at the tail end of the last session, but this is my first opportunity to formally congratulate her on that by-election, which, of course, was incredibly challenging — first time in 30 years that a government member has been successful in winning a by-election.
The new Premier, the member for Vancouver–Point Grey, has provided us with a strong new vision on which to build our new framework as a government moving forward in the coming decade.
I also wanted to just touch briefly on the work that is done back at home for me on behalf of the constituents of Prince George–Mackenzie by three amazing constituency assistants that I have.
A new constituency assistant since we were last in this House, Bev Paulson, is working on behalf of the constituents in the district of Mackenzie and is doing an absolutely amazing job for us. Then, of course, my long-time constituency assistant Charlotte Groot, who has managed to tolerate me for over ten years now, a task that has only been outmatched by my wife, who I will touch on momentarily as well. Also, Judy Jackson, who has been just a tremendous advocate for the people in Prince George.
I also wanted to touch briefly on a momentous occasion in our life, the life of the Bell family, in Prince George, when we recently celebrated one-third of a century in our anniversary. It was 331/3 years, so I managed to surprise Brenda with 331/3 roses. Now, many people wonder: how can you get a third of a rose? I thought the most tactful way was just to cut the stem shorter and leave the full flower on to celebrate that occasion. It was a wonderful time.
I always thought that you celebrate a quarter of a century. You celebrate half a century. A third of a century is somewhere in between those two places, so we had a wonderful evening.
I know, on behalf of all members in this House, that our partners often find it very challenging to accept the careers that we have chosen, that our constituents continue to endorse.
I just want to acknowledge, certainly, Brenda, but I think every partner of a member in this House is worthy of acknowledging as we move into this our fall session.
I am very excited about the future of British Columbia. I'm excited about it because I think we're in a very pivotal point in time in our history, and I think the throne speech really has framed properly the challenges and opportunities that are in front of us.
There's no question in my mind that the globe is shifting. It is going through dramatic change at this point in time, and the centre of wealth creation appears to be shifting further to the west — in fact, to Asia. While that may create many challenges for jurisdictions here in North America and in Europe — and we're witnessing some of those challenges right now playing out in places like Greece and Italy and to the south of us in the United States — I also think it brings tremendous opportunity.
The Chinese have a character for each word in their language, Madam Speaker. There are some anomalies to that, and the Chinese word for crisis is one of those anomalies. It's actually two characters in the Chinese language. The first character represents the word "danger"; the second, the word "opportunity." I think the Chinese have it right, in that with every challenging period or crisis, while there comes danger with it, there also comes opportunity.
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I choose to see the opportunity. This government chooses to see the opportunity in front of us and the reality of what can be a very, very bright period of time in our collective futures if we choose to travel the path that is the non-travelled one. If we choose to chart new approaches to doing business globally, if we choose to take advantage of our inherited opportunities, of this wonderful place where we live, and if we do that well, I do truly think that Canada will start here, right in British Columbia.
I speak, of course, of our new jobs strategy, the strategy that has been six months in the process of developing. Through tremendous consultation with different stakeholders and groups across this province, we have brought together what I believe to be a very sound set of fiscal principles, of policies that will enable job creation in the province for the next generation of British Columbians and make sure that B.C. does in fact lead Canada into the 21st century.
It is built on some key principles: a foundation of a skilled workforce and fiscal discipline — two things that this government has become known for. I believe we have done exceedingly well over the past ten years. But there are three pillars built on top of that foundation, those pillars being enabling jobs, getting goods to market, and opening and expanding markets.
I want to spend some time talking about that today, because those are three core pillars that we need to acknowledge and work collaboratively on if we're going to have success. This is, I think, where the real opportunity comes, because municipal governments, First Nations, labour leaders, business leaders, the opposition and government all have a role to play in this if we're truly going to enable jobs to be created in the province.
It means working together. It means setting this as a priority. It means making sure that we have all interests aligned. Whether it be a college or a post-secondary institution, whether it be local labour leaders, business leaders or community leaders, we all need to be part of this if we're going to be successful, because we all play a role in enabling jobs across the province.
When I think about the jobs strategy, I think of it in the context of what occurred in Mackenzie over the last three or four years. Despite the incredibly challenging times that Mackenzie went through, they pulled together, and all leaders in that community targeted out a set of principles, some goals, some objectives, and they worked collaboratively, putting their differences aside and making sure that we drove towards that end destination. It has been an incredible success.
While Mackenzie went through the most challenging of times, it also has now found diversification, re-engagement from the forest industry, a brand-new mining industry and investment coming to the community in ways that it perhaps had never envisaged. The outcomes, as I said, are very positive. So in some ways I think of this jobs strategy as the Mackenzie strategy, because it does include that core foundation, that core pillar of enabling jobs, which is something that we all need to do.
Getting goods to market is another key element to this strategy, because the paradigm has changed. No longer are we taking goods from the west and shipping them to the east. We're now taking goods from the west and shipping them to the Far West. It means moving our lumber products; our pulp and paper products; energy, potentially; minerals; coal — all of those products. Instead of moving them to the eastern seaboard of the United States and down into the southern part of the United States, it means moving them into the Asian marketplace.
Our ports were not built for that. Our rail systems were not built for that. Our highways were not built for that. They were meant to move our goods in another direction, and we need to reconfigure and rethink the infrastructure system in a way that enables our goods to move from British Columbia into the Asian marketplace and act as a key facilitator of goods to be moved into the Asian marketplace.
The statistics and numbers are amazing, in terms of the results we're achieving. There have been very, very positive outcomes. In fact, through the first seven months of this year exports in British Columbia are up 14 percent. That is well ahead of the Canadian average. B.C. is out in front, and it's because of the relationship that we have developed into Asia, which has allowed that to take place. In fact, Asia is up about 28 percent. Our total exports are up 14 percent. Clearly, the United States is flat or down slightly at this point in time, so the real growth and opportunity is coming out of the Asian marketplace.
But we could be much more than just exporting goods for British Columbia's sake. We can also be exporting goods for Alberta, for Saskatchewan, for Manitoba, for Ontario and Quebec, for the maritime provinces and also for the United States. That's where our real opportunity arises. We are the closest ports of call into the Chinese marketplace — Japan and Korea as well. We need to take advantage of that and build on that opportunity as we move forward.
Key investments like Ridley Island, a modest one of $15 million — not a significant investment from the provincial government's perspective — levers up $75 million from the private sector and, potentially, the federal government to allow an opening up of Ridley Island.
Currently we are only able to dock one ship at Ridley Island. This new investment will open up about a thousand acres of land and allow potentially up to six ships to dock at Ridley Island at any one point in time, taking the capacity of Prince Rupert from a total of about 18 million tonnes between Ridley Island, the container
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port and the other facilities up to, potentially, 100 million tonnes of goods annually. That is tremendous headway. That shows incredible growth opportunity and really positions British Columbia well to make sure that we take advantage of this new Asian marketplace as we move forward.
The third key pillar that we are focusing on is that of opening up and expanding markets. That really, I think, has built on some of the experiences that we've had in the past three or four years in developing the Chinese marketplace for our lumber products. It requires a focused, dedicated effort, and it really needs to have everyone in the same place in terms of promoting those products.
The one thing that we learned — or a couple things, I suppose — in developing the Chinese market for our lumber products is the need to have a consolidated face as we present our opportunities for selling lumber. It means understanding that we are not competing with each other. We are trying to open a new market. That's the real key theme here.
Whether it's looking for international students to present our educational opportunities, looking for inbound investment into British Columbia, looking for new energy sales, looking for the opportunity to ship our goods or looking for lumber opportunities — all of those things — we need to understand that we're not competing amongst ourselves. We're opening a new market.
That is a key shift, because in a big market of 1.3 billion people, in the case of China; 1.1 billion people, in the case of India; and large populations in Korea, Japan, Vietnam and other jurisdictions in the Asia-Pacific, we are a very, very small jurisdiction of 4.3 million people.
I often ask the question…. I ask people: how many people can name me three provinces in China? Now, we're live, beaming to literally thousands of British Columbians across the province right now, and I'm sure that everyone is googling "provinces in China" right now, so they may be cheating on that. But if the truth be known, asking that question, there are almost no people in this province that are capable of naming three provinces in China. There are a few that can name two, and a few more that can name one. What makes us think that British Columbia should be a known commodity amongst 1.3 billion people? We are a very small player. The Chinese do know Vancouver. They do know Canada.
We need to work extremely hard to make sure they know what British Columbia is about and that they are able to interact with us in a way that builds confidence and builds opportunity on both sides of the ocean. The importance of an international presence and a large international presence in these new countries that we're trying to focus on cannot be understated, and we need to be very, very committed in order to move forward on this.
As we built the jobs strategy, we really took three primary questions to our staff as they developed the themes behind the jobs strategy and how we would approach this.
The first one was that industries we wanted to focus our attention on should be first-dollar industries. This stems back to a report done by David Baxter of the Urban Development Institute in about 2002 or 2003, where Mr. Baxter states that about two-thirds of the economy of British Columbia is based on rural economies, based on resource-based economies, based on first-dollar economies, and if you really want to build wealth and opportunity in your jurisdiction, the way you do that is by focusing your efforts on these first-dollar industries.
Tourism is clearly a first-dollar industry, although it's not a product we're exporting. It's people that we're bringing into the jurisdiction and new dollars into our jurisdiction. International education would be the same thing. Then you have more traditional industries, and I'll speak of them in a few moments.
The first question, as we pursued how we wanted to build this strategy or plan, was: is the industry that we are looking to focus our efforts on a first-dollar industry? The second and equally important question that we asked ourselves was: does this industry present British Columbia with a competitive edge? Is there something about this industry that allows us to out-compete other jurisdictions in our efforts to make sure that we can market these goods internationally?
When you think about an industry like forestry, we have cutting-edge mills. We have some of the best — in fact, the best mills, I would argue — anywhere in the world. We have a resource that is harvested in a sustainable way. We have some of the best environmental practices in the world. We have a tremendous workforce and talent pool within the forest industry that continues to deliver products, and we've got an infrastructure that helps support getting those products to market.
Clearly, for me something like that is a competitive edge where we can outperform other jurisdictions. Even if they try to bring government subsidies and those sorts of things to the table, we're still able to out-compete them.
The other sectors that we chose clearly have the same themes behind them. Each of them has something where B.C. has a unique competitive advantage. We use the principles behind Jim Collins's work Good to Great, the book that articulates what takes companies from being good companies or average companies to being great companies.
Mr. Collins defines those companies as operating in the top decile of their particular sector over a long period of time, 15 years or longer. He reviews what each of those companies have in common. One of the key themes was that each company focused their efforts on what it is that they can do better than any other jurisdiction, and then
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they stayed focused on those key areas of their business lines and out-competed all of the various companies that tried to play in that same sector.
The third key question that we asked, upon conclusion of the first two, is: if you look at all of the sectors that we now choose to focus our efforts, do they represent an array of sectors such that every community in this province, no matter how big or how small, can find something in this strategy that will work for it?
It doesn't matter whether it's Vancouver, a very large centre, or Granisle, a very, very small community. It doesn't matter whether it's a First Nations community or a non-aboriginal community. We wanted to make sure that every single community in this province — all 203 First Nations communities, all non-aboriginal communities — could look at this and select a couple of elements from the strategy to ensure that they could start building their economy based on the efforts of the province and tap into the resources that the province brings to the table in enabling that work.
I think, in discussions that I have had with First Nations leaders last week at the Union of B.C. Municipalities — a very, very good week…. I had the opportunity to meet with a broad array of different communities, and I asked them: "What do you see in this strategy that makes sense for you? What would you focus your efforts on?" Many communities actually came to the meetings already prepared, and they had documentation laid out. In the vast majority of the cases the interests of local communities were within the jobs strategy Canada Starts Here.
I think we have a document, a piece of work there, that allows us to build a strong foundation in every single community across this province. Some of the communities that I'm most looking forward to are the small First Nations communities that have been hit hard for a long, long time and haven't seen the sort of success that many British Columbians have witnessed. I'm looking forward to that work, and I think it will be very, very positive.
You know, when we think about how the world is changing — and I spoke a little about this earlier on — the Asia-Pacific is offering enormous opportunity. The OECD did a study about a year ago on the shift of the middle class around the world. While the United States and Europe will continue to be important jurisdictions with very large segments of middle class, the growing populations of middle class in India and China are truly changing the global wealth picture.
That is the opportunity we need to capture, but the world will chase that. We are not alone in our efforts to tap into the Asian marketplace and to China and to India and to Korea, into other jurisdictions, including Japan, across the Asian theatre.
We need to be smarter. We need to be faster. We need to work harder. We need to work more collaboratively. We need to go there with the right solutions for the needs of the Asian people. We can't go into Asia and ask them to buy goods that we have traditionally produced. We need to go out there and figure out what it is we need to do to our goods to sell them the product that they need, that adds value to their economy, that allows them to out-compete the jurisdictions with which they are trying to compete as well. That is smart business when you do that.
It means approaching our efforts in the Asian theatre in a completely different way and a very aggressive way, but it does create that window of opportunity that we need to take advantage of.
So building on the key platforms or foundations of a skilled workforce and fiscal discipline; the pillars of enabling jobs, getting goods to market, opening and expanding new markets; the principles of a first-dollar industry — industries where we have a competitive advantage, industries where all communities across British Columbia can benefit; and the shift of the global marketplace, we chose eight key sectors that we think have an opportunity to really move the economic needle and jobs needle in British Columbia in a significant way.
They fall into a couple of groups in terms of natural resources, knowledge-based industries and enabling industries, with the natural resource groups being fairly predictable — forestry, mining, natural gas specifically and agrifoods.
I have spoken a bit already about forestry, and people in this House and, I think, across the province know of my passion for this industry and my desire to see economic diversification into multiple markets and with new product lines. But the two key elements of a successful forestry industry plan really revolve, in my view, around developing new markets — particularly in China, but Korea and India, as well, are key markets — and secondly, developing new opportunities for value-added products in large buildings.
We are a softwood lumber manufacturer; we are not a hardwood manufacturer. It's important, as we develop a value-added strategy, that we develop in a way that respects the traditions of our softwood lumber industry. In my view, that speaks to building bigger buildings. That speaks to building new building products that allow us to manufacture larger buildings and bigger spans out of high-quality material that can be competitive with concrete and steel and other products that are used in large industrial construction.
So two core elements for forestry: first of all, new market opportunities — particularly China but also India, Korea, Japan and others; and second is looking at new market opportunities for value-added products in a way that allows us to get more value out of each hectare of timber we harvest. I believe that will occur.
That will take time. I don't want anyone to think that it is an instantaneous point of relief that will allow us to achieve an outcome in a week, a month or even a year.
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It will take time, because architects and engineers do not have the skill sets they need in order to build these very large buildings. But that is something we as a government are committed to developing, and I have every confidence that we will achieve that over time.
Interestingly, the United States is in the same place now. They've recently passed a checkoff, the Department of Agriculture in the U.S., putting together a fund that will be focused on building larger buildings. That can only be good for all of our collective industries.
The second sector is the opportunities in the mining industry. We have incredible wealth in this province in our mineral resources and our coal resource, but we've not been successful in developing it in the way that I think many of us would like to see.
That's why we're taking a whole new approach to mining, developing new relationships with First Nations, making sure that they're full partners in the development of these projects, making sure they can share in the benefits of them and that the work that goes on in bringing these projects through the environmental assessment process is done in a way that is respectful but also creates defined timelines and delivers the projects where they can be done in an environmentally sensitive and appropriate manner.
My colleague the Minister of Energy and Mines is working very hard in terms of developing his processes and making sure we can execute on this effectively. We actually have some good stories to tell.
The Mount Milligan mine, north of where I live but within the riding of Prince George–Mackenzie, has an economic agreement, or a revenue-sharing agreement, with the McLeod Lake Indian band, which has created a very successful relationship. The Kamloops Indian band also, with the New Afton project, as well as one other Indian band in the region, has a revenue-sharing agreement.
So we've seen things develop. We know the path we need to follow. We need to execute on that effectively, and we need to make sure that we are seen as a safe harbour for investment, because these mines are very, very big projects. We need to make sure they are delivered in a way that protects the investors' investment and that they are confident they can get a return on that investment. If we do that, I think we have a very real opportunity of seeing an expansion of the mining industry unlike anything that we've seen before.
Natural gas is another key opportunity for British Columbia. The vast majority of our hydrocarbons in this province are natural gas — it's not oil — and the opportunity to move natural gas through the liquefying process into China and India is enormous.
Currently we sell gas in British Columbia at about $4 a gigajoule, in North America at about $4 a gigajoule. In China and India it sells for $14 to $18 a gigajoule, and it costs about $4 to get it there. So there is a significant premium, a huge opportunity that will put thousands of British Columbians to work. It can be done in an environmentally safe way.
Liquefied natural gas is a far more environmentally sensitive form of hydrocarbons than is oil, and I think, generally speaking, it's fair to say that the environmental community, as well as First Nations, are far more supportive of the approach around LNG.
Also, I think there's a tremendous opportunity around fuel conversion for large vehicles. The Westport technology system is a very, very progressive one — one that was developed here in British Columbia and is capable of running large vehicles, buses and large trucks on liquefied natural gas.
Agrifoods are a great opportunity for us, again in the Asian marketplace, around beef, seafood, fresh products like blueberries and cherries — again, an opportunity to expand the market and get more value for our farmers.
Those are four of the key sectors in terms of the natural resource industries.
The knowledge-based industries are industries such as tourism. We think of tourism as a knowledge-based industry, one that we want to put a lot of effort and focus on.
I will be releasing a new tourism strategy within about a month, which I'm quite excited about. I think it can really revive the industry, bring back a lot of excitement and enthusiasm and chart a new way forward that builds on the elements of doing what you do well and doing it better than anyone else. I think with that opportunity will come significant growth in the industry.
Also, we think of technology and particularly green technology. We have a tremendous cluster of green-tech companies that has been built up in Vancouver. We have leading-edge companies like Nexterra Energy, like Lignol, and other companies producing very exciting products, like Westport Innovations, which produces the fuel conversion process — again, I think, a big opportunity. And with the leadership that B.C. has taken on the climate file, I think that's something we can also build on.
Then finally, enabling industries. International education — very exciting one for me. We have 94,000 students coming to British Columbia annually right now. We've committed to increasing that by 50 percent over the next four years. I think that's very achievable. It will be a task that will be challenging for us all, but if we dedicate and commit ourselves to that, if communities come to the table and First Nations, of course our post-secondary institutions, the private sector, the K-to-12 system, it's a great opportunity.
It builds not just direct income benefit to the province and new jobs, potentially creating 9,000 new jobs over the next four years, but it also creates long-term relationships.
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Many of these students will come from the Asia-Pacific. I think that's important to note, because as they come from the Asia-Pacific, they will develop relationships and partnerships and long-term opportunities here in British Columbia. So in the future, as they become international business leaders, they will be thinking about British Columbia as a great place to do business, as a place where they got their education and as a place where they want to advance the opportunities that are created as a result of their efforts.
Finally, the opportunities around ports, marine infrastructure, aerospace, all those industries — very, very exciting, an enabling sector. I've talked about that extensively, and I think that one can be a very positive sector.
I want to close off my comments with this. Just imagine what might be possible if everyone would come together in this province — labour leaders, First Nations, business leaders, the opposition, community leaders, government, the federal government…. If every single individual came together in this province and focused their efforts on one task and that task was to become the most competitive jurisdiction in these eight core sectors anywhere in the world, we could open that market in Asia, become the best trading partners of the largest, fastest-growing segment that the world has ever seen, in China and in India.
Imagine what we could accomplish. Imagine the future that we could create for our kids and our grandkids.
That's what we're thinking about on this side of the House. That's what we believe can happen. We're dedicating our lives. We're committing every ounce of effort we have to achieving that goal. My challenge for every member in this House is to get on board and work it as a team, because if we do, B.C. will have a future that cannot be paralleled by any other jurisdiction in North America.
D. Routley: I'm glad to be here, finally. We've sat only 24 days in this House in the last 16 months, and I think all of us, even the government members, must be tired of telling their constituents how hard they actually work when they're at home.
That is true. We work with all the constituent groups and the many people who are affected by government policy, but people do expect us to be in this House, carrying out the business of this province, and it's very unfortunate that the government hasn't chosen to honour that feeling amongst British Columbians by calling us here more often. But we're here.
First, I'd like to thank a few people. I'd like to thank my family. I'd like to thank my lovely partner, Leanne Finlayson. She has stood by me through this experience, and she's been my best friend and has always been there to support me in what I do and my efforts in this enterprise. I deeply appreciate and love her.
I'd like to thank my daughter, Madeline — my beautiful, 15-year-old daughter, Madeline, who I've talked about in the House before; my stepson, Matthew, the little hockey star and cyclist; and Brookelyn, my eight-year-old stepdaughter, who I love very much.
I'd also like to thank my constituency assistants. As all of us know in this House, they are the face of what we do. They represent us, and they represent our community in a very real way. Our constituency assistants are the people who connect our constituents to the real solutions to their problems. They build relationships in government and with each other that help our constituents solve a myriad of problems.
I think I saw a cartoon once with a wall with a number of stickers on it, with hundreds of issues — housing, education, forestry, finance, small business — and a constituency assistant blindfolded, with a dart, saying: "What am I an expert in today?" That's exactly what they're like. They're fantastic people who serve this province so well.
I would like to thank all the people of Nanaimo–North Cowichan who have placed their faith in me to be their voice in this House. They are wonderful people, a diverse people from a diverse constituency.
Nanaimo–North Cowichan has a very interesting history, a history born with the First Nations, the Hul'qumi'num peoples. In my constituency I have six First Nations, six separate First Nations. There are 16 distinct communities in my constituency, three Gulf Islands. I have six ferry terminals. I have six local governments. There are two school districts. There are two major river watersheds. There are a dozen aquifers in my constituency.
It's quite a place of contrast. We have double the provincial average of seniors, and yet in the small community of South Wellington, which I represent, there are double the Nanaimo regional district average of children per household. So not only is there a diverse demography, but there are also a diverse range of issues.
The history of the constituency, since newcomer times, was born in the coal and forestry industries. Robert Dunsmuir established coal mines in Extension, in Wellington, in Nanaimo and was granted the E&N land grant.
The E&N land grant affected the past, the present and the future of Vancouver Island to a great degree. The labour movement found some of its deepest roots in my constituency. The IWA, now Steelworkers, formed in the Cowichan Valley. They actually were the first organized international union in Canada and were organized ahead of the American branch of that union.
The E&N itself, the railway, now is starving for attention. This government has promised some investment, and we appreciate that. But when we measure the $7.5 million committed to the E&N against the over $580
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million committed to the Evergreen line — I think a 7,700 percent difference — we feel that we really need more attention when it comes to transportation.
The E&N is a fantastic asset. It links all the communities of Vancouver Island and could offer an amazingly sustainable transportation option into the future, if only it were to be properly invested in and properly managed. It is a fantastic railway.
It was a railway that was never new. Robert Dunsmuir wasn't able to complete the railway very quickly. In fact, squatters lived at the stations to the point where Dunsmuir went to the government of the day, the governor of the day, and asked for compensation. He was granted forestry rights in the Peace country to compensate for land lost to squatters in places like Duncan's Station, now the city of Duncan.
The E&N railway was made up…. The bridge over Niagara Creek in Goldstream Park was originally the bridge at Cisco in the Fraser Canyon where the two railways, CN and CP, cross. When traffic became too heavy, that bridge was dismantled. The piers were built identically on the E&N, and the bridge was reassembled. It was the last section of the CPR to have regular steam service, the first section of the CPR to have regular diesel service. It has an interesting history, and it will affect our future.
I hope this government will live up to its obligations to the E&N and to Vancouver Island and invest heavily in creating the sustainable transportation option that we already have. We just need to augment it with further investment.
The diverse issues. Extension, where I mentioned we have double the number of children per household in the Nanaimo regional district, is struggling. They're such a small community that it's a major community project to build a playground. I want to work closely with the people in that community to achieve that goal.
In Chemainus, historically a mill town and a forestry town, we have seniors and tourism issues now.
In North Cowichan agriculture dominates the issue agenda.
In Ladysmith seniors and vulnerable kids are an interesting dichotomy — seniors receiving inadequate, costly care and vulnerable children entering the school system at a much higher rate of vulnerability than is average in this province.
We have Cedar, the community near Ladysmith, which struggles with development issues and water pressures.
We have south Nanaimo, where struggling families grapple with low-income issues and high unemployment. In fact, Nanaimo has the highest unemployment rate of any B.C. city, yet it was completely left out of the Premier's jobs plan, and it bore no mention in this throne speech.
Our First Nations struggle with a very young population but an unemployed young population.
Our industries, the forest industry, struggle. Harmac mill — which is employee-owned and was rescued from bankruptcy by quite a wonderful partnership between the Sampson family, the workers of the PPWC and some other community participants — struggles for fibre. Even though they have markets and they are profitable, they are always on the edge of not having enough fibre. Yet across a chain-link fence at a closed-down sawmill site there are mountains of raw logs waiting every day to be loaded onto freighters headed towards China with those logs and those jobs.
There is more that separates the workers at Harmac from those logs than a chain-link fence. There is indeed a failed policy, a failed public policy on the part of B.C. Liberals, that has led to rampant raw log exports, that is taking our jobs and harming our industry. In fact, the unsustainable rate of logging that is needed to support this industry at this point sees over 40 percent of the logs in my constituency being exported, and that is a true tragedy.
Ferry fares are an enormous issue in my constituency. This government has overseen, on our small runs, increases of over 100 percent. At the same time, we have seen service reductions, and small businesses on our islands — tourism-based businesses, sustainable ecotourism options — are struggling to survive not only a bad economy but the incredible burden of soaring ferry fare rates.
Madam Speaker, my constituents have grown tired of government by surprise. They are surprised every throne speech. They are surprised every election. They are told: "Well, we won't tear up contracts. Surprise. We tear up contracts." They are told: "We won't sell your railway. We won't sell B.C Rail. We promise. Surprise. We sold it, or at least, we leased it for 999 years." This contributes to a deep cynicism, this government by surprise.
The ultimate surprise was a written promise not to harmonize our provincial sales tax with the GST in the form of the HST. Boy, that was a big surprise, wasn't it? That was a big surprise to the entire province. This kind of government by deceit and surprise is what leads to a deep cynicism. The most booming commodity, perhaps, in our culture these days is cynicism.
But the HST offered us a little hope, didn't it? Because what we saw was a reaction, a rightfully held anger that fed a response that used the democratic tools available to the people, rejected that deceit and put fairness back in order in this province. People saw they were being dealt with unfairly, and they responded and pushed back. That gives me hope.
That gives me a deep sense of hope — hope that is met on the other side of the House, the government side, by a kind of pessimism that says, "We can't do these things anymore. We can't afford universal health care. We can't afford excellent and world-leading education standards.
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We have to introduce bills like the education bills," which were deemed unconstitutional, which would reduce the circumstances and services to our children rather than build on what we have been given by people who have come before us. And that is sad.
They are telling us that we can't build an economy that produces products from our raw materials, that we must resort to exporting raw logs without process, without benefit to this province as the only alternative. I say no to that, and so do the people of B.C. right around this province.
We know — and I think the members on the government side know — that people reject that equation, and they say that we can't afford not to invest in these things. We can't afford not to have a health care system that offers us this incredible advantage in Canada, where we spend approximately 9 percent of our GDP on health care services as compared to the United States, where they spend 17 percent of their GDP.
We can't afford not to have a public education system that launches our children from the starting line together, regardless of where they come from and who they come from. We can't afford not to invest in the processing and the capacity to take the raw materials of this beautiful province and provide a thriving, sustainable economy. We can't afford not to. That side says we can't do it; this side says we can and we must.
Then we were treated to the HST. I think it really came out of an arrogance that was brought to the B.C. Liberals in 2001, when this distorted election brought a 77-2 result. I think they must have thought that they could do anything. There was going to be no accountability. That 77-2 result was probably the worst thing that ever happened to the B.C. Liberals, because it encouraged that arrogance. They didn't have to listen to anybody. They were the boss. They were going to tell the province how things were going to work.
They told us that the HST would be the best thing they could do for the economy only months after they promised not to do it. Their own Finance Minister, formerly in this House, Carole Taylor, said that it was unfair, that it was not good for B.C., that they would not do it. The Premier himself promised several industries that he would not do it and yet did.
We were promised that it would provide 113,000 jobs over ten years. That was reduced to 27,000 shortly thereafter. I was asked by one of the other members, "What's wrong with 27,000 jobs?" and I replied: "Get a plumber over. Have him bill you $113, pay him $27, and say, 'What's wrong with $27?'"
It just doesn't equate. When you make a promise, it should mean something. It should mean something, or people become cynical of you. You become discredited when you fail to live up to your promises, and this government has been an abject failure at living up to its promises. Millions were spent to convince people that the HST was good for them, when they knew it wasn't. It was an ethical question, not just an economic one.
How could a government mislead the people to the degree that this government did — so obviously, so quickly, so obviously aimed at re-election at any expediency? They then offered the people of B.C. a pick-your-poison question, with warnings and threats over public services that would be cut to pay for the choice that people would make. Pick your poison.
People picked because they saw it was unfair. It was an unfair shift from the biggest corporations onto working people, working families and small businesses, and people reacted. They refused it, and they rejected it.
They told us it was the best thing that we could do for the economy — this government focused on economic growth. Their own Progress Board, set up in 2001 with a goal to be first or second in economic growth by 2010…. This Progress Board reported at the end of 2009 that we were, in fact, sixth in economic growth; fourth, and below the Canadian average, on standard of living; fourth, and below the Canadian average, on job creation; and sixth on the amalgamated social condition indicator. This is failure.
Whenever the goalposts show failure, the Liberals erase the path back to measure, and now the Progress Board will be gone. Whenever there is a problem they blame on external forces, they trot us back in here to change the rules.
Madam Speaker, I told you about my stepdaughter, Brookelyn. She's eight. She's a wonderful little girl. We play board games sometimes. You know, when Brookelyn rolls the wrong number in a board game, playing Monopoly…. She's four steps from jail, and she rolls four. Well, she does a double hop, you see — one, two, three, four — and doesn't end up in jail. We say, "That's not fair," and she says: "I've changed that rule." It's kind of quaint and cute and fun, but she's a little girl.
When the government changes rules to avoid accountability, when the government changes rules that affect vulnerable people and the result is the kind of inequality that we've seen, when they trot us in here to change their balanced-budget legislation every year, it isn't so cute. Same principle. Not so cute.
Yes, the Liberal record is one of delivering increased inequality, increased poverty. Middle-class incomes have stagnated. Lower-income earners have fallen further and further behind. Under these Liberals, we have higher fees for everything — medical premiums, B.C. Ferries, B.C. Hydro, PharmaCare deductibles, tuition fees, long-term care for seniors. Those are increases to regular people delivered by a decade of Liberal mismanagement.
Economic growth. Under the B.C. Liberals, economic growth has been just 2.4 percent, on average, over this decade. In the '90s it was 3 percent. Job growth has been
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slower as well — just 1.5 percent growth on a year-over-year average, compared to 2.2 percent in the '90s. But what they have delivered is growth in inequality. They've delivered growth in inequity.
The gap between those who have and those who don't is bigger and bigger, and it's growing every day. A key function of government should be to defend the people and protect them from harm — protect the vulnerable from harm, protect the citizens of B.C. from the harm of growing inequity. That is what this government has failed to do.
Now, to heap insult upon injury, we have smart meters, another example of extreme arrogance — $950 million to tell us how much electricity we use, four times a day. A drastic increase in hydro rates has told my constituents exactly how much power they are using, and they're very well aware of it.
The Energy Minister promised in this House that the BCUC, the B.C. Utilities Commission, would have full review of this program and then promptly, several months after the House adjourned, exempted the smart meter program from BCUC oversight.
This is $950 million that could have paid for real conservation measures that could be quantifiable — the retrofit of public buildings; subsidies for low-income families to install double-pane windows, to buy energy-efficient appliances so that they can avoid the increased differential rates that they're now paying. Worse, though, these meters represent a continuation of that arrogance — more fuel for the growth of that unfortunate commodity, cynicism.
It's strange. It's strange in the first place to be here in the fall. It's strange in the second place to have a throne speech in the fall. A desperate government trying to distance itself from its own record. Normally, for those who don't know, we would have a throne speech and a budget in February. Here we are in the fall, with the B.C. Liberals trying to get a free pass, changing the rules of the game — just like Brooke, but much more unfortunate outcomes.
What's left out of this throne speech and the Premier's job plan is British Columbians. They're left out. People are left out. Their voices, their experiences are lost to this government. The voices and that experience are heard here in the opposition benches. We hear it because we listen.
We listen to parents who talk to us about the outcomes of their legislation that have so damaged the conditions in their classrooms. We listen to students who are heavily burdened by the highest student debt load west of the Maritimes. We listen to small business people who are being ignored by this government and their HST fiasco. We listen to environmentalists who now realize the empty words of a government that promised action on climate change and yet delivers promises of pipelines and offshore oil.
We listen, and we represent those people who are determined to provide opportunity in B.C. — the ordinary people of B.C., the working people, the true engine. You know, a thriving middle class is not the product of a strong economy but the source.
Now we have a throne speech from a government that has clearly run out of ideas. It is a green throne speech because it is reduced, it is recycled and it is reused. They have simply reused former ideas that have not been implemented. I'm sure the people of B.C., knowing how credible this government is, know where to place their faith in terms of the likelihood of those promises being met. They have recycled announcements, programs, funding that was already previously announced. Really, there is nothing new.
What we need from this government and what the people of B.C. need to hear is how this government would protect jobs now and how they would build on what we have now.
We have a forest industry that wasn't even mentioned in their jobs plan and a throne speech that ignores our core industry. The most sustainable industry we have is being managed to ruin. There are mills that have been lost without necessity. We have lost mills, and mills are under threat of closure. Harmac, I mentioned, has great market potential and is profitable but struggles every day to find enough fibre to keep operating.
This opposition has promised to invest $100 million per year in addressing forest health, as there are at least 1.4 million hectares of unsatisfactorily restocked land. In 2000, at the end of the NDP decade, there were 35,500 workers in forestry and logging. In the ten years of the B.C. Liberals that's been reduced to 16,000.
In 2000 wood product manufacturing employed 45,900 workers. In 2010 there are 28,700. In 2000 there were 17,700 in paper manufacturing; in 2010 only 9,800. This is an abject failure on the part of a government that has proven it doesn't care to do what's right for the people of B.C. but instead is listening only to its insiders.
A perfect example of this was the loss of the opportunity that a German company called Voith offered to this province. Voith was going to partner with a mill in B.C. to introduce a new technology to the pulp and paper industry that would have saved jobs, that would have reduced the environmental imprint and that would have improved the energy outlook for this province. Instead, this government walked on an obligation that they committed to time and time again in this House.
The former minister, now the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, stood in this House and promised an investment to Catalyst and then to Voith, if they could find another partner once Catalyst
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dropped from that partnership. Instead, they walked from that opportunity, and the opportunity has been lost to Brazil.
Now we're faced with another dilemma around protecting existing jobs: the return from the HST to the PST-GST system. So many builders — homebuilders and home renovation contractors — throughout this province are crying for this government to move quickly to restore the PST-GST so that they can offer certainty to their customers and employ the tens of thousands of workers that they currently or at least formerly employed.
Two years of uncertainty delivered by this government over the HST will now become four if they move at the pace that they've predicted. That is a terrible mess that they brought to this province, and it's their obligation to clean up that mess. We have thousands of people waiting to work who could work if this government could move more quickly to rid us of the HST.
This is a government not only devoid of ideas but afflicted, permeated by an unshakable arrogance. Arrogance, I think, is the stain that a government just cannot rid itself of once it acquires it. Once acquired, arrogance leads to the sense that they can do anything, that they know better and that they don't have to listen. It just doesn't change. It doesn't change with a throne speech. It will change with a change of government.
New throne speech aside, it's still the same approach to governance. British Columbians have become all too accustomed to this. It's the same arrogance that misled them over the HEU contracts, over the B.C. Rail sale and the HST; the same arrogance that allows this government to dismiss the concerns of citizens, deny the experience of seniors receiving inadequate and costly care, deny the experience of teachers and students in the 14,000 classrooms in this province that fail to meet the minimum requirements of this government's own classroom composition law.
In fact, the laws brought in by this Premier when she was Education Minister, which have been deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, are the very laws that they now seek to address and portray as though this is a new investment.
This arrogance has allowed them to ignore the growing inequity in our province, and they are clearly in denial. But what do they offer? They offer a throne speech and a jobs plan that fails to address forestry, fails to address student debt, fails to address poverty, fails to invest in people. So as I've said earlier, the growth we've seen, unfortunately, is a growth in cynicism.
In terms of open government and accountability, this Premier…. The same day she announced her open government plan, this government released the Premier's briefing notes — 137 pages out of 444, the rest completely blacked out, on the very day they announced an open government's plan.
On September 27, 2011, the National Freedom of Information Audit by Newspapers Canada showed B.C. to have the slowest FOI times in all of Canada — only 13 percent of requests answered within the 30 days mandated by law. It zeroed in on B.C. for our singular policy of 30 business days, rather than the policy in the rest of Canada of 30 calendar days, which has led to such reduced response times.
In fact, response to requests from the opposition has worsened. Privacy breaches, the Wainwright scandal; 1,400 vulnerable British Columbians had their personal information transgressed. Interim Information Commissioner Paul Fraser said to the committee reviewing the act: "Expediency has consistently trumped policy. Information is not being managed properly now, so how does that portend for the future?"
So as we consider moving to integrated case management and data-sharing across government, Mr. Fraser reminded us that the current act, the principles of privacy protection are solid, still relevant and this government should respect them.
Thank you, Madam Speaker, for allowing me to respond to the throne speech, and thank you for having us in this building at long last.
B. Bennett: Madam Speaker, I'll get started, and maybe you can give me a nod when you'd like me to wind it up. You're nodding now?
All in favour?
B. Bennett: Madam Speaker, should I proceed?
Deputy Speaker: Please proceed.
B. Bennett: Thank you.
I appreciate everyone's enthusiasm.
It is my honour to respond to the throne speech today. Throne speeches are intended, I think, to set a tone and describe the way forward for the governing party. It does make me think a little bit of Yogi Berra, who said: "If you don't know where you're going, you might wind up someplace else."
The statement in the throne speech that resonated the most for me, frankly, was this one: new leadership and a new point of view. Now, personally, over the past year…. It has been a rather interesting year for me, and I've had some involvement in the changes that have taken place on this side of the House. I'm happy to say I had no involvement in the dynamic changes that have taken place on the other side of the House.
But I have a stake in this, as we all do, and it's pretty obvious to me, listening to members from the other side,
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that they're doing their level best to portray this throne speech and to portray this government and, in particular, to portray the new Premier as just more of the same. I think it's important for me to say that this is not more of the same. This is an entirely different leader with an entirely different vision for British Columbia.
Over the next year and a half the people in the province are going to have an opportunity to get to know the new Premier of this province, and they're going to like her. She's very optimistic. She's very positive.
Just reflecting on the speech just given by the hon. member. My goodness, how negative, how pessimistic, how cynical, how NDP. I don't think the province wants that sort of a vision, and I think, as I say, that as the province gets to know the new Premier of this province and the enthusiasm that she has for this province, particularly for families and young people and for the future, a year and a half from now the opposition is going to be very disappointed.
Now, all good things come to an end, and the former administration, the former Premier…. It was time for him to move on. He has found something important to do, and I'm happy for him and happy for his family. I want to say that I really do hope that he is well, that his family is well and that he's happy doing what he's doing.
I think it would be a mistake for any of us to portray the last ten years as anything but quite a good, balanced success.
When I look at my own riding, I think about when I was first elected. We had a hospital that was shabby. I mean, it was an embarrassment. I remember taking some MLAs into our regional hospital — so-called regional hospital. It wasn't funded by the NDP government as a regional hospital. I remember taking some of my colleagues in and showing them, in the basement, the big diesel generator that was supposed to be the backup for our regional hospital. The mechanic told me they couldn't get it started.
We had no backup electricity in our regional hospital when I first got elected. We didn't have the specialists that we have today. We didn't have the equipment, the technological systems that we have tying our region together.
If your son is in Elkford and he sprains his ankle, he goes into the clinic in Elkford and has an X-ray. The X-rays are read by the orthopedic specialists in the regional hospital in Cranbrook. We're happy about that. We like that. We like what this government has done in terms of health care in the East Kootenay.
In terms of education, we're also pretty happy about our college there, located in Cranbrook and which has campuses all across the East Kootenay. This government has invested somewhere in the order of $50 million in total in College of the Rockies over the past ten years. We're really proud of our college. We're proud of it.
I get a kick out of the member for — I want to call it Kicking Horse, but it's not Kicking Horse — Columbia River–Revelstoke, who did not stay for my speech. I'm somewhat offended by that, but I get a kick out of that member talking about the absence of investment in infrastructure and how terrible everything is in British Columbia.
Every time that member drives to the airport in Calgary, which he does whenever he's home in Golden…. I believe he still travels to Calgary to get to the airport. It's a tough riding, let me just say. That's a lot of travel. But every time he drives out of Golden onto Highway 1 to drive to Calgary, guess what bridge he goes across? He goes across the Park Bridge. This government has invested literally hundreds of millions of dollars in that member's riding in highway construction.
You know, it was this government that brought in the first fixed-election-date legislation in Canada. We were the first ones to do it. I think that stands for something.
It was this government that took…. The members of the opposition are not going to like this one. I know that. Well, I have a feeling they won't like it. This government is this first government in the country that actually made cabinet ministers personally accountable for balancing the budget — the provincial budget and the ministry budget.
As an MLA, before I was put in cabinet in 2005, I took a voluntary pay cut. This side of the House took a voluntary pay cut for three years. Then, as a minister, until we balanced the budget, I had a 10 percent pay cut.
In fact, for the ten years I've sat in this House, I'm proud to say that for at least half of that time I didn't collect a full salary because I didn't think it was the right thing to do. The rest of my colleagues shared that, because we were serious about balancing budgets. We're serious about using tax dollars in a respectful way, so we did that.
I'm trying to think back to the 1990s, when the opposition was in government. You know, for the life of me, I don't recall them ever having done that. Maybe they did. I can't remember. I don't think they did. We're proud of that. It helped build this solid foundation that this government has built over the past ten years.
It is also this government that reduced personal income taxes from the highest in Canada to the lowest.
An Hon. Member: On the backs of kids.
B. Bennett: One of the members says: "On the backs of kids."
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We reduced personal income taxes for middle-class families, and somehow or other that's a bad thing for children. Mom and dad have more money to take home, to buy groceries and to take the kids on a trip in the summertime because they're not paying it into tax, they're not paying it to big government, and the NDP says: "That's a bad thing. Government should take more of your money." I don't understand the way they think. I truly don't.
It was this government, in terms of building this foundation that we now are fortunate to have, that will allow us to go forward successfully…. We're the government that established the Asia-Pacific gateway, with huge, huge investments in Lower Mainland infrastructure, ports like the Port of Prince Rupert.
I believe there's a member from the other side…. They're waving the white flag.
Madam Speaker, could I move adjournment of debate, and could I please reserve my place in the speaking order for tomorrow? I'm not nearly finished.
B. Bennett moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. I. Chong moved adjournment of the House.
Deputy Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow afternoon.
The House adjourned at 6:27 p.m.
Copyright © 2011: British Columbia Hansard Services, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada