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
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Volume 27, Number 7
Introductions by Members
Introduction and First Reading of Bills
Bill 18 — Advanced Education Statutes Amendment Act, 2011
Hon. N. Yamamoto
Bill M203 — Representative for Seniors Act, 2011
Bill 17 — Finance Statutes Amendment Act, 2011
Hon. K. Falcon
Bill 14 — Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2011
Hon. M. MacDiarmid
Statements (Standing Order 25B)
Mount Pleasant Family Centre
Role of Royal Canadian Legion
Bayanihan Community Centre and Filipino community in Victoria
New schools and school expansion projects in Surrey
Citizenship ceremony and multiculturalism in New Westminster
Honour House in New Westminster
Assessment tool for community living services
Hon. S. Cadieux
Student financial assistance for truck driver training
Hon. P. Bell
Volume and use of waste wood
Hon. S. Thomson
Campground fees and visitors to parks
Hon. T. Lake
Services for people with eating disorders
Hon. M. de Jong
Changes to office to combat trafficking in persons
Hon. S. Bond
Agricultural Land Commission executive positions
Hon. D. McRae
Orders of the Day
Committee of the Whole House
Bill 9 — Natural Resource Compliance Act (continued)
Hon. S. Thomson
Report and Third Reading of Bills
Bill 9 — Natural Resource Compliance Act
Second Reading of Bills
Bill 13 — Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act
Hon. S. Bond
J. van Dongen
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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2011
The House met at 1:32 p.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Introductions by Members
C. Hansen: It gives me great pleasure to introduce a former member of this Legislative Assembly. Gordon Gibson served as a member for North Vancouver–Capilano from 1974 to 1979. During that period of time I had the great privilege and honour of serving as his executive assistant from 1976 to '79 when he decided to take a run at federal politics. I literally got to turn the lights out on the Liberal caucus office here in the buildings at that time.
I didn't decide to run for politics at that time in my life, but it certainly had a profound influence on me. I know I would never have run for elected office had it not been for the influence that Gordon Gibson had on me during those years. As my wife said last night when I told her I was going to be introducing Gordon: "He's the one that got you into it. It's his fault."
Gordon Gibson, of course, has had a great career since politics, where he has been a scholar, a writer. He wrote the blueprint for the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, has been very active in working with First Nations communities in British Columbia, and he has made a great contribution to British Columbia.
For anybody that knows the history of this province in the mid-1970s, you will know that it is not the first time that Gordon Gibson has been invited to sit on the floor of this assembly on the government side, but it's the first time he has accepted that invitation.
Would everybody please make him welcome.
K. Conroy: I am pleased to introduce a group of people in the House today from the greater Victoria area. They are Carol Pickup, who is the co-chair of the South Island Health Coalition; Linda Carter with the B.C. Health Coalition; Judy and Bill Gaylord; Margaret Woodlock; Daphne and John Arbour; Lois Sampson; Starla Anderson; Fran Powlis; Doris and Bob Nicholson; and finally, from Vancouver, Adam Lynes-Ford, also with the B.C. Health Coalition.
Would the House please join me in making them welcome.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I am delighted to welcome three guests to the House today. Bev Gutray is the CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association's B.C. division. She is joined by her colleague Margaret Tebbutt, who is the CMHA senior consultant for workplace initiatives in B.C. On behalf of the Canadian Mental Health Association, they both work tirelessly to encourage healthy workplace practices and awareness of mental health issues.
Also with us today in the Legislature is Michael Hurley, the president of the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Association. Michael and his colleagues bring a firefighter's perspective to issues that affect the public's safety, as well as their own members' safety.
Bev, Margaret and Michael are here for some exciting news today, which you'll hear more about. I hope the House will make them feel very welcome.
C. James: Today in the gallery we have a group of first-year law students from UVic who are visiting the Legislature: Kristin Maclean, Jamie Myra, James Billingsley, Graham Buchanan, Michael Hawco and a good friend who moved here to Victoria for law school, Troy Sebastian. Would the House please make them all very welcome.
Hon. I. Chong: I, too, would like to welcome some first-year students in the University of Victoria's law program who live within my constituency. They are here visiting for the first time for firsthand experience of how government works. They are Jamie Ney, Jackie Fry, Devon Black, Michael MacIsaac and Cynthia Koos. I ask the House to make them welcome.
J. Horgan: Joining us in the gallery today is a former Member of Parliament for the riding of Vancouver-Kingsway, a former Member of Parliament for the riding of Port Moody–Coquitlam and also a member of this Legislature, the former member for Vancouver-Fraserview, not as distinguished as the current member, but that's Ian Waddell. He's here today. Would the House please make him very, very welcome.
M. Dalton: I'm very happy today to introduce Nicole Paul from Maple Ridge. She's a constituent of mine and has been an intern with me over the summer. She did a great job. She's an amazing organizer and is on the executive with the B.C. Young Liberals. She'll be moving to Victoria to attend the University of Victoria to transfer her studies there in economics and poli sci. So would the House please make her feel welcome.
L. Popham: I have three introductions to make today. I'd also like to welcome a student from first-year law at UVic, Jasryeet Badyal. I'd also like to welcome to the House Susan Farmer, the assistant to the House Leader and caucus Whip for the New Democrat official opposition, and her mom, Kaye, who I had the pleasure of having lunch with today and who is a constituent of Saanich South. Welcome to the House.
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G. Hogg: I also want to welcome Ian Waddell and compliment the member for Juan de Fuca for recognizing him. I ran into him a little earlier today, and with all the introductions of people going to law school, he's just pointed out that he had his last case yesterday. I asked him whether or not he won it, and he said: "That's probably obvious." It was obvious to me and probably will be obvious to you as well. He's not sitting on the floor of the House because he doesn't have a tie. So I'd like for this side of the House to also welcome Ian.
B. Ralston: May I ask the House to recognize Rita Werner, who's a constituent in Surrey-Whalley and, more importantly, a neighbour.
N. Simons: Today I'd like to welcome a couple of guests who are either former Sunshine Coasters or temporarily not Sunshine Coasters or will be Sunshine Coasters. Like everybody in the province, you're either a Sunshine Coast resident or wish you were. But I'd like to introduce Alison Leduc and her daughter Katy Sawyer. Will the House make them welcome.
K. Corrigan: I would also like to welcome my good friend Mike Hurley, who is almost a constituent — just a block or two away — but who I've known for years, and also congratulate him on the recent birth of twins. So now he and Jen have three very young children. I hope the House, again, will make Mike feel very welcome.
M. Mungall: Well, the member for Beacon Hill has already introduced the law students, but I looked up and noticed that one of them is a very dear friend of mine, Troy Sebastian, who originally hailed from Cranbrook. So may the House please pay a special welcome to Troy.
First Reading of Bills
Bill 18 — Advanced education
statutes amendment act, 2011
Hon. N. Yamamoto presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Advanced Education Statutes Amendment Act, 2011.
Hon. N. Yamamoto: I move that the bill be introduced and read for a first time now.
Mr. Speaker: Continue, Minister.
Hon. N. Yamamoto: I'm pleased to introduce Bill 18, the Advanced Education Statutes Amendment Act, 2011. This bill amends the following statutes: Architects Act, Royal Roads University Act, University Act, College and Institute Act, School Act and other acts applicable to the post-secondary sector.
In this bill we will ensure that the Architectural Institute of British Columbia may continue to engage in efficient and effective means of resolving disciplinary matters.
We will also clarify some matters pertaining to the appointed and elected members of the boards of our public post-secondary institutions.
Finally, we will set the stage for improved knowledge of our post-secondary system as a whole through the expansion of research and analysis of the private post-secondary sector by way of personal education numbers.
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 18, Advanced Education 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 m203 — representative for
seniors act, 2011
K. Conroy presented a bill intituled Representative for Seniors Act, 2011.
K. Conroy: I move the introduction of the Representative for Seniors Act, 2011.
Mr. Speaker: Continue, Member.
K. Conroy: The Representative for Seniors Act will improve systems of care and support for seniors and their families in British Columbia. Seniors and their advocates from across the province are calling for this position to be legislated. As well, especially in the past month, we have seen a groundswell of support for a position such as this. Editorials have joined with advocates and the opposition, recognizing the need as disturbing issues involving seniors continue to arise.
The representative will monitor the performance of various programs and services to seniors while ensuring that services are integrated, coordinated, non-discriminatory and accountable. The position will be a voice for seniors in this province, an independent voice that will speak out for force and real change. The families who fear retribution for speaking out will now have a place to express their concerns — a safe place, where their issues can be expressed in a confidential, respectful manner.
Working on behalf of seniors and their families, the representative will recommend policy reform for better
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services and programs for seniors, providing support to seniors and their families, and providing information to the public on seniors issues.
The time for this bill has come. Seniors and their families should no longer have to face the neglect and abuse we continue to hear about day after day in this province. Seniors have built this province, and when they need it, they should be cared for with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Just like British Columbia needed a representative for vulnerable children and youth, we need one for vulnerable seniors living in our communities. This bill will be a first step in a commitment to seniors in this province, and I urge all members to join with me in supporting this much-needed legislation.
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 M203, Representative for Seniors 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 17 — finance statutes
amendment act, 2011
Hon. K. Falcon presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Finance Statutes Amendment Act, 2011.
Hon. K. Falcon: I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.
Mr. Speaker: Continue, Minister.
Hon. K. Falcon: I am pleased to introduce the Finance Statutes Amendment Act, 2011.
This bill has three objectives. First, it supports the administrative integration of the B.C. student loans with the Canada student loans. The process of applying for and paying off student loans is much simpler since August of this year, as B.C. and the federal government have integrated their federal and provincial student loan programs and agreed on a single set of rules and forms.
Students only have to sign one loan agreement and make one monthly payment rather than two of each. This legislation will update the rules for those who received their B.C. student loan funding between August 2000 and August 2011 and those who have outstanding loans.
We are amending the Financial Administration Act to remove the statutory obligation of students with B.C. student loans to pay non-sufficient funds, or NSF, fees. Also, an amendment to the Infants Act will allow a minor student to enter into a student loan agreement without requiring a guarantor. Transitional provisions will clarify the rules that will be used to transition and administer the B.C. student loans into the integrated program in June 2012.
Second, the bill completes consequential amendments to the Business Corporations Act, which came into force in 2004. Despite its general repeal, many provisions of the old Company Act continue to apply to financial institutions and societies. The amendments will update and refine the corporate law framework by transitioning B.C. trust and insurance companies into the Business Corporations Act, which already applies to other B.C. incorporated companies. For credit unions and societies, the amendments will incorporate provisions of the Company Act directly into their governing statutes. Thanks to these amendments, both financial institutions and societies will have an accessible and comprehensive body of corporate law.
Third, the bill contains a number of amendments intended to strengthen the compliance and enforcement powers of the British Columbia Securities Commission, particularly in relation to the exempt market.
Other amendments in the bill are intended to make it easier for investors who have lost money due to unscrupulous behaviour to recover their money from the wrongdoers and under the proposed changes the B.C. Securities Commission will have the power to assess claims and disburse funds.
Finally, the bill contains a number of technical amendments intended to remove redundancies in the Securities Act and harmonize our legislation with the legislation in other provinces.
Mr. Speaker, I move the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 17, Finance 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 14 — Workers Compensation
Amendment Act, 2011
Hon. M. MacDiarmid presented a message from His Honour the Administrator: a bill intituled Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2011.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I move that Bill 14 be introduced and read a first time now.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I'm pleased to introduce several amendments to the Workers Compensation Act. Creating and maintaining jobs in B.C. is a priority for this govern-
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ment, and encouraging a healthy and productive workplace is essential to helping us to reach this goal.
We know that mental stress can have a significant effect on workers and their families. It can also impact the productivity of a workplace through reduced efficiency, frequent absences and poor decisions that can result in accidents and injury. That's why through Bill 14 we will be expanding the mental stress conditions that will be eligible for workers compensation coverage.
We also propose a more balanced approach to compensation for injured apprentices and learners. In addition, this package contains new eligibility criteria for common-law spouses as well as addressing a legal housekeeping issue related to inflation.
These changes are being made to ensure that the workers compensation system remains responsive to both worker and employer needs and so that our laws are consistent with other legislation, both federally and provincially.
I move that Bill 14 be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 14, Workers Compensation 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)
MOUNT PLEASANT FAMILY CENTRE
J. Kwan: In 1976 eight new mothers from a local mom-and-baby group had a vision of creating a welcoming space in their neighbourhood where parents could meet, where their children could play safely together and where they could share resources for the benefit of local families. By working together and with the encouragement and support of the health nurse, who also recognized the immense benefit of ensuring access to health and other resources for all new mothers, these moms founded the Mount Pleasant family place.
In the early years they rented a storefront and established as a non-profit. Then in 1980 they successfully lobbied the Vancouver park board to rent out an empty field house in Robson Park, where the family centre operates to this day.
While the face of the community has changed over the years, the family centre has maintained its core value of supporting family and community and now welcomes many children whose families have emigrated from the Philippines, Hong Kong, mainland China, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and many other places.
Staff and volunteers at the centre still offer free daily drop-in, play-and-learn activities for young children. As well, they have created a connecting space for parents, babies and toddlers, sensitive parenting support, and provide vital early learning and literacy programs such as Baby and Me, Mother Goose, Nobody's Perfect parenting programs and a StrongStart program in partnership with nearby Nightingale Elementary School.
The family place is such a great example of how a grass-roots community came up with a solution to address a local need that was built for the community by the community. Tomorrow evening I will have the great pleasure of joining Jean Woodcock, the centre's longtime executive director, staff, volunteers, parents and the larger community in celebration of the centre's 35th anniversary.
I hope all members of this House will join me in congratulating Mount Pleasant Family Centre and in wishing them many future years of success.
ROLE OF ROYAL CANADIAN LEGION
M. Dalton: I am pleased to rise in the House today to pay tribute to the Royal Canadian Legion and the great service it has provided for the last 85 years. Since its inception, Legion halls across the country have provided veterans with a place to find camaraderie and support and, more importantly, to help them transition from war to civilian life.
My riding of Maple Ridge–Mission is home to one of the oldest branches in Canada. Maple Ridge Legion branch 88 opened its doors in 1927 and has become one of the largest in the country, with 2,600 members. Jim MacDonald is the president. Hundreds more members attend branch 57 in Mission, including four paratroopers now in their 90s, who dropped together behind Normandy lines. New Zealander David Bryant is the branch 57 president.
Today the Royal Canadian Legion has taken on an important role promoting remembrance. The poppy has become our symbol of remembrance. Every November we wear one as we pledge never to forget the Canadian soldiers who didn't make it home.
Each year the Royal Canadian Legion's poppy campaign raises over $2½ million in B.C. and Yukon alone. These funds are used to help ex-service personnel, veterans and their dependents.
I am a proud member of the Maple Ridge Legion. I was raised in a military home and served in the Canadian Forces Reserves. I am pleased that the poppy campaign continues to reach out to our youth and educate them about our history, our freedom and the brave men and women who fought to protect it. We must never forget the sacrifices they made.
BAYANIHAN COMMUNITY CENTRE AND
FILIPINO COMMUNITY IN VICTORIA
R. Fleming: The Filipino community in greater Victoria celebrates a major milestone this month by marking the tenth anniversary of its Bayanihan Community Centre.
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The Bayanihan Community Centre is owned and operated by the Bayanihan Cultural and Housing Society, which is a non-profit and registered charitable organization.
The original work to establish the centre in the bayanihan spirit began in 1991, when the Bayanihan Cultural and Housing Society was incorporated. The building for the centre was acquired on April 30, 2001, and the centre was officially opened on November 3, 2001.
Given that the number of community centres and Legion halls in Victoria has generally been in decline, it is a significant achievement for the Filipino community to be the first to open a brand-new community centre in downtown Victoria in decades.
In January 2007 they achieved a monumental milestone when, as a result of the combined efforts of all members of the community, the Bayanihan Community Centre became mortgage-free. They held a great party where they burned their mortgage documents, and the community could take part in that.
It's truly an honour to have situated in the city of Victoria a group of people who celebrate their proud Filipino heritage and accentuate Canadian multicultural values. On Sunday, November 5, the Bayanihan Cultural and Housing Society, the Victoria Filipino-Canadian Association and the Victoria Filipino-Canadian Caregivers Association are working to ensure that their milestone anniversary is marked with a befitting ceremony and celebration.
Apart from their regular Sunday open house, the centre's celebrations are going to include a volunteer appreciation day, educational seminars, consular outreach and entertainment. I invite all members of this House to join me in thanking past and present boards of directors and the many members who do so much for the people they support, and to recognize this special anniversary.
NEW SCHOOLS AND SCHOOL
EXPANSION PROJECTS IN SURREY
D. Hayer: There are 102 million reasons to smile in Surrey this week. Thanks to the support of this government, Surrey can now begin building for the future of our children. As part of the $300 million allocation of capital funding for schools across B.C., Surrey will receive one-third of that amount spread over eight school projects. Fraser Heights Secondary School will be expanded, as will Panorama Ridge.
There's also funding for new elementary schools in Clayton and South Newton and money to purchase land for four school sites for future schools — two elementary and two secondary schools. This is fabulous news, and I know parents, PACs and school trustees throughout Surrey are thrilled. I have been working for a long time to promote money for Surrey schools, and so have school trustees Reni Masi, Laurae McNally, Shawn Wilson, Pam Glass, Terry Allen, Laurie Larsen and Ijaz Chatha. I want to thank them for their help and support.
I also want to thank Fraser Heights PAC members Sara Pickering, Sheida Shakib-Zadeh, Karen Andersen, Rafik Karwa, Tiffany Zhen, Michelle Picardo, Lori Finskars and Laurie Nelson, along with the PACs of Erma Stephenson School, Dogwood School, Fraser Wood School and Bothwell Elementary School.
I also want to thank the them for the great work that was done on this project by the DPACs and the members of Ad Hoc Committee for Surrey Schools, including Mayor Dianne Watts and the Surrey Board of Trade past-president Nigel Watkinson, Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce president Brian Young, and members of the Surrey district PAC Barb Paton, Linda Stromberg, Barb Holmes and Patricia Enair.
Please join me in congratulating these hard-working people for their success today in getting more money for Surrey schools.
CITIZENSHIP CEREMONY AND
MULTICULTURALISM IN NEW WESTMINSTER
D. Black: I'm looking forward to attending citizenship court at New Westminster city hall next Saturday. Our city does a wonderful job of hosting this ceremony in council chambers, and many local service organizations join in the celebrations to congratulate new Canadian citizens.
On November 5, 32 people from 23 different countries of origin will take the vows of citizenship. Their countries of origin include Brazil, China, Croatia, England, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Ukraine and the U.S.A. Only two continents in the entire world are missing from this list: Australia and Antarctica.
We already live in a culturally diverse community. The 2006 census reported almost 25 percent of the people living in New Westminster were born outside Canada, and 23 percent of those arrived in the previous five years. Increases in the immigrant population comprise 79.1 percent of the population growth in our city.
The city has established a multicultural advisory committee to promote multiculturalism and to foster inclusion of all citizens in civic affairs and in community life. The committee engages people from different backgrounds and receives support from the New West police, parks and rec, and the city's social planner. This civic commitment to promoting inclusion is very commendable.
I invite all members of this House to join me in congratulating these 32 people as they attain full citizenship in Canada and to encourage full participation in the life of our community, our province and our country.
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HONOUR HOUSE IN NEW WESTMINSTER
J. McIntyre: As we approach Remembrance Day, I thought it would be fitting to recognize the critical role of Honour House that's designed to offer free interim accommodation or a home away from home for Canadian Forces personnel and all first responders — law enforcement, fire and ambulance — and their families while receiving care in greater Vancouver.
Honour House, located in New Westminster, just opened this past summer and was built with support from B.C. Housing, volunteer labour and materials, as well as from fundraising efforts led by the president of the Honour House Society board, Al De Genova.
I had the pleasure of touring it, albeit while it was still under construction, on the historic day of the announcement of the Ministry of Transportation's designation of a section of Highway 1 in Langley as the Highway of Heroes to honour the sacrifices of the fallen in Afghanistan and also of first responders who have lost their lives on the job.
Honour House was a beneficiary of the funds raised by the accompanying motorcycle ride organized by CAV 3 on Saturday, June 11, when the new highway signage was unveiled.
Honour House was also a beneficiary of funds from another cavalcade ride I had the pleasure of participating in to honour the brave efforts and the sacrifices of lives by first responders on the recent tenth anniversary of 9/11, attended by hundreds, at the Peace Arch at the U.S. border. This event was also attended by New York firefighters, New York police officers and officers of the New York port authority, who were all involved on the ground on 9/11.
I hope that the House will join me in publicly thanking Al De Genova who, in another effort several years ago, raised over a million dollars for the revamping of Victory Square in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. His continuing commitment to honouring military personnel and the work and sacrifices of first responders is exceptional.
FOR COMMUNITY LIVING SERVICES
N. Simons: Every day it seems like we hear another story about how this government is failing people with developmental disabilities. Today it was learned that an assessment tool used to identify the needs of people with disabilities is being used to reduce the level of care provided to people like Stephanie Kleckner.
Stephanie was assessed as having a high need of four out of five, and she was living in a group home. Six months later her needs were reduced to a two out of five, and she was forced from her group home into a home-share situation. I'm asking that the minister speak today about this issue and tell us whether or not she will end this practice and call for an external review.
Hon. S. Cadieux: This is, indeed, a concerning allegation and a situation that needs to be looked at. It is an example of exactly why we are conducting a thorough internal review of what the practices and processes at CLBC are and of their financial situation.
As all situations are complex when dealing with folks with developmental disabilities and supporting their needs in our communities, the deputy minister working group is doing a thorough review, as well, across ministry of all of the services and programs that help support people with developmental disabilities in our communities. Because I can't speak directly to any specific case in the House but we know there are cases being raised that are of concern, we set up the client service team so that families can feel they have direct access to support to meet their needs now.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
N. Simons: Well, over the last year 200 people were moved out of group homes — 200 people, not all with the advocates like Stephanie's mother, Carol. All of them were subjected to the same assessment process. We won't know how those other adults are doing in their new home-share arrangements. The only way we'll find out is if there's an external review.
CLBC is in chaos. It's been supervised badly by four ministers within the last year. The public has lost confidence, and in order to restore that confidence, I'm asking that the minister announce today that she will be engaging an external reviewer to oversee Community Living B.C.
Hon. S. Cadieux: I am pleased to again explain the number of steps that we are taking to address the concerns that have been brought forward that have shaken everyone's confidence in CLBC's ability to deliver services to people with developmental disabilities. In fact, I was appointed just a little over a month ago to lead this file. There is a new interim CEO at CLBC.
We created a deputy minister working group to address the issues of cross-ministerial supports to people with developmental disabilities. In October we added a dedicated internal audit team to go in and look at CLBC's practices, policies and financial structure to ensure that we're getting the best services we can for the $710 million a year that is given to CLBC to deliver these services.
I also requested from the board an interim report on their vision and how they want to deliver services and
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how they expect to meet the demands and, certainly, the issues that are being raised. I received that report yesterday. I'll be making it public as soon as I have had a chance to review it with the board.
S. Simpson: The minister will know that one of the critical issues in this, with everything that's been happening with CLBC, has been the loss of confidence of families of loved ones who have developmental disabilities. And a key issue with that has been the guide to support allocation, which is the tool that's used to assess the need for CLBC clients.
This guide has proved to be terribly flawed. We know that family after family has said that those assessments have gone on without their participation in the early and formative stages. We also know that the analysts and the staff who are doing these assessments have been specifically told that they cannot consider critical information.
I'll read from the tool: "Staff are to focus on current disability-related needs as outlined with the plan, rather than past or anticipated future need." The reality is that staff have been told: "You cannot consider somebody's history, nor can you consider any prognosis for their future, in assessing their need." That is illogical in any way you look at it.
Will the minister tell us today whether she supports that practice, and will she tell us she will include this question in an external review of CLBC?
Hon. S. Cadieux: In fact, I'm sure everyone in this House is aware that there are a number of opinions, a number of ideas, about what is and isn't working at CLBC. Many of them have been raised by the opposition, and I know they have their opinions. I have my own, and that is why I am determined to get all of the facts relating to the processes and policies at CLBC and how those are actually being implemented.
That is why we are doing an internal audit. It's why we're doing a review of the services across government. It's why I've asked CLBC to explain where they're at in delivering services, what their vision is for the future and how they expect to deliver on that. In fact, I actually have an appointment set up next week to be walked through the guide to support allocation myself, as if I were a client.
STUDENT FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE
FOR TRUCK DRIVER TRAINING
K. Conroy: Currently the province is not graduating enough truck drivers to meet industry demand. Mountain Transport Institute's Earning Your Wheels program in Castlegar, one of the best training programs in the province, has seen a 50 percent drop in enrolments. There are plenty of eager students, but the Liberals' existing financial aid keeps them out of training. The cost of industry-certified programs like MTI is near $14,000, but the 12-week program is only funded for $3,480.
Andy Roberts, president of the institute, wrote to the government in July. He said that new drivers were not able to be adequately trained due to the cost of certified training programs and, therefore, unable to be hired and fill the demand for trained drivers. The Minister of Advanced Education replied with a complete lack of understanding of Andy's concerns and no commitment to look at the funding issues students in high-intensity technical programs face.
My question is to the Minister of Advanced Education. Why are students who want to enrol in skills-training programs not being given the supports they need to train for jobs that exist today?
Hon. P. Bell: The member opposite should know that the Industry Training Authority has been working with the trucking industry across the province. They've recently introduced some new work to include the scope of truck driving within the Industry Training Authority mandate.
This ministry has also been working with different logging associations — including the Interior Logging Association, the Truck Loggers Association and other organizations — to make sure that we have sufficient drivers in this province. It's an active file, and I'm confident that we will be accomplishing the necessary task and supplying that industry.
The great news is that if those folks on the other side were government, they wouldn't have a problem because they'd all be unemployed anyway.
M. Mungall: Let's try this again. The question is for the Minister of Advanced Education, because this has to do with student supports, not the ITA, so the Minister for Jobs, Tourism and Innovation is just going to have to sit down on this one. Let the woman speak.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
M. Mungall: Those in the industry are concerned about the fact that we have people without jobs and jobs without people. George Whitehead, who is the president of the Smithers Chamber of Commerce, told the Finance Committee that a local company has enough work to buy 20 trucks and get them to work today, but they can't find 20 long-haul drivers. Jim Mickey of Coastal Pacific Xpress trucking in Surrey says that the current direction is shortsighted and dangerous in the short term and downright irresponsible in the long term.
Last week I asked the Minister of Advanced Education about the status of her review on student aid. Her response
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didn't even mention the review. So again, to the Minister of Advanced Education: for the benefit of trades training, student support and affordable access to education, can she tell us today in this House where that review is and table the results?
Hon. P. Bell: The member opposite actually said the training authority, which is the Industry Training Authority, which is clearly the responsibility of the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation. But you know what, Mr. Speaker? I'm glad that the member opposite acknowledged the 32,000 jobs that were created in the province of British Columbia last month.
The fastest and the simplest way to resolve the issue of not having enough people to fill all those jobs out there would be to elect an NDP government. That would be the simple solution, but that's not what we're doing. We're establishing regional workforce tables. We're working in partnerships with organizations like the United Steelworkers — a $2.9 million commitment just last week to make sure that we build the skills necessary to fill the high-paying resource-based jobs that those folks over there are opposed to every single time.
VOLUME AND USE OF WASTE WOOD
D. Donaldson: Thousands of piles of wood are being burned at logging sites around Burns Lake this year — 3,600 piles, to be precise, some as we speak. Bill Miller, a director of the regional district of Bulkley-Nechako, conservatively estimates that 180,000 cubic metres of wood is being burned. That is the equivalent of 4,500 logging trucks of whole logs. Meanwhile, Mr. Miller points out that current and proposed processing facilities in Burns Lake and area are looking for wood to create jobs.
How can the minister responsible for forests explain such a waste of our natural forests?
Hon. S. Thomson: In British Columbia we manage our forests for economic, for social and for environmental values. We recognize the importance of the wood bioenergy sector, and we're continuing to work with all components of the industry to develop that sector. For example, the wood pellet industry — $185 million in economic activity for the province, bringing that first dollar into the province, creating over a thousand jobs.
We will continue to work with those sectors. We're continuing to look for innovative tools in order to provide fibre to the proponents who are interested in that. The member will know that recently we brought legislation in, creating new tools with a direct fibre supply licence to cut, with receiving licences. We're working on the regulations to make sure that we can make that fibre available to those proponents who want to access it.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
D. Donaldson: So 3,600 piles of wood going up in smoke. Those are B.C. jobs going up in smoke while this government dithers and shuffles paper.
It's been three years since the B.C. Liberals said they would fix this problem, a problem they created in the first place. Now, here we have an example of 180,000 cubic metres of usable wood burned this year around Burns Lake alone. That's potentially hundreds of jobs.
Why are the B.C. Liberals dragging their feet on a waste-wood strategy while jobs that are needed in rural communities are being passed by?
Hon. S. Thomson: As I said, we're continuing to work with all components of the industry to develop the wood bioenergy sector. We have an MLA committee that is working and bringing recommendations forward under the auspices of the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation. We're looking forward to those recommendations. We continue to work on developing the tenure tools available to make that fibre available, and we have many, many successes within this sector, building jobs here for British Columbia.
As I mentioned, the wood pellet sector — tremendous export growth, tremendous export opportunities, over $185 million in activity. I'm also very pleased that we'll be able to lead a delegation of over 40 forest industry, forest sector, representatives, companies and associations, working to continue to diversify the market, continuing to look for those new opportunities in the Asia-Pacific. That's how we're building the industry. That's how we'll continue to bring new jobs into British Columbia.
AND VISITORS TO PARKS
R. Fleming: B.C. parks attendance has declined 17 percent since the Liberals took power. It's 3.9 million fewer annual visitors to our parks. Now a report issued during the 100th anniversary year of our parks system shows that there was another steep decline in park use — 600,000 annual visitors this year alone — and the reason offered by the Liberals' own report says: "The increase in camping fees…affected attendance across the province."
My question is to the Minister of Environment. Why does the Liberals' so-called family-first agenda price families out of our parks system?
Hon. T. Lake: I want to say that we are celebrating 100 years of Canada's second-largest parks system. It's a remarkable system. The member should know that there are many, many factors that will affect attendance. Probably the largest factor is weather conditions. I don't know if the member noticed that July this year was not the finest July we had on record.
[ Page 8659 ]
However, I would like to remind the member over there, when he's talking about affordability, that this government removed the parking fees for our parks throughout British Columbia, saving money for families all across B.C.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
R. Fleming: The minister can deflect all he wants, but his own report says that attendance declined across the province because of fees put in place by this government. As columnist Jody Paterson puts it: "What used to be a cheap night in the woods now feels like something of a shakedown in British Columbia."
B.C. parks have declined in quality and affordability. Last year there were 160,000 fewer campers across the province. B.C. parks are an important part of our tourism economy. They need to be accessible to families.
So again, to the Minister of Environment: will he take action to support our parks so families can use and enjoy them instead of being gouged and driven away in this province?
Hon. T. Lake: It's clear from our visitor satisfaction surveys that British Columbians do not agree with the member opposite. They actually think we have a great parks system, with an 80 percent satisfaction rating.
The visits this year were down slightly — 2.9 percent — but as I mentioned to the member opposite, there are many factors that come into play. We have celebrated throughout the province this wonderful parks system, which is more affordable now for families than ever before, thanks to this government taking away parking fees in all of our parks.
SERVICES FOR PEOPLE
WITH EATING DISORDERS
G. Gentner: The Minister of Health has several case files of eating disorders on his desk, many of which have been vetted through many offices of ours, and copies have been sent to us. Put simply, though, these people are not getting the help they need. We know, for example, that the successful Quest program at St. Paul's Hospital has been shut down. This was a program that assisted the people most in need of that help.
Anorexia, bulimia and other disorders are serious, serious health issues. I'm not here to fully understand what they mean — or the minister or anybody in this room — but I do know that there are serious considerations that have to be made from the ministry.
Will the minister acknowledge that services are lacking for people facing eating disorders, and will he take steps to ensure that those services are fully restored?
Hon. M. de Jong: To the member, who has been involved in a couple of those cases and has brought them to my attention: it is a serious issue. People suffer terribly, and their families suffer as well. I acknowledge that upfront.
The government has taken some, I think, very important steps in terms of the millions of dollars that had been contributed last year to the Looking Glass Foundation to provide a dedicated residential treatment facility at St. Paul's Hospital. We have a world-leading centre and provincial program.
That doesn't mean everyone who enters those programs emerges successfully treated, and there are even circumstances where we rely upon the expertise of facilities outside of British Columbia. I acknowledge that for some patients the challenges are very serious, but I also point out to the member that the government has taken extraordinary steps and devoted millions of dollars to ensuring that there is proper treatment in place for eating disorder patients.
M. Farnworth: Eating disorders are a mental health issue that has a rate of suicide that is more than twice any other mental health disorder. Too often it is forgotten and ignored. The minister has made some statements about programs that are in place. There are programs in place in British Columbia, but many of them are aimed at those aged 19 to 24. The problem with an eating disorder is that it doesn't end at the age of 24. It is in many cases a lifelong affliction that needs lifelong support in order to be treated.
The people who have been struggling to overcome eating disorders are concerned that the fact that changes that have been taking place in the services that have been available — particularly at St. Paul's, particularly those services for people over 24 — are not meeting their needs.
My question to the minister is this. Will he recognize that there is a problem the way that eating disorder services are structured in this province, and will he work with those who are afflicted with eating disorders to put in place services that meet the needs of those who have this illness, particularly those over the age of 24?
Hon. M. de Jong: Well, two things come to mind. First of all, I am told that in this case, in the case of eating disorder ailments, it is particularly important to identify as early as possible when an individual is suffering from that form of disease and to begin a treatment regime as quickly as possible.
The member, I think, has fairly identified the programming that is available at St. Paul's. But one of the changes we are in the process of making is trying to ensure that people across British Columbia, children and adults, have access to eating disorder treatment closer to
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home, in their communities. To the extent that there is transition already taking place, it is designed to ensure that we are better equipped to identify earlier eating disorder ailments and to provide services and treatment to people suffering from eating disorder closer to home.
CHANGES TO OFFICE
TO COMBAT TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
K. Corrigan: Human trafficking continues to be a major problem worldwide, and as seen in the case of Reza Moazami, who has been charged recently related to human trafficking involving four teenagers, it is a problem in B.C. Yet last year this government slashed the budget for B.C.'s office to combat trafficking in persons by 50 percent, and now the office has been dismantled and two-thirds of the staff fired or let go.
To the Solicitor General: why has this government dismantled the office to combat trafficking in persons and stripped it of its ability to combat this very serious crime?
Hon. S. Bond: Obviously, this government is concerned. It was one of the leaders and continues to be a leader in the country when we look at how we actually help to support people who find themselves in that position.
In fact, the member is simply wrong. There continues to be an office that will be housed within the ministry.
But in fact, that is inaccurate. We continue to make it a priority. There was an adjustment in terms of one of the positions that managed the office, but the office continues to exist, and it will continue to be a priority for this government.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
K. Corrigan: Well, this was an independent, internationally recognized, leading organization which has had its budget slashed and the number of people reduced from six down to two people — two-thirds of the staff fired or let go, including the executive director and the person responsible for outreach to First Nations communities.
We know that there are young girls and young boys being recruited, exploited and trafficked all across British Columbia. There is absolutely no consultation with stakeholders. Dozens of organizations and communities relied on this organization for training, leadership and assistance provided by this internationally recognized organization.
Again to the Solicitor General: why has this government taken this short-sighted step backwards in the fight against human trafficking in B.C.?
Hon. S. Bond: I clearly articulated in the first question that changes were made to the office. In fact, there was a review done that looked at how we could actually make sure we were delivering the best outcomes to ensure that women and young children are protected.
Let me be perfectly clear. The budget to the office to combat trafficking has not been cut at all this year.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
AGRICULTURAL LAND COMMISSION
L. Popham: In his 2010 report into the Agricultural Land Commission the Auditor General noted that the number of staff doing the work of the commission has decreased while the number of commissioners has increased. Now we see the government is hiring a CEO for the commission at a cost of almost a tenth of the commission's budget.
My question is to the Minister of Agriculture. Does he think hiring a CEO is the fix for agriculture in B.C.?
Hon. D. McRae: I'd like to let the member opposite know that there are many things the ALC can do to improve its work, and I'm pleased to say, as Agriculture Minister, that you'll be privy to them in the near future. Unfortunately, with foreshadowing, you'll have to wait.
At the end of the day, though, the reality is that the ALC is a proactive organization. It works well for farms. It works well to preserve farmland and preserve and promote farming. But the reality is that I'm not going to work on your schedule, Member opposite. We will make sure these initiatives come out soon, and I'm sure you'll be very pleased with them.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
L. Popham: The current chair, Richard Bullock, is highly regarded and more than able to oversee the work that the commission does. This minister has let the commission languish. Mr. Bullock delivered a report to this government a year ago, a report that they have failed to act on or release to the public. Meanwhile, the job description for their CEO clearly overlaps the work Mr. Bullock is already doing.
Can the Agriculture Minister explain why he's trying to sideline the chair of the Agricultural Land Commission? Does it have anything to do with the report that the minister is hiding? And the minister continues to say "soon" on the release date of that report. Can the minister tell me an exact date that he's planning on releasing it?
Hon. D. McRae: Like the member opposite, I have huge respect for Richard Bullock, the chair of the ALC.
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The thing I like most about Richard Bullock is that as chair of the ALC he's doing exactly what I would love him to do. He is not sitting in an office in the Lower Mainland. He is out visiting farmers and communities around this province.
Whether it is in Fort Nelson or Kelowna or Vancouver Island or the Kootenays, he is making sure he is actually hearing the needs of farmers in the communities around this province. He is not sitting in the office. He is doing exactly what I think he should be doing. He is fantastic.
[End of question period.]
Orders of the Day
Hon. R. Coleman: I call committee stage of Bill 9, intituled Natural Resource Compliance Act. Should we complete that, we will then move on to second reading of Bill 13, intituled Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act.
Committee of the Whole House
Bill 9 — Natural Resource
The House in Committee of the Whole on Bill 9; L. Reid in the chair.
The committee met at 2:36 p.m.
On section 2 (continued).
N. Macdonald: With a bill that has the six sections here, we're still on section 2, but what we're going to do…. Many of the questions, of course, for each of the sections would be very much the same. We would be asking the same sorts of things around: where is the plan and where is the money? What we will do is…. Just for the minister and the staff's information, I think we intend to wrap up by about three o'clock, which is about 25 minutes.
The concerns that we've expressed in the definitions and in section 2 are obviously going to be the same concerns that we would have moving into other sections. So there's not the need, I would think, to replicate those questions or try to bludgeon away at the same point. Like I say, the time frame will be about 20 to 25 minutes.
The minister has laid out a scenario where the actual plans, the meetings with the union…. I guess the first indication of some of the natural resource officers actually being designated will come as we move into the future.
I guess the first question is: as we come to estimates, will the minister commit to lay out for us, as we question, the workplans that are in place? The other thing we would expect to see is more money set aside for proper training and for clear ideas around what the training protocols are going to be. I guess that's the first question.
As we move forward, does the minister commit to have that information for us, as much as possible, as we move into the estimates process in the spring?
Hon. S. Thomson: I've been through the estimates process with the member opposite, and I think I can say, based on past experience, that we will be open during the estimates process and that we will provide the reporting in that process on the progress and the implementation that we have made with respect to this bill and the plan and the initiatives around natural resource officers.
I fully expect that those questions would come from the member opposite during that process. But again, I want to point out that this is an enabling process. This will be incremental. This will be progress made, and I will be pleased to be able to answer those questions at that time and to demonstrate the progress that has been made with the implementation.
N. Macdonald: Now, one of the scenarios that was laid out in second reading — not by the minister but by members of government — was around the idea of deputization. The scenario that was given is on a long weekend, perhaps, when we know that there is going to be a lot of people going to parks or out on the public land and that people not specifically trained would be moved in for a very short period of time.
Is there a commitment from the minister that if there is deputization, even if it's for just a weekend or a short period of time, that training would be anticipated for any change or any move like that?
The Chair: Hon. Members, with your indulgence, if I might make an introduction. We have in the gallery today students visiting us from Hugh McRoberts Secondary. Ms. Benita Kwon is the teacher. They are 50 grade 10 students. I'd ask the House to please make them welcome.
Hon. S. Thomson: The answer to that is yes. That would be potentially possible, but those are the kinds of situations that we hope we could deal with in terms of providing that in more effective compliance and enforcement.
Again, I want to point to the section that we're dealing with — in particular, this section; we're still on section 2 — to say that the delegation can describe the person, limit the designation for a specified period or geographical area, limit powers and duties conferred, describe the limitations.
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Again, that designation could be applied, but I want to reiterate that we would only do that in the case that there was appropriate skills and appropriate training to be able to do that. We're not going to provide a designation and assign this if that's not the case.
B. Routley: Again, I'm not very comforted by the answers we have heard to many of the complex issues — safety, the training, exactly what these people will be doing. I think we said earlier on that in terms of the idea of putting together skill sets to achieve better results out in the field…. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
At the end of the day, it really does come down to whether there are boots on the ground and people capable of going out and doing the additional duties. Again, that's not a bad thing. I've seen lots of job combinations where it's actually a benefit and turns out to be a good thing.
It's not that we're opposed, necessarily. What I want to be clear with the minister and his staff about is that we're not very comfortable about what we are hearing in terms of the safety plan or a lot of the other issues.
I do want to ask a specific question about the percentage of the time the workers would be doing some of this additional work that's going to be contemplated. Is it 10 percent or 15 percent? Do people imagine 75 percent of their time focused on their former duties and now 25 percent? Can you put some kind of time limit into it? We do talk about time limits, and that's another question of mine, but one at a time.
I do want to read into the record the press release when this bill was put forward, and we're talking about adding duties. I want to, for the record, read out the press release. The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations says that they "currently have 175 compliance and enforcement officers, of which 155 are dedicated to carrying out inspections and investigations. More than 11,000 inspections are completed each year."
If the story just ended there, that would be one thing, but here are the facts. The total number of inspections is now down by more than half since a decade ago. In 2001, when the ministry was only responsible for forestry, they completed over 30,000 inspections. By 2003 this was down to 16,000.
Now, with all of this expanded range of responsibilities, they are down to 11,000 inspections, and we're going to add duties. So my question is: what percentage of their time is now going to be assigned doing these extra duties as contemplated by this bill?
Hon. S. Thomson: I think it would be very difficult to determine an exact percentage here. This is, as I said, something that we've been implementing gradually already in terms of the designation and delegation matrix that we have currently.
I think the important point — and the member opposite references a number of inspections — and the real benefit of this approach and policy is with those individual inspections. Now, given the broader range, they'll be able to deal with more potential non-compliance and more potential infractions in those non-compliance. What we want to achieve with this piece of legislation is to be able to broaden and enhance the compliance efforts out there.
In terms of the percentage of additional time, it'll depend on how you delegate, where you delegate and where you target specific areas that need attention. Based on past experience, there will be a range, I think, in terms of the exact percentage. I think that will be determined as we implement it.
B. Routley: I did want to inform you that we may go as long as till 3:30. We've been asked to dive a little deeper with the pod here.
On the issue of what's happening in terms of the closure of regional and district offices and how this is going to now apply…. I wanted to read into the record that more generally, the Forest Service has been gutted since 2001. Over a thousand jobs in the former Ministry of Forests have been eliminated since 2001. Seventeen offices have been downgraded, and one office in Prince Rupert has been closed completely. In 2010, 245 more positions were cut in compliance, and enforcement lost another 22 positions. Since 2008 the Forest Service budget has been reduced by almost a third.
So again, we're not comforted hearing that people out in the field are going to be asked to do a lot more with less. We're not talking about extra boots on the ground. We're talking about wringing out more action by the remaining people and trying to get more done.
But as I said in an earlier discussion, workers will tell you they're only one. They can't do ten different jobs at the same time. They can do one at a time and focus on one. That means when they are focusing on a new effort, some of what they used to do will be left behind or not given the same focus and attention.
Given that we've lost these regional and district offices and now that we've got the minister essentially manager of all things with clearly the right to delegate, we would be interested in…. Will it be regional or district, or what kinds of specialists will now be responsible for managing this group?
Given that there is some plan to do some training and there will be a new designation of the natural resource officer, I assume there will be a management group put in place to deal with these officers or that they will be somehow transposed from what they were before to their new role overlooking a whole lot more ministries.
So could you give us an idea of who the people will be that are most likely to be delegated by the minister to manage these? Will they be district or regional staff?
[ Page 8663 ]
Hon. S. Thomson: The designations will go out to the staff in the regions. We're not creating a new management structure to do that. The responsibility will be, with our new regional structure, with the eight regions, out in the regions. The designations will go to those staff out in the field. Again, the designations will be determined by looking at the need, the geographical area, the region and all of those kinds of things. All of those will be taken into consideration when we determine those designations, but it will be out into the regions and staff in the field.
N. Macdonald: The minister had talked about a meeting with the BCGEU — I presume tomorrow. As part of the discussions, is the minister anticipating that there will be changes to the job description that will mean that there will be changes to the pay level for employees? Is this part of the process — that those sorts of negotiations will be entered into as we move to changes from current positions of compliance and enforcement into the new positions of compliance and enforcement?
Hon. S. Thomson: No, in the implementation of this, we're not planning on changing job descriptions. The designation will allow the person within the skill sets, in some respects, to be able to administer responsibilities under…. It maybe under one or two or three statutes now. Now it maybe under four statutes, with the additional responsibilities within those skill sets. We're not planning on changing job descriptions.
N. Macdonald: With the contractual obligations that the government has…. I'm not familiar at all with those contractual obligations, but I would presume that as trained ability increases, it often will change pay grades. Is that anticipated to be part of the discussions about it? As you move from people with one area of expertise into, hopefully, as they're trained, a broader level of expertise, is there anticipation that the government is going to have to renegotiate pay scale based on that training?
Hon. S. Thomson: As I indicated, the implementation of this is not planning on changing job descriptions. We will look at providing those additional designations within the skill sets that the staff or the resources currently have.
[D. Horne in the chair.]
I think if, through the process, there is additional specialized training, additional skills or significantly different responsibilities developed, then there is always that ongoing process of review that takes place. Theoretically, that could be. But as I said, this initial implementation is related to looking at the staff and the skill sets and simply being able to give them some additional areas that they can work in terms of compliance and enforcement, to assist in making sure that we can address all those many issues out on the land base and where there are currently overlaps.
N. Macdonald: It does point to the complexity, because as the minister steps into a meeting with the union, these are almost, I think, inevitably going to be some of the first discussions that the ministry is going to have to enter into. As the description of work changes, so too will the compensation. That would normally be the way that things would work.
I guess the next question…. I'm just trying to come back to timelines, just to get a sense…. The minister does talk about stretching it into the future, and often what has been described are things that seem like they will be far, far into the future. There'll be a gradual change. What is the first area that the minister is looking at for some of these changes? What is the first integration that the ministry will be considering? And can you describe the tasks in compliance and enforcement that the minister sees as the most easily combined and the most obvious place to start?
Hon. S. Thomson: The primary focus, initially, will be on the Forest and Range Practices Act, Forest Act, Wildfire Act, adding in the Wildlife Act and Water Act. With many of these, we do work in a sense under this model already within our delegation. Bringing in the Wildlife Act and Water Act will be the initial focus of the first work in putting the new designation in place.
N. Macdonald: Now, these acts are fairly broad. The minister presumably would not step into elements, immediately, of the Wildlife Act. So there would be specific parts. Maybe the minister could describe for us the elements of these acts that would most easily lend themselves to the initial designation of a natural resource officer.
These are broad acts. Some are highly complex, such as within the Water Act. There are some real complexities and health issues that go along with them. There are also elements of it that one could imagine could easily be trained for and added to the work of other existing employees. So what are the elements of those acts that the minister anticipates for starting off with?
Hon. S. Thomson: Just as an example, under the Forest Practices Act, we'd look at activities in and around a stream. There are provisions under the Water Act related to that as well.
While a forest compliance officer is looking at that and sees infractions, potentially, under the Water Act related to activities in and around the stream, that's an
[ Page 8664 ]
area where the person who is out doing the inspection already would be able to…. If provisions of that portion of the Water Act would be able to be…. That's an area where you could designate under the natural resource officer designation to be able to deal with that. That's an example.
We would look where there are those good linkages, where there is overlap, where the skill sets are complementary, to be able to assess those potential non-compliance activities. That's the initial process where we would start, as we start to build this natural resource officer function.
N. Macdonald: Just one more question, and then I'll leave it. Just to understand. If you have someone checking on a riparian zone and they see that somebody has fenced or in some way improperly blocked the flow of a stream, that would be something that would be easily dealt with by the person, even though it was under a different act. Is that the scenario you are describing?
Hon. S. Thomson: Yes, that is an example and, essentially, one that I was attempting to describe there. That's where we would look for those good synergies between the activities. When the person is out in the field doing their current responsibilities, they would be able to be designated to manage some of those other provisions or parts of statutes under other legislation.
Again, pointing back to section 2, that's why we have the ability to have it be a part or all of an enactment, to be geographic or regional, to be specific to a person or class of persons. That gives us the flexibility to make sure, as we do this, that we do clearly look at where those overlaps are and where we can get additional compliance and enforcement activity in a more efficient way.
B. Routley: For greater certainty, we're dealing with a classification of employees. In the designation would seniority rates apply?
Hon. S. Thomson: No, it doesn't. It doesn't apply in this case because we're not moving people around or changing positions. We're simply providing them a designation that would allow them, while they are out undertaking the activities that they currently do, to be able to deal with portions of other legislation in their regular course of work.
B. Routley: In that case, if seniority won't apply, what measures has the ministry put in place to ensure that there is no discrimination or favouritism given amongst employees under these circumstances? If seniority won't apply, what will apply? If it doesn't matter how long you've worked for the ministry and you are now going to abandon their years of service, all things being equal, exactly how are you going to determine who gets the nod? Will it be favouritism? Will it be possible discrimination? Or will the ministry reconsider what they are saying here?
I would think that if all things are equal, your compliance and enforcement staff, those people who want to be designated, should have those rights. Anyway, I would be interested in the answer on whether or not there is going to be fairness. Or are we opening the door for just favouritism and discrimination?
Hon. S. Thomson: Across the compliance and enforcement division and staff, we have a group of employees who have similar skills and skill sets and experience in doing that. So when we are doing the designations, in many cases we will designate a class. That's why we talk, again, in this section about: "…may designate…persons or a class of persons…."
It could be a total group across the compliance and enforcement sector that would be given the designation to be able to carry out that activity throughout the province as part of their work. We will only do this where it makes sense.
This is not about a process of unfairness or favouritism or anything. This is about looking where there are overlaps, in terms of being able to provide that broadened scope to be able to do the additional compliance and enforcement in those areas where it makes sense, to relate it to skill sets, to provide that additional training where it may be appropriate and necessary in order to be able to do that.
Again, this is about enhancing our compliance and enforcement efforts out in the regions, something the staff have been requesting the opportunity to be able to do and something we have been working on for quite a while. This provides, within our current matrix of delegation systems, a much more efficient and effective way to do this.
B. Routley: Given those concerning events about seniority rates or whatever, is anything in this legislation designed to basically undermine the collective bargaining rights or the collective agreement? Is there anything that allows, through this legislation, to undermine any portion of their collective agreement?
Hon. S. Thomson: No. We have been designating officials under acts and our statutes for years in the process. This is in no way designed at all to do that.
B. Routley: Well, the bill does contemplate removing a person's designation, so all things being equal, if everyone eventually, in the fullness of time, gets trained up and they are now designated as natural resource officers, then the minister, through the rights in this bill,
[ Page 8665 ]
has the right to remove their designation. Could the minister explain how that removal of the designation…? What would be the considerations that the minister might make in determining to remove the designation from some employees and not others?
Hon. S. Thomson: This section is here in order to be able, once the designation has been made…. Very simple example. The person who has the designation decides to take a different posting, move to a different ministry, leave the specific employment of this portion of our ministry and move to somewhere else within the public service. We would need to have the ability to remove the designation.
Varying it means that we may, as we move the model forward…. He may be designated as relating to the earlier sections for certain parts of statutes. As you develop experience, you may want to vary that designation by adding an additional responsibility under another statute into that designation.
This just simply provides us the opportunity to ensure that we can reflect those kinds of things — reflect changed circumstances, reflect the fact that we may not necessarily need that designation in a region for whatever reasons. Not sure what those would be, but this quite simply just allows us to remove the delegation under circumstances that would be appropriate.
B. Routley: Was it at all contemplated that this removal could be used as a disciplinary tool in any way?
Hon. S. Thomson: No.
B. Routley: The bill also talks about time limits for a period of time someone could be designated. What are the periods of time that are contemplated in the thinking behind this section? Would the time periods be for periods of, say, a month or a year or a decade? Exactly what kind of limits, or all of the above?
Hon. S. Thomson: This section simply provides us the opportunity or the ability to specify a time. It could be any amount of time. It could be months. It could be a year.
It may relate to designations that you provide for specific projects. You're looking at a priority area, and you'd like to provide the designations to go and be able to do that for a period of time, assess the effectiveness of it, so you would put the designation in for that time period. It simply gives us that option.
B. Routley: There are a number of other statutes and ministries that are potentially involved or impacted by these changes. I know that the original intent — or it seems to be, as described, the intent — is to have one ministry able to do a number of enforcement and compliance measures. Is there any potential for other ministries to in any way interfere or in any way step in?
For example, we heard about oil and gas, or even wildlife. Could another ministry somehow inject itself into the management role or any of the staff or other management teams from other ministries inject themselves into actions taken by this minister? Is it very clear and concise that the split has been made and that only the Minister of Natural Resource Operations has exclusive rights to manage this group and in no way can any other ministry step in and in any way interfere with the management and control of these employees and their rights and obligations?
Hon. S. Thomson: The answer is no. But I think what the member is referring to is, as I've pointed out, that the focus of this is within our ministry and our responsibilities. We can continue discussions with partner ministries. Where it makes sense and where there was agreement, then there would be a process where there could be a regulation that would potentially bring other statutes or regulation underneath this, but that would have to be by regulation and by agreement. It would have to be worked out in a partnership approach.
I think, as we implement this model, those discussions will continue. There may be good opportunities for that partnership and that approach and for staff who have this designation under our ministry to be able to perform some of those functions, where it makes sense and where it's appropriate, but that would only happen by agreement and by regulation.
B. Routley: Because this section 2 allows the minister to designate for a specific period of time…. Let's say that there was someone assigned a role for a specific period of time, and now the clock runs out. We're about to have it run out, and the minister then — either his staff or his designate — determines that they want to extend that period. There's nothing in this legislation that I can see that permits an extension. It doesn't talk about extensions for that.
In the next case there is the issue of geographical area. Once a geographical area is set, does the minister see that he has the leeway to change that from time to time? Will that be in the regulations, or is there some other interpretive matter that I may be missing here?
I just want to be clear, though, to start with, on the specified period of time. When the clock runs out, can there be extensions?
Hon. S. Thomson: Section 2(3) says: "The minister may vary or revoke a designation." Varying would allow you to extend it. Varying would allow you to deal with the…. If you had a designation that was for a specific
[ Page 8666 ]
geographical area and you wanted to change that geographical area or expand it, then you would do it through that process. Clearly, there is the ability to vary, which would mean extension, either in time or area.
N. Macdonald: We're going to start to move through the sections now. There will be specific questions on the sections.
As the minister knows, and as I said earlier, many of the concerns around "Is there going to be proper funding? Is there actually going to be the training that's necessary? Are we going to be respectful of the employees that you ask to do this important work…?" All of those same concerns will apply to many of the sections.
As we move through, with the timing that we've talked about, we will try to ask specific questions on the sections that we're next going to deal with. On all of these sections…. We will be voting against it, and the reason would be not that we disagree with the concept or with some of the specific things that may come from this, but it's so unclear how this is all going to unfold that it's very difficult to support it in this form. That's often the case with bills that are structured like this.
With that, we'll move from section 2, and then we'll move into section 3, where there will be specific questions.
Section 2 approved on division.
On section 3.
N. Macdonald: With section 3, it talks about the powers and duties of the natural resource officers that are going to be set up. Again, it is incredibly broad and basically gives the minister the ability to put in place the powers and the duties of the officials that are going to be in place.
The first line, section 3(1), talks about: "…subject to the limitations, terms and conditions, if any…." I guess the question is…. Clearly, there have to be limitations, terms and conditions. Why do we have, again, the phrase "if any" before "imposed by the minister under section 2 (2)"?
Hon. S. Thomson: With this section and the way it works, when you designate the officer and the enactment that you would be providing that designation for, that person would be guided by the statutes that you are prescribing and the rules and regulations and everything underneath that statute, on the compliance side of it. If you don't provide any limitation, then that would be the case.
This is the reference back to section 2, where we talk about limiting or putting some limitations in that designation with reference to area, time or any other limitations that you may want to place on that.
What this says is that if you don't put any of those limitations in place, then the official would be guided by the full responsibility of those statutes. That's where it says: "…but subject to the limitations, terms and conditions, if any…." The "if any" refers to the fact that you may have limitations put in place, and in some cases, you may not — where you want that person to be able to act under the full range of the regulations or the full range of the responsibilities under that particular statute.
B. Routley: I wanted to ask…. Under 3, we're now going to have these deputized, if you like, or they're going to have all of these additional responsibilities. This is the section that really offers up that power to carry out those duties.
What kind of communications plan to the community and to the larger public has the minister thought about in regards to this matter? When you think about…. In the community, people are used to certain kinds of officers, when they are dealing with game in particular. I think it might be problematic if there isn't some kind of strategy to communicate with the larger public about these officials.
Will they actually carry with them…? Or maybe that's something you're going to think about, whether in regulation or policy. Has the ministry put any thought to some kind of identification papers? Obviously, when a police officer comes to the door, they carry with them some credentials so that they can easily be identified. If you're coming up to somebody that's got a gun and you want to identify yourself as an officer with all of these powers that we're about to assign to these officers….
Along with the minister, we all take responsibility for being part of the process that creates this monster, if you like. Maybe it's a good thing, but in some ways, I'm concerned that we're creating some kind of monster that could come back and create problems.
Without enough of the details worked out in advance…. That's my concern. What we have heard today does not lead one to feel comfortable at all that we have a well-thought-out and -contemplated training plan or exact designation. We don't have a job description yet for many of these jobs that may be assigned.
Again, it may turn out to be a good thing. It may be a monster in disguise, but I definitely want to be assured by the minister that there will be some way to communicate with the public these new designations and powers.
When somebody starts rolling through town in their 4-by-4 and going out to sort of stop — you know, wave their hands in the air — people that are carrying guns, there has to be some way to identify them and allow the larger community to know that there has been this dramatic change and that there is a new sheriff in town, so to speak.
[ Page 8667 ]
Hon. S. Thomson: Reasonable points in terms of the need for the communication part of it as part of the implementation plan here. I'm advised that that will be part of the work that's done as we move forward with the implementation.
I think that with respect to the designation, obviously we will want to communicate that and create an identity for that designation, and in fact, this may assist in the process. So when the person is out, rather than saying, "I'm a compliance officer under this and this and this," to be able to say more broadly in terms of doing the compliance enforcement, "I'm a natural resource officer," I think will be helpful. But communication will be an important part of it.
Sections 3 to 5 inclusive approved on division.
On section 6.
N. Macdonald: Just as we wrap up here, the minister has heard pretty fully the concerns that we have. Having said that and despite the fact that we're voting against this, we actually hope that as the minister puts this together, he meets with success. We know that the way you have success is by including the people on the ground who are going to do it. We know that we need to put more people, more boots, on the ground. We know that we have to therefore fund the compliance and enforcement element of what is our most valuable asset.
I also know that the minister steps from here with, no doubt, a full desk that has accumulated in the days he has been working here on legislation, as he heads off to China. Just on behalf of the opposition, we certainly wish all the success to the delegation that's going. There's no question that this is a part of the world that has really grown and continues to grow and provide opportunity, especially at a time when our traditional markets for forestry products have really collapsed in a really problematic way.
As the minister concludes this part of his work and steps off as part of a delegation, we wish him all the best and hope that he's successful.
B. Routley: I just want to add that we thank the minister and his staff for going through this exercise. What we tried to do is to put forward thoughtful questions that would help add to potential solutions in the future. We hope they were somewhat tough questions from time to time. The underlying purpose was not about in any way being harsh. It was about trying to find ways to provide thoughtful answers and solutions in the future.
I would also like to suggest that I think it is a good idea to have a larger communications package that identifies the compliance officers for what they are, and I would suggest that the minister in this international anniversary of the forests take a real good look at the old B.C. Forest uniform. There used to be the khakis with the coloured greens and the badge. I think that would be a wonderful way in this year of an anniversary to identify them in a special way. Especially when you're thinking about wildfire and water and all of these issues, it could be a real identifying theme.
I know that in my experience in the past, when I went to the United States and saw their Smokey the Bear campaign, for example, they had identifying features. I think it would be really wise and make people feel good to know that there were going to be some identifying features to these compliance and enforcement officers and give real meaning to the change in legislation.
With that, thank you very much, and I wish you well on your trip to China. Do take the time to see how our logs are doing over there, but have a good trip.
Hon. S. Thomson: I thank the members opposite for their comments, and I will do everything I can to make sure that our delegation and our trip with the industry is successful and brings back added investment and jobs for British Columbia.
Section 6 approved on division.
Hon. S. Thomson: I rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 3:37 p.m.
The House resumed; L. Reid in the chair.
Third Reading of Bills
Bill 9 — Natural Resource
Bill 9, Natural Resource Compliance Act, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. I. Chong: I now call second reading of Bill 13, intituled Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act.
[D. Horne in the chair.]
Second Reading of Bills
Bill 13 — Metal Dealers and
Hon. S. Bond: I move that the bill be read a second time now.
[ Page 8668 ]
The new Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act will introduce tighter controls on scrap metal transactions occurring at dealers and recyclers throughout the province.
This legislation fulfils the throne speech commitment to introduce a law to curb metal theft and the serious public safety concerns that it raises. The legislation responds to the damage to infrastructure caused by the theft of metal and the impacts on British Columbians through loss of services delivered by utilities and local governments, as well as transportation and telecommunications providers. No similar legislation exists in Canada.
The proposed legislation establishes a provincial registry of metal dealers and recyclers who trade in selected metals that are known to be the target of thefts. The proposed legislation will place identification requirements on sellers of scrap metal and transaction-reporting requirements on scrap dealers and will result in a more carefully monitored environment, deterring thefts and subsequent sale of stolen metal as an easy source of cash.
At the time of the transaction, sellers will be required to produce government-issued photo identification and to provide the seller's full name, current address, telephone number and description of government-issued photo identification used to confirm the seller's identity. In addition, the make, model, colour and provincial licence plate number of the motor vehicle used by the seller to deliver the regulated metals will also be required.
The transaction records will further contain information on the goods, including a description of the metal, the weight and type of the metal, the price paid, the date and time of purchase, and a disclosure of the origin of the scrap metal.
Metal dealers and recyclers will be required to assign each seller a unique customer code that will be included in each transaction record. The customer code, unique to each seller, is intended to protect the privacy of the seller's identity and conveys no personal information.
Metal dealers and recyclers will be required to submit the goods information portion of the transaction record, along with the associated customer number, to the police on a daily basis. Sellers' personal information will be securely retained by the dealers. Metal dealers and recyclers will also be required to keep the transaction records, including the seller and goods information, for one year. Provincially appointed inspectors will ensure dealers' compliance with the act.
We have consulted broadly with a number of key stakeholder groups, including TELUS, B.C. Hydro, the Union of B.C. Municipalities, municipal representatives, the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, as well as the Canadian Association of Recycling Industries. All of these groups have had input into the development of this approach and are in support of provincial leadership on this issue.
Placing identification and restrictions on sellers of scrap metal while the information collection and reporting requirements on scrap dealers are tightened will result in a more carefully monitored environment, which we believe will deter the theft and subsequent sale of stolen metal as an easy source of cash. Similarly, the consistent reporting of goods transaction information to the police will allow them to correlate scrap metals transactions with reports of thefts of metal.
This bill also creates offences to hold individuals and businesses accountable to the requirements under the act. There will be violation ticket fines ranging from $115 to $575. In addition, a summons can be issued to appear in court, where penalties for individuals found in contravention of the act can be fines up to $10,000 or imprisonment for up to six months or both. Businesses found in contravention of the act can be fined up to $100,000 upon conviction. These penalties and fines are similar to those currently existing in the Security Services Act, the Body Armour Control Act, and the Armoured Vehicle and After-Market Compartment Control Act.
In closing, I believe that provincial legislation respecting scrap dealers and recyclers will certainly provide provincial leadership on this important public safety issue. I look forward to the comments of other members on the bill.
K. Corrigan: I'm rising in support of this bill, and I would like to congratulate the government on this bill. It is a good piece of legislation, and I think you'll find that my colleagues and I are fully in support of it. We'll probably have some questions, as we go through the committee stage, about some of the provisions and the operation, but certainly at this point I'm very pleased with this piece of legislation.
It is mind-boggling what some people will do in order to get a few dollars of scrap metal. It is mind-boggling — the destruction and the lack of concern for safety and our economic well-being — that some people would, for a few dollars, do something that could cost tens of thousands of dollars to remedy. So I do congratulate the government on this bill, which will impose strict penalties on those that deal unscrupulously with metal that may have been stolen.
I'm going to give you an example of a story in my community. Just two weeks ago there was a story in Burnaby where thieves had cut into a copper TELUS cable about as thick as a person's arm right next to the Trans-Canada Highway. But the cable, which was strung along Douglas Road — which those of us that live in Burnaby know is next to the highway — fell onto Highway 1.
The suspects fled, but it resulted in traffic being disrupted for a period of time. Of course, this is one of the busiest — probably the busiest — arteries that we have going into the city of Vancouver, so traffic was disrupted for a period of time as police moved the cable off the
[ Page 8669 ]
road. No service was disrupted, luckily, because the cable had been replaced by optic fibre cable.
Nevertheless, this is just one example, as the RCMP pointed out at the time, of a whole rash of similar thefts of metal not only in Burnaby but, of course, throughout the Lower Mainland. So it takes police time to investigate. There are dangers and economic problems associated with it, and it is just unbelievable that people will do this.
Shawn Hall of TELUS, at the time of this attempted theft that I'm talking about, said his company had experienced 50 thefts in September alone in the Lower Mainland, with almost 300 so far in 2011. It's had a tremendous economic and resource impact on TELUS. What he said was that the average cost of fixing each theft is about $50,000.
But for him the more serious concern was the possible loss of 911 service during the repair. So not only do you have a great economic impact, but there is a real concern that 911 service could be knocked out, and that is potentially life-threatening.
If that theft had been successful, Mr. Hall said that they would have made off with about 750 kilograms of copper from the 150 metres of cut cable, which Hall said would probably be worth several hundred dollars. But if you compare that with what he said is the cost of fixing each theft — $50,000…. Somebody goes out and creates destruction for several hundred dollars — and that would have been a pretty big haul — and the cost to repair that is $50,000. It's just unbelievable.
I'm very pleased that the provincial government has responded on this and responded in the throne speech and responded to other organizations, as well, that have expressed concern about this. Among those, of course, are the many, many municipalities around the province that have expressed concern about metal theft. I know it has been a real problem in Burnaby. That example is a good one, but throughout the municipality there's been a great deal of inconvenience, cost and danger associated with it.
It is such a problem across the province that several municipalities took a resolution to the UBCM this year. They resolved to lobby the provincial government to implement a system to license and regulate the scrap metal economy in British Columbia.
I'll be interested to see the reaction of individual municipalities to this legislation. My understanding and belief is that probably municipalities will support it. They may have individual critiques of particular sections. Of course, as I said, we've got the committee stage in order to deal with some of those. I'll certainly be going back to my municipality of Burnaby and asking council just to take a quick look at the legislation and give me any feedback that they want. But overall, I think it is a great, positive piece of legislation.
At the UBCM, resolutions were advanced by Maple Ridge, West Kelowna and Greenwood, and I believe that the resolution was unanimously supported at the UBCM.
One of the things that police and TELUS have been asking — and I think this is an opportunity for us to talk about this — is that when members of the public see something that looks like suspicious activity around telephones and B.C. Hydro infrastructure, they call 911.
Curiously, interestingly, this morning, as I was…. I went back to Burnaby last night for some community events, and this morning when I was driving back down to catch a plane to come over here, as I was driving down Main Street, there were wires hanging down the middle of the road. They seemed to be attached to telephone infrastructure. I have absolutely no idea what they were.
Maybe it was nothing to do with this, but I thought about it. I thought about some of the stories I'd seen in the last few days, and I thought: "You never know. This might be." It might have been a live wire too. I was concerned about that as well. But I did call 911, and I was thanked by the operators for bringing that to their attention.
I think people have to keep their eyes open. It's not only when you see wires hanging or when you see what is obviously suspicious activity. We're all going to have to keep tuned to this as well. One of the things that has been pointed out as this legislation has come forward is that what sometimes happens is thieves have dressed up in white coveralls, vests and hardhats to make themselves look like telephone or hydro repair people. So if you see a vehicle out there that isn't clearly marked with something like TELUS or B.C. Hydro, there's a good chance that something untoward is happening.
The worst incident this year, Mr. Hall of TELUS said, was in April when thieves cut 150 metres of five cables, only one of which was copper. The result of that — one of the things that we're most concerned about — was that 3,500 customers in the Fraser Heights area of Surrey were without service for at least half a day. So the inconvenience and the cost of these mindless acts to get a few hundred dollars, or even a few dollars, are widespread. The most serious incident, of course, was when somebody was killed cutting a TELUS cable.
I think that this is good legislation. Absolutely, I'm supportive of it. I'm supportive of the registration process, which I don't fully understand yet. I must admit that I'm going to have to go through this bill more carefully over the next few days, although I have read it. I'm going to have to go through each individual section more carefully, but it looks to me like it is reasonable.
It looks like it's reasonable when you have, under the legislation, that those who deal in high-value metals like copper — and copper seems to be the main target, with the price being somewhere around $3 a pound right now — will be required to record, as the minister said,
[ Page 8670 ]
details, including the weight and the type of metal purchased, any distinguishing marks on it and where the seller says he or she got it. Those details will be shared with local police on a daily basis, and the records must be kept for a minimum of one year.
I will be asking some more specific questions when we get to committee stage on this. I want to know…. I mean, we're always concerned about protection of people's privacy and how information is stored and being concerned that there is always respect for storage of information and that it's done properly. So that's important. It's an important thing to do that, because dealers will be recording things like the seller's personal information, including their full name, current address, telephone number and date of birth.
When we are recording that type of information at any time, we want to make sure that the safeguards are in place to make sure that information is appropriately protected. We have, of course, seen some stark examples of when personal information has not been appropriately protected. Of course, we had information ending up in a dumpster recently, so we want to make sure that this information is appropriately protected.
But I will give the government credit for this. To protect the seller's privacy, the scheme is that dealers will assign a unique code to each customer from whom they buy metal, and that will accompany the purchase information supplied to the police. That protection is a good one, and I appreciate that. The dealers will only release the seller's personal information to the police who present a court order for that information.
So it seems to me like it's a good piece of legislation. One of the things you have to be concerned about when you have legislation is whether you miss anything, and I notice that cars are exempted. That was probably a wise thing to do, considering the problems that that could have brought on.
I'm pleased to see that there are many people, apart from the UBCM, who have expressed support for this. The UBCM definitely were supportive and have wanted it in their municipalities because of all the safety issues, the inconvenience and the cost. In addition to that, of course, we have TELUS, which is really welcoming of this because of the huge inconvenience and cost to them. What they've said is that their concern is about customer access to 911 being lost and putting people's lives at risk, as Kenneth Haertling of TELUS has said. The opinion of TELUS is that that needs to stop and that the legislation will help.
Of course, we can't forget who else will be very appreciative, and are appreciative, and supportive of this legislation, which are the police departments. There's an obvious benefit to public safety. As Mike Chadwick of the Saanich police department has said: "Each year metal thefts put first responders and the public at serious risk as a result of destruction of critical infrastructure such as telephone lines and hydro installations."
Recycling. I mean, there are lots of recycling companies. We're not talking an industry that doesn't want to do the right thing. As in every industry, the vast majority of the participants of the businesses are good corporate citizens. I certainly don't want to leave the impression that there are all sorts of unscrupulous dealers. There are a few, and this is intended to get those that are unscrupulous.
For example, Gary Bartlett, who is the general manager at Ellice Recycling in Victoria, has welcomed the legislation. What he says is what most recyclers would probably say. He said: "We run a respectable and responsible metal-recycling business, and we've been complying with almost everything in that legislation." Oh, almost. Well, I'm sure that's only because they haven't been asked to. It's probably just crossing their t's that they haven't been doing so far.
He also said: "This legislation levels the field and makes sure everybody is doing their best to combat theft and assure the public that we are, as an industry, doing our best." So I think that probably those people like Gary Bartlett, people who are good corporate citizens and run respectable and responsible metal-recycling businesses, will particularly welcome this because it will clean up their industry and they will be seen as a cleaner industry. Those that are already respectable will appreciate that as well.
You know, at the UBCM this year…. I'm glad to see that the provincial government is acting on this particular request. I think it is a good request. I note that UBCM also asked for a smart meter freeze at the UBCM. I'd love to see the government move on that one. They opposed private water projects. I'd love to see the government move on that one, as well, since they are happy to be moving forward on things that municipalities are asking for at this point. I could come up with a few more, I'm sure, if I were to think about it.
Again, I'm pleased with this. The types of things that are taken by these thieves are just unbelievable. Somebody was telling me just today here in the Legislature that a member of their family had built a new house. They were not in it one day. I'm not sure if they hadn't occupied it yet or they just weren't there that particular day. They came home. Somebody had broken into a brand-new house, and they had stripped the wiring.
It cost them — I can't remember, but I think they said —$10,000 to repair the damage of somebody coming in just to strip the wiring, which probably only netted them, you know, $100 or $200. It's just such destructive behaviour.
Police say it's not just power and phone lines that are being targeted now. Aluminum ladders, billboards, grave markers, street signs and even manhole covers are
[ Page 8671 ]
being stolen. Construction sites are targeted for plumbing and wiring. You have a construction site, and now an added cost is being added onto the construction business — which we know is hurting. It's really hurting because of things like not knowing what's going to happen with the HST or when it's going to come off. Construction is already hurting, and now you have building sites where they have to add security onto the cost of construction, and fencing off.
You know, that's not the kind of society that most of us want to live in, where you have to have security guards and you have to have fencing around even small sites in order to prevent mindless thieves who are coming in to take something just for a quick buck and causing thousands and thousands of dollars of damage.
Sometimes even if you have good security and surveillance equipment, that doesn't necessarily stop the thieves from coming back if they think they can get it. And particularly in remote locations it can be a real problem, so you have to go to where the market is. You probably can't stop the thieves. What you have to do is stop the market for them. So I think this is a good step in that direction.
With that, I would like again to congratulate the government on this bill. I'm interested in hearing a little bit more about it when we get to committee stage, so that I can ask some specific questions, but at this point I will sit down and complete my comments.
D. Hayer: I rise to support Bill 13, the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act, because it makes sense. I also want to congratulate our Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General and Attorney General for bringing in this bill, because it only makes sense. I also want to say thank you to the member for Burnaby–Deer Lake for supporting the bill. I can see that since this bill is a commonsense bill, it will be supported on both sides.
This bill is appropriate because it is something that has been asked for by many businesses and in many communities. We needed it. It is also appropriate that this bill is being introduced today, as we debated today during Crime Prevention Week, because that is what this bill is all about: preventing crime.
I can tell you that in my city of Surrey metal theft is a big issue. Not only does it consume a great deal of resources from Surrey RCMP, but metal theft also jeopardizes the safety of our residents and often puts many of them in the dark. Safety is a critical issue, because when thieves target telecommunications lines and the copper within them, they cut people's access to 911 if an emergency occurs in the home. They cut phone lines that are a direct access to services — to police, to fire and to ambulance.
Metal theft has a health cost, because many of the thieves often get burned, injured or even electrocuted during their actions in cutting live electrical wires to steal copper and other metals within the lines. The one way to curb these thefts and this crime is to make it difficult or impossible to sell their illegally gotten goods, their goodies from the theft.
This bill does just that, because it requires scrap metal dealers to ensure that the source of metals that they buy is legitimate. It puts the onus on them to ensure that the products they buy are truly scrap or recyclable metals that have been legally acquired and have been legally disposed of.
With this act, we can virtually eliminate the illegal theft of metal because scrap dealers will have to keep concise records of their transactions and report them daily to police. No thief is going to identify himself or herself or where he or she got the product if he or she is trying to sell them an illegal, stolen product. She or he will know that the details they provide to the dealers will be reported to police, especially if it's a stolen product, stolen material, stolen metal.
Every time there is a major theft of wire, often netting the thieves just a few dollars, tens of thousands of dollars are lost to TELUS, Hydro and other suppliers, other businesses, to restore these lines and reconnect people's telephone lines and power lines. Often wires are stolen out of street lights, making it unsafe for pedestrians and others out at night. That puts people at risk of assault, mugging and the danger of being hit by passing vehicles.
People are telling me in my constituency that we have to fix this problem, and I want to say again thank you to the minister for listening to this. We have to prevent metal theft, and we have to make sure that many people's lives are not put at risk because of metal theft. This bill does just that. It eliminates or will try to eliminate metal theft.
Bill 13 is a good bill. It makes metal theft more difficult and less profitable and improves and enhances the safety net we have in place. It also fulfils a key commitment our government made in the throne speech this fall. Bill 13 makes British Columbia the first province in Canada to enact legislation that targets scrap metal sales and purchases. It makes us the first jurisdiction in Canada to protect provincewide public safety and infrastructure by making it almost impossible for thieves to sell illegally obtained metals.
This bill will also ensure that memorial plaques, metal artwork and other things we place as a community benefit to honour or commemorate something or someone will remain where we placed them, rather than being torn from their mountings to be sold for mere pennies. When those things happen, there is a sense of emotional loss that cannot be replaced.
This bill will change that. It will help ensure that what we place in memorials or commemorative cairns…. It will make sure that people will be able to keep them there for their memories and that people will appreciate that
[ Page 8672 ]
those memorials will stay there instead of being stolen and melted down.
I support this bill because it's a major step forward in reducing criminal acts that affect us all. This will save us all millions of dollars a year. It will bring scrap dealers into compliance with rules that everyone else has to live with. I believe that this is an important step towards reducing crime, protecting public safety and saving us all a vast amount of money — replacing infrastructure damage by thieves just so someone can steal and get a few dollars for the wires or the metal they steal.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
This bill makes sense to me, and I don't think anybody is going to oppose it. I presume the only persons that would oppose it are probably perhaps the thieves, who would not want this bill to pass.
I can tell you a story about my own constituency. There was a house not too far from Tynehead Park on 94A Avenue. Thieves broke in there, and they started stealing the copper gas line pipe. After they stole the pipe, they left, but a little bit after, the house blew up. When the house blew up, it damaged a lot of houses all around it.
Luckily, nobody was hurt; nobody was killed. But I can tell you that some of the neighbours that were cutting grass a block away felt the shock, and even as far as two or three blocks people were able to feel it. They thought there was an earthquake. The whole house blew up and was broken into small little pieces. We're lucky that no person got killed. Those types of stories happen sometimes, but the stories about stealing things from a house or business are very real and happen often.
Every month or sometimes every few months we meet with the businesses and members of the Port Kells community by the Surrey RCMP. At that time they talk about different thefts or the crimes that have happened in the industrial area of Port Kells.
Often the biggest theft is the metal, the wires, and people breaking into businesses. Sometimes even in daytime they are breaking in and stealing the metal, and sometimes at nighttime. Sometimes they have security cameras installed, and that does not even deter them.
One of the things the police were telling us there, and city of Surrey staff that is always there — they say we need the province to pass legislation, a bill that would control this throughout the province.
I was happy to see our minister has listened to the city of Surrey, the RCMP and the businesses, not just in Surrey but around the Fraser Valley and all British Columbia, and have listened to UBCM and have come back with this really good bill that is going to be making sure that we reduce the crime of metal theft there.
This Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act is a very important act. I think it is going to go a long way, and it is something other provinces around Canada will be listening to and watching for and reviewing to make sure it's done. I think it would be good to see even the federal government get involved with this, put a bill at the federal level, so at least thieves cannot cross the boundary lines from one province to another to sell their metal.
When I talked to the Surrey Board of Trade, they were also telling us that when they hold their quarterly meetings with business and talk about crime, metal theft was one of the major issues.
I can tell you that just last week there was an incident in Surrey where thieves went and cut some of the lines from the telephone lines. There were thousands of homes without a telephone service system. If there had been any emergency and they had to used 911, they would not have been able to contact the police or the ambulance or the fire.
This bill will make sure that the people don't have incentive to steal metal and the wires, and that will go a long way to eliminating this type of crime. Again, the chamber of commerce and many other boards of trade will be happy to see government moving forward with this.
I'm really happy to see that the opposition is going to be supporting it. I know that a lot of the members have their own stories they have heard around their towns and their cities, in their communities, their constituencies and from the constituents and their businesses. They will be telling their stories, and I think that they will all be supporting this bill.
In conclusion, I want to say thank you to the minister, and I want to thank the government. Thank you for putting this bill forward. This is something that was needed. It will go a long way in helping the businesses and the community out.
D. Routley: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to this bill, Madam Speaker. As the previous speaker indicated, I'm sure all the members in the House have heard stories from their constituencies about the unfortunate prevalence and rise in the rate of metal theft in our communities.
It's a funny thing, really, that something that benefits British Columbia on the one hand causes this kind of difficulty. High metal prices, of course, are a very good thing for British Columbia, with our many mines that are able to profit and communities that are able to benefit from the high metal prices generally. But it does create this unwanted effect of increasing the opportunity for profit from scrap metal theft, because the same prices, of course, that opened mines in British Columbia recently have created this new problem for us. It is an unfortunate problem.
I'll begin by telling you one story from my constituency of a man named Richard Hill who came to my constituency office. He belongs to a business called Yellow Point Lodge.
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Mr. Hill complains about the theft of metal products from his business and how he can trace his products back to one scrap dealer in particular who he told me about and his frustration in trying to run a profitable business, and his frustration in having his efforts at supporting his family and supporting his community thwarted by people who would take advantage of him, his business and this opportunity for a theft and profit.
He came to my office very frustrated that there isn't this type of legislation, so I congratulate the government for responding to Mr. Richard Hill and others like him in the province who have found this frustration.
Construction businesses have to engage in huge costs in extra security in order to protect their products from theft. This is something that affects not only their profitability but their ability to employ British Columbians. We all, in the end, pay a price when this type of crime is prevalent.
I was a school trustee in the Cowichan Valley. Recently one of the schools in the Cowichan Valley that had been closed for some time, Cowichan Station Elementary, was leased to a community group as a home to their activities. They would provide recreation for children, child care opportunities and potentially extend the educational opportunities to people in their neighbourhood.
Some metal thieves broke into that school recently and stole virtually all the electrical wiring they could get at and the plumbing fixtures from the building. This is a huge blow to this community group, because the cost of replacing this will be over, I believe, $100,000 in order to repair the building. We pay a deep price that is often not really well understood when we simply look at the issue of people stealing metal in order to profit.
We also see an industry that plays a vital role in our communities environmentally being impugned. The scrap metal dealers who are legitimate, and I would assume that almost all of them are, are also impugned by those metal dealers who knowingly trade in stolen goods. These people, these businesses provide a vital service to our communities and to our environment.
We are in a world of diminishing resources. We all know that we need to protect what resources we have, and we need to reduce, reuse and recycle. So when people legitimately recycle metal products for the benefit of the community and the environment and then the entire sector of the economy, and when that entire practice is impugned by a few people who happen to be less than honest, then that is another way that we all pay for the increase in metal theft.
When we look at this situation, the obvious fix would be to regulate the scrap metal dealers, and that's what this bill does. I hope in third reading we'll find out that it doesn't unreasonably encumber them with duties that will further impugn their ability to be profitable at a very essential service to our communities.
I look forward to third reading debate, to have those few issues cleared up, but in a general sense answering the call of my constituent Richard Hill, who felt motivated to come into my office and tell me just how damaging this type of theft is to his business, and to the many construction businesses in my constituency who have been penalized to the cost of millions in terms of loss to their businesses through the loss of metal products and also through their increased security costs. I would thank the government for answering their plea for some sort of remedy.
We also have to look at the role that metal scavenging plays for people who live on very, very low incomes in this province. There are people who supplement their income or who make all their income through scavenging materials and recycling, be that pop cans or metal products. I think we have to commend that type of industry.
A dear friend of mine, Tony Hoar in Mill Bay, was, I think, the first British cyclist to complete the Tour de France. He built Rick Hansen's wheelchairs before the Man in Motion Tour. He's a fantastic guy in his mid-80s who can still cycle up the Malahat without any trouble — a very healthy man.
What he does now for a business is build trailers for bicycles. He builds trailers that can allow cyclists to tow disabled people in chairs. He builds trailers for carrying cargo. But he also builds trailers for homeless people, trailers that convert into tent trailers at night and into binners trailers in the daytime so that homeless people or just people who engage in the practice of binning or recycling materials from dumpsters can use these trailers to carry their products to recycle depots.
That is an important role, and my friend Tony has won a design award in creating these trailers for those folks. They supplement their income, and they pay their way through this world by scavenging materials and recycling. I would wager that a very low number of those people steal products to recycle, but they are impugned by the people who do that. The people that we're talking about and addressing in this bill are essentially professional thieves who go in and do this type of thing that I spoke about at Cowichan Station School and absolutely strip buildings of their metal products. Or they cut down telephone poles and collect the wiring, and we've heard speakers talk about what a peril that can put a community to.
But who pays with being painted by one brush as we consider who's responsible for metal theft? Well, often it's these unfortunate but very industrious people who are actually out there providing themselves a living through scavenging recyclable products. They will be able to continue that activity without being impugned by thieves who take advantage of metal prices that actually make it possible for some people to live.
I think, all in all, it's a step forward and a welcome step to be regulating an industry that has unfortunately become the target of very unscrupulous people who
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have damaged the reputation of good business people and have brought disrepute to an industry that is essential to a healthy environment as we go forward in the future.
With that, I'm unaware of any other relevant points that I can make, other than to say that it's refreshing to be able to stand and support legislation. The last speaker said, "Well, it's commonsense legislation, so everyone will support it," which really justifies our opposition to other pieces of legislation, and I thank him for that. But thank you for this opportunity to speak to this bill.
J. Yap: I'm honoured and privileged to take my place in second reading debate on Bill 13, the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act, a very important piece of legislation — actually landmark legislation, as has been said. When this is passed, this will be the very first of its kind in all of Canada.
It is very appropriate that our government is following through on a commitment to bring in this legislation this week during Crime Prevention Week because this bill is intended to deal with a very serious issue that has become even more of a topical issue these recent years. As we've heard from other members who have spoken, it seems that hardly a week goes by, if not a day, when we hear about an incident involving the theft of metal for the value that's contained within the metal.
I want to start out, first of all, by thanking our Solicitor General, the Minister of Public Safety, for her excellent work with her ministry and her team for bringing forward this important piece of legislation. It is so encouraging to see members from both sides of the House so far speaking in favour, positively, about this legislation. I think that's tremendous when both sides of the House can work together, and we hope that's a sign of things to come, as I look at the member for Port Coquitlam.
It's no surprise when we look at the price of one of the very popular items that is a target for these criminal elements — copper. I was very curious to see what the price of copper has done over the last number of years, and we've got great records that you can pull up.
Just going back ten years ago, copper was trading at around $1 a pound. If you look at the fluctuations over the last number of years, the price of copper as a commodity has steadily increased. Of course, there are short-term fluctuations, but it has increased steadily to around $5 a pound — in that range, $4.50 to $5 a pound — and even though it has moderated a little bit in recent weeks, it still is on a long-term upward trend.
We look at the worldwide demand for these metals, especially copper. As we look at the industrialized economies in the developing countries, especially in Asia, we see huge demand for these commodities. The long-term trend is for the price of copper and other metals to keep rising. Therefore, the value to these criminal elements who perpetrate these thefts and are the subject of this legislation becomes even more important.
So this is very important legislation that has as its primary goal the improvement of public safety. That is the primary goal of this legislation, and it's great to see the opposition members speak in favour of doing more for the sake of public safety.
By tracking the sales of metal, we will ensure that we level the playing field for those scrap dealers that are honest versus those that may not be as honest, and we will also, through this legislation, deter the thieves.
As I have said, this is primarily about public safety, because when these thefts occur, typically they will involve the ripping out of cables and wires that not only supply electricity but may also provide communication links, as has been referred to. The 911 emergency service has been jeopardized because of such criminal activities by the perpetrators of metal theft.
We're talking about public safety, an issue that has been well canvassed by many communities. Many municipalities have brought in some bylaws to deal with the sale of scrap metal. I'm really pleased that our government, that the province, is going to take action through this legislation so that we can ensure that wherever you are in British Columbia this kind of criminal activity will be addressed and will be punished.
We're also talking about the impact on the economy, because this type of criminal activity leads to not just an impact on public safety, which is the primary concern, but also the loss of thousands and thousands — millions — of dollars, of taxpayers' funds, and an impact on the economy, on private enterprise, on business opportunities lost. This legislation will help contain this and, hopefully, drastically reduce, if not put an end to this.
The thefts cost utilities, obviously, whether they're, as has been mentioned, stakeholders like TELUS and B.C. Hydro. It also affects municipalities which have to restore the property that has been damaged as a result of these thefts and, ultimately, the impact on taxpayers throughout the province. We've all read the stories of these thefts.
As I was thinking about the background as to why we are bringing this legislation, why our Solicitor General has brought in this legislation, I did a scan of some of the news stories, and here's a selection of stories about metal theft throughout the province.
[D. Black in the chair.]
On January 15, 2010, the Langley Times reported that 200 residents "were without telephone service after thieves caused significant damage when stealing around 60 metres of cable at Langley bypass" — 60 metres of two copper cables.
Around the same time, in Richmond, thieves cut through four fibre optic cables, hoping the cables were
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actually copper. They were actually fibre optic cables, so they didn't get value there. But 500 customers in my community, in Richmond, were without telephone service because of this crime.
April of 2010, the Province reports as follows: "Seven men face charges of break-and-enter after police responded to a call from a Canada Line employee who witnessed men loading copper wire onto a van from a B.C. Hydro substation at the 400 block of Kent Street, 2 a.m. in the morning."
This metal heist cost B.C. Hydro ratepayers about $2.8 million — just this one. This was said by spokesman Dag Sharman. He said a special 2.7 kilometre submarine cable was recovered but damaged beyond repair and will need to be replaced at that cost — $2.7 million — and $100,000 of cable was never recovered.
Another example, the Mission City Record, August of 2011 — just this year — says that metal theft resulted in $10,000 damage to three district street lights in the community of Mission.
Vancouver Sun, just last month, October 2011: thieves cut into a copper TELUS cable about as thick as a person's arm, but the cable fell onto the highway, and the suspects fled. This story was shared with us by a previous member who talked about this. In this case TELUS said that the average cost of fixing each theft is about $50,000 and, of course, the more serious impact is that on public safety and the loss of 911 emergency service.
There are so many stories similar to these, of nefarious crimes committed by those who would rip off cable, rip off anything of value that is made of metal for, probably, not a lot of money, but in terms of the impact on communities, impact on society, impact on families — very serious. Hence, this legislation will seek to address this and put a stop to this.
Bill 13 is designed to deter and prosecute metal thieves but do it in a way that will minimize regulatory costs. This bill will require metal dealers to register with the province. So for those metal dealers who are scrupulous, who are honest, who are ethical, it's not a problem. They will, I'm sure, comply, and they would be glad to comply. It will level the playing field when, as we have seen with the other types of operators, it just has been allowed to go on for too long.
With this bill, Bill 13, we will level the playing field and allow those scrap dealers who are honest to continue to thrive, because they will comply with the law. Dealers will be required to record the seller's personal information, including full name, current address, telephone number and date of birth — personal information that will allow to us ensure that these are on the up and up, that these are individuals who are entitled to deal in the scrap that they bring to a scrap dealer.
But we also want to ensure that the personal information is appropriate. In crafting this legislation, the Minister of Public Safety consulted with the Information and Privacy Commissioner to ensure that we were protecting the privacy of British Columbians while we were putting together this important piece of legislation that will bring in the controls we need to reduce this type of crime and the impact on public safety.
To ensure privacy protection, dealers will assign a unique code to each seller. This code then accompanies purchase information and is supplied to the police, but only in the event that the police identify that there has been a theft and there is a court order for that information. So we're striking a balance between ensuring that there are the tools, the information, to track the sale of metal, and also recognizing the importance of protecting the personal information of British Columbians as we go forward.
As a government that believes we need to minimize red tape, this legislation does not impose a licensing scheme. It avoids excessive financial and administrative burdens on the typically small- to medium-sized businesses involved in scrap metal. That's a good thing. We want these honest and ethical scrap metal dealers to be able to have a thriving business, and we don't want to overburden them. But we do want them, when this legislation is brought into law, to comply with laws that will have some serious penalties for non-compliance. As has been mentioned, there will be fines that could go as high as $100,000 for those dealers that are found to be in breach.
As I said, this bill is about protecting the public, about public safety. We want to detect and deter metal thieves who have been an increasing scourge on communities all around the province.
Just a few numbers to keep it in perspective. The estimated losses by utilities from this crime have surpassed $50 million in the province — serious numbers — and this does not include replacement costs, labour, the costs of increased security, property damage, all of which will amount to several million dollars. One Lower Mainland municipality reportedly has seen $3 million of damage to its infrastructure — one municipality — as a result of metal thefts this year alone.
As has been mentioned, this was an important issue that was raised at the UBCM. I'm very pleased and proud that our government is bringing in this legislation, Bill 13, to deal with this problem. As we move forward, we will want to ensure that this legislation will be in sync with the regulations that have been brought in — the different municipalities have brought in bylaws to deal with scrap metal sales — to ensure that we have effective control on this issue over the entire province.
We've been in contact with the national Canadian Association of Recycling Industries, a very important group representing an important sector that deals with the recycling of materials, which, as we all know, is very important in the drive for a more sustainable world.
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This association represents metal dealers and recyclers, and we have listened to their concerns to ensure that while we bring in this legislation, it is in a form and a way that will not unduly burden them. Again, public safety is the priority of this legislation, and we have tried to balance the interests of the scrap metal dealers and recyclers with the public safety imperative.
As I said, this legislation, as proposed, would avoid a number of burdensome programs, such as a tag-and-hold system or a licensing scheme, so we avoid imposing unnecessary, costly regulation on those who operate in this industry who are honest and who are ethical. This legislation, when it comes into effect, will level the playing field between honest and scrupulous operators and those who are not so.
We've had a number of validators who have come forward to say this is very welcome legislation. We've heard from TELUS, through the voice of Kenneth Haertling, their chief security officer. He is quoted to have said as follows: "We welcome this tough approach to regulating scrap metal sales throughout B.C., which will help protect our customers' access to critical communications infrastructure. Thieves have cut live TELUS cables 325 times this year, and when they do, they are cutting our customers' access to 911, putting their very lives at risk. It needs to stop, and this legislation will help."
Another word of validation, support, from none other than the chief constable of Saanich police department, Mike Chadwick. He says: "Law enforcement is supportive of this initiative because of the obvious benefits to public safety. Each year metal thefts put first responders and the public at serious risk as a result of destruction of critical infrastructure such as telephone lines and hydro installations."
This is landmark legislation. When it is passed, we will be the first jurisdiction in Canada to bring in this kind of legislation, which will address the crime of scrap metal theft that has become all too prevalent throughout our province, affecting communities all around British Columbia.
I'm very proud of my government, of our Minister of Public Safety, for bringing this legislation in, and I know that when it comes into effect, British Columbians will welcome this legislation. It is win-win legislation. It is legislation that really speaks to making a difference to communities that have been affected and to public safety that has been affected by this criminal activity.
So I'm proud to stand in support of this legislation, Bill 13, and very pleased that the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act will be debated in the House. I look forward to hearing the comments of other members of the Legislature on this groundbreaking legislation that will make a difference to communities, to British Columbians all around our province.
Again, I thank the Solicitor General for bringing this forward. This is legislation that will make a difference to the public safety of all communities throughout our province.
With that, Madam Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts on this important piece of legislation, and I look forward to hearing from my friend across the way on more perspectives — positive perspectives, I'm sure — on this important piece of legislation, Bill 13, Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act.
M. Farnworth: It's a pleasure to rise and to speak on Bill 13, the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act. As previous speakers have said, it is an important piece of legislation. It's one that has been pushed for and lobbied for by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.
Councils across British Columbia have been dealing with the issue of metal theft in their communities. Businesses have been dealing with metal theft in their business operations, often with significant financial consequences. Families have been dealing with metal theft of plaques and memorials to loved ones or events that have gone by in their community, and it's time that we had some legislation in place.
I think one of the key things this bill does is put in place provincial regulations where too often there has been a patchwork of regulatory framework around the province, leading to an uneven…. Some communities had legislation or had bylaws in place; others didn't. There was no consistency in terms of the regulatory framework that was in place across the province, and that, I think, aided the metal thieves. That was something that allowed them to do their scumbag work of stealing things, because they could get away with it. They could get away with it. That was wrong, and that is wrong.
It's also interesting, too, because this legislation, as previous speakers have pointed out, is unique across the country. I think that other provinces, other jurisdictions, are going to look to what we are doing to enact legislation in their places as well, because it's not just unique to British Columbia. It is a phenomenon of metal prices that have risen dramatically over the last number of years.
Copper, at one point, was about 65 cents a pound. In the mid-'90s the global price of copper was 65 cents a pound. At that particular price, it stays in the ground. When it's at $2, $3, $4 a pound, copper is not only being pulled out of the ground by mines but also pulled out of telephone wires, hydro wires, stripped off church roofs and anywhere else people can remove it, take it to an unscrupulous metal dealer and make a quick buck off it.
It's a phenomenon that is affecting many jurisdictions around the globe, often with tragic consequences. We haven't seen cases here, but there have been cases in other jurisdictions where, for example, manhole covers have been removed in the middle of the night, often a
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number of them, and where people have died because they have fallen through. Thoughtless individuals have removed manhole covers, thinking that it's going to be real easy to take it down, get it melted down and make a few dollars. The result was a tragedy where someone's life was lost.
We've seen cases in this province where people have decided that they knew what they were doing, went out and stole copper wiring and then ended up being electrocuted to death. You know, that's a very high price to pay to try and steal something. It's an even higher price for families and loved ones and friends. So it has tragic consequences.
It also has significant economic costs, as we've seen. Companies such as TELUS and Hydro pay tens of millions of dollars in this province to deal with the damage and the disruptions caused by metal theft. Those are all reasons why we need this legislation in place.
The fact that TELUS has suffered 325 attempts in a year alone tells you something. That's literally an attempt every single day.
It's not that long ago, just a few weeks ago, that we had a story about the metal thieves who decided they were going to take down a lamp standard on the Trans-Canada, the No. 1 going through Burnaby, to get at the copper in the wires. The result was that it brought the lamp standard down across the No. 1, blocking traffic, causing disruptions, because of these thoughtless individuals who think only of making a quick buck without any sense of the havoc they wreak, not just economically, but also in terms of people's safety and their ability to access and make phone calls when phone systems are down and to phone fire, 911 and other emergency services.
This is an issue that needs to be dealt with.
M. Farnworth: The Minister of Education says that I'm being, perhaps, a bit too critical.
M. Farnworth: I am not being critical of the Minister of Education, but that does allow me to make a segue. I have outlined the very important and serious issues of why this bill is important economically. The economic consequences that we face in communities and in the province need to be dealt with by this particular piece of legislation.
I've talked a little bit, and I'll come back to it, about some of the social consequences that have impacted people. But I have heard a rumour….
Hon. G. Abbott: Pray tell.
M. Farnworth: The member says: "Pray tell." I'll be happy to pray tell. The reason this legislation has come through at this particular point of time…. And it is a rumour I tell — just a rumour. I am just letting the members know the rumour that I have heard, and then the House can be the judge for itself. The reason this particular piece of legislation came at this particular time was because….
One of the things that happens in government is that ribbons are cut, projects are built and plaques are made, and those plaques celebrate and commemorate important events and projects. They have names on them. Ministers and, in particular, Premiers look at those plaques, and they see themselves immortalized in bronze for decades to come, long after their time in this place is finished.
As I said, just a rumour. A Premier — I will not name names — walked by, and where there had been a ribbon cutting just a few months before, a nice plaque with the names on there was no longer there. Someone had come along and taken that plaque off its pride of place.
Outrageous. It had obviously gone to some unscrupulous metal dealer to be melted down and sent God knows where. This so outraged this highly important elected personage that…. "That's it. No more." We will now have legislation to deal with that. As I said, only just a rumour.
M. Farnworth: As the member said, only just a rumour.
I make that point to lighten on what is a very serious and important issue, because I do think that people do not realize just how serious this issue is and how prevalent this issue is. People see it in their own communities.
I had someone phone my office who noticed in some of our subdivisions that someone was unscrewing the metal numbers on the address to a subdivision — Citadel Heights in Port Coquitlam, to name the place.
They confronted the individual who was taking the numbers — in broad daylight, off the entranceway — and the person, bold as brass, said: "Oh, I'm just taking them to be cleaned." The person thought this was a bit strange but didn't confront him and reported it to the police. There is, unfortunately, nothing that really could be done.
As I said, the person "took them to be cleaned." The reality was the community, that neighbourhood, was taken to the cleaners by the person stealing those numbers, stealing numbers off of houses, making it hard, again, for emergency services to find an address.
It's not a victimless crime. These individuals think that stealing metal is just stealing metal. It's not a victimless crime at all. It impacts our economy. It impacts jobs. It impacts people. It impacts people's personal lives.
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I think one of the cruellest in terms of metal theft are those who steal grave markers and cremation markers, who know that this is not metal being recycled, that this is straight theft that causes emotional grief to families who have lost a loved one.
We need to have in place legislation that will do that. This does that. To me, the important thing is that we have a comprehensive set of rules and regulations right across the province.
Most metal dealers are law-abiding and will not find these changes onerous, but there are those who are unscrupulous and those who turn their head as to where a particular shipment of metal or particular types of metal have come from. Hopefully, this legislation will work.
During committee stage we will have questions about the different sections so we can make sure that everything is addressed and that this legislation can be as effective as it needs to be.
With that, I will take my place and close by just saying that the opposition is supportive of this legislation. It is something that communities have asked for and the public has been asking for. It will have the support of this side of the House, and my hope is that it is as effective as it is designed to be.
M. Dalton: I am pleased to support Bill 13, the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act. The previous member from Coquitlam got a round of applause from all sides of the House here. That's great. It's very good to hear that support for this law, this act that's coming forth. Actually, we've seen a number of acts, a number of laws, that we're getting bipartisan support for, so we appreciate that.
This is, as has been mentioned, the first province in Canada that is bringing forth this legislation, and I'm sure that others will follow. It certainly is needed. As has been mentioned, there is a tremendous problem with metal theft in this province that impacts all of us. The cost just to the utilities alone has been estimated at $50 million a year. The cost to municipalities is above and beyond that, and to individuals also.
But I'm encouraged, because I really do believe that this law, this bill, will make a big difference in the province. We're going to see something happen with metal theft. It's necessary.
I know that these acts, these laws, make a difference. We have a number of precedents, even recently, where we've seen that happen. The first precedent that I can think of is tackling auto theft. It wasn't too many years ago that we used to hear all the time about just how much of a problem auto theft was — for years.
There was one municipality in the Lower Mainland that was acclaimed to be the car theft capital of North America. That was very serious, and it was taken seriously. I know that the municipality took some big measures, but the province did also. And we have seen the amount of car thefts drop from, I believe in 2003, about 23,000 or 24,000 down to 9,000 a year.
That's a 65 percent decrease that has come from a combination of measures, including the bait car program, bait trailers, bait snowmobiles and bait bikes. We have seen a tremendous decrease, and people feel safer because of that, and we are safer. So that's one example.
Another example is the recent gang problems that we've had, the number of homicides. We've brought in legislation to deal with gang warfare. What has happened was last year we saw the number of homicides drop almost in half, 50 percent, just by implementing laws and enforcing that, giving the tools to our police forces.
The third example that I'm thinking of is the drinking-and-driving laws that were passed last year. Just since that time the number of fatalities on our roads has also been cut by half, so that's very significant.
We're seeing dramatic changes as far as criminal activity goes. British Columbia leads the way as far as a decrease in crime. We saw last year a 6 percent decrease in crime and a 7 percent decrease in violent crime from the previous year.
The homicide rate is the lowest since records have been kept — since, I believe it was, 1982. So tremendous success we're seeing in the area of crime and reduction of crime, and that makes a difference. People walk down the streets feeling safe in their neighbourhoods. That makes a big difference. We've got a long ways yet still to go, but we're on the right track.
Metal theft is a phenomenon that is happening across North America because of the high price of copper, in particular. I was reading a story — I believe last week, the week before — about a two-tonne bell, a church bell, in California that was built in the early 1800s. People have an identity…. There's history with that, obviously — it's been around for a couple of centuries — and there's theft from the entire community.
I know that my constituency, in Maple Ridge and Mission, we've also felt the same feeling. Actually, this year alone, for the first nine months of 2011 we have seen 78 cases of metal theft in Maple Ridge. It's a shameful crime against our community as a whole. I know that the member for Port Coquitlam heard this rumour why it might be implemented. These plaques…. Well, that is actually important, not just for the members but especially for the community.
I think specifically about the bronze plaque that was just put in, in Maple Ridge. It was for the Maple Ridge veterans next to our cenotaph, just listing the awards that they had won. That was taken, and it was melted. As we are approaching Remembrance Day, I know it was difficult for them. The thought is: "How could a person or some thieves take from people who have given so much to this nation?" So it is a shameful act to all British Columbians.
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There was also a plaque. On the topic of a plaque, last year we had a plaque put on the Pitt River Bridge. All the names of the workers were on that plaque. There were about 500 names on that plaque. I talked to a number of workers and families that came and attended that ceremony, and they were very proud to be able to point to that to their family and say: "This is something recognizing the work that we've done, that I've done on this bridge."
That was stolen. Actually, it was taken…. There were three plaques, and they weighed about 600 pounds. It was put on and held by titanium bars, but they still got through it, and they found it later cut up in 30 pieces — a scrap metal dealer who had cut it all up. That's a shame.
TELUS spokesperson Shawn Hall says that it costs an average of $50,000 for TELUS per incident, and what do the thieves get out of this? A couple hundred dollars.
It's a safety issue also. I remember walking — I believe it was in Chilliwack — and some of the lights weren't working because the thieves had pulled out the wires. I know that they had tried…. They sealed them, the lights, and then I believe they made it a game — took out the wires, even though it was contained. In Mission, also, we had this happen just recently. Three lampposts were vandalized, where the wires were stolen, and it cost $10,000 just for those three poles alone. This is happening all across this province.
It's a cost. I mentioned a cost to the utilities. If it costs the utilities, it impacts the rates. If it costs municipalities for having to repair lampposts, it costs the taxpayer. It costs all of us.
Mike Salo is an owner of Fraser Valley Metal Exchange, in Maple Ridge. He said that he really wants police to deal with shady dealers because they go to the scrupulous ones and if they cannot do business with them, then they will go to where they can do business. So this is a way of clamping down on dishonest scrap dealers and protects honest businesses.
One aspect I like in this bill is that it will allow for daily communication. Actually, it requests that there's daily communication with the police with scrap metal.
This bill also provides significant penalties for those convicted under the act, and that's where the strength of it comes in. So an individual who commits an offence is liable to a conviction of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to six months or both. That's the individual that commits theft. But a business entity is liable on conviction to a fine of up to $100,000 if they go astray, don't follow the rules, and if there's a theft that they are involved in.
What this does is reduce the motivation, the money motivation, for the scrap metal dealers to buy, because they're at risk of losing a significant amount of cash. So when you take away the opportunity for metal thieves to sell their wares, then that reduces the incentive to actually go and steal. Why steal and go make the efforts to do this and not have a place to actually sell? It's a matter of economics.
I know a number of years ago that there was legislation that was passed dealing with pawnshops, and we were able to see some real changes in that with pawnshops. I'm looking forward to seeing the changes that will happen here.
Maple Ridge is a one of a number of municipalities on the Lower Mainland that is part of a scrap metal task force. Different municipalities have been bringing forth or are in the process of bringing forth regulations to deal with this. But the problem with this is that it's kind of like Whac-a-Mole. You hit one mole here, and it pops up somewhere else. It just moves the problem from one jurisdiction to another. With this act what will happen is that we're dealing with the entire province to bring it under a systematic law.
I do commend the municipalities for their concern, and we're looking at working with them to see big changes in this. I'm looking forward to seeing this bill supported by all members of the House, and I'm glad to be able to support it today.
L. Krog: I don't wish to disturb the House by saying this too much, but it'll be another glorious day when everybody is so magically in agreement on a bill. I think that the Attorney General/Solicitor General — the Bartholomew Cubbins of the cabinet over there; got more hats than anyone else I know — has astonishingly achieved it two times in a row, where I've stood up and supported a government bill.
Hon. S. Bond: Three.
L. Krog: Three, she tells me. I'm not even keeping count; it's become such a habit.
Hon. S. Bond: I've got more coming.
L. Krog: And more to come, I'm told. I'm not sure we'll be entirely in agreement on all of them.
But I want to say first that obviously, good legislation, logical, sensible, addresses a clear, present problem. That's what good legislators do. But I would be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to point a couple things out to the government benches. It's interesting. Earlier in the chamber I had a brief discussion with my friend and colleague the member for Surrey–Green Timbers, and she thought exactly the same thing.
There is over there this government that prided itself on cutting regulation — prided itself on cutting regulation. Indeed, the present Minister of Finance took great pride in eliminating, amongst other things, the trillium act. Now, Lord knows that was cluttering up the statutes
[ Page 8680 ]
of British Columbia and caused a real problem for business, I'm sure, across the board.
N. Simons: It's the trillium and rhododendron act.
L. Krog: Oh, my friend tells me it's the trillium and rhododendron act. He could be right. But my point is this. If we take a walk through this legislation…. Let's just take a little walk. Try and think of us as a bunch of innocent small business folks in the province of British Columbia trying to take this little walk through the glories of this legislation. The definition section: "'regulated metal' means (a) an item substantially made of non-ferrous metal, or (b) a prescribed item or class of items…." There's the trick — "a prescribed item or class of items."
We know where that's coming from. Cabinet is going to get together around the old table in the west annex, and they're going to dream up all the regulations. And there'll be another mass of regulations, because we'll want to create this "prescribed item or class of items."
Then we're down into part 1, section 2. It says a person can't sell regulated metal to a metal dealer, etc., at the time of the transaction, unless the person "presents prescribed identification to the metal dealer…" — so that has to be prescribed — and must provide "…the metal dealer or recycler with (i) the information referred to in section 5 (2) (a), (c), (d) and (e), and (ii) any other prescribed information." So there'll be an opportunity for another regulation telling you what the "prescribed information" is.
Then we're going to drift on to section 3, which says: "A metal dealer or recycler must not purchase regulated metal from a person unless, at the time of the transaction, the person complies with the requirements of section 2."
It goes on again. Then it says: "A metal dealer or recycler must not purchase (a) metallic wire…(b) regulated metal" — "regulated"; we'll have to figure out what that is — "that bears distinguishing or identifying marks indicating ownership" — etc., etc. — "by any of the following…(iii) a prescribed entity." So we're going to prescribe what the entity is too, hon. Speaker.
Then we're going to shift on to section 5 in our little walk through the legislation. I'm just Joe Small Business in, you know, Pouce Coupe, trying to make a living here, and somebody's trying to flog me some metal. "A metal dealer or recycler must not purchase regulated metal unless, at the time of the transaction, the metal dealer or recycler… (b) records the following information…." It's got a list of five items, and then: "(vi) any other prescribed information." So there'll be some more regulation there too.
Then we get on to sub (2) of section 5. It says: "In addition to the requirements of subsection (1), a metal dealer or recycler must not purchase regulated metal unless, at the time of the transaction, the metal dealer or recycler collects and records the following information…." Again, five items; "(f) any other prescribed information."
On to section 7: "A metal dealer or recycler must (a) record and maintain transaction information in the prescribed manner and form…." So we're going to tell you how to record it, and we're going to give you a form too.
Now, that sounds an awful lot like red tape to me, hon. Speaker. I could be wrong, but it sounds an awful lot like red tape to me.
Oh, and then, "(b) keep transaction information on the metal dealer or recycler's business premises for at least one year from the date of the transaction." So not only am I going to have to create the red tape; I've got to store it for a year as well.
Then registration. Well, you've got to be registered to carry on business under this act. What does section 11 say about that registration? "The following are terms and conditions of every registration…." — every registration, hon. Speaker. You've got to report to the registrar within ten days, blah, blah, blah. You've got to comply with the act, the regulations, and with the terms and conditions, and you also have to follow "any other prescribed terms and conditions." So we get another set of regulations.
I don't want to go on at length, and I don't want to be terribly critical, but it seems to me that we should just skip to section 31 of the bill. It's all there: "(1) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations referred to in section 41 of the Interpretation Act. (2) Without limiting subsection (1) of this section, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations as follows: (a) prescribing identification for the purposes of section 2 (a); (b) prescribing information for the purposes of (i) section 2 (b) (ii), (ii) section 5 (1) (b) (vi) and (2) (b) and (f), and (iii) section 11 (a) (ii)."
It goes on for a page and a half of regulation, and this is the government that's proud of deregulating business and cutting red tape. They're doing a heck of a job in this chamber. My goodness, in one simple little bill to address one simple little problem, we've got more regulations than Wrigley's got chewing gum. All the Halloween candy in British Columbia — I'm surprised it made it past the regulations of this government, because it's bad for us, hon. Speaker.
I have stood in this chamber I don't know how many times and said to this government: "Do you not get the point? You want to regulate everything." We've got regulations coming out of cabinet. Honestly, the forests of British Columbia are in danger with this government in power.
Just in this little act alone we've got more prescriptions and regulations flowing from it than you could possibly imagine, and this is one thin, simple bill. And the Attorney General…. It wasn't a threat earlier today. She suggested she's got more coming, and she was proud of it.
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There's going to be more regulation and more regulation. This is the government committed to regulation. They talk about us lefties being the party of regulation. They may talk about it; these folks on the government benches actually prove it. We've got proof again in front of us today in Bill 15: more regulation, more prescription and more burden for small businesses in British Columbia struggling to make a buck and keep their payrolls paid up to date. That's what this is about.
I have tried in a humorous way to make a point today. I have heard from that party and this government year after year about how awful government is, how we want to regulate things to death, how there's too much burden on small business and too much red tape.
Well, we're all here in the same sin bin today together, because we're all going to get together as quick as we can when everybody has taken their five or 10 or 15 minutes, and we're going to pass this legislation, and we're going to go home to our constituents and say what a great job we're doing on behalf of the people of British Columbia. We're doing what we were elected to do: to pass more law, to regulate, to ensure that every possible problem is met with a legislative sword.
There's nothing wrong with that, and that's my point. This is a serious issue. Joking aside, this is a serious issue. We have heard the eloquent submissions of various members in this chamber earlier today: this is public safety; this is about theft; this is about ensuring 911 works; this is about insurance costs for business; this is about a whole series of things that are genuinely serious problems.
But I would just for once love to hear those folks on the other side admit something. Regulation and so-called red tape and prescribed forms and prescribed this and prescribed that. I've got news for the chamber, hon. Speaker. I think that the average small business person, the average British Columbian would refer to that as red tape. Now, that's a phrase we've heard from this government on many, many occasions: red tape. How many times have we heard the criticism of the Forest Practices Code? How many feet or metres or inches or centimetres it was?
All of this comes about because there is an issue in society and a problem, and well-meaning folks go to their politicians and say, "Solve it," and, indeed, politicians do. They pass law. Even more burdensome, arguably, is that they pass laws that include the power to cabinet to regulate, and all of those regulations are created without debate.
I come back to my point, as I've tried to make that point on many occasions here before. We are abandoning in this chamber day by day, week after week, year after year the very purpose of this place, which is the view that there is no tax imposed, there is no law made without open debate, without an opportunity for it to be scrutinized and criticized and evaluated and exposed.
Here in this one simple, little bill we have every example of that: prescribed forms, the power for cabinet to decide all kinds of things that will fit within the parameters of this bill, that they will be able to regulate — not one of which will pass through this chamber. No regulations pass through this place. They pass through the cabinet table.
I guess I want to say, in defence of the law, we're doing a good thing here today. We're prohibiting and ensuring that public safety is maintained, that the theft of metal, which is not just a small-time thing…. When you're hauling away metal in the quantities that people are, you're organized. You've got a vehicle. This isn't some petty, crack-addicted thief desperate to find a couple of bucks. When you're hauling away big chunks of metal, you're part of an organized system.
We're going to address it, but I would just love for one of the members who follows me from the government benches to stand up and acknowledge something. This is what the red tape is all about, my friends. This is what red tape is all about. This is how red tape is created. It is created because it is necessary, in a complex society, to ensure that there is law that protects all of us, that promotes civil order — "peace, order and good government," in the words of the constitution.
I'm going to support this bill. Notwithstanding what I've had to say about it, I'm going to support it, because there is a problem. But I want the other side to acknowledge…. Please don't tell us you're opposed to red tape, my friends. Please don't tell us you're opposed to red tape, that you're the party that has cut back on red tape and regulation, because red tape and regulation is what you do when you make law.
The sad part of all of this today is that much of what's going to follow from this bill will not be dealt with in this chamber. It will be dealt with in the secrecy of the cabinet room without public debate, without public scrutiny, and that is a tragedy for democracy.
R. Howard: It's a pleasure for me to rise today to Bill 13, the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act, and it's a pleasure once again to stand in support of the minister — as I have a number of times this session, in fact — congratulating the minister for good legislation.
It's with some good fortune, I guess, that I follow the member for Nanaimo, who I think clearly demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that he is an expert in regulation and red tape. It comes as no surprise to us on this side of the House that a member on that side of the House would be an expert in regulation and red tape. We do pride ourselves in deregulation. Unnecessary red tape discourages investment, and discouraging investment chases jobs out of the province. This legislation protects the public, protects citizens in our communities, and we make no apologies for that.
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I would note by way of this legislation that UBCM, at their recent convention, I believe, had a resolution on their floor urging the federal government to do just this. I would also say that I have a vested interest in this.
It was a number of years ago; I forget exactly how many. I was a councillor in my city of Richmond. In fact, I chaired our community safety committee. I received a phone call from my dentist one day. I was driving to work. His office is built on a one storey parkade. He showed up for work one day, and his office had been gutted of all its pipes from the parkade. He had no way of opening up his office or his tenant's office, because all the pipes were missing. I forget exactly how long he had to shut his office down, but I suspect it was a week or so. He could not perform in his office because somebody had hoisted all his pipes from under the building.
It was that discussion with him that got the two of us, the dentist and myself, talking about junk metal dealers and pawnshops and how those are regulated. It took me back to my council chambers to present a resolution asking staff to work with RCMP and various other stakeholders to look at ways of regulating the problem. I'm pleased to say that those efforts culminated in a bylaw introduced that looks, in its major parts, very much like this legislation, where we're simply asking for proper identification.
We're asking for registration and maintenance of records, with the bottom line being that if you can't sell it, you're very unlikely to steal it. I think that the UBCM resolution was very right-minded, because the success we were having in Richmond, I'm sure, just spilled the problem on to neighbouring local governments.
It was interesting too. When we were considering a bylaw, we had sent our staff out to a couple of the dealers incognito and just asked them to take a few pictures.
They came back with pictures that still stick in my mind — pickup trucks full of large chunks of heavy wire, some of it still labelled, so you knew where it came from; lampposts that, I would assume, came from the city; signposts; and, if you can believe it, there was about three-quarters of a phone booth in one of the trucks. Of course, all this stuff shows up, and at the time there was no way to trace it. The fella who was presenting the stuff for sale, I guess, would just claim he found it on the side of the road or some such thing.
Why does this matter so much to British Columbians? That's what I want to really focus on, because when I started looking at the list of things back from my days on city council when we were worried about this, it really became remarkable. You know, we're talking about ladders, lampposts, electrical feeds, telephones, address plates, manhole covers, aluminum goalposts, road signs, memorial bench markers, grave markers, phone booths.
New-home construction is particularly susceptible to this kind of theft. If they're getting ready to wire a house and they've got a roll of wire laying around or the walls aren't covered up yet, it's easy for the thief to get in and just pull it off the staples and pull it off the wall before the drywall goes up. The same for new businesses, especially for major construction. It can be a real challenge for the contractors who are working on site to keep secure, over protracted periods or over weekends, the goods that they're getting ready to install in the building.
When we look at lampposts, you just think: "Well, so you replace a lamppost." Beyond the cost, you think of the traffic safety problems that can come all over B.C. just simply by missing lampposts. You know, there are parts of the province where lampposts are a vital part of community safety. It's not necessarily maybe like in an urban area where if you're missing one post, there's another one just down the road and you notice it missing that much.
The electrical feeds problem is…. I think I heard somebody else earlier say that not only is it a problem because it runs the risk of throwing offices and businesses and homes out of power, but it's a highly dangerous activity for the thief to undertake. And if I recall, there were a couple of deaths across the province those years ago, at least when our council was considering….
You know, you think of a missing telephone. It's just one of those things you take for granted. But people's access to police, access to fire, to 911, to hospital services, even just back to family, especially in the seniors population where there are a number of these first-call or First Alert kinds of devices that seniors wear so that if they get into trouble, they can just hit the button and the phone automatically calls out…. Well, if there's no phone line, that can't happen, so it can really impact a whole bunch of things.
I heard the example, again, of manhole covers. When manhole covers are missing, you've got problems with pedestrians, problems with bicycles, problems with cars, and it can really be serious, especially in the dark hours, which is the usual time these things would go missing.
One of my favourite stories, or not-so-favourite stories, was aluminum goalposts. I think the city thought they were being smart, and I'm sure they were, by going to aluminum goalposts that would last for longer and be more economical in the long run. Who was to know that the kids would show up for soccer on a Saturday morning and the goalposts would be gone, to great disruption but also huge expense to have them replaced?
Memorial benches. Again, it doesn't sound like a big thing if I just read them off from a list, but I know some families — lots of benches in Richmond, as I'm sure there are all across the Lower Mainland — where people will buy a bench and put a little brass or bronze memorial plaque on it to memorialize their loved ones. When those go missing, it's just stressful for the family.
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I'll kind of come back to where I started, that this is in the name of community safety. It's a huge cost to the economy and businesses, individuals and, of course, taxpayers.
We talk about creating laws that make a difference in people's lives, and this is one of those. Yes, as the member for Nanaimo has pointed out, this is a regulation, but this is a regulation in the name of safety, in the name of protecting people, in the name of protecting lives.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
I'll end where I started, because the member for Nanaimo was giving the government side a little bit of a rough ride over our desire to protect the public. In the 1990s — I know nobody likes to talk about that on that side of the House; they start to roll their eyes when we talk about the 1990s — the NDP enacted an average of 400 regulations a year for a decade.
Now, if you just stop and think about that for a minute….
R. Howard: Yeah, yeah.
R. Howard: I'm coming to it. I'm coming to it.
By 2001 there were 403,733 regulations. It took an average of 865 pages to document these dictates each year. These regulations cost the province millions of dollars to administer, and they cost firms billions to comply.
R. Howard: No, it's common sense, Member. It's common sense.
Since we took power, we have reduced by 140,000 regulations. That's a remarkable number.
R. Howard: Well, I know you can't.
It creates a stable investment climate, and it creates jobs. I know that is sometimes difficult for the members opposite to understand, but that's the fact of life.
Madam Speaker, I'll end with that. This is an example of a good regulation, because it saves people's lives. I'm pleased to support it, and I thank the minister.
S. Hammell: It's always good when both sides of the House agree on a bill. That's very good.
I mean, it is very good when we agree, and I think it actually happens more often than we admit. But then we do get into this kind of description of: "I did more of this than you did, and you did more of that than I did." People have to go back and make these absurd claims.
I think it kind of takes away from the fact that we do have a good bill here. Both sides of this House are agreeing that we need to get tough on the theft of metal that is sold through scrap dealers.
We already have a law against stealing. I mean, obviously, the act of stealing the metal is a crime. But what we are doing through this bill is putting that regulatory regime around the sale of the metal that will then assist the police in tracking down thieves and keeping track of where metal is moving throughout this province.
You know, that is a good thing, this regulatory regime. I heard the member for Nanaimo have a lot of fun with that. I've heard the response of, "We took away more," or "You gave more regulations than we did" — and all that kind of back and forth.
The truth of the matter is that this is good stuff. When you have a problem that needs to be solved, if the government, in concert with the municipalities, puts together a bill or a law that addresses that and if that law is effective, all of us in this House should celebrate. All of us should celebrate.
Now, there will be a little bit of a paper trail or a computer trail or something that needs to track all this. Well, so be it. So be it, because as the member prior to my speaking said, this is about community. It's about safety and doing the right thing.
All of us have read in horror, I would imagine, of someone who has engaged in metal theft and — as the member prior to me mentioned, and I think it's been more than a couple of times — that person has been electrocuted in the act. I mean, all of us lament the fact that something is driving someone to do something that risky and, in turn, losing their life because they needed either drugs or money or for some reason that they would go that far. We don't electrocute people for theft, and when that happens, I think every one of us would react in horror.
We also realize that the crime of metal theft can be done not only by people who are desperate but by people who are also extremely sophisticated and with great skill, who can go into an area and overnight make thousands and thousands of dollars by extracting wires that are needed for the community in some way or another.
It is unfortunate that we have people who are prepared to steal wires that would carry 911 calls for help. I mean, that's unconscionable. All of us rely on a certain infrastructure that serves us when we're in need, and to think that people would take that service away from us in the act of getting money for themselves or others is not right.
It is unfortunate, also, that we have people in our community that are prepared to steal things like grave
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markers or crematorium markers or, as the person ahead of me said, bench plaques that honour people who have been before us and have left a legacy in the way of some mark in terms of the community and serving the community.
That is appalling. There is something that just goes a bit beyond the pale when your community has moved to that kind of theft.
I think that if we are bringing in a regime that is addressing these issues in our community, more power to the government for bringing it in and more power to the opposition for supporting it. In the end, this is our community, and this is all about us. If somebody steals from us, be it from our recreation facilities or something that our municipal or provincial government produces or that our utilities produce to serve us, we all pay. They are stealing out of our pockets, and we need to address that on behalf of taxpayers, on behalf of communities, on behalf of families.
I am really pleased to stand up and support this bill. Unlike my colleague from Nanaimo, I am not going to go into the details of every regulation that just might be coming along as a consequence.
Suffice to say that this is a good law. It is designed to address a problem, and it is supported by the communities and supported by this opposition.
J. van Dongen: I'm pleased to speak today in this Legislature in support of Bill 13, the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act, which was tabled by the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General this week as part of Crime Prevention Week.
The main goal of this bill is to protect public safety. By tracking scrap metal sales, this legislation will deter metal thieves, will help protect 911 emergency services and will help to prevent theft-related power outages.
Some Lower Mainland municipalities deserve credit for taking action on their own to require scrap dealers to maintain records of copper and other high-value metals that they purchase and to share those details with their local police. The provincial government, however, has heard from a number of stakeholders — including local governments, major utilities and businesses, large and small — that a patchwork approach to scrap metal regulation only sends thieves to the neighbouring community.
These thefts cost utilities, municipalities, taxpayers and businesses millions of dollars a year. So this legislation helps to provide a consistent provincial approach that works together in conjunction with local bylaws to improve public safety and save dollars for businesses that are affected.
I want to pay tribute, as part of my comments to this bill, to one of my constituents, who flagged this issue four years ago in his feedback to me as a constituent. In 2007, I received a complaint from a credible Abbotsford businessman asking government to help assist in the prevention of theft in his place of business. He had a number of break-ins, despite having a fenced compound, where thieves ripped the wiring out of his trailers. My constituent explained to me that for a very low return to the thief, he was faced with a huge bill.
Marlin Bayes, the owner of Western Canoeing and Kayaking, indicated that some accountability and control on recyclers and scrapyards, when they purchase these materials, was required. He felt that sellers of copper wire to recyclers should have to produce identification such as a driver's licence, such as the licence plate numbers of the vehicle, etc., as a legal part of the transaction. He felt that people should not, by law, be able to walk in off the street or drive in with a cab and hock some copper wire without providing the information as to where it came from and their identity.
I have to say that it's quite amazing how my constituent Marlin Bayes set out a blueprint for this legislation. He requested of me that the provincial government examine the options for achieving a better level of accountability around the purchase of used copper wire and other materials that had become the subject of so much more theft in recent years.
He felt that our law-abiding, taxpaying small businesses deserved a legal system that better protected them from the abuse of small-time thieves who had no respect for property, no conscience regarding the grief and cost they created for honest citizens.
I know that my constituents Marlin and Mary Bayes greatly appreciate the tabling of Bill 13 to provide police with another tool to prevent the risk to lives and the loss of property which has been perpetrated on the people of British Columbia by thieves and prolific offenders. Marlin and Mary Bayes thank the minister for tabling this bill.
Bill 13 is designed to deter and prosecute metal thieves but minimize the regulatory costs for the recycling industry. The new legislation will require scrap metal dealers to register with the province and record and maintain records of who they're dealing with and share this information on a daily basis with police.
Those dealing in high-value metals, such as copper, targeted for quick sale by thieves, will be required by legislation to record details, including the weight and type of metal purchased and distinguishing marks that it may have and where the seller says it came from.
In addition to sharing these details on a daily basis with local police, dealers will be required to keep records of the information for at least one year. The scrap metal dealers will be required to record the seller's personal information, including their full name, their current address, telephone number, date of birth, as well as the vehicle or pickup address. Hence, there is a
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lot of information that is provided that will be recorded and will enable police to track back the source of stolen property.
This legislation creates a scrap metal dealer registry and a compliance and enforcement system. Dealers in scrap metals and recyclables will be required to register under the act, and those that fail to register will face a range of penalties.
One of the main goals of this anti-theft legislation is to protect public safety, as other members have said, to deter and catch metal thieves but also to protect our 911 service for emergencies. It will also protect police communications, prevent theft-related power outages and reduce risks of electrocution due to downed power lines.
There are also major economic impacts of what we've seen the last number of years in terms of scrap metal and wire theft by thieves. The impacts relate to millions and millions of dollars. In fact, it has been estimated that losses in the utilities in British Columbia due to metal theft have surpassed $50 million, and this doesn't even include replacement costs, the labour, the cost of increased security and property damage costs, all of which total another several million dollars.
One Lower Mainland municipality has seen $3 million worth of damage in the last year alone due to metal thefts. The costs associated with metal stolen from the province's infrastructure assets are equally substantial, especially when you consider B.C. Hydro's vast power line system. And similar to some of the losses experienced by B.C. Hydro, TELUS has reported 325 incidents of their live cables being stolen this year, each incident cutting off service, including 911, to customers. As I've said, I've heard from businesses, some large businesses and small businesses that have experienced similar huge losses.
I want to note the public support of TELUS and the B.C. Association of Police Chiefs and people like Bill Storie, a bylaw officer in the Fraser Valley, who came out to support the minister in her announcement today.
This legislation is also supported by the Union of B.C. Municipalities, which see it as the holistic approach they were looking for and one that was in line with the resolution at their 2011 convention. Going forward, the goal of this legislation will be to complement municipal bylaws that have been designed for this purpose.
Again, I speak in support of this legislation. It's important legislation to give the police additional tools, and I know that my constituents will be very, very pleased to have this on the books. Noting the hour, I move adjournment of debate.
J. van Dongen moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. T. Lake moved adjournment of the House.
Deputy Speaker: Hon. Members, I wish you well in your constituencies, and this House stands adjourned until Monday, November 14, at 10 a.m.
The House adjourned at 5:50 p.m.
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