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
Monday, November 14, 2011
Volume 27, Number 8
Orders of the Day
Private Members' Statements
Kids and concussions
The importance of social workers
The importance of balancing the budget
Preparing for the jobs of the future
Private Members' Motions
Motion 18 — Support for repeal of federal long-gun registry
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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2011
The House met at 10:02 a.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Orders of the Day
Private Members' Statements
Kids and Concussions
M. Stilwell: We are entering what medical researchers are calling the era of the brain. Research is beginning to unravel the mysteries of how the brain functions and, perhaps more importantly, what we need to do to keep it healthy. This research is teaching us more about the risks of sport-related head injuries. More specifically, we're learning about the dangers of concussions in young athletes.
Today, according to the Canadian Pediatric Society, the majority of sport-related head injuries occur in athletes younger than 20. We also know that the frequency of these injuries is dramatically increasing. In fact, a recent American study pegged the increase of sport-related concussions among youth at 200 percent between 2001 and 2005, primarily due to the increase of younger students participating in competitive sports.
It is clear to pediatricians and neurosurgeons alike that brain injuries need to be taken seriously. Concussions occur when the head is jostled back and forth rapidly. A concussed athlete may experience memory impairment, loss of concentration, headaches, nausea, dizziness and sensitivity to light or noise.
[D. Black in the chair.]
One of the most significant dangers to young athletes is in suffering multiple concussions. In many cases this is caused by returning to sports before the brain has been given adequate time to heal. Once a person suffers a concussion, he or she is four times more likely to sustain a second one. After multiple concussions it takes less of an impact to cause an additional injury and it requires more time to recover. This is often referred to as second-impact syndrome.
How can we prevent this from happening? Guidelines such as return-to-play protocols can provide a framework for how we can go about preventing further injuries for young athletes. Other countries have been the first to pass return-to-play legislation. It now exists in 34 American states and has been adopted by Hockey Canada and Football B.C. I want to commend these and other organizations across the country who have led the way in advocating for keeping our young athletes safe.
Here in British Columbia there is an opportunity for our government to emerge as a national leader on this issue by taking decisive action on return-to-play protocol. Return-to-play guidelines consist of three basic protocols:
(1) Each year a concussion and head injury information sheet must be signed and submitted by an athlete's parents or guardians prior to the youth initiating in practice or competition.
(2) A youth athlete who is suspected of sustaining a concussion or head injury in a practice or game shall be removed from play immediately.
(3) An athlete removed from play may not return until an evaluation by a licensed health care provider trained in concussion management is completed. Clearance must be given by that health provider before the athlete can return to play.
These basic principles provide a valuable foundation for injury prevention, management and recovery. It starts with education and, through education, changing the perspectives of coaches, athletes and parents. By educating these groups on the dangers of multiple concussions, we can empower them to change behaviour.
For coaches, we can increase their confidence in their ability to recognize symptoms and know when to remove athletes from a game if a concussion is suspected. More importantly, this increased confidence will help coaches ensure that athletes don't return to play until their brain is healed and medical approval has been given.
For athletes, education will help them understand exactly what is happening to them at a physiologic level. They'll appreciate the dangers of hiding their injury and the importance for refraining from sport until they've allowed their brain to heal.
By removing the "shake it off or tough it out" mentality so prevalent in sports, we can help prevent further injuries by empowering athletes to not give in to the pressures of competition or the guilt of letting down their coach and teammates. By the same token, we will enable coaches and teammates to recognize the pressure that injured athletes may face and help support them in their path to recovery.
Sports are supposed to be healthy and fun, but few things are scarier for parents than seeing your child hurt. Parents need to feel empowered in their ability to manage their child's participation in sport. They need to know and trust that the coaches are making the decisions that are in the best interest of their children's health and safety. Knowing that a child has been given sufficient time to heal and has received clearance from a health professional can go a long way in mitigating any fear of having a child return to play.
In the Canadian Pediatric Society position statement on children and sports-related concussion they note that despite important and substantial research on the
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matter, there are still no specific guidelines in place for managing sport-related concussions in children. This is something we can change as legislators. I believe the protocols outlined in return-to-play legislation provide a valuable framework for creating policies to protect young athletes.
Every child deserves to play the sports they love. They also deserve the best protection we can provide.
J. Horgan: I am delighted to rise and participate in the debate with the motion put forward by the member for Vancouver-Langara. I am a former lacrosse player myself, and I know members on the other side are probably thinking that I had one or two headshots beyond what would have been appropriate before I arrived here in this place.
I also rise not just as a former athlete but also as a parent of a hockey player. Being in the hockey culture…. I know many of the representatives here from across B.C. will have had their son or daughter in minor hockey. This morning, of course, we learned the tragic news of the death of a minor hockey player in Alberta who was hit, tragically, by a puck in the throat and did not recover from that injury. On a day like that, to hear the wise words of the member for Vancouver-Langara is particularly poignant.
The return-to-play legislation that she speaks of or foreshadows, I believe, is something that both sides of the House could support. But the fundamental challenge, in my view, is not a legislative solution. Rather, it's the focus on education, starting, I believe, with parents.
Although I know that coaches are always anxious to have their best players playing all the time, regardless of their physical health, I believe that certainly on the hockey side, parents driven to make sure their child is the best that he or she can be, particularly those who have aspirations for professional careers, tend to, I think, sometimes overlook the challenges that young people face, whether it be hockey, lacrosse, football — any of these significant violent contact sports.
So to change the culture, as the member suggests, is very, very important. I'm not convinced legislation is necessarily the best way to go. For example, my colleague from Surrey-Whalley pointed out that the Ontario Hockey League has very, very rigorous standards in place for kids in their system. I think the B.C. Hockey association has taken great steps with respect to equipment, whether it be helmets, mouthguards and other protective gear or putting stop signs on the back of uniforms to ensure that kids aren't projected into the boards going into the corner.
These are all minor steps on the surface, but they've had a significant impact, I would argue, on the health of our children. But putting our children first has to be the priority.
The member's motion today…. I know the work she's doing with respect to bringing forward other initiatives into this Legislature, whether it be a private member's bill or a bill sponsored by the government, which would be my hope — something that all members of this House could discuss and become educated on…. It's vitally important that we reduce brain injuries in our society right across the board, but particularly within our youth.
I was listening just this morning to a radio program here in Victoria. The brain injury association is putting on a fundraiser called Grey Matters. I think it's appropriate that on this day when we're talking about brain injuries in our young people, we focus on the importance of keeping a bucket on our heads — whether it be when we're riding our bicycle or when we're playing contact sports.
The important thing, though, to remember is that it starts with the family. I think we have to reduce the pressure on young people to perform beyond what is, in essence, a child's game. When my son started playing hockey at age six, the sparkle in his eyes…. All of us parents here who have children involved in minor sports understand that feeling — the excitement of just playing.
But somewhere along the road when it's elite representative hockey, that sparkle tends to disappear, and a dullness takes over. That dullness is because of the constant repetition and pressure to perform, pressure to not just play the game but to succeed at some point down the road — 15 years down the road, getting drafted into the NHL. This sort of mentality has to stop. Kids should be playing for fun.
I know that's the minister's intent — the member's intent. I said "minister." I guess that's a Freudian slip, which I'm sure she would appreciate.
I want to just offer my support for this initiative and the work that the member for Vancouver-Langara is doing and anything that I, on this side of the House, and other members on the opposition can do to put our kids first, to protect their brains. Grey matters, and that's certainly where we're coming from on this side of the House.
M. Stilwell: I'd like to thank the member for Juan de Fuca for his comments. It's clear to me that, of course, there is support on both sides of this House to take action on an important issue.
I would therefore like to take this opportunity to state my intention to, in short order, table a private member's bill regarding return-to-play legislation. I also intend to consult with stakeholders and members of the public on this initiative. The bill will seek to address the three criteria that I mentioned to protect young brains.
It's my hope that this sense of bipartisanship on this matter will continue and that we as Members of the Legislative Assembly can find ways to best protect the brains of our young athletes in ways that will simultaneously encourage participation and enjoyment.
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I do appreciate the specific comments that the member for Juan de Fuca made. I think it's important, and I agree, that the most important part of all of this is raising awareness and increasing education in giving parents, coaches and athletes the tools they need and can use with confidence — confidence that they are making the right decisions. Several kinds of initiatives have been outlined, which I think will help tremendously.
My intention in bringing forward this bill is not to create a sense of fear or doubt but rather, as I said, to provide tools that parents, players and coaches can use to ensure that they are not only making the best decisions but feel confident that they are making the right decisions for both the short- and the long-term health of their children. I'm sure we all agree that a healthy brain is a happy brain, and indeed, grey matters.
The Importance of Social Workers
C. Trevena: When we talk about front-line workers, perhaps none are quite so front line as social workers. These are the people in our communities each day trying to make life a little better for individuals and for families. These are the people who have to deal with some of the aspects of life that many feel are impossible. Daily they are working with families who may be struggling with children and youth who are facing hardship.
Without even thinking about it, we as a society expect that they'll be there to help or to pick up the pieces. Without knowing the system, many people expect that there are social workers, active and busy, where now they have been replaced by call centre operators.
The social workers work with young and old, with the sick, with the healthy. Their services are not driven by income, although it is too often the poorest in society who need them the most.
Social workers have the horrible job of apprehending children, taking them away from their families for the child's safety. They have the job of working with teens who are trying to establish themselves independently. They're there for people with mental illness. They are the people who try to assist people to pick up the pieces. But far too often, they are themselves lost in the system.
You might find, Madam Speaker, that it is strange to describe these people — these professionals who work according to a professional code of ethics, who have professional standards of practice — as lost. But I do choose my words carefully. They are lost because their work, while absolutely necessary for our society and for our communities, goes unnoticed by too many in management. They are lost because their voices are often not being heard, sadly, until it is too late.
Social workers deal with fragile lives, many fragile lives, and their workload is extraordinary and very troubling. I am the critic for Children and Families, so I'll confine my remarks largely to the work reflected by that ministry, not the workloads of the social workers who are working with seniors or within the health care system, although they have very valuable work that they do too. But I raise this today in my private members' statement because I find it very troubling that the average caseload for a social worker who is working with children and youth with special needs is 150. That's 150 children and young people.
I've talked to some social workers whose caseload is 400. There are 365 days a year. There are weekends, and social workers are entitled to time off. There is no way that they could see every person, every young person on their caseload. Even with 150 — the average — it'd be impossible to visit everyone, let alone keep on top of what the concerns and problems are for each single child and young person.
Not every single child or youth on a social worker's caseload is in need of active intervention. Many have strong supportive families and other networks, but caseloads such as these do not allow social workers to assess the problems, to make an honest and fair judgment of those needs. Children and youth with special needs…. Special needs is not a designation given lightly. Those children need significant help to survive our very complex world.
For instance, having fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is not enough, unless there are other proven developmental disabilities. Physical disabilities have to be severe, and if they need significant help, so do their families. The social worker is supposed to be there to help them to navigate the system. But how can they, if there are 149 other children and young people also making demands?
I do not exaggerate when I say that this is a crisis waiting to happen. For all the goodwill in the world, for all the ethical practice and professional standards and simple hard work, no individual can keep up with a caseload that is the average for social workers in B.C. That means that a child or children are likely to fall through the cracks.
It happened recently when a young girl with Down syndrome was left alone with her dead mother. The social worker caseload was cited as a contributing factor. That should have been a wake-up call, but the conversations I've had with social workers have come after that incident, and they say that their caseload is simply unmanageable. When it's raised with management, they are told that they are in line with the rest of the province.
There appears to be, however, no real sense of what a social worker caseload is within the management hierarchy. I've tried to find out how busy they are through official lines, and it's the sort of thing you'd expect to be tracked — that a management system would know what their staff is doing, what they're facing on an aggregate and on a daily basis. Several months after my request, I'm still waiting for an answer.
Of course, one would expect the numbers to vary depending on the different areas being dealt with — for
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instance, child protection, literally looking after the safety of kids. You'd think that those numbers would be kept down. Compared to the numbers dealing with children and youth with special needs, they are low, but they're still, in many instances, quite frighteningly high.
One person I talked to had a caseload of 50 families. These are 50 families in distress, who are in need of intervention. Another social worker said that things in her office only changed when there was a child death. This isn't a way to manage social services. It's not the way to manage child welfare. I think it's quite terrifying to think that the only way change will happen is for a child to die, but it seems that this is the sorry answer that we have.
In child and youth mental health the situation is similar. For child and youth, death in these instances is sadly too often suicide.
About a year ago I raised concerns in my constituency of North Island, where there was a wait-list of 60 who needed child and youth mental health assistance. It's a scary number. That was started to be tackled, but now the pressure on the social workers has become so intense that there are now only two workers to deal with a caseload for six.
I repeat that we do have a crisis waiting to happen. It's a preventable crisis.
Social services are about prevention as well as trying to fix problems, as well as about intervention. At the very core of prevention the front-line workers, the people who can make that prevention happen, are facing huge pressures. Shortcuts are being made, and we need to see ways that we can tackle this to ensure that a crisis doesn't occur.
When a death occurs, we deal with that. We prevent that, and we see what we can do to prevent that crisis and make sure that the next stage doesn't happen.
K. Krueger: I thank the member opposite who, like me, serves on the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth. It's really an inspiring assignment. It's a committee that I think works the way committees are intended to work.
Ted Hughes attended our most recent committee meeting. He, too, is generally very pleased with the way the committee is operating, the way the ministry is operating and the relationship between the Representative for Children and Youth and the deputy minister and the Minister of Children and Families.
We've achieved a lot, but as the member points out with some individual examples, we still have a ways to go. It's great to serve on a committee that's earnestly working to help us get where we need to go.
When I was assigned to the Ministry of Social Development in 2010, I expected that I would be working with a lot of demoralized civil servants, probably people who would be seeking to bid out of their jobs and to an area where they didn't have to deal with so much unhappiness. I wanted to see what I could do about that, so I started touring offices and began with what they say is the toughest postal code, the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.
I went to meet staff, and what I found were a lot of inspired and inspiring people. There is a caseload, a workload issue in some offices, but they didn't say that that was because there was an unwillingness to hire. There were people constantly in training. They told me that one of the issues was that the collective agreement they work under stretches the probation period far too long.
The quality of people that the member is talking about, the social workers that we have, with the education they have, the intelligence and the skills that they had to qualify for those jobs in the first place, makes them very attractive to other employers, both inside and outside of government. They're constantly being recruited away, and the salaries they are offered more than compete with the tightly structured probationary period salaries — the steps that they work through.
Having found that out, I went to see if we could reopen that portion of the collective agreement and shrink that probation period down so that people could get to the appropriate level of income where it would be fair for them and their families to stay in those jobs rather than being recruited away, and I found out that wasn't possible. So that's something that I trust will be fixed in the next collective agreement.
These are really great people, and they're doing their jobs in a wonderful way. I want to acknowledge the hard work of our perpetual Minister of Housing, who had Social Development before I did. He really unleashed the potential of the people who work in the system, in really creative ways.
These folks — and this is the reason they're inspired and inspiring — go out on the streets and actually meet the people who are homeless, the people who are addicted and connect them to programs; find them an address, get them a home; help them get into volunteering with social agencies, building a personal network of theirs; give them training through the training programs of Social Development.
The results are just great. We have less than half the people on social assistance that used to be on social assistance in British Columbia — not because they're out on the street but, rather, because they've become employed and they're carrying forward in lives that are much more fulfilling than they used to be.
We don't have a budget problem in the Ministry of Children and Families or in Social Development. We have a problem with recruiting people, especially in rural and remote areas. I am told that the number of
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children in the child protection caseload has remained constant for the last eight years and is approximately an average of 21 children or families per worker.
But from what the member says, she's been to offices where, clearly, the caseload is much heavier than that. So it's a distribution problem, obviously, of caseload. But it's also, I'm told, a recruitment problem.
We are investing more than a billion dollars per year now in our budget in services and supports for our children and youth with special needs. They are very complex cases, many of them, as the member said, and all of our ministries are trying to work together in collaboration to provide a whole continuum of services and develop strategies and approaches to improve access, quality and coordination of services.
I agree that there's still much to be done, and there always will be, because we are working with the most vulnerable people in our population, children and youth — and certainly adults as well, adults with special needs.
We've increased the total number of front-line staff, including supervisors, by 531. There are a lot more stats that I don't have time to enumerate, but I'm pleased to be working with the member and the members opposite on these important issues, and I am thankful for social workers.
C. Trevena: I thank the member for Kamloops–South Thompson for his remarks. I think it's not surprising that on a number of them I do disagree, particularly when we are talking about budget levels. What we see is a frozen budget for the ministry, and I think it's going to be a continuing freezing budget, which does put extra stress on the front-line workers.
As the member for Kamloops–South Thompson mentioned…. He's talked to people in the community, as have I. The discussion that we're having isn't just thoughts pulled from thin air. Yes, the people I have been talking to are working in the field, have been living through this. These are the front-line workers and also the people who are receiving services from them. I think they're the other people that we need to really consider when we are talking about this — not just the social workers but the people who are receiving services.
In a report published last year by the Federation of B.C. Youth in Care Networks, it asked young people who are and who have been in care — so they've had a lot of dealings with social workers — to describe some of the problems in achieving permanency. Permanency is obviously a goal that is trying to be achieved for young people in care — that there is a permanent connection there.
One of the answers that these young people came up with who have been dealing with this is that social worker caseloads are too big. That's causing problems for young people who are in care to achieve that permanency. They are finding that social workers simply do not have the time to deal with their specific personal needs, and that's a huge sadness.
In my opening remarks I made reference to social workers being replaced by call centre operators. I think it's interesting that it was the former Minister of Social Development who responded to my comments. While I don't slight any worker who is trying to assist people in need, we have seen individual workers or individual people in the Ministry of Social Development being replaced with people who answer the phone. So people aren't assigned specific social workers, specific caseworkers. Again, this means people are falling through the cracks.
When a person is claiming welfare or a disability pension, they used to have somebody individually that they could call. Now they just call a 1-800 number, who doesn't have that ability to understand and know all the different problems that that person may be facing. It means that we're going to see many more families who aren't able to pay the rent and aren't able to buy the food because they don't have that personal connection.
It's not cheaper in the long run to have a call centre operator dealing with it because of the cost to our society in pain, in illness, in homelessness, in child apprehension and, yes, in death.
A better resource is our people. We can and should invest in them at all levels. We should be making that investment in our social workers too.
The Importance of
Balancing the Budget
R. Howard: It's my pleasure to rise in the House today and speak to a topic that's very dear to my heart in many different ways and for many different reasons. I'll attempt to highlight some of these. Of course, I'm speaking about balancing budgets.
Balancing budgets. You know, sometimes when we hear words often, I think we sometimes become a little immune to understanding or remembering the true meaning and how important they can be. Balancing a budget for government, I always like to maintain, is not all that different for a small business person and how he must tackle the discipline to run his business, or even to the personal financial decisions we all make on a daily basis to make sure we're successfully managing our household finances.
For me, in just two words, why is balancing the budget important? That's for our children. I think a budget that isn't balanced creates debt that must be repaid in the future. We're simply putting off the difficult decisions that we don't feel like making today. We're pushing them off into the future and, I guess, hoping that our children will make those decisions.
We believe balanced budgets and prudent fiscal planning create financial stability and allow us to deliver
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sustainable programs today and for future generations without placing a financial burden on our children. I think we've seen that financial markets have shown very little tolerance for governments that are not fiscally responsible and don't meet their budget targets. We see this widespread, of course, in Europe and elsewhere today.
As a result of our fiscal discipline and sound economic policies, we've received seven consecutive credit rating upgrades. I'll talk about the net benefit of that a little bit in a minute. But over the past decade, having rebuilt our credit rating to a triple-A, I think we have created an environment, created a confidence that others look at and believe that government, this government, in fact knows how to look after its books, knows how to manage its books. It creates a whole environment of confidence as investors and job creators look to expand and/or enter the province.
I also have to mention in this context that the regulatory environment we've created here is very well received by people who look to invest and create jobs, and that goes hand in hand often with a fiscal framework. You need the regulatory framework to go with it. As a result, I think British Columbia is seen as a safe place, as a confidence-building place, for investors to expand and enter our economy. So I think that when government launches programs like the Canada Starts Here, the B.C. jobs plan, we do so on the backs of that credibility.
I know we heard stories when the Finance Minister was in Europe and he was telling the British Columbia story to European fund managers and bond-rating agencies, and they were so impressed with the story that B.C. had to tell in terms of our operating discipline, in terms of our debt-to-GDP ratios. We're second to almost nobody globally. That's quite an important statement, and it's being very well received.
We have to recognize that even in turbulent global times, there are always dollars, there are investors looking to place money. As they look to the story in British Columbia, they will be attracted by the benefits that come from a stable government, from a government that's committed to a fiscal discipline.
I had the pleasure recently of touring the province with the Finance Committee. I chaired the Finance Committee this year, and we heard from a number of different presenters who came in front of us and presented as witnesses in front of the committee. I was going through some of the quotes that were made to us, and I was struck by one that really seemed to strike home because it kind of outlined how I felt.
Although, as I say, it comes from the chamber of commerce, I believe the attitude that it represents sort of represents what I'm trying to get at here today. It's: "Government's primary role as stewards of the public purse must be developing sound fiscal policy underscored by balanced budgets. This is the foundation upon which successful economies and sustainable social programs are built."
So there we go to a group that represents a broad base of small and large businesses all across the province that very much are in line with the point that I'm trying to make today about how important those words are — "balancing the budgets." As much as we hear them often, I think we often, as I say, kind of gloss over them.
When B.C. is out selling itself…. We're a small, open trading economy, and we rely very much on moving goods all around the world. When we're out talking to people, it's important that we have the story and the credibility, the track record, to back that up.
When we look at some recent announcements, whether it be the Seaspan announcement — $8 billion into the shipbuilding industry…. Western Forest Products, which has benefited from our outreach to Asia, is investing another $200 million to modernize their mills. We look at the coming success of the LNG pipeline up in northern British Columbia.
All are aimed at creating jobs for British Columbians, and family-supporting jobs. Those jobs, of course, also pay taxes, and those taxes support the very programs that have become so important to us — health care, education and social services.
B. Ralston: This portion of the debate is meant to be non-partisan, so I'll have to choose my words carefully. It's probably not surprising that the member opposite is sensitive about the issue of credibility on the subject of deficits. After all, it was his election — he was first elected in 2009 — when his leader, Gordon Campbell, assured the public that the deficit would be $495 million maximum. He said that publicly. That was in the budget which was tabled in February, and during the election campaign he repeatedly said that.
Yet the public accounts for that year report a deficit of $1.779 billion, and that's only after adding in an extra $750 million in revenue from the HST transition money — so actually a deficit of close to $2.5 billion. So I can well appreciate that the member opposite is very sensitive on this issue. There's a considerable amount of discomfiture on the other side about the issue of credibility on deficits.
In fact, when we listen to the rhetoric from the other side on deficits…. Balancing the budget is important. Just so that those people in public affairs, when they attempt to misquote me, don't miss this: I favour balanced budgets as well, but I think it has to be scrutinized and looked at in the light of the reality of this government's fiscal record.
If one looks at budgets tabled and projected from 2001-02 to 2012-13 — that's 12 budgets — the number, projected and actual, will be seven deficits. So although we hear much crowing about balanced budgets, the reality and the ability to deliver is somewhat different.
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In fact, the balanced-budget legislation that this government put into effect when it came to power back in 2001 wasn't acted upon in the first three years. In the second year one of the biggest deficits in the history of the province took place, to be matched only by other deficits which are record deficits in the fiscal history of the province.
The balanced-budget legislation after the last election had to be amended, because notwithstanding the rhetoric, notwithstanding the words that the member utters and many like him utter, the possibility of balancing the budget was not there. So the government had to seek relief from its own balanced-budget legislation.
I'm reminded of the words of St. Augustine in his prayer: "Lord, make me chaste, but just not yet." The reality of the government is very different. Its fiscal reality is very different from what we hear from the members opposite.
Indeed, the federal government, in a recent speech by Finance Minister Flaherty, had a similar difficulty in the sense that they are now projecting that they will not be able to balance the budget in the year that they projected. They're extending that a further year to 2015-16 and giving themselves some space to perhaps balance it, maybe even in 2016-17.
It's interesting that a Conservative government sometimes thought of as being rigid, inflexible and ideological…. The Finance Minister said this: "We will not be bound by ideology when it comes to making decisions to keep our economy strong and protect Canadians, their financial security and their jobs." There's a federal Conservative government — some might consider it somewhat ideological and somewhat inflexible — speaking of its willingness to deal with fiscal reality, rather than resort to the kind of empty rhetoric that we've heard from the other side on the issue of balanced budgets.
The record speaks for itself: 12 budgets, seven deficits, the promise of a $495 million deficit in the election that elected the member. The reality was a $2.5 billion deficit. One can appreciate the sensitivity of the members opposite on this issue, because the reality doesn't match the rhetoric.
R. Howard: Well, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that when this government took power…. This is in response to the member opposite, who just spoke about some sensitivity. I would say I'm not sensitive at all on this subject. I'm extremely proud of this government's record. The record does speak for itself.
I would remind the members opposite that this government inherited a $3.8 billion structural deficit in 2001, so we spent the first three years of our mandate cleaning up that mess. We balanced the budget every year between 2004 and '08 and used our record surpluses to pay down debt in 2004-05. We made the largest debt paydown in B.C.'s history, just under $2 billion.
We've made over 100 tax reductions since 2001, leaving money in the pockets of British Columbians each year. As a result of our economic policies, the economy has created almost 400,000 new jobs since 2001. Between 2001 and 2010 B.C. was second in Canada only to Alberta in total percentage job growth. At 7.6 percent, the 2010 number, our annual unemployment rate remains lower than in all but one year in which the NDP held power.
I'm extremely proud of this government's record. When I look back and make comparisons…. I've said often that I started my business in the mid-'90s, and we suffered terribly. There was a brain drain happening in this province at that time as the disastrous economic policies of the government of the day were causing people to leave the province. B.C. at that time was a not-have province receiving subsidies from back east.
This government has balanced the books. It has done a great job at creating a disciplined fiscal framework that is so much a part of the success we're enjoying today. We've built such a strong foundation moving forward, and it's all on the back of this disciplined financial framework that government has lived with for a decade now.
Just as I close — because I know my time is running out — I want to talk again about how this relates back to families. As a family, if we don't balance our budget, we soon have to pay the piper. I think we all understand that. We all understand that in our daily budgets. As small business people, if we don't balance our budgets, we soon have to pay the piper, or even less desired, our children have to pay the piper.
Preparing for the
Jobs of the Future
D. Donaldson: I am rising today to talk about preparing for the jobs of the future. It's a big topic. It can encompass the high-tech sector. It can encompass health care, research, community economic development. But I'd like to spend a few minutes of my time today to talk about rural areas of the province and training and the resource sector especially. I'm going to talk about what the job projections are in those areas, the current situation and some solutions, following the response from the government side.
As far as the forecast, well, we hear a lot of anecdotal evidence around jobs — jobs going without people in rural areas, especially in the north. We've heard from long-distance-hauling truck drivers needing people to drive the trucks. We've heard about oil and gas development in the northeast, and we've heard, in rural areas, about the front-line ministry staff levels and the need for people in those positions as well. There is some hard-based evidence as well as this anecdotal evidence that we hear.
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A very recent one comes from the Business Council of B.C., which just released last month a study they entitled People, Skills and Prosperity: The B.C. Labour Market in a Post-Recession Context. In this study they supported what we've heard from other studies. According to the Business Council of B.C., three-quarters of all job openings in B.C. will require some form of post-secondary education or training. They go on to say that in many industries one-third of projected job openings to 2012 will come from retirements, with the figure approaching 40 percent in some sectors.
So we know this is coming. Regionally this report points out that the north coast and Nechako, as well as the Cariboo, regions are going to be facing the most severe labour shortages.
Ken Peacock, the Business Council's chief economist and co-author of the study, says: "The core working-age population in these regions has declined over the past ten to 15 years, so the expansion of the Port of Prince Rupert, new energy and mining development and an expected upturn in forestry mean many companies in the northern parts of B.C. are going to experience difficulties in finding people with the right skills." That's the forecast anecdotally and from some of the associations in the B.C. Business Council who study these things.
What is the current situation? Well, the Industry Training Authority created by the government seven years ago is the authority that really looks at training in the province. They fund programs at 16 public and 23 private post-secondary education schools. Nine of the nine board members that make up the ITA are from employers or employer associations, so there's no labour representation on that board, which is a curious oversight in regards to the fact that labour is an important partner in job creation and in looking at training for the future.
In 2010-2011 the ITA cut $2.9 million to training providers — those training providers I described — while running a $3.3 million surplus. So this kind of behaviour led the Auditor General in a 2009 report to say that quality assurance practices are not sufficient to ensure the quality of trades program development and delivery at the ITA.
Why would he say this? Well, the ITA has a 36 percent completion rate for people entering the programs that they fund. That fell by 40 percent in the first four years of the creation by the government of the ITA. So that's the current situation with the designated authority to deliver and fund training.
It's usually through colleges. We heard, especially on the recent Finance tour, that colleges are really struggling. Their annual operating grants have decreased over the last ten years. Okanagan College, for instance, presented information that they have 300 people on a wait-list. They, in fact, stopped taking applications totally because they didn't want to raise expectations — so 300 people on a wait-list.
That's the story around the province. We heard from colleges throughout all rural regions around the situation they're facing. Many colleges also presented on their capital budgets. In some cases they're at the 2000 level — their capital budgets. This relates directly to training because oftentimes this means colleges are unable to invest in the modern equipment that's needed to train people for the jobs of today and tomorrow. So that's the challenge the colleges are facing.
I talked about the ITA. What about the community side? Well, as far as the community side goes, there are many challenges. I want to talk a little bit about Williams Lake because it typifies many of our remote rural areas. According to the Cariboo-Chilcotin beetle action committee, up to 40 percent of the forestry workers in the region have not completed high school, so that is a problem in the future because, as I said, 75 percent of jobs for the future are going to require some kind of post-secondary or additional training.
Shirley-Pat Gale from Thompson Rivers University pointed out that currently there's no strategic framework or funding in place to guide these learners through essential skills development. So we also have not only a gap of people wanting to get into trades that are ready to go, as I pointed out in the ITA example, but we have a gap of people who need some upgrading before they can even get into the trades, and that's pointed out in the Williams Lake example.
We also saw in Fort Nelson, where twice a week 300 people come into the community, and 300 people fly out. It's a job shift. You know, shifts twice a week change over. Many of these people are from out of province.
We have the Williams Lake situation. We have the Fort Nelson situation. We have colleges needing funding and not getting it. And we have the ITA. The Auditor General calls into question the scope and the ability to deliver there.
So what we have is a jobs plan that was introduced by the government without a training plan, and that means fly in, fly out. That's what will be the result of that kind of strategy — fly-in, fly-out, where communities don't benefit the most from the training and the job opportunities that are actually literally sitting on their doorsteps in the north and in the rural regions of the province.
With that, I'll welcome a response by the government.
M. Coell: I'm pleased to respond to my colleague from Stikine on preparing for jobs for the future. Firstly, I'd like to speak about the B.C. jobs plan. The B.C. jobs plan is a blueprint to use British Columbia's strategic competitive advantages to create jobs and to spur economic growth.
The B.C. jobs plan has three pillars: working with employers and communities to enable job creation across B.C.; strengthening our infrastructure to get our goods to market; expanding markets for B.C. products and services, particularly in Asia.
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The B.C. jobs plan will leverage the proven strengths and advantages of key sectors of B.C.'s economy that have the best odds of creating jobs and economic growth. Eight sectors have been identified: forestry, mining, natural gas, agrifoods, tourism, international education, transportation and technology that includes clean tech and the green economy.
The B.C. jobs plan has several new initiatives that have been announced to boost exports and make it easier for business to want to invest in British Columbia, including a new major projects office that will work with investors to cooperate and accelerate government's activities to support them; a B.C. jobs and investment board to foster economic development and welcome investors to British Columbia; the aboriginal business and investment council to improve relationships between aboriginal communities, industry and government and to make practical measures for economic development.
Also, the doubling of B.C.'s international presence — launching an international sales and marketing campaign to attract overseas companies to establish offices in B.C. and establishing a hosting program to welcome international delegations to British Columbia.
B.C. as one of the two top in Canada for both job and real GDP growth by 2015 is our goal. Increase the number of international students in B.C. by 50 percent over the next four years. In concert with the private sector, have eight new mines in operation and nine more expanded and upgraded by 2015, have at least one liquefied natural gas pipeline and terminal in operation in Kitimat by 2015 and have upgrades at the Port of Vancouver's Deltaport and the Port of Prince Rupert's Ridley Terminal completed and in operation by 2014.
British Columbia will have more than one million job openings by 2020, and over three-quarters of these jobs will require a post-secondary education. At present there are only 650,000 young people in British Columbia's educational system. The number of registered training participants has grown from approximately 14,000 in 2004 to over 38,000 as of March 2011.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
Since 2004 the Industry Training Authority has issued over 43,000 certificates of qualification. It was created by this government in 2004 and sees increased funding in every year. Through the ITA, the province has increased apprenticeship training seats from 18,000 spaces in 2005-2006 to over 27,000 spaces in 2011-2012. That is a 30 percent increase over that period of time.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
With ACE IT, the ITA partners with the Ministry of Education and allows secondary school students the opportunity to take apprenticeship technical training. More than 13,000 youth have taken that training since 2005. Since 2001 the government has provided almost $164 million in capital funding for trades training.
The government is currently looking forward to taking advantage of the $8 billion shipping contract awarded to Seaspan in developing a coordinated work strategy to inform post-secondary training investments.
We have recently undertaken the largest post-secondary investment in B.C. history — more than $2 billion in capital funding and 1,000 projects across B.C. campuses. More than 33,000 new post-secondary spaces since 2001. We have created seven new universities and invested, for example, $168 million in new medical schools in Vancouver, UVic, UNBC and UBC Okanagan. We have funded an increase of 30,000 new student spaces, giving students post-secondary education closer to home.
D. Donaldson: Well, I'm glad my colleague from Saanich North and the Islands brought up the job plan. I would ask: what kind of job plan abandons post-secondary training in a community that is at the epicentre of the current mining boom, potentially, in the northwest? That's the Dease Lake campus for Northern Lights College. It ceased programming almost two years ago now.
I pointed this out to the former Minister of Advanced Education in May 2010. I got a letter back from this government in December 2010 saying that the Northwest Community College plans to deliver training in the Dease Lake region early the new year. That would have been in January 2011. Still no training there.
The Northwest Community College has not been funded to deliver the programming that's needed, and Northern Lights College has pulled out. What kind of jobs plan does that? What kind of jobs plan doesn't fund best practices? Northwest Community College's School of Exploration and Mining's award-winning program cannot get core funding. They exist on a year-to-year basis. It's an amazing program, especially for First Nations students in the area, in Stikine, and around the province, and they can't get core funding.
You might say a jobs plan, but there is no jobs plan without a training plan, and there are two prime examples of how this government has abandoned a training plan around jobs for the future.
I said that I would talk about solutions, and I want to touch on a few of those. We need a full program review of the ITA. I pointed out the terrible completion record. There are other problems. That full program review also needs to look at the governance structure of the ITA, where at least labour is involved and the instructor is involved on the governance structures there.
We need monitoring and counselling for apprentices in the ITA program. Field counsellors and advocates have been abandoned in that area, and the students need
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that. We need funding for colleges to deliver training where they are. We know that that is the success in the rural areas, especially around the aboriginal students. We also need needs-based grants for students for post-secondary and other training so that people in B.C. can get the training they need so they can access the jobs — local people for local jobs.
I want to finish off by quoting the dean of the Northwest Community College in Hazelton, Alice Maitland. She says that if the current trend continues, the current strategy towards training, she's afraid that the people in that region will get left behind again.
I think those comments echo throughout the province. It's going to be jobs without people and people without jobs. That's what we're finding in the rural areas right now, and that's why we need a total change and a total transformation of the strategy on post-secondary training.
Hon. M. Polak: I call debate on private member's Motion 18.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, the unanimous consent of the House is required to proceed with Motion 18 without disturbing the priorities of motions preceding it on the order paper.
Private Members' Motions
MOTION 18 — SUPPORT FOR REPEAL
OF FEDERAL LONG-GUN REGISTRY
E. Foster: I move that:
[Be it resolved that this House support law-abiding gun owners and support the Federal Government's decision to repeal the federal long-gun registry.]
[L. Reid in the chair.]
Madam Speaker, I wanted to take a few moments to explain why I'm moving that the House endorse a federal government decision.
As with so many issues, this has become politicized, and that's unfortunate. Improving government shouldn't be political. Eliminating a wasteful, ineffective and bureaucratic program shouldn't be political. Indeed, correcting a mistake should never be political; it should just be common sense.
Yes, the long-gun registry was a mistake. It's worth mentioning that it was a well-intentioned mistake, but for 17 years the federal firearms registry has cost Canadians over $2 billion but has done nothing to fight the illegal use and trade of firearms that are threatening public safety. Despite what some fearmongers have said, repealing the long-gun registry doesn't change these measures which do contribute to the public's safety.
Here's what will not change. Gun owners will still be required to undergo a background check, pass a firearms safety training course and possess a valid firearms licence before being able to acquire and possess firearms.
This will also not change. All restricted and prohibited firearms, such as handguns, must be registered. These requirements help to maintain public safety for all Canadians.
We will continue to enforce the law. We will continue to prosecute those who use firearms improperly or own them illegally. But the way to make a difference in public safety isn't harassing sports shooters and hunters but guns and gang strategy in our large towns and cities.
That strategy, including the excellent work done by our weapons enforcement unit has worked, with over 200 organized crime and gang members charged with over 400 serious offences in past two years alone. That too will not change.
So if gun owners still must possess a licence and undergo a background check, what's the difference? One of the arguments I hear is: why not keep the registry, since it's already been created? Well, $2 billion is the difference. That's good money thrown after a bad cause — an unnecessary expense that continued to grow. And in this uncertain financial climate, the federal government is quite rightly looking for all the unnecessary expenses it can find.
The reason I move that this House support eliminating the long-gun registry is not because of what will not change but what will change. Abolishing the long-gun registry will also make life easier for the guide-outfitters in British Columbia which directly employ more than 2,000 people and generate $116 million of economic activity. In total, sustainable hunting contributes $350 million per year to our economy.
We're talking about hunters, local outfitters, farmers and sports shooters. These people are not criminals, and it was wrong to treat them like they had done anything wrong. Gun ownership is often a way of life in rural British Columbia, as it is for rural Canadians from coast to coast.
The end of the long-gun registry will mean that people like the members of the Vernon Fish and Game Club or the Lumby and District Wildlife Association will no longer be treated as criminals for legally owning a rifle or a shotgun. To ranchers, farmers, hunters and many rural British Columbians, hunting rifles are essential tools, no more but no less, forcing farmers to register common tools wasn't just wasteful but insulting.
We all deplore acts of senseless violence, but the simple fact is that those horrific acts aren't committed by farmers wielding registered shotguns. Most members of this
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House, even my friends on the other side, will have similar organizations in their ridings. These are not filled with dangerous people. I don't think the members for Nanaimo and Nanaimo–North Cowichan would say that the members of the Nanaimo and district fish and game protective association need a special federally funded registry, for example.
It is to support organizations like the Vernon Fish and Game Club and groups represented by some of our friends across the aisle that I move that this House support the federal government's decision to end the long-gun registry.
M. Karagianis: In rising to speak to this motion, I'd like to talk a little bit about the historic events that are the context around the gun registry — an important context around the gun registry.
The Ecole Polytechnique massacre occurred in December of 1989 at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. A man armed with a legally obtained rifle went in and opened fire on students in that school. Overall, he killed 14 women and injured ten other women, as well as four men, in just under 20 minutes before turning the gun on himself.
The event that took place is representative, I think, and at the time was considered representative of a wider social issue around violence against women. Consequently, the anniversary of that event is commemorated as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The massacre itself had a major impact on gun control and the gun control movement here in this country and led to the passage of Bill C-68, the Firearms Act, in 1995.
I think that the significance here of this event and the gun registry are inextricably linked around the issue of violence against women because, in fact, the massacre galvanized the Canadian women's movement and is a symbol of violence against women and all that we think is wrong in the societal trend against women.
In response to the killings, there was a House of Commons subcommittee struck on the status of women. They released a report, The War Against Women, in 1991. Following those recommendations, the federal government established the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women in August of 1991. The panel issued a final report, Changing the Landscape: Ending Violence, Achieving Equality, in 1993.
That seems a very long time ago as we stand here in this chamber in 2011, yet the issues of violence against women have progressed very little in that time, sad to say. The issues around the registry and what it has done up to this point in this ongoing issue of violence against women, and specifically domestic violence against women…. The registry has been supported by women's groups right across the country because of its effectiveness, despite the controversy around this bill.
The rate for spousal homicides involving firearms from 1980 to 2009 has been reduced by 74 percent from nearly three per million in 1980 to less than one per million in 2009. Those numbers come from Statistics Canada. The reality is that the gun registry has allowed police up to this point to move in and seize firearms in the case of reported domestic violence and has contributed very significantly to the reduction in those violent issues.
On average, one in three women killed by their husbands is shot, and most of those, 88 percent, are killed with legally owned rifles and shotguns. So I think the significance of this and the implications here as we look at what happens in British Columbia around this are huge.
The events that took place so many years ago seem eclipsed now by other events that have unfolded since then and the continuing rise in numbers and rise of occurrences of domestic violence and violence against women here.
You only have to look at past events over the last number of months here, even in our very own community, where there has been violence against young women that has been fairly horrific.
What we've seen, and what the implications are in the current environment here in British Columbia, I think, is an important issue for us to think about when we look at this motion and when we look at future attempts to try and provide resources for women, because, in fact, we have seen over the last decade that many of the resources for women have been either reduced or eliminated.
There have been cuts to legal aid that make it very difficult for women to seek legal help for family law and for protecting themselves in domestic violence cases. The poverty law services have been virtually eliminated. The services for women in B.C. over the last decade have included eliminating 70 Crown victim services counsellors, abandoning the zero-tolerance policy towards domestic violence, eliminating the freestanding Ministry of Women's Equality, withdrawing funds for local violence against women coordinating committees. Very recently a very successful program in Langley was done away with.
All of these things mean we're not working hard enough to protect women against violence in this province and very specifically not working hard enough to provide resources and services for women who are suffering domestic violence, and their families. The zero-tolerance policies, which are not backed up with real services, which do not have any of those provisions in place that allow women to flee violence, mean that we have failed the system very, very dramatically.
Finding legal aid for any family member….
Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Member.
B. Bennett: It's my pleasure to speak to the motion and in support of the motion this morning. Unlike the
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previous member, I'm going to speak actually to the motion. I'm not going to evade it and talk about things like violence against women, which we all abhor in this House. I'm actually going to actually speak to the motion on the floor.
Bill C-68 was introduced in 1995 in our Canadian Parliament. I remember, as an unelected citizen, writing letters to the federal government asking them to reconsider. I also paid attention to what was happening on the provincial front. Most of the provinces and territories in Canada at the time decided to take the federal government to court on a constitutional challenge on Bill C-68. The government of British Columbia at the time decided not to join the other provinces and, in my opinion, thereby revealed the urban bias that has always driven that political party.
Even though hundreds of millions in public safety resources were being diverted into a mammoth inefficient bureaucracy all the way across this country, and even though the opposition of the day introduced a petition into this House signed by 17,000 mostly rural British Columbians, the NDP government of the 1990s continued to support the federal firearms registry.
They actually went further that than that. They introduced 138 pages of onerous new provincial guidelines for shooting ranges, and they began immediately — even before the federal legislation was passed — to harass gun ranges, mostly in rural areas across the province, everywhere from Elkford to Chemainus. Nine clubs were shut down. Two — Campbell River and Powell River — took legal action against the NDP government of the day.
Why was the NDP government of the day so rabid about shutting down these local, harmless gun and shooting clubs? The NDP is ideologically opposed to individuals having the capacity to defend themselves against the state. When you listen to them in this House, as I've had to do over the past 10½ years, you hear a lot of: "Government should do this, and government should do that."
Well, government, in my opinion, is already too much in our individual lives, and perhaps the world is about to discover that actually there aren't enough taxpayers in the universe to have government raising our children, guaranteeing our retirement and generally caring for our every need and want like a good nanny. This is one of the fundamental differences between the opposition's collectivist philosophy — their belief in big government — and our philosophy of individual rights and individual responsibility.
I remember, in my first term, standing in this House — I was sitting right over there — speaking against the federal firearms registry and being heckled by opposition members for being a hayseed from the Kootenays. Now today the brothers and sisters of this opposition, the federal NDP, carry on with their knee-jerk opposition to an offensive government policy. Just recently, within the last few days, an NDP MP from my home region in the Kootenays said "I have supported the registry" since 2004.
Now, I think I know what the opposition in this House will say about the federal firearms registry. They'll say that it saves lives and the police like it, so we individuals who own long guns should just get used to this intrusion, like all the other intrusions into our lives by big government.
Perhaps they should read Prof. John Lott's seminal book More Guns, Less Crime. Professor Lott was, at the time of writing his book, a visiting law and economics fellow at the University of Chicago, a pretty good school. He's also held positions at Stanford, another pretty good school; UCLA; Wharton; Rice; and Texas A&M. His thesis is based on an extremely broad research project that, generally, more guns lead to fewer violent crimes, less armed robbery, less sexual assault, fewer murders. Although he has been attacked by the likes of Rosie O'Donnell and others who don't like the results of his research, his research stands today.
I read a few years ago about the famous singer Madonna. She had moved to London, to the U.K., with her new husband, Guy Ritchie, and she was on the front page of the tabloids just saying how much safer she felt in the U.K. compared to being in the U.S. because there were no guns in the U.K. She just felt so much safer.
A few weeks later there was another front-page story talking about what's known as a hot burglary. A hot burglary is a burglary that takes place when the people are home. In jurisdictions where people own guns there tend to not be very many hot burglaries. In any case, the house was invaded. They were scared out of their minds, scared to death, and she started to reassess the importance of firearms.
Having said that, the federal firearms registry is liked by many Canadian policing associations — not all of them and certainly by not many individual police officers. But the registry does have support in law enforcement. So when the police tell us they'd like to know more about us, to know what we own, what we have in our houses, is that a good enough reason to give the police what they want? For restricted guns, prohibited guns, absolutely, but not for my deer rifle in Cranbrook. This is an intrusion into my private life, and I resent it, and I'm happy to see it gone.
N. Simons: Madam Speaker, I would never refer to the hon. member opposite as a hayseed. I think they're useful. Hayseeds grow hay.
I'm really troubled by the fact that this government has chosen what could possibly be a standard-bearer for divisive political discussion for the last 15, 20 years as something to be discussed in a provincial legislature. This points directly to the mentality of this government,
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looking for ways to find division and not actually dealing with the important issues of the day.
This is a federal jurisdiction, and I know that the member probably doesn't want to hear this because he's probably too concerned about what people will call him. I'll call him the member for Kootenay East, and he has a right to his opinion. But this is a provincial legislature, and this is where we should be discussing provincial issues.
My little sister was friends with one of the girls shot at the Polytechnique in Montreal. She went to the same high school I went to. She was a gifted clarinetist, and I think that what happened there was a key in getting this issue discussed. Whether the Liberal government at the time did it right or not is beside the point.
What we have is a concerning public issue, an issue of public policy. And instead of actually addressing it and instead of actually saying, "Well, what are we going to do to make our communities safer?" these guys on the other side of the House want to find a way to argue. Well, I think that's typical, and I don't blame the people sitting outside the Vancouver Art Gallery or in the squares across the country, because they see this is the kind of politics that that kind of government likes to bring up.
I'm sorry, but I'm kind of disturbed by it. My grandfather and my grandmother were seventh generation in Nova Scotia, living on the farm. They had guns, and they knew how to use their guns. The other side of my family were into the arts and the environment. Well, that puts me in a place where I can see both sides of the issue.
That's what this government fails to do. They get locked into some ideological position, and they grab hold with those clinging fingers as if there is no other way of dealing with public policy issues instead of finding a way to argue.
Here we are in the provincial Legislature. Across the province we've got people living in poverty, in rates unlike any other part of this province. We have people with developmental disabilities who have been turfed out of their group homes, living in substandard housing. We have environmental degradation that occurs under this government's watch. And they want to bring up a federal issue in order to find out if we're divided or not.
Well, I'm sick of that kind of politics, and I think they should be questioning their motivation in doing that kind of thing. The people of this province want us to be talking about issues that have a direct and important impact on our lives.
I've studied criminology. I got my master's in criminology. I know about gun control, and I've met lots of criminals. There are ways of dealing with public policy issues that don't just simply rely on me versus you, good versus bad, white versus black. This is an issue that requires intelligent decision-making, adult discussions, which we don't see when the only thing put on the table is something that's going to divide us. So I'm sorry, Madam Speaker.
Whatever the federal government does, whatever these folks' bosses do in Ottawa, let them do it. They're going to do it with their majority. They're going to do it with the bulldozer approach they do with every single public policy that they come across. Have you ever seen them sit down and actually discuss what's the best way of doing things, Madam Speaker? I think not.
This government prefers to find out ways where they can show a flag and make everybody think that they're supporting their interests. I'm sorry. That's not the kind of politics the people in this province want to see anymore, and I'm looking forward to the day when we no longer have to put up with this kind of stuff.
J. Rustad: After listening to that little bit of a rant from the member for Powell River–Sunshine Coast, I'd like to remind him about Nanoose Bay or some of the other things that their party seems to like dragging out and doing as well.
The fact of the matter is $2 billion of taxpayers' money has gone into a program that has not seen significant results and that has turned good honest people into…. It's treated them like criminals. It is a waste of taxpayers' money. I would just like to point out a couple of other things.
Look, this is about crime. This is about crime prevention. This is about gun control. What was the NDP's record on the whole idea of gun control? When they were government, they drained resources from front-line policing. They downsized the auxiliary. Between 1997 and 1999 the NDP actually reduced the number of auxiliary police officers from 1,100 to 550. That's what their approach is to this — to talk tough, but then in actual actions, they do nothing.
What we have done on crime reduction in this province is…. There are over 200 organized crime gang members now that have been arrested just in the past two years in all. We've added ten prosecutors to the 16 already assigned to deal specifically with gang and gun crimes. Additionally, we've invested $66 million in ten major integrated units to solve major crimes. Our annual policing budget has steadily increased by over $167 million since 2001. It's a 117 percent increase. That's what we've done around crime.
Yet the issue that we are talking about here today is: "Be it resolved that this House support law-abiding gun owners and support the Federal Government's decision to repeal the federal long-gun registry." We still have a handgun registry. We still have a process that you have to go through to actually own a gun. You have to have licences to do that. We are still…. This isn't saying that we're wild, Wild West.
This is saying that in my riding the farmers and the hunters and the people that like to interact with their
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land base, that go out and hunt to provide food for their family, that the farmer that uses a gun to perhaps shoot a wolf that is out harassing their cattle…. That's saying to those people that we are no longer going to treat you as criminals. That side of the House seems to think it's a joke and seems to think it's a federal responsibility. You know what? Those are my constituents. Those are my constituents that have these issues that deserve to be treated with respect. Those individuals are why I'm standing to support this motion.
In 2003 this House actually debated the issue of a long-gun registry and passed the following motion: "Be it resolved that the House calls on the Federal Government to repeal the Firearms Act and redirect resources from the mandatory firearms registration program to front-line law enforcement."
So $2 billion is a lot of money and could have been spent far more wisely, whether it be social programs, whether it be to support women and women's issues, whether it be to fight gangs and crime, whether it be to support other law-abiding operations in this province, whether it be to enact more serious crime bills or to actually help with federal…. Whatever issue you may talk about, $2 billion is a lot of money, and quite frankly, the disrespect that the gun registry has shown to the long-gun owners and that waste of money is something that should never have happened.
I am so pleased that this bill is moving forward, and I'm so pleased that we've had an opportunity to be able to stand and speak for our constituents, our constituents in rural B.C. that have been angry about this, that want to see this thing gone. I'm finally glad to see that it's going to be gone. I'm glad to be able to add their voice to this debate to say that we support it, and I would ask those rural members over there, including the member for Powell River–Sunshine Coast that has rural people in his riding, to stand up and actually respect their rights and their views.
C. Trevena: I represent a rural constituency. I have constituents who hunt both in the bush around Campbell River and who go into the Interior and hunt, bring back moose. They don't have moose on the Island, so they like to bring back moose. Hunting is part of a rural lifestyle.
But we have in this Legislature an extraordinarily limited time. We have in this fall session just eight days left. The federal government has another five weeks of sitting time where they're going to be discussing issues that are related to their purview, the federal issues. I think in our limited time we would be better spent discussing issues that really do relate to our province and what we can do here in this Legislature, not spend an hour of private members' time talking about something over which we have no control.
Whatever is decided in Ottawa will be decided by the government. There will be opposition voiced there. There will be discussion, I'm sure. There will be a very healthy debate there. But that's where the decision is made.
I represent a rural community where, as I mentioned, there are many people who enjoy hunting — no question about that. Many people in my constituency own guns. What I hear from my constituents, and what I would like to be discussing in this private members' opportunity that has a huge bearing on people who are hunting in my constituency and, I would suggest, in many other constituencies, rural constituencies, is actually access to the commons, access to the bush.
I don't know how many members opposite get calls into their constituency office and letters into their constituency office about this, but I know that we've had discussions on this side of the House from a number of people who represent rural ridings where they get basically endless phone calls, endless e-mails and many, many letters — obviously, we all get fewer print letters nowadays — about ability to access the land.
There are roads that are no longer kept up. There are locked gates. There are many, many more "Private" signs. This has traditionally been an area where people can go and can go hunting, but nowadays many hunters and others who want to use the bush, whether they be hikers or ATVers or mountain bikers, are finding that they don't get the access.
This is an issue that we in this Legislature could be dealing with. We could be dealing with access to Crown lands. We could be dealing with access to common lands. We could be dealing with the issues that are getting hunters in my constituency really angry, which is the ability to get into the bush to go and hunt.
I'd like to quote from a letter I received, actually, just last week from Granlund Firearms in Campbell River. Obviously, they sell guns. It's one of the gunsmiths in Campbell River. We have a number of them, a number of sporting shops that do sell guns and are very respectful of that. This letter from the owner, Karle Granlund, says:
"Are you aware" — addressed to me — "of the private property signs being put up on the Duncan Bay Main Line? This road has historically provided access to a variety of recreation opportunities from Mount Washington to the Upper Campbell. Somewhere where we find access to hunting, fishing, camping, snowmobiling and ATV riding, birdwatching, stargazing and simply enjoying the solitude of nature are all out of the window.
"A significant portion of the Campbell River population has made a choice to live here because access to the wilderness is immediately available. If this access is removed, it will be another nail in the coffin for the Campbell River tourism industry and another stumbling block to economic prosperity for our community.
"I realize that there are a number of cross-jurisdictional issues and that there's only so much you can do. However, it seems that the provincial Liberals are presiding over a decline in the access to the wilderness, which is not in the interest of north Island residents."
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This is just one of many letters that I have had concerned about access to the wilderness, access to what has traditionally been people's backyards where they've been able to hunt.
This is Campbell River. All the way up the north Island we have people who are quoting and citing the same areas. This is something we can be talking about in this Legislature. We can be talking about access to the commons. I come from England originally where you have common land, access to the commons. This is something we can be dealing with.
Unless this government is looking, as Quebec is doing, at wanting to take back the names of the people who have submitted to the gun registry and hold them as part of the provincial registry…. In that reason we could be having this debate, but unless we are serious in wanting to deal with issues that we can actually have some impact on, why waste our very limited time here? And why not just get on with things that we can be impacting — things like access to the common lands, which has a real impact on all of the hunters right across our province?
Madam Speaker, I thank you very much for this opportunity to address the House.
D. Barnett: I stand here today to support my colleague's motion. I come from real rural British Columbia, where I have spent many, many years listening to this debate, and most of my constituents do not support this registry. We are law-abiding citizens, and we must realize that no one in this House or anywhere else in this province believes that someone should lose their life because of a gun, a knife or anything else. But freedom of people's rights, of innocent people, has to be respected. We have lost that, in many respects, in Canada and in British Columbia today.
My colleagues say this is not an important issue. It is a very important issue. During the last provincial election this issue was on my doorstep as my constituents were told that British Columbia was going to have a gun registry. I dealt with it many, many times during the past provincial election. So please don't tell me that this is not important to the people of British Columbia. It is very important.
You know, I can tell you of an incident where the gun registry cost a young child his life — maybe not completely, but it helped. I had a friend who had a young son. That child was outside, and a bear came. The mother screamed. The father was not home. The neighbour across the way heard the screaming and looked out. He tried to help, but his gun was locked. His shells were in another lock. He obeyed the law. He may not have saved that child, but he would have helped. His gun was registered.
D. Barnett: It does mean something. I'm sorry.
His gun was registered. Would he have taken that gun if it was a bear or another human being attacking that child, whether it was registered or not? That is my point. Yes, he would've. Having a registered gun when you're trying to save a child's life does not matter.
D. Barnett: Yeah, you holy mackerel too.
You know, I think you should come out to rural B.C. and knock on the doors of the trappers, the hunters, the guide-outfitters, those that live in rural British Columbia and make their living off the land. It is so important to these people. They are tired of being made to feel like criminals. They are tired.
Registering a gun will not stop somebody from abuse. The money that is spent on this abuse of a gun registry could go towards the programs that my colleagues are talking about, go towards helping women who are abused, helping men that are abused, helping children that are abused. Have you looked and seen what the cost of this registry is and what the benefit is?
D. Barnett: Yes, it costs a lot of money, and it could be spent in other good places.
Madam Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to stand here today to represent my constituents, to stand here and say that enough is enough. People have to be made responsible for their actions, and it is time that we as government put trust and faith that people in this province know how to abide by the law and act properly.
B. Simpson: I'll just take a few moments here. I have to say that the previous speaker has caused me to wonder how many unlocked guns that have ammunition in them have been responsible for the deaths of many people.
We're not talking about whether guns should be locked, whether ammunition should be put in a separate place. We're talking about the issue of registering those guns, particularly the long-gun registry. And I have to say, having canvassed in the very same area as the previous member, during the last election I never once was asked about the gun registry in British Columbia.
I just want to add something to this debate. I agree with the member standing in the opposition that we have motions on this order paper that are vastly more important than what we're discussing today. That's a process issue for this House, and a process issue that I think the House Leaders should address, because it's not the intent for private members' time to be wasted with petty partisanship, which is what this is. And it goes on both
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sides. Both sides use motions for petty, partisan reasons, and it's not the purpose of Monday morning time.
With respect to the gun registry, I do believe there are many citizens who believe that their activities were criminalized. There's no question. The government did a very poor job of addressing that issue. My son was involved in biathlon, and all those young people had to go through all manners of process to just simply register their target rifles and to register those rifles to travel with them. I can tell you they felt that their activity had been criminalized. There is no question that that occurred. There is no question that the execution of this gun registry was abysmal. That is not in question.
The question is: why are we discussing it here, when it's a done deal that the Harper government is going to get rid of it? That's the question. If we wanted to have a debate in this House on this particular subject, then let's ground it in reality. We have an emerging issue.
I grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, which is now known as the knife capital of Britain, where young people go around showing their scars from knife wounds as a badge of courage and a badge of honour. We have more issues to deal with, with young people, in the use of knives. We just had a recent fatality as a result of somebody simply carrying a knife and, in the heat of the moment, using that knife to kill another young person.
If we wanted to deal with a real issue in this House, on point, let's talk about how we address that issue, because the vast majority of those crimes with knives, which far exceed the number of homicides related to guns, are carried out by children aged 12 to 24. What are we going to do about that as legislators here in British Columbia? It's a real issue for us to wrestle with. It's an issue this Legislature should wrestle with. We should not be using Monday morning motions for partisan politics from either side of the House.
K. Corrigan: I'm surprised at this motion coming forward. I was trying to figure out what it is that the government is doing and why it's bringing it forward. I think, frankly, this is an effort to deflect attention from the gross neglect of the criminal justice system by diverting to an issue that is federal.
In this province we've had a revolving door of Solicitors General — you might call it a revolving door of shame — and I think the justice system has been neglected for the last ten years. The costs that are going to be saved, the small costs, depending on the estimate that you hear — it's $1 million to $4 million per year, say the RCMP; or more, the federal Auditor General — are nothing compared to the costs that are going to be downloaded onto British Columbians by the omnibus crime bill, Bill C-10.
This government is completely unprepared for dealing with those costs that are going to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars a year, as opposed to a few million dollars with the gun registry.
What this government should be doing instead of getting up and talking on motions like this is spending their time and standing up in this House refusing to pay the costs of the federal crime bill, which is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year — like your counterparts, including your Liberal counterparts across the country.
I agree with my colleague that this is a cynical, divisive approach. Instead of looking for solutions that could satisfy rural and urban Canadians, the federal government used the issue to drive wedges between Canadians. Jack Layton said that this kind of divisiveness, pitting one group against another, is "the poisonous politics of the United States, not the nation-building politics of Canada." That's apparently the approach that this Premier and this government have, and I say shame on you.
What the members opposite are doing is pledging support to get rid of a gun registry that both the national and the provincial chiefs of police have said has no doubt made it safer for both the public and the officers — that they need to know what firearms may be in a home when they're called there. In addition, the data is going to be destroyed as well.
So I think it's, frankly, hypocrisy on the other side of the House to claim to be concerned about public safety but bring this motion to the House. It's hypocrisy and a failed attempt at diversion, as well, to pound the public safety drum repeatedly when, in fact, this government has a ten-year record of failure when it comes to the criminal justice system. At a time when there are recurring fears of escalating gang violence...
Deputy Speaker: Members. Members, the Chair needs to be able to hear the debate.
K. Corrigan: ...it's a time to look back at the Liberal government ten-year record of failure in the criminal justice system. The B.C. Liberals' record on crime has been shutting down courthouses, correctional centres, introducing massive cuts to justice services, slashing the legal aid budget by 40 percent and eliminating Crown victim services. That is the Liberal record on crime.
One of the first things that this government did when it got into power was close 24 courthouses, including a courthouse in my community. They closed 24 courthouses, which increased the costs to many local governments whose police officers now, I know in my community, have to drive miles and miles to testify. That's a download onto local governments.
In addition, they've closed ten jails since 2001. So we're in the predicament that they've closed all these
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jails, and now we're facing huge capital costs to build new jails across the province — including the closure of the Vancouver pretrial centre.
K. Corrigan: Madam Speaker, I'm finding it very difficult to speak with the comments being made on the other side.
Just tone it down a bit, so I can hear myself.
Deputy Speaker: Members. Members.
K. Corrigan: I'd love to talk about jails and what happened. Every time you guys talk about it, it's great for me in my community.
Deputy Speaker: Member, please continue.
K. Corrigan: We've had a decade of Liberal budget cuts to judges, court services, prosecution services, sheriffs and legal aid. So it's no surprise that the result is a clogged and chaotic, ineffective justice system.
What is the result of all of this? We have repeated cases of serious crimes going unpunished because of the chaos and delays in the justice system. Accused are being set free because the system is so underfunded that they can't get to court within the constitutional limitation of time.
Supreme Court Justice Mark McEwan said, when he let Michael Ellis, charged with assaulting a police officer, leading Mounties on a stolen truck chase and dealing drugs…. When he set him free, he said: "This is not a situation of rapid population growth overwhelming existing resources but of conscious government policy to reduce the courts' ability to function. It is the consequence of government" — this government's — "decisions that have seriously impaired the Provincial Court's ability to schedule matters of a week or more within a constitutionally tolerable period of time."
P. Pimm: I'm happy to stand here this morning and be allowed to speak to this bill that the member for Vernon-Monashee brought up. The abolition of the long-gun registry, the federal government's Bill C-19 — 17 years we've had this. That's 17 years, I can tell you, that the residents of Peace River North have absolutely despised this bill.
I hear lots of discussion this morning from the opposition that they think we're wasting our time talking about this bill. But at the beginning of the meeting, the beginning of private members' time, I think we had a motion to accept this. I didn't hear you speaking against it — the motion. This is all in order, as far as I can tell, so I think it's an opportunity for us to debate this properly. I think the motion is in order, and I think the motion should be dealt with properly. I'm glad that everybody has had an opportunity to speak to it.
I can tell you that this is an important issue in my riding. Whether it's federal or it's provincial, it doesn't matter to me whether that's the case. This here goes to the point that we will make sure that we're not going to be imposing anything like this on the residents of my riding in the future. So I'm very happy to be able to stand here and acknowledge that.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
It's so confusing how politics work. In my area…. We're very, very conservative in that area. You might not know that, but we're very conservative in that area. Lots of times when I was running for politics under the B.C. Liberal banner they asked me: "Oh, you guys support the gun registry. You guys support the gun law." I said: "No, no, you're getting confused between the federal Conservatives and…. The B.C. Liberals are not that. We don't have any ties to a federal party." We don't have any ties to any federal group whatsoever, unlike the opposition side. So I can understand why you would be a little sensitive about the issue.
This is another issue where you talk about the rural and urban divide. This is a perfect example of the rural and urban divide. This is one of the bills that actually made criminals out of rural British Columbians. It made criminals out of everybody that owned guns, and you weren't going to actually stand up and have them registered. I look at my residents, I look at my neighbours, and I look at my farmers in my community — the hunters, the guides, the First Nations, you name it. They all have guns in my community — all of them. They all have a long gun in their….
Well, not all of them. I don't have one. I'm probably one of the few that don't have one, actually, in my area. So this bill doesn't even affect me personally, but it affects every other person in my riding.
Talk about my farmers. We stand here, and lots of times in this House I hear people talk about the wolves and the bears and all the other predators and how we have to save all those animals and predators.
But they go out, and they have no problem allowing them to eat my cattle — take the cattle in our area and let the wolves eat the cattle. We don't want to allow the farmers to have an opportunity to fight back a little bit. This is exactly what this bill is, and I'm so proud to be able to stand here and acknowledge that the federal government has done the right thing in making this bill happen. I couldn't be more happy.
I know that the guides and outfitters in my area are certainly happy. In fact, all the residents in my area are happy.
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I can understand why it's a little bit of a problem for members from the opposite side.
In my area we have .30-30s and we have .303s and lots of long-barrel guns. We don't have Uzis and all the good stuff that criminals have. This was supposed to solve all the problems with the criminals. This doesn't do anything. This bill never ever did solve any problems with the criminals and what's happening in downtown Toronto or Vancouver.
You don't see long guns hanging out the windows of these cars down here. They're designed for hunting and for being part of a rural operation and rural lifestyle, and I'm very happy to be able to stand here and talk about that a little bit.
J. Kwan: I'm happy to enter into this debate. As I sit here and listen to the government members speak about this motion, I am thinking: "What is the theme and what is the thrust behind this?"
The member for Kootenay East said — I think somewhere in there — something about responsibility. Let me just think about responsibility in the context around this issue that the members have raised. It is about safety for our community, isn't it? It is about law and order — isn't it? — and how we as government, all levels of government, have the responsibility to act to that end.
So I will say this. The government has the responsibility to ensure a civil society. The government has a responsibility to ensure that governments are accountable. The government has a responsibility to ensure that policies that are brought in reflect the responsibility of government and to ensure — for example, in the issue around law and order — that a judicial system is working properly and is supported, that the prosecutions branch have the resources that they have to go after the very criminals that we want jailed in our communities, that the government actually ensures the public have access to fairness and justice. We say this all the time. Justice needs to be done and seen to be done.
Yet what is happening in the province of British Columbia? Well, let me just count. Let me just reiterate for the members who may have forgotten — for the time that they have been in government and they continue to be in government — what they have neglected to do and this doubletalk about law and order, about fairness and justice need to be served, and how they have failed British Columbians.
Let me just count some of those things for the members' benefit so that they could remember what their government's own actions have done in impacting our communities.
This government has eliminated 70 Crown victim service counsellors — this government, the Liberal government, the very speakers who say they care about their community and those who have been made victims of crime. It is this government who has actually done that — eliminated 70 Crown victim service counsellors.
They have abandoned the zero-tolerance policy towards domestic violence, and yet we all say we care about domestic violence. Then why on earth did the government do away with the very policy that would have made a difference for the women and children who are at risk? This government did that.
The government eliminated the free-standing Ministry of Women's Equality and withdrew funding for local violence-against-women coordinating committees, who are doing that very work to coordinate across the province of British Columbia to give protection to women and children who face violence in their homes.
This government closed women's centres, the very centres that the community relied on so that they could get the supports they need on an everyday basis, so they could get the advocacy they need to fight the cutbacks that have impacted them. And you know what? The funding for women's centres at most, for any one particular centre, is only $47,000.
They cut that program, but they had no problems whatsoever in funding convicted criminals — Basi, Virk, $7 million. We talk about accountability and responsibility and fiscal responsibility, and what does the government do? They actually pay off $7 million, which could have gone into programs to support the very people who need these programs in our communities, to convicted criminals. That's what this government has done.
The impact of some of these things. I talked about fairness and access to justice. Well, our judicial system doesn't have enough judges to try cases. The prosecution branch doesn't have enough prosecutors to take the alleged criminals to court.
Jails. We talk about jails. This government shut down courthouses. They shut down the very spaces that are required to process these cases. Then, by their very own action as a result of that, what's happened? Across the province of British Columbia alleged criminals were not tried. In Prince George cocaine dealers walked because of that.
Let me just close with this. If we want to talk about law and order, look in the mirror and make sure that your actions reflect what you preach.
J. Les: I know the time has gone. I just wanted to make an observation, however, as I listened to the debate this morning. Most members of the opposition completely avoided the issue. They did not speak to the long-gun registry in any way whatsoever, and I suspect it's because of the intolerance that characterizes the opposition on this issue.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
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J. Les: I would like to quote a federal NDP MP, who actually had the gumption recently to not agree with his own party. He was quoted recently on the news as saying: "The real problem for me is my voice is forced to be quiet by my party. It's really a punishment for my constituents, and that I cannot abide."
As I was considering that and listening to the responses from the members opposite, the only thing that jumped out at me was their extreme intolerance in terms of having an open debate on this issue. Rural British Columbians especially, possibly, will not be surprised at that intolerance. But that is what has characterized their response this morning.
J. Les moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. M. Polak moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. this afternoon.
The House adjourned at 11:58 a.m.
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