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, March 12, 2012
Volume 32, Number 1
ISSN 0709-1281 (Print)
ISSN 1499-2175 (Online)
Orders of the Day
Private Members' Statements
Importance of your kidneys
Positive IMPACT on the community
Maximizing our forest resources
International air commerce
Private Members' Motions
Motion 32 — Representation in Legislature
S. Chandra Herbert
MONDAY, MARCH 12, 2012
The House met at 10:02 a.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, on each desk this morning is a copy of Her Majesty's Commonwealth Day message. In recognition of Commonwealth Day, the Royal Union flag, known as the Union Jack, will be flown from sunrise to sunset today at the Parliament Buildings.
Orders of the Day
Private Members' Statements
IMPORTANCE OF YOUR KIDNEYS
S. Hammell: I watched a program on the news about two people who were deeply connected and committed. It was an amazing moment, and it was one I'm sure many of the members here saw over the time away.
[D. Black in the chair.]
One of the people that the news was describing was a woman who had kidney disease. It was genetically triggered, and her husband, as a consequence, did two rather amazing things. First, he donated one of his kidneys to his wife. That's a commitment that is done selflessly by many people. Our member for Kootenay West has done the same thing in regard to her husband. It's a commitment that is very, very deep and personal, because you are actually giving of yourself to that other person.
The second thing he did was, I think, equally as amazing. He entered the iron- or strongman contest. To be honest, I'm not sure I've got the definition correct of what he entered, but he was clearly biking, running — doing things to build up his physical endurance to go into a rather strenuous challenge. He was doing that to prove that a person can live a full life with only one kidney and, in doing so, encouraged others to donate, if that was a consideration of theirs, and to do it without the fear that may come from giving up part of your body.
In this particular case the transplant was successful for a number of years. But unfortunately, the wife is now back on dialysis, as her body did ultimately reject the kidney.
The kidneys — most of us, at least, have two of them — are pretty important to maintaining our health. When healthy, the kidneys maintain a balance between water and the body. They keep that internal balance, ensuring that there's not too much water, nor is there not enough. They also play a role in processing, or getting rid of or eliminating, excess minerals that the body may contain, such as sodium and potassium.
The kidneys also play a role in the production of red blood cells, as well as a role in bone formation because they maintain the balance between calcium and the production of bones. It is an imperfect treatment, because although it does function, and it takes over the process of maintaining balance of water and excreting waste, it does not replace the function of the production of red blood cells or bone formation. So dialysis is important, but it doesn't maintain that complete function.
However, it is critical to the function of our bodies. If we lose the use of our kidneys and we don't go on dialysis, then we will die. It is that critical. So it is rather amazing, when you think about the whole process of dialysis.
Having that medical treatment, if you lost your kidney function, has only been around for about 65 years. In fact, a physician, during the Nazi occupation of Holland, or the Netherlands, created a machine out of — in researching this, it was quite fascinating — sausage casings, beverage cans and a washing machine. That was the first dialysis machine that was used as a prototype, which eventually moved on to being the dialysis machines that we are seeing now.
In 1943, when this was first introduced, I think about 16 patients were put on it. It was not successful until 1945, when a 67-year-old woman who was comatose, after 11 hours of dialysis, woke up and lived for another seven years — pretty amazing. She was the first patient ever to be successfully treated with dialysis, which brings me to a quick discussion of the process.
You actually go on a machine, and your blood is taken through that machine. It is run past a fluid that cleans out…. There's a membrane, and the process cleans out the potassium and the excess water. The blood is circulated through the machine, comes back into your body, and you are then healthy for a period of time, until again the waste and the excess water can build up.
If you are on dialysis, you go usually three times a week for over four hours to have this cleansing. Then you're good to go for another two or three days, but you must come back to have this process done again. So you're actually dependent on this machine for your life's breath.
Anyway, it's a fascinating process, one that is something we can say in our community is important, and particularly important because it is clearly a consequence of life and death.
If you are on dialysis, you must maintain that regimen where you go back into the hospital, go through the process of dialysis and then are back into your home and can function for a number of weeks.
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N. Letnick: I'd like to stand and thank the member for Surrey–Green Timbers for bringing up such a great issue, the one of dialysis and the health of our kidneys.
It was very inspiring to see the member for Kootenay West, in this term, donate her kidney. I would surely ask all the people who are listening and all British Columbians to look at themselves and see if they've signed the donation card and, if they haven't, to seriously consider doing so.
Obviously, kidneys and other organs are in great need in our province and elsewhere. If we have the ability to donate an organ at the time — either in the case of the member for Kootenay West or in the case of our demise, unfortunately — it would be a good thing to do.
On the specific issue of kidney health, kidney disease and dialysis, over the past ten years the annual increase in the number of British Columbians with failing kidneys, who need dialysis to stay alive, has dropped from 16 percent to just 3 percent a year. That's the lowest growth rate in the country. So we're doing better, but we can always improve.
One of the ways to improve is prevention. There are, of course, occasions when we're genetically predisposed to kidney issues, and it's hard to prevent those things. But in some cases it's lifestyle.
I did a little surfing on the Internet this weekend to see what prevention opportunities we have. I'm not a doctor, so I would suggest to anybody who's listening to this to please check with your physician first. We all know that what's on the Internet isn't always 100 percent accurate, so….
J. Les: No kidding.
N. Letnick: Yeah. So says my colleague from Chilliwack.
Here are some things that people should look at if they want to try to avoid kidney disease as well as other diseases. One is to have your blood pressure checked regularly. It's very important to have normal blood pressure if you want to prevent kidney disease. Having regular blood pressure will also help prevent other diseases and conditions.
Another one is to take steps to control your blood pressure. The easiest way to maintain a normal blood pressure is by restricting the amount of salt and sodium-filled foods that we consume. Some salt is required to keep our body functioning. We don't have to cut it out of our diet entirely. Check with a dietitian, of course, or a doctor before you make major changes to the foods that you love to eat.
Another one is to tell the doctor if your family has a history of high blood pressure or kidney disease. Both of these conditions are hereditary. The doctor may prescribe some medication to help control the blood pressure. Again, check with your doctor first.
Another one is to stay alert for changes in your urine. If you have cloudy, smelly or foamy urine or if it hurts when you urinate, of course, see a doctor. These symptoms are a sign of urinary tract problems, and if left untreated, the problems could lead to the development of kidney disease later in life.
Another one is to watch for symptoms of anemia. If you are constantly tired, bruise easily or suffer from dizziness, you might be anemic. This condition can contribute to kidney disease if it's not properly treated or becomes a chronic problem. Those are some things that people can do, of course with the guidance of their physician, to try to avoid kidney disease in the first place.
If you do, unfortunately, have to go through dialysis, the B.C. Provincial Renal Agency, in cooperation with the health authority renal programs, coordinates service for patients with chronic disease in 12 hospitals and 25 community dialysis units across British Columbia.
I remember about a year or so ago visiting one in my community in Rutland. This was outside of Kelowna General Hospital, right in the community. You couldn't tell it was there unless you actually went to the door and looked at the sign and walked in. There were a number of patient beds and nursing staff, and patients getting their kidneys treated right near their community. That was an excellent way of making sure that they had access to dialysis close to their homes. Of course, we have mobile units in the province as well.
Since 2001 B.C. has increased the number of hospital-, clinic- and home-based dialysis stations by 66 percent in 18 communities across the province. As part of the $433 million investment being made at Kelowna General Hospital, the Centennial building is set to open soon. It will include a brand-new renal department as well, and I also had the privilege of visiting that — quite an outstanding contribution to the health of people in the Interior.
Provincially, renal clinic data meet or exceed national standards, and B.C. has the highest survival rates in the country. So I would just like to thank again the member for Surrey–Green Timbers for bringing up the issue.
S. Hammell: It's good to hear that we are doing well in terms of the number of new cases, but it is estimated that 2.6 million Canadians have kidney disease or are at risk and that each day an average of 16 people are told that their kidneys have failed. The number of Canadians being treated for kidney failure has tripled over the past 20 years.
The people in Chilliwack are also asking for a dialysis machine because they believe that the trip down from Hope and sometimes the canyon, Harrison and Agassiz, especially during the winter conditions, is very treacherous. There are icy and snowy conditions, often blackouts, and sometimes the road is completely shut down. Because the people who come down for dialysis are re-
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quired to do that three times a week, they feel strongly that there should be a dialysis machine in Chilliwack.
Not only the mayor thinks there should be one; a former city councillor believes there should be a dialysis machine in Chilliwack, and so do a number of people. In fact, there has been a Facebook that has been created, and now over 100 people are lobbying in that area for a dialysis machine. It is important that we listen to the people in a community. They are the ones who pay for their health care.
We are aware that there has been a cutback in some of the health services in the city of Chilliwack due to the creation of a hospital in Abbotsford, but the people in Chilliwack also need to be assured that when they get involved and when they have a need such as dialysis in their community, the government is listening.
The people in Chilliwack are very generous. They have stepped up to assist the health system with capital costs. What the province needs to do is come up with or look at the operating costs of a dialysis machine. There are now 37 people in that eastern Fraser Valley who need dialysis. They have to come all the way down to Abbotsford.
If you've travelled — and I'm sure many of the members opposite have — on that highway, it can be treacherous, not only on the flats but in the canyon. Snowstorms, like yesterday, can spring up out of nowhere, and people who are required for their health and for their life, actually, to get down to a machine and have it help them out need to be heard.
POSITIVE IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY
J. Les: A pleasure to get up this morning. I'm tempted to carry on the conversation of a moment ago, but the rules, of course, would forbid that, so we'll, I'm sure, have that debate another day.
I would like to talk this morning for a few minutes about a policing program that's been enormously successful throughout the province, actually. Since 2001 we have seen an 89 percent increase in the policing budget in British Columbia, focusing on the provincial policing budget. One of the focuses has been on increasing integration of the police forces across British Columbia — RCMP with municipal police forces, particularly those in the Lower Mainland.
There are a number of integrated units that are now operating throughout the province. One of these is called IMPACT, which is the acronym for the integrated municipal-provincial auto crime team. Now, this program has been enormously successful in response to community concern at the time that our auto theft levels were just way too high.
This team went to work, and it has reduced those levels of auto theft dramatically, to an extent that we've drawn attention to this program from around the world and, certainly, from other jurisdictions in North America.
The IMPACT bait car program is now the largest of its kind in North America, right here in British Columbia, and since 2003 we have seen a 71 percent reduction in vehicle thefts in British Columbia. I'm not sure that I have previously seen too many programs that have enjoyed that kind of success. It's success in an area where….
You can imagine how aggravating it is when you have your car stolen. I personally have not had the misfortune of having that happen to me, but I've had several friends and acquaintances that have had their cars and their vehicles stolen. It's a very discombobulating event in your life when that occurs, and it's also expensive. There's always personal cost involved — as well as, of course, a significant cost to ICBC. At the end of the day, we all share the cost of auto theft when it occurs.
The IMPACT team in the greater Vancouver area is a team of 22 specialized police auto theft investigators from seven different police forces in the Lower Mainland. They've developed some innovative strategies. Not only have they enjoyed great success so far, but the levels of auto theft are still coming down. Of course, when you're preventing these thefts from occurring in the first place, the way the program operates, we also catch the people who perpetrate these crimes.
Over the last eight years you've probably all seen the wanted posters that the IMPACT program puts out once in a while. We've highlighted 80 people that the police were looking for, and 77 of them have actually been apprehended and put through the justice system. That, too, is a pretty good record of success — when you actually apprehend 77 out of 80 people that are being sought in connection with these crimes. I think that's quite remarkable.
The program in British Columbia is now in its tenth year of operation. IMPACT operates and manages the bait car programs for Vancouver Island, the B.C. interior and in the north, and for the 16 municipalities in the greater Vancouver area. Sometimes, when significant events are being put on throughout the province — events such as the PNE; the World Police and Fire Games, which was so enormously successful in 2009; and, of course, the 2010 Winter Olympics…. All of these events enjoyed remarkably low auto theft levels because of the operation of the IMPACT program.
The motto of the bait car program is actually very, very simple: "Steal one. Go to jail." More and more, we've been able to ensure that those consequences actually follow.
A bait car is equipped with audio and video equipment that's installed in the bait car and records everything that goes on inside of the vehicle. The vehicle is equipped with GPS so that dispatchers can exactly track the location, the speed and the direction of travel of the stolen bait car. Then the police response is coordinated by the dispatch, and the bait car engine is disabled. The car is locked up so that the folks inside can't actually get out. They have
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no option but simply to await the arrival of the police.
If you want to watch some interesting video sometime, bait car videos are not a bad way to pass five or ten spare minutes, if you might have some time. It's a great way to watch the policing system in action.
The program has been so successful that it has now been expanded to include all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, boats and motorcycles. It's now, as I said earlier, the biggest program of its kind in North America. Just recently IMPACT has launched the biggest expansion, last year, with a bait trailer program to reduce trailer thefts in British Columbia.
I think we've had enormous success. We've built on that success. We've used technology well. We've used integration of the various police forces across British Columbia well, and we have very demonstrably driven down the rates of occurrence of this kind of crime.
It certainly is noticeable in communities where, at one time, you used to hear a steady report of these kinds of criminal activities going on. Nowadays you certainly hear much, much less of that. I think it really speaks highly of the focus that has been put on this but also the very deliberate work that has been done by the police forces across British Columbia. I had occasion, obviously, to work with many of these people firsthand, and I was always very pleased to see their dedication.
K. Corrigan: I did, in the last few days, do what the member for Chilliwack suggested, which is to watch some of those videos. It is actually quite astounding how stupid some people can be. There is no doubt that the bait car program has been successful over the past ten years and has significantly reduced both car theft and in-car theft in British Columbia.
But the member opposite, the member for Chilliwack, talked about it in the context of its being one of the Lower Mainland integrated teams, and I do want to talk a little bit more about those teams. What we have to do when we're looking at policing — and, in fact, when we're spending taxpayers' money in different areas — is look at how successful and how effective the use of dollars is. I talk about that because we do know generally that the costs of policing have increased dramatically year over year. We also know that municipalities have had almost no ability to control those increasing costs.
As the member opposite mentioned, the bait car program is one of those integrated policing teams — in this case the integrated municipal-provincial auto crime team, or IMPACT. Unfortunately, the provincial cost of this integrated team, including the bait car program, is not broken out in the provincial road safety report. So unless it's reported elsewhere — and it may be, but I couldn't find it — there's no way of finding out how much the program costs and whether or not those costs are increasing.
The costs, of course, do not include any municipal policing costs, although I do understand there's a significant provincial contribution from ICBC in the case of the bait car program.
We do know that for most integrated teams, the costs are rising dramatically, with very little oversight or control. I'll give you an example: the Lower Mainland integrated policing teams. There are variety of teams, and one of them is the Integrated Forensic Identification Services. Those costs are projected to rise from about $7.7 million in 2010-11 to $9.4 million in 2011-12 — just one year — with municipalities picking up $8.5 million of these costs.
The individual municipalities are told that they must have these integrated teams. They pay, in most cases, 90 percent of the costs. The federal government covers 10 percent for most of the Lower Mainland integrated teams, yet it is the province which pays a small portion or nothing for the integrated teams on the Lower Mainland. It is the province which is driving the integration and negotiating on behalf of the municipalities, but there is no accountability to the municipalities that are paying the bills for these teams.
Let me give you another quick example of increased costs for integrated policing. Police dog services costs are projected to rise from $5.5 million to $7.5 million in one year. That's about a 36 percent increase in just one year.
Now, I do understand that in the new cost-sharing arrangement with the federal government that has recently been negotiated, the federal government will be paying a larger share of the Lower Mainland integrated teams. But a one-year increase alone, like the ones I've been mentioning, will more than eat up that difference. In addition, as is so often repeated by so many of us, there is only one taxpayer.
I mentioned the recently negotiated but not finalized RCMP contract with the federal government, negotiated on behalf of municipalities by the provincial government. The highest priority for municipalities was the ability to have a say in the size of the bills that they have to pay, rather than what has happened in the past, which is, essentially, that they've been handed a bill from Ottawa with almost no ability to control those costs — an open-ended contract, if you will.
I haven't seen the terms of that contract yet, but it's my understanding that the accountability framework and fiscal containment that municipalities were looking for has not yet been negotiated and achieved, and that in most regards the contract is simply a rollover of the previous contract.
The bait car program is a successful program, but it's one of many integrated teams in the Lower Mainland and across the province. I have a real concern that the interests of the taxpayers need to be looked out for, because these teams are in the context of policing cost increases, particularly for the municipalities, who have to pay the bill but do not have control of the purse strings.
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That is a concern, but I do salute the bait car program and its success.
J. Les: Thanks to the member opposite for her response to this issue.
You know, I was a mayor back in the 1990s. One of the things that I maintained back then was that traffic fine revenues actually, rightfully should go back to municipalities. You can be sure that I was particularly pleased in 2002 when this government made the announcement that all traffic fine revenues were going back to municipalities — about $55 million a year going back to municipalities. That was a real contribution to the cost of policing at the municipal level, unparalleled to anything that had gone on before. I think it was only right that we did that.
We've talked about the bait car program this morning and the effect that it's had on communities. A previous speaker this morning talked about Chilliwack. In this context I'd like to speak about Chilliwack as well, where in 2003 we had 720 automobile thefts. In 2011 that was 200. That is a dramatic difference. That is increasing public safety in communities and is directly as a result of integrating police services in an intelligent way, making use of technology, that was so sorely needed across the province.
Chilliwack, of course, isn't the only community that has seen that kind of a drop. But from 720 down to 200 — that is a dramatic difference.
I would just like to take the opportunity to salute the police officers who work these important programs every day. Without them, of course, there would be simply no program at all.
The other thing to know, though, is that it's choices that we have to make as government. We can choose to put together these integrated police teams and use them intelligently, or we can go off on an angle of, perhaps, photo radar, which the previous government was so fond of springing on people and which we said clearly we would never do again. Apparently the members opposite are still very fond of the photo radar program and would reinstate it at the earliest opportunity.
The bait car program — tremendously successful and a real credit to policing in British Columbia.
MAXIMIZING OUR FOREST RESOURCES
B. Routley: Today it's fair to say the B.C. forest industry is a mess. The Liberal government would have us believe that many of the industry's problems are due to the economic crisis or just bad luck. Back in 2003, under the guise of forest revitalization, this government eliminated our B.C. resource communities' connection to our public forest land base. These policies have completely failed British Columbians.
More than 35,000 jobs have been lost, 70 mills have permanently closed, and today big log export companies like TimberWest and, for the most part, Island Timberlands as well, have no manufacturing facilities. They own no logging equipment and hire no workers directly. They just sell logs, most of them offshore, and they make huge profits doing it. They're selling high-quality Douglas fir, not just low-quality hemlock. Meanwhile we see mills closed that were designed to process that very timber.
The forest industry is in a mess because of raw log exports. Today we're exporting 5.5 million cubic metres of raw logs. This is five times what it averaged back in the 1990s. Every time this government studies raw log exports, the issue of raw logs goes up. That's what happens.
First we had Wright-Dumont. Then we had Ken Dobell with his coastal forest action plan,and as recently as last fall and winter these Liberals studied the issue of log exports some more.
Meanwhile, record numbers of B.C. logs were exported. Raw log exports are killing jobs, undermining communities, undermining manufacturing, reducing our export earnings and eliminating B.C. economic opportunities.
All told, it's fair to say that the current system for regulating log exports is badly broken and urgently needs to be repaired, and yet we hear this government say that it would actually open the door to even more raw log exports.
How is the system broken? First, it is broken administratively. The government tells us they have a process in place to ensure that the only logs that will be exported are logs that are surplus to our domestic needs. Sure enough, the government has a committee, the timber export advisory committee, or TEAC. It theoretically ensures that only surplus logs are exported, but in truth only a small percentage of logs advertised has ever been by prospective domestic buyers. The rest are simply exported.
According to B.C. government officials testifying before a 2010 NAFTA tribunal, only 2.4 percent of all federal booms advertised over a ten-year period were even considered by the timber export advisory committee. Of the logs actually considered by TEAC, a far smaller percentage is actually deemed not to be surplus.
If TEAC decides that no fair market price was offered, the logs are simply exported. In other words, the system is loaded in favour of exports. Recently, we are hearing repeatedly that the government is now trying to restrict TEAC even more. It's shameful, outrageous, what we're hearing.
Meanwhile, in addition, the system is also broken economically. Government policy has skewed the B.C. log market. A major reason so many logs are deemed surplus is that current policy has killed so many mills. Since 2000 over 70 wood processing manufacturers have closed — 33 of them on the coast. Obviously, the more mills you
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close, the fewer mills there are to bid on timber, and the fewer the mills, the less domestic demand for logs. It is a vicious, downward cycle — a race to the bottom.
Meanwhile, companies are selling logs offshore at a premium. That's because foreign buyers can afford to pay a lot for relatively small volumes of the logs that they need. The domestic mill owners, by contrast, have to buy all of their logs here in B.C. They can't afford to pay the export premium.
This is happening in New Zealand and the Pacific Northwest — same economics, same problem. That premium — about 30 bucks a cubic metre, according to TimberWest's own annual report; at least the last one that they had — encourages exporters to sell as many logs as possible offshore. From their perspective, why wouldn't they? They're making record profits of about 200 percent on exports under the current regime.
While they are profiting like bandits, B.C. domestic mills are starved for timber. Just ask the folks who own B.C. panel mills and B.C. independent sawmills. Ask value-added companies, if you can find any. This is happening in part because the current government's policy completely severed the link between B.C. manufacturing and timber harvesting.
Meanwhile, what are those offshore buyers doing with our logs? They are turning them into lumber. China wants to use B.C. logs to develop its milling capacity. Those mills will compete with us in global markets. "'The flip side of the offshore market for dimension lumber,' said Madison's Lumber Reporter editor Keta Kosman in 2010, 'is that China and other Asian countries are also eager customers for logs. Their eventual goal is to process the logs into lumber themselves.'"
Now, instead of allowing big log exporters to make huge profits by selling logs offshore, what would happen if we restricted log exports here in B.C.? Log export companies would howl and run to the government for protection.
Would this government help them — it appears to be their way — or would they listen to workers, B.C. lumber and plywood companies and B.C. communities that want more manufacturing opportunities right here in B.C.?
In any event, if we restricted log exports and had in place better policies, there would likely be no loss of logging jobs. Loggers would work whether the exporters sell their logs to Shanghai, San Francisco or the Saltair mill right here in B.C., in Ladysmith on Vancouver Island. What would change, however, is that B.C. sawmills would get more of our logs. They would sell lumber and out-compete in global markets, including in China, just as they are now.
E. Foster: I thank the member for Cowichan Valley for his impassioned, albeit somewhat flawed, portrayal of the export lumber industry in British Columbia.
I was employed in the forest industry for 38 years prior to being elected to the Legislature. I wasn't the manager or a union organizer. I was a logger and a forestry technician. As a matter of fact, shortly after I was elected someone asked my wife: what was the biggest difference between being the wife of a logger and an MLA? She laughed and said: "Well, his hands are clean."
I made my living in the forest industry. I went through long breakups when the mills were closed, wondering whether we were going to make our equipment payments. So I understand the plight of the logging industry and the sawmill industry. When my wife and I moved to Lumby in the early '80s, there were five beehive burners within six kilometres of where we lived. Some people might think that's a bad thing, but it all looked like money to those of us who worked in the industry.
Then I watched as Fletcher Challenge shut their mill down, and then Weyerhaeuser shut their mill down, and we watched our logs going through town. Just as a note, those mills were both closed in the '90s, so nobody is immune to this. This is just a fact of life in the forest industry.
So having spent all my working life as a logger or in the logging industry, again, I understand the plight of the loggers in the northwest who don't have a home for their logs locally right now. The price of logs is down. They're able to sell some logs offshore, and as the member pointed out, there's a $30 premium there. That enables them to log some of the lower-valued wood that they're able to sell, especially to the pulp industry, the pulpwood industry and the paper industry so they can keep going. They can't afford to pay $70 a metre for logs, and 70 bucks a metre is kind of a figure that's tossed around as what it costs to get that log to the mill.
They're selling the lower-grade wood. It costs as much to take a lower-grade wood to the mill as it does a high-grade log, so there's a balance that has to be made. If we're not exporting some logs, those people are staying at home. Then they're not going to log the lower-grade wood, that lower-grade wood is not going to make it to the pulp mills, and the pulp mills are going to be out of wood.
Just a few notes on log exporting and support harvesting jobs. We put in place a policy, this government — the timber export advisory committee, which is made up of stakeholders from the industry and from union, First Nations and community leaders to oversee the shipping of logs and export of logs. Also, we're developing alternative industries. We're developing a bioenergy industry to create new markets for fibre that historically has been considered waste. Watched it go up and burned a lot of piles over the years, and we're now looking at utilizing that — cleaner air, more work.
We established a $35 million fund to pursue mountain pine beetle within the bioenergy economy. The B.C. wood pellet industry is growing, up 20 percent over last year. So those are initiatives that this government has
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taken to increase the value of our wood products.
Let's just have a look at the other side, the record. The NDP has opposed initiatives that encourage the forest sector to thrive and diversify, opposed and voted against investing in marketing B.C. wood products in Asia — essentially what has kept our industry alive over the last few years — opposed increased domestic demand for B.C. wood by moving towards six-storey wood-frame construction.
In 1991 the NDP election platform promised to ban raw log exports. That promise was broken as raw log exports continued every year through the 1990s. Pulp mills in the riding of North Island pay $43 for logs that cost $78 to deliver. You can't do business that way. That's simple math.
Just a quote here from Dave Lewis, who is the executive director of the Truck Loggers Association. "It is absolutely hypocritical for the member for North Island to stand up in the Legislature and demand that we reduce log exports, as she knows that they are wholly responsible for jobs in her riding. Unless she is prepared to sacrifice the village of Port Alice and all of the good-paying jobs in the new pulp mill, she should quit with her empty, hollow, party rhetoric."
Deputy Speaker: Just a reminder to members that this portion of debate is meant to be non-partisan and members' statements. I'm reminding both sides of the House.
B. Routley: Well, just the facts, hon. Speaker; no partisanship.
Back in the early 2000s then-Premier Gordon Campbell spoke to the truck loggers. He told the truck loggers that the export of logs was the export of jobs and that generally, they didn't favour exporting logs. I think that most people understand that. If you went down to the mall today and you asked people: "Do you favour exporting our raw materials and, at the same time, seeing mills close or mills restricted that need logs…?"
The facts are that here in British Columbia today we've been told — recent media reports — that the Coastland mill in Nanaimo can't get the logs that they need. We've talked to mill owners in the Fraser River that can't get the logs that they need. The system is broken.
We heard the minister stand in this House and talk about balance, and that is something that we support. We have not talked about banning raw log exports. The only thing we've heard is folks from the other side suggest that. We're talking about restrictions.
We're talking about listening to folks that are suggesting an increase in fee in lieu of other restrictions or maybe even improvements in policies or incentives. All of those things can bring about restrictions and maintain more logs in B.C. so that we can have more B.C. jobs with B.C. logs. That should be the goal of everyone in this Legislature.
The system is broken. It's not working for British Columbians. We know that there are better days ahead. We've got the International Wood Markets Group talking about a super surge in lumber markets by 2015, and I hope they're true. But we can't sit by and watch while more and more mills, even the remaining mills that are left, are stressed because they can't get the logs that they need.
The system is not creating balance. The government knows it. They've studied the problem yet again, and as I've said, all they've done is study while log increases go up and up and up. It's unacceptable. We don't have the number of value-added opportunities. The facts are that we are down 35,000 jobs. We have lost all of those mills.
I've talked to mayors in communities all over B.C. that say that they no longer feel that we are connected to our forests, that the public have no say. You know, they're not wrong. In fact, some of those folks are definitely non-partisan. In fact, I'd even go so far as: they're not supporters of ours. But they've said that whoever it was that disconnected our forest rights and any say that communities have, have made a serious error. I would agree with them.
INTERNATIONAL AIR COMMERCE
R. Howard: It is my pleasure to take my place today and speak about international air commerce or — more appropriately, I guess — the importance of international air commerce.
Why is it important? It's important for connectivity reasons. It's important to the tourism sector and many other sectors, and I'll get to that in a minute. It's extremely important as we look to grow and diversify our economy. All of that makes it important to protect our health care programs, to protect our education system and our social services.
We heard it said all of the time that the world is getting smaller. It's a global economy. Those are statements that are based in connectivity. The world is increasingly connected, and air commerce plays an obvious and significant role in that connectivity.
Growing up, we were so dependent on the American economy. We heard all the time about the mouse and the elephant — the mouse being us, and the elephant being the States. We heard that if the States caught a cold, we caught pneumonia, because we were so reliant on the Americans as consumers for our products, almost exclusively so, that when things didn't go right just south of the border, it presented us enormous challenges here. So our government set out to diversify and grow our economy.
I think it's always important to understand that one of the principal reasons we do that, as I had said, is to get away from the risk associated with shipping all of your
[ Page 10004 ]
goods and services to a single market. It's very important that you find different customers for your products, so that if one economy in one part of the world suffers, you can enjoy a healthier relationship, a more positive relationship, with another economy that is in better shape.
We have had great success. As we have built relationships, particularly in Asia, we've seen a number of good things come of that. Firstly, to accommodate our anticipated growth, we've been proactive. Over the past decade government and stakeholders have invested over $20 billion in gateway assets — airports, seaports, rail and bridge and highway — that we need to put in place for the efficient movement of goods, people and services. With those assets in place, now it's increasingly important that we take steps to ensure that we get a return on those investments.
We are capitalizing on our advantages in international air commerce, including making investments in B.C.'s international airports and, most recently, delivering on our promise to eliminate the aviation fuel tax. As a result of eliminating the fuel tax, YVR has signed agreements with 22 airlines that encourage them to conduct more flights into our province. This is an important recognition of eliminating that tax.
Some of our competing economies — Alberta, Washington, California — did not have that tax, and it imposed a competitive disadvantage to us. It was also a program that was levered with the international airports, so not only did we reduce our tax, but they put a package of incentives together that caused those 22 different airlines to sign up and make commitments to start to work towards greater flights.
When you stop and think about…. A single transpacific flight that comes daily into the international airport can mean 150 to 200 jobs at the airport. It can mean hundreds of other jobs in indirect and spinoff jobs outside of the airport and between $5 million and $15 million in economic activity, depending on who's on the plane. So it's an extremely valuable proposition and a great investment on behalf of our government.
I should say that all of these initiatives build on Canada Starts Here, the B.C. jobs plan, by taking advantage of our position as Canada's gateway and creating jobs for B.C. families.
As I've said, we look increasingly to Asia, but so does the rest of the world look increasingly to Asia, to float our boats economically. Those economies are firing along, and the economies in many other parts of the world are mired in government overspending and challenges that don't bode well for the short term in their economic power.
There are a number of other very positive things that have happened that all lead into this increasing connectivity. In June of 2010 Canada signed a formal agreement establishing approved destination status between Canada and China, which allows tour groups to come to Canada. I'll talk a little bit about the numbers.
We had expected, I think…. Yeah, the ministry's three-year forecast: visitation from China is expected to grow between 15 and 20 percent annually. In 2011 visits from China were up almost 25 percent over the same period as the year previous — so enjoying some great success there.
Also, we've heard some discussion in this House just a little earlier about the success that we've had in the lumber market. There are very many mills that are operating in British Columbia now because of our connectivity with China, and there are thousands of people employed in those mills, again, as a result of that connectivity.
We have the first-ever dedicated cargo from China Southern — quite a statement of confidence in our economy and in the relationship between our two countries as we look to….
Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Member.
H. Bains: I am glad to stand here and respond to the statement made by the member for Richmond Centre. I think I agree with the member. What we are talking about here is something that is of great economic importance for not only the Lower Mainland but for the rest of the province. For that matter, it could be said that it is for the rest of Canada as well.
As part of a five-year incentive program, as the member has laid out, by YVR, they have frozen all foreign airline fees at the 2010 level. Then this government came to the table and eliminated the two cents per litre surcharge on jet fuel. I think it has the 22 airlines agreeing that they will add about 30 percent capacity to YVR.
When you put all those things in perspective, you are talking about 24,000 direct jobs at YVR that it supports today. When you talk about 30 percent additional capacity, you are talking about thousands of additional jobs, direct jobs. For every job that is supported by YVR directly, there are 2.5 jobs that are created in the rest of the community.
Looking at that importance and the important role that YVR plays in our economic growth, I think all governments…. It's not a political issue at all. The government in the 1990s actually was the first time they recognized that by working with the airlines and working with YVR…. They gave tax breaks. At that time, 1997, I think Cathay Pacific was the first airline that agreed to add cargo-only flights, with that arrangement. That was the start. I think it created thousands of new jobs. With this new initiative…. I think that is also a huge opportunity for British Columbians to have good-paying jobs created by YVR, with initiatives such as this.
Meeting with the officials of YVR, they were quite concerned that ever since the Russian airspace became open, Vancouver's advantage to Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton
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and Chicago was lost — now the distance advantage no longer existed. As a result of that, and considering, also, that those airports do not charge this tax, that put Vancouver at a disadvantage.
In order to compete with Seattle and Los Angeles to be the gateway to North America from Asian countries, I think it is of utmost importance that we continue to come up with these new and innovative ideas so that we do not lose that economic edge that we need in order to continue to grow jobs in this part of the country. I think more needs to be done. This is just a start.
I think when you look at Victoria airport, they are looking for $20 million for some initiatives for airport runway expansion projects. My understanding is the federal government is willing to come to the table if the provincial government comes to the table and plays its role. They are not getting the cooperation so far, I'm told.
I think when you are talking about a global economy, when you are talking about the challenging times that we are going through, governments need to be creative.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Governments need to be cooperative with our economic generators in our province, and they need to work with them so that we will continue to stay ahead of our competitors.
I think this is one way of getting ahead and staying ahead. When you consider such a huge economic growth and job creator, as YVR is, we need to move to other regional airports as well — such as Victoria, which I mentioned. We need to talk about Prince George. We need to talk about Kamloops and Kelowna.
I think it takes some time for government to make bold decisions. This would be one of the bold decisions, if this government would pick up a phone and make a phone call to their counterparts in Ottawa to say: "Look, Victoria is also calling. They need a runway expansion project to go underway, because Victoria also is another airport we can talk about so that we can attract direct flights from Europe and the United States, which right now are facing some challenges."
With that, I take my seat and thank you very much for the opportunity to speak on this.
R. Howard: I thank the member for Surrey-Newton for his comments and continuing to highlight what an important file this is and how it impacts so many different provincial strategies. I think anything we can do to increase and encourage the number of flights….
More flights means more choices and, very often, lower fares. That's an important thing as we move forward, because there is really no reason why we should be travelling to Bellingham and Seattle to get the flight choices and the fare range that we look for.
I would also like to just speak for a minute about how important this is to the entire province. Certainly, when the Finance Committee toured the province, we heard very many people. When I toured the regional airports talking about air access and Open Skies, we found very broad support from every regional airport in the province.
It wasn't just passing interest. We went into these communities thinking we would explain to them the importance of air access, and in fact, they explained it right back to us how important that was.
From the oil and gas businesses and the river tour operators in Fort St. John and Fort Nelson to the ski hills and cherry farmers in the Okanagan, to Thompson Rivers University and the ski hills and golf courses in Kamloops, to the seafood exporters in Comox and Vancouver Island, to the guide and outdoor recreation businesses in the Kootenays, to the blueberry growers and sun destination tour operators in Abbotsford, to our northern capital logistics, outdoor operators in Initiatives Prince George, and of course, in Vancouver to the cruise ship industry, ski hills and even to the Capilano Suspension Bridge — everyone understands the importance of enhanced air access and the importance it plays on our economy.
That brings it right back to home. It's important for us. You just have to go to the arrivals lounge at the Vancouver airport and watch what's happening. At the arrivals you will see parents greeting parents, grandparents reconnecting with their grandchildren — even to one of my favourite stories, which is about international exchange students.
I'll never forget Wakayama, Japan, Fukko School had an exchange with my son's school, Burnett. We were gathering at the airport to say our goodbyes. The emotions that welled over that fairly significant crowd of students…. They had come and spent two weeks being hosted here. Even the good old hockey-playing, tough Canadian teenagers welled up with emotion as they said their goodbyes to their visiting students.
So air access is important for commerce. It's important for individuals. It's important to the future of the province. It's important to the Canada Starts Here: The B.C. Jobs Plan.
Hon. M. Polak: I call debate on private member's Motion 32.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, unanimous consent of the House is required to proceed with Motion 32 without disturbing the priorities of motions preceding it on the order paper.
Private Members' Motions
MOTION 32 — REPRESENTATION
S. Chandra Herbert: Well, it gives me great pleasure to speak to this motion, a motion that is:
[Be it resolved that this House support appropriate representation in this Legislature for every British Columbian in every corner of this province.]
Well, hon. Speaker, I wish you a good morning. It's been a blustery, windy morning, and I'm sure we'll have more bluster and wind in this place as well.
I would also like to wish a good morning to my fellow members representing 83 of our 85 provincial constituencies. I make mention of that number because, as members will know and certainly will have missed from this House, two members and, indeed, two constituencies…. It makes such a difference for the understanding of this Legislature if we truly are to reflect the wishes of all British Columbians — two seats which currently have no members representing them.
I had hoped that the Premier would have called the by-elections for those seats this last week so that this motion, which was worded rather broadly, could instead be focused more on questions of young people voting, ensuring our diverse populations of this province are represented in this House, questions of electoral reform, proportional representation — those kinds of debates — issues which are still largely unresolved in this province when you have a number of seats assigned or elected in such a way that leads people to question what value their vote has if they don't see themselves reflected in this House.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
But the more immediate issue is representation for all British Columbians, because two of our seats currently have no representative at all. I think this is an important issue to discuss. I myself was elected in a by-election when Lorne Mayencourt of this House resigned to run federally. That was September 15, 2008. Fifteen days later a by-election was called. So it just took a little over two weeks, and a by-election was called. We were into the race, into the thick of it.
I remember that morning well when the by-election was called — working in another job, getting called and told: "You're running now. You've got to work hard because the provincial government has decided the by-election is right away." So needless to say, I had to clear my calendar and make all sorts of arrangements. But I ran because I believed that my constituents in Vancouver-Burrard needed a voice. At the time, the government seemed to think this was an urgent issue, so called the by-election right away.
Thankfully, at least for me, and I'm hoping for my constituents, I was elected, and we were able to bring some great change in even just the short six months that I had as an MLA representing Vancouver-Burrard. Then we had a general election, where I got to do that all over again. But the province decided this was an important thing to do.
Now, I think we should just take a quick reflection on the by-elections after the 2009 election. The current Premier said that she was very keen to get into the House as soon as possible after her election as Liberal leader. There was a by-election slated for Point Grey on March 15, 2011. The former Premier quit, resigned. But even though the Premier was very keen to get into the House, it took until April 13 for a by-election to be called — so a little over a month. Things were getting a little wider. It had been 15 days for a by-election to be called in my constituency, but it took nearly a month in the Premier's.
The Premier was elected. It was a very tight race, but again, she managed to win narrowly in that Liberal seat. The next day she might have said that she might want to run in a different constituency next time. But the constituents did have a representative, in name anyway.
I think we then turn to the current issues. On October 3 the member for Port Moody–Coquitlam resigned. Today is March 12, and we still do not have a representative for Port Moody–Coquitlam, an area that is growing very quickly, an area with health care challenges. I know Eagle Ridge Hospital has a number of issues.
It's an area with the Evergreen line, which of course, needs, I think, a strong member to ensure that things are going well, that the representatives there are represented and brought along through the process. So it's about 23 weeks since that by-election could have been called. Of course, all parties have elected candidates. So it's about 161 days.
On January 9 in Chilliwack-Hope there was an MLA there who quit. It's now March 12 and still no representative. So about nine weeks, about 63 days, that the Premier and government have decided it was not adequate to have a representative there.
I'm hoping that the government will stop the hiding, will start working and get representation in this House so that every British Columbian can truly be represented.
J. Les: I appreciate the member opposite's concern about the scheduling of by-elections. I can assure the member that by-elections will be called. He doesn't really need to hold his breath or be otherwise unduly concerned about this.
There is a specific time period laid out in legislation by which these things are governed. Indeed, sometimes by-elections are called quickly. Sometimes it takes a bit of time. That has always been the case.
In trying to anticipate what the member might be dis-
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cussing this morning, I looked up the dates when various by-elections had been called in the past in the province of British Columbia. I find, for example, that in November of 1994 the then member for Abbotsford, Harry de Jong, resigned, but a by-election was not called until April 5, 1995, six months and a couple days after Mr. de Jong had resigned.
J. Les: That was, of course, an NDP government, just for the edification of my colleagues here.
Then in June of 1998 Paul Reitsma resigned as the member for Parksville-Qualicum, but a by-election was not called until the 16th of November, a full five months after Mr. Reitsma had resigned.
I underline the fact that by-elections…. There have been quite a number of them over time. Again, some of them have been called quickly. Sometimes it goes a little longer. At the end of the day, we all know that there is a certain date by which a by-election must be called, and I can assure you that will happen here as well.
The member is concerned about adequate representation across the province generally. At least, that's what the title of his presentation would suggest. So I'm kind of curious. It was only a week or two ago that I presented a private member's bill to this House which would allow for senatorial elections in the province and six senatorial districts to be created to ensure adequate representation for all British Columbians.
The ink on my bill was not yet dry before the opposition leader was already suggesting they were opposed to that bill. Now, there seems to be a bit of a discrepancy between, then, the Leader of the Opposition and the member who spoke earlier, the member for Vancouver–West End. He's apparently concerned about appropriate representation for all British Columbians, but the opposition leader apparently is not. Perhaps they need to have a little chat one of these days to see how they can maybe reconcile their various positions.
The New Democratic Party is also a party that is very fond of quotas. We've heard, for example, that the member for Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows will not be running in the coming election next year. Now, under the quota system that the NDP has in place, we already know that male NDP members need not apply. Is that somehow ensuring adequate representation for all British Columbians, affording everyone a full and fair opportunity to be represented? No, apparently not.
In the New Democratic Party in Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows, if you're a male, you already know you will not be allowed to participate as a potential candidate for that party. So this notion of adequate representation fairly applied seems to ring rather hollow to me, and the concerns of the member, of course, are not that well-founded, in any event.
It was the same in the leadership campaigns that we saw within the last year in both of the political parties. In the B.C. Liberal Party every riding had equal voting weight in the leadership process. Not so in the case of the New Democratic Party, where it was basically the greater Vancouver area that decided who the next leader was going to be.
Again, rural British Columbians have every reason to feel like they're being shut out of the New Democratic Party. The B.C. Liberal Party is much more inclusive of rural British Columbia.
While I appreciate the member's concern about adequate representation for all British Columbians and that they see themselves properly and adequately reflected here in this House, I would suggest that it's this side of the House that's taken decisive action to make sure that all British Columbians are represented and respected, and the other side of the House has work to do.
M. Elmore: I'm very pleased to join in the discussion on the motion that the House support appropriate representation in the Legislature for every British Columbian in every corner of the province. Certainly, it's a very broad topic, wide-ranging, with a number of different avenues to pursue.
In particular, I wanted to highlight and follow on the comments of my colleague from Vancouver–West End in terms of the lack of voices, the lack of representation, particularly from the constituencies of Port Moody–Coquitlam and also Chilliwack-Hope. It's over five months that the member resigned from Port Moody–Coquitlam, over two months in Chilliwack-Hope. I know that members in those constituencies, those communities, were hoping to have the opportunity before the Legislature reopened to have their voices heard here in this House.
The issues — particularly with the budget, having those voices represented, and more recently with Bill 22 certainly very pertaining — are very hot on people's minds.
The other issue I also wanted to highlight, and the question that I have, is in terms of service to constituents. I know, with Bill 22 and a number of other issues, often constituency offices are very busy. Port Moody–Coquitlam and Chilliwack-Hope have been without representation, without service, for quite a while.
That's on the one hand. On the other hand, the questions also arise in terms of why the delay. What is taking so long, and why has the Premier declined to call the by-elections? There has been some conjecture that it's the low polling numbers in those areas, the sinking popularity of the Premier.
We've seen many visits, many press conferences and meetings of the Premier, many ministers in Port Moody–Coquitlam and also Chilliwack-Hope. It seems that the
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Premier is spending a lot of time there as are a number of ministers. It's even in Chilliwack-Hope. All the candidates have been asking for the election to be called.
I think it's also noteworthy that it's not just the Conservative candidate in Chilliwack-Hope, not just the NDP candidate but including…. The Liberal candidate is saying that he would like to have the election called.
Certainly, we have that request coming forward from all candidates. The question, I think, is why has the Premier not called the date. If the Liberal candidate in Chilliwack-Hope is not able to persuade the Premier to call the election, it also raises the question: if elected, what kind of representative will be able to represent the voices and bring forward their concerns and have them heard by the Premier? That's an outstanding question.
The constituents are lacking representation. There's a call from the candidates, from the local papers and also from community groups and organizations in those areas for representation here in the House. It seems that there is, certainly, a lack of will and, say, a reluctance to call elections and possibly almost fear of being characterized in the local papers that the Liberals are running scared to call the by-elections.
This is a great loss for constituents in Port Moody–Coquitlam to have their voices heard, to have the opportunity to bring their concerns forward and to have services provided in their communities. There's a need to have the by-elections held and to elect a representative to have those communities, the constituencies and the voters represented here in the Legislature. It's overdue.
We're waiting for the call. The candidates are waiting for the call. To uphold democracy and ensure that their voices are heard, I hope that it will be called soon.
D. Barnett: Diversity is one of British Columbia's greatest strengths. Individuals from all walks of life, from all backgrounds and from all corners of the province deserve representation in this great House. As a free enterprise government, we believe in equality of opportunity.
Quotas are neither productive nor useful for assessing the quality and contributions of British Columbia's representatives. Through equality of opportunity, we have achieved the results that the NDP's mandated quotas have failed to do. We have more female MLAs than the NDP. And in the last election we elected more new female MLAs, all without quotas.
Our government achieved a first for women in government, including the greatest number of female cabinet ministers in B.C.'s history. We have the first female Attorney General, the first female MLA and cabinet minister with a disability and the first female cabinet minister of Japanese descent. Women hold higher and more prominent leadership positions in the B.C. Liberal Party than they do in the NDP, in spite, as I said, of the NDP's quota system.
We have a Premier who is a woman. We have a president of our great party who is a woman. The opposition had a wonderful woman leader. Women are so important to represent our wonderful province and our great constituents, but without quota.
You know, if we look back, the free enterprise governments in British Columbia have a history of fostering female involvement in government, including the first female MLA in 1920, Mary Ellen Smith; the first woman of East Indian–Canadian descent to sit in the Legislature, Judi Tyabji, the first Liberal MLA for Okanagan East from 1991 to 1993; the first woman to be elected Speaker in the Commonwealth and the first female MLA from B.C. to become a Canadian senator, Nancy Hodges in 1950 and 1953. And the first female Aboriginal Relations Minister sits in this great House today in our government, the free enterprise.
We talk about rural representation. Rural British Columbia is a wonderful place to live and work. I am so happy I come from there. We as government recognize the unique concerns and values of rural constituents and have taken steps to ensure rural and urban ridings are treated equally. This is a first for our Premier, who has a rural caucus, and the rural caucus is chaired by a woman in rural British Columbia.
We do not need quota systems. We need fair and equal representation by people who care about their constituents, care about the province of British Columbia. The government of today cares equally and fairly.
We are going to have two by-elections, and there is every intention that we on this side of the House will have two more representatives sitting with us in the near future.
L. Krog: I'm going to take a somewhat different tack this morning on this issue.
On Saturday morning, picking up the morning paper on the way to the office to do some work, I ran into a constituent who wanted to talk about the government's advertising — telling us what a good job they're doing, etc. — and how he thought it was a waste of money and how he generally thought that politicians in general had fallen into disrepute. He was concerned about the low voter turnout and all of those kinds of things.
What I want to say this morning in this chamber is that no party in this chamber is without guilt on this issue. I ran in a by-election in 1998, and I think that the Premier waited four or five months to call it, actually. What we have here from the member for Vancouver–West End this morning….
What he has done this morning is raise an important issue. It goes to the heart of electoral politics, and it goes to the heart of democracy. It has been the subject of a bit of partisan toing and froing this morning, but let me suggest that what is really important is that if, in fact,
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our democracy is valuable, if we truly value it…. Ask the people in Syria this morning how they feel about democracy, or the people in Egypt, and what they would say is that the right to be able to vote and elect members to represent them is important.
We are all with guilt on this issue, but let me suggest that what the member for Vancouver–West End has proposed here this morning, really, by raising this topic, regardless of how we have reacted to it, is something that is important.
What possible justification can there ever be, when a member's seat becomes vacant, for waiting six months to call a by-election? Yes, it's allowed for by law, but perhaps the law — and I won't use the language of Mr. Bumble, from Dickens — in this case may, in fact, be a posterior. The law may, in fact, be a posterior. There's language that, I think, passes muster this chamber.
L. Krog: My friend from Port Coquitlam wants to use the vernacular, so to speak, the way it was written, but I'll choose to stay away from it.
There is no justification for this. If it's important what we do as MLAs, then surely the people who elect MLAs, if they don't have one, are entitled to have one quickly.
What possible justification is there? We know what the justification is. The reality is that governments want to try and fix the timing so that they can get their member elected. Governments of both stripes, all stripes, through this province — the Liberal-Conservative coalition, the Socreds, the New Democrats, whoever has been in power — have done exactly the same thing.
So I just want to suggest this morning that perhaps we all give our heads a shake. Perhaps some wise person who has more time will suggest that there could be a non-partisan proposal to come forward in this chamber that says: "Let us put these days behind us."
If our electoral system is in trouble, and it is — 59 percent of the people voted in the Nanaimo constituency in 2005, and it dropped to 52 percent in 2009; that pretty much reflected what happened across the province of British Columbia — one of the reasons is because we play these little games in here, and I'm just as guilty of it as anybody. Please, I want no member to take umbrage at what I say, but that's what we do here.
I suggest this morning that what the young member for Vancouver–West End — and I emphasize his youth, because it's about time for us to move beyond the hoary, aged view of how this place runs itself…. Let us move forward, and let us finally acknowledge that if what we do is important and our constituents need us, then let us call by-elections quickly.
I would put the question to every member in this chamber: are your offices slow? Does no one come in your door during the week when it's open? Do your constituents have no problems? Do they have no issues with government? I think every one of us in this chamber knows full well that our constituency offices are busy. What happens to constituents of any constituency when they don't have an MLA in an MLA's office? Those people suffer.
There is simply no justification in 2012 that by-elections should not be called quickly. I would respectfully suggest that it would behoove this House and this government, whoever wants to step forward first, to bring in a bill that puts aside this ridiculous historical practice that enables the government in power to decide when by-elections are called. If what we do is important, let the legislation reflect it and let the practice reflect it. Let us put this aside.
You know, at the time of Waterloo, battles were conducted by set pieces. The major armies got on either side, and they went at it in a certain way. They lined up in little rows, and they fired at each other. By the end of that century, the Boer War and guerilla warfare figured out that that was a pretty stupid way to conduct war. There were, in fact, other ways to be more successful.
Hon. Speaker, we are playing with a dangerous thing. We need to move forward.
D. Hayer: Thank you, Madam Speaker, for allowing me to respond to this motion from the member for Vancouver–West End. He was talking about the by-elections, and then he was talking about actually having fair representation around the province. I think by-elections are going to happen. They must be called within six months of the day a member resigns.
As my colleague from the opposition from Nanaimo just said, when he was an MLA there was a by-election called. Somebody resigned on November 9, '93, and actually, the by-election was called six months after that. He was in government, and he didn't go jump up and down and tell the government to change it. Then after he was no longer in government — from '96, if I remember that election — another member resigned on June 23, '98. Again, it was five months before the by-election was called.
The by-elections will happen, and the constituents will make their decision. I'm pretty sure they will make the right decision and send the B.C. Liberals. Under the NDP, they lost all three. But I'm hoping we will have better luck and that we will win both of them. That will be good.
I think, really, the purpose of this motion, Motion 32, is not the by-elections, because they're going to happen. Actually, it's a quota system that the NDP has on how they elect their MLAs. That's what the purpose of this motion is, because that's in their constitution. They believe in that.
When I talk about having fair representation from every corner of the province, I think what we have to
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do is that we have to make sure…. On this side of the House we believe we have to have fair representation. We want to make sure that people who cast the ballots in an election are the ones who determine the appropriate representation in the House, not using the quota system from the NDP.
Members on this side of the House reflect the constituencies the members represent. The only way to achieve that is by the electorate deciding, not the party policy deciding, who should be representing them — not by deciding that only certain segments of the community should be the candidate.
We have, on this side of the House, MLAs who represent ethnicity, who represent gender based on voter selection, not because our party decided who was appropriate to represent their ridings. Candidates for election and MLAs elected should be chosen because they are best suited for the job, not just because they come from a certain sector of the population. In other words, the best person for the job should be the one who is elected, not someone whose political party wants them to be elected simply because they represent a certain philosophy or special interest group.
Above all, representation in the House must always be based on what is good for the province and what is good for all British Columbians. We cannot discriminate against someone simply because they don't represent what the NDP considers to be appropriate, as in their quota system. Discrimination is what this motion really is all about — because of the quota system they have — not the by-elections. The by-elections are going to happen anyway.
Under the NDP, someone who may be best suited to represent a constituency could be prevented from running for office just because they do not fit into the politically correct notion held by the NDP party. That is wrong, Madam Speaker. Representation must always be determined by who is best suited to represent and reflect the views of the constituents. We have that on this side of the House, from every corner of the province.
We have achieved that without politically influencing the representation. We have, on our side, representatives of races, of gender, of disability. We have, without a party-determined policy, more women serving on our side of the House than the NDP. Even in our recent race, we had two women seeking the highest office. But under the NDP's quota system, only men sought that office. Their system doesn't work. We have to make sure that we're represented by the best person possible in the House.
I also want to say that when we're looking at the best representation in the House, we should not be only looking at equality of the MLAs. We should also be making sure that the people who are working in the government — and who are working in the municipal halls, at city or provincial levels or municipal levels or working at the federal level — represent the diverse workforce we have, without using a quota system.
That means that hiring policies should be fairer and reflect our province's diversity, and we should reflect that in the workplace. We should make sure, from all junior levels to the most senior level, to reflect our constituencies without a quota system. Sadly, under the last 25 years, that hasn't happened. I think that has to be part of the discussion here too — not just a discussion about the quota system or by-elections.
I agree with this motion. We need the province to be reflective of all parts of British Columbia.
N. Macdonald: One of the side benefits of the awful weather Victoria is having today is that not all of the members of the House were able to make it here this morning. I was given the opportunity to have my say in this debate, which is a pretty broad motion. There's an opportunity to talk about a few things.
I guess the first point is the point that was raised by the mover of the motion, which is around the by-elections. Let's be clear. On October 3, 2011, Iain Black resigns, and for almost six months Port Moody has been left unrepresented. There's a by-election that should have been called. I think everybody in the province is expecting it to be called any day now. I think people have been expecting it for the last number of weeks.
With Port Moody, I think a case could be made — and the member for Nanaimo made it eloquently: let's get to a place that within two months we get a representative back in here. Presumably, anybody who is here representing their area feels that what they do is important. We all know that as the MLA, the responsibility sits primarily with you to represent your area. We are given offices that have staff, that does not only outreach but also does a tremendous amount of casework. What members will do….
There was a year where we sat hardly at all here, and I remember government members making the point — and it's a true point — that only part of our job is to come here and to sit. I think it's an important part. But within our communities we also do a tremendous amount of casework.
The opportunity that we have when we're sitting is, of course, enhanced because not only are we able to put pressure on government through the work that we do here, if you're in opposition, but you also have the opportunity to meet with ministers, to make the case for individuals. Of all the people in the province that should think that electing a representative is important, it should be the people in this House.
Port Moody was represented — ably, I would think — by Iain Black. People indicated that they were satisfied with the work he was doing. I think the expectation that Port Moody has is that they would quickly get another representative. We're running to a time limit, so we know that Port Moody is going to be called. Legally, they have to call in a very short period of time.
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The other expectation we would have is that Chilliwack-Hope would be called at the same time. I think there's no excuse at all for leaving that go six months. There's no question that even from what you read in the newspapers, the candidates that have been willing to put themselves forward first have put their lives on hold and are champing at the bit to get going. We all know that the signs have been up, and they've been asked to come down. But all groups that seek to represent the people of Chilliwack-Hope are ready to go. They're active, and we need to get that call in place.
Clearly, if there's political posturing that needs to still take place, if it's dithering…. I don't know what it is. But at some point, we need to get to a place where we make the decision and get into the by-elections.
Now, because of the broadness of the motion, we've drifted into a number of places. There have been some interesting comments. I'll just speak to some of the things that were raised by the member that represents the Cariboo, which is an interesting one, and it's around who sits in this House and represents the people of British Columbia.
Let's be honest. It's not a very broad range of people. As I look across the House, we all look about the same, for the most part. Women….
N. Macdonald: I didn't intend that as an insult, but the fact of the matter is we tend to be 50. We tend to have many of the same experiences. There are examples of youth or of people who come from a cultural perspective that is different.
But we have not been successful provincially to get First Nations representation in here, and I think that we do a disservice to the province through that. The women of the province are not fully represented here, although I would take the point that they're in positions of tremendous power and influence. But the fact is that they're not fully represented here.
One of the interesting things is that I actually sat on the party committee to look at the equity mandate…
Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Member.
N. Macdonald: …and it was an interesting process.
So let's get on with the by-election.
P. Pimm: I'm happy to take my position here and speak to this motion that every British Columbian in every corner of the province must have representation. It's interesting to listen to some of the discussion that's going on. It is a broad motion, and that's all good. But the member for Vancouver–West End says the by-election issue is the most important thing to him. Well, to me, I don't see that as the most important thing. I think the issues that we deal with around this province are probably the most important things for us to be looking at and dealing with.
He mentioned electoral reform. Well, obviously, we put that to a referendum, and the people told us how they wanted to go with electoral reform. I think that that's been canvassed quite well.
The member for Nanaimo says that we should be getting to these by-elections sooner. Maybe he has a point, but the fact is that we have a process in place that works fairly well at this point in time. You know, I come from probably the largest geographical area of the province. I have a little over 30 percent of the province in my riding.
We had the former Minister of Energy. He resigned and took a position in the Senate, and so we had to have somebody else look after my riding, which is the largest geographic riding in the province. Our Minister of Transportation did that quite successfully for four or five months until it was time for the election, and that's when we were able to elect myself to come down here and represent my constituents.
But when we talk about getting quotas and this sort of thing, I think that every person out there has the opportunity to be part of this process down here. I can talk about my own situation. I got in late in the process. There were other candidates who were there ahead of me, and I had to go out and sell memberships. That opportunity is available to anybody, whether you're First Nations or whether you're a woman, whether you're a man. Whatever gender you are, you have the opportunity. All you have to do is go out and work hard, sell the most nominations and get your people out to the meeting, and lo and behold, you'll be the representative in this chamber to represent the folks in your area.
So quotas are something that I just don't believe in at all. I think that every good, hard-working person will go out and win the nomination on their own merits.
We've done lots of good things. There have been lots of firsts around. I think we've heard everybody talk about them. I'm not going to go too much into that. But I am going to talk about the issues and rural representation. My colleague from Cariboo-Chilcotin started on this stuff. You know, we do value our rural constituents. We value them in a substantial way. We've taken lots of action to make sure that we've got good rural treatment.
This term we've actually had a rural caucus, and that has made such a huge difference. We're actually going out and talking about the issues with all of our rural representatives and rural constituents out there, and it is making a difference in this place, I have to say. I give congratulations. They've done a great job, and we're starting to see headway in lots of different areas and lots of different issues.
We've taken the amount of MLAs to make sure that we have representation for all of our folks. We now have 85 MLAs throughout the province. It's not just popula-
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tion-based. You take an area like mine. From the south end of my riding, I go all the way through the Minister of Transportation's district, through the Minister of Jobs and Tourism's district and then up to Mackenzie, all the way back up to the lower end of Williston Lake. It's an 11-hour drive for me to get to Fort Ware.
Then I turn around. I come back to Fort St. John, and I go all the way up to Liard, another 11-hour drive — 22 hours from one end of my riding to the other. So to get that representation…. You know, some are saying that the by-election hasn't happened yet, and all the folks aren't represented. I think that getting out to all of these areas is just critical.
In my area I've got 20 small farming communities. Trying to get to each and every one of those people and deal with all their issues and their circumstances, whatever the issue is — that's the most important thing to me, and that's what this place is about. It's about the issues, dealing with the folks that are in your constituencies and in your ridings.
The by-elections — they'll look after themselves. They'll happen, and they'll happen for each one of us.
R. Fleming: I appreciate that we're debating this motion this morning in a Legislature where, under this government, we have amongst the weakest parliamentary committee systems in the country, where for the last three out of five years there hasn't even been a fall sitting of the Legislature to advance and debate legislation. So I think I would like to thank the member for Vancouver–West End for bringing this debate up this morning, because there is a lot to talk about in terms of the democratic deficit that has been allowed to grow under this government.
I will say this on the motion before us. I think, genuinely, members of the House…. I talked to members from the government side following the May 2009 election. Nobody felt good about the incredibly low voter turnout in that general election. In many constituencies voter turnout was down considerably. I know it was the same in constituencies on this side of the House as it was on the government side. I think many members on both sides of the House were genuinely seeking explanations as to why that 2009 general election failed to engage the public to come out and vote.
I vowed, in my capacity as an MLA representing Victoria–Swan Lake, that I would do whatever I could as a member of this House to address that issue and to ensure that this did not become a trend line of lower voter participation each and every subsequent general election and that I would do whatever I could to try and stem that and, indeed, to bring voters back to the ballot box in elections that are yet to occur.
I strongly believe, in that vein, that some of the things that this side of the House has advanced and that I have strongly supported will help reduce voter cynicism. I think one of the most important ones, which is legislation that has died on the order paper because this government refuses to debate it time and time again, is to look at campaign finance reform in this province — desperately needed.
It is time to do exactly what the federal government has done which, by the way, gets significantly higher voter turnout than the provincial elections. That is to get big money out of politics, to ban corporate and union donations in the province of British Columbia. That's one step that this Legislature could take.
I wish the government side of the House would agree with that, but apparently, they're the party that believes that big money should be able to buy elections and have undue influence in elections. Hence, we're no further ahead on that critical issue.
I also believe that lobbyist activities should be well regulated in the province of British Columbia. I think that is not the case today.
Now, I will credit the B.C. Liberals for doing one thing to reverse the trend in declining voter participation. In their brilliance in testing the voters to see if they were paying attention, they immediately broke an election promise not to bring in the HST and then did exactly the opposite. Give the Liberals credit. That triggered the largest and only successful recall and referendum initiative in our province's history. So hats off to the government side of the House for reinvigorating democracy in British Columbia on that.
The member for Cariboo-Chilcotin, I think quite proudly and quite rightly, brought up some firsts around democratic representation in the House that she claimed for "free enterprise" parties. I think she's perfectly right to talk about that. All parties in the history of British Columbia should be credited and applauded for efforts they make to make the representation in this place more reflective of the landscape and the people of British Columbia.
I'm proud on this side of the House and for my party that the New Democratic Party was the first party to elect an aboriginal MLA. We were the first party to elect an Afro-Canadian MLA, the first party to elect an Indo-Canadian MLA and a Chinese-Canadian MLA. Those are things that we're proud of on this side of the House — to make this place more reflective of our incredibly diverse number of communities that have made British Columbia their home.
Now, let's look at the current House. Two members short of its full complement for many, many months — five months in the case of Port Moody. I think the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke spoke very well this morning about how important an MLA is in their community and how important that member's constituency office is in raising concerns and resolving issues and
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representing community members to government, to the bureaucracy and to ministries when it needs that.
That's a point that we're discussing this morning. But I am trying to understand the Premier's reluctance to call the by-elections, because she's the same Premier who said that after the Liberal leadership she had no mandate to govern.
So I notice….
Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Member.
R. Hawes: Let me just start by suggesting that the member for Vancouver–West End perhaps is a little bit too young to remember all of the devastation of the '90s and the things that were happening in the '90s, but I would suggest that he take a look at his party leader.
His party leader was the chief lieutenant in the government of Glen Clark. He had all kinds of opportunity to suggest that by-elections timing be changed. He was there for a number of years until he was fired for falsifying a memo that was a matter of an RCMP investigation. So he should perhaps look inwardly at his own party.
Now, we have heard over and over about how representation is very important, but I do want to stress this. The member for Coquitlam–Burke Mountain shared an office, actually, with the member from Port Moody.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Any of the constituents who would have come in to see Iain Black actually now see the member for Coquitlam–Burke Mountain. I know that he services two ridings very adequately, just as in my own riding, the member for Maple Ridge–Mission and I share an office. If he happens to be away, I look after his constituents and vice versa. If I'm away, he looks after mine, and it works very, very well. So constituents are being looked after very, very well. It's interesting, though, that when that group were in government, they had no interest in this.
I'm going to tell you who is not being represented here and who is being represented. The working people of British Columbia are being represented by a government that respects the people who actually write paycheques. That's on this side of the House. Who was not represented when you were in government, members on the other side, — through you, Mr. Chair, — were the working people of British Columbia who get paycheques from the free enterprise system, because you have no respect — through you, Mr. Chair. That side of the House seems to have no respect for the free enterprise system, and you hear that every day in the debates.
They talk about corporate friends, how corporations are the ripoff. "We're going to add taxes on business." Businesses, actually, are what provide jobs and paycheques. That's the engine that drives the economy in British Columbia. Unfortunately, when you were in power, when the NDP were in power, the only way they knew how to drive that engine was straight over to Alberta. That's what happened, when all of the business went to Alberta. What were we left with? A much larger moving van business for people to move to Calgary.
R. Hawes: Yeah, and a much larger contingent of people who were forced on to welfare. It was very unfortunate.
I'm a little shocked that they would bring this memo. The reason that there's six months in legislation to call a by-election was reasoned out years ago when that was put into legislation. It's been in legislation in this province for a long, long time. There are reasons for it to be there, and I think the member for Peace River North actually explained some of those.
Some of the ridings in this province are so diverse, so large, that it takes a long time for candidates in a by-election even to move around the province. When there is an opening in a riding, sometimes they come up very suddenly and there are no candidates lined up, and it takes all parties time to align candidates.
So it's just a little rich that this group would bring up the kinds of things that they brought up here this morning — obviously, a very political kind of a motion that's an attempt to find some division where really there shouldn't be division.
They should simply look inwardly and understand why they never changed the legislation when they had an opportunity to do so. The reasons that we are not changing it, I think, are very valid. The by-elections will be called in due course.
I'm not sure if they're worried about whether or not they're beginning to slide away in the polls. I certainly hope that the people of British Columbia are remembering the '90s. I'm sure many, many are. The ones that suffered all of the pain, I am sure, remember the '90s. So we will be calling the by-election. It will be called within the legislated time period. We will obey the laws of British Columbia, and we'll just move on from there.
Mr. Speaker: Does the member move adjournment of debate?
Mr. Speaker: The member for Port Coquitlam — and noting the hour, Member.
M. Farnworth: Yes, noting the hour, I am going to make a motion.
But I'd just like to remind, following my colleague across the way's statement, about following the rules and
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the law. Well, the Liberal candidate in Chilliwack has already been admonished by the local government for the election sign bylaw infraction, so that may be something that they want to take under consideration.
M. Farnworth moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. M. Polak moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 this afternoon.
The House adjourned at 11:57 a.m.
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