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 26, 2012
Volume 33, Number 1
ISSN 0709-1281 (Print)
ISSN 1499-2175 (Online)
Cycling injury to MLA
Introductions by Members
Orders of the Day
Private Members' Statements
Honesty and democracy
Barracks to books
Stewarding our resources
Private Members' Motions
Motion 35 — Mining industry employment
MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2012
The House met at 10:03 a.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
CYCLING INJURY TO MLA
D. Routley: I'd like the House to help me thank my stepdaughter, Brookelyn Baird. After 35 years of cycling, being hit by cars seven times, dozens and dozens of crashes and enough road rash to cover a wall of a house, she finally broke my unblemished record of broken and fractured bones on Saturday when she ran into the side of my bike and sent me over my handlebars, breaking my pinky finger — and getting up off the road to say: "I think there's something wrong with your finger, Doug." Would the House help me thank Brookelyn Baird for breaking my fracture record.
Introductions by Members
R. Hawes: Today in the gallery my son-in-law's parents…. You know, my son-in-law Sean has Downey Transmission Service — great service, good price — in the city of Mission. His parents, Ted and Janis Downey, are in the gallery today. Could the House please make them very welcome.
Orders of the Day
Private Members' Statements
D. Horne: Well, it's with great pleasure that I stand up here on a fine Monday morning to talk about clean energy — something that I think is important to all British Columbians and something that really does enhance the future for our children, for our grandchildren and for future generations.
[D. Black in the chair.]
Under the greenhouse gas reduction targets that we've set for the province of British Columbia, our greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 33 percent by the year 2020 — something that we're proud of, something that is extremely important for all of us.
Specifically, I'd like to talk this morning about something that I saw on my way to Victoria. Over the weekend I was driving along the Barnett Highway. I'd like to talk specifically about the way that we move forward in the future on clean energy.
We have a facility in the Tri-Cities, the Burrard Thermal facility built in 1960s. It's gone and had many, many years of life and provided electricity to the Lower Mainland. But in providing that electricity, it's one of the major greenhouse gas emitters for the entire GVRD and, quite frankly, for the province of British Columbia. It's for that reason that our government has been committed not to rely on Burrard Thermal and to actually phase it out and to ensure that it's only used for emergency purposes and, with our 2009 objectives, that basically Burrard Thermal will be limited to an output of 900 megawatts per year. I think that's important.
As I was driving along the Barnett Highway and could see, even on a beautiful Saturday with the sun out and only a few clouds in the sky, there was Burrard Thermal with one of their boilers up and burning with, basically, significant amounts of steam and gas going up into the atmosphere. With greenhouse gases, with pollution in general, one of the things that we really have to look at is its cumulative effect but also the regional effect of it.
What happens in Vancouver, in the port of Vancouver, in other areas, in Surrey and Delta…. The way that our airflows work is that air — that pollution, that smoke — makes its way up the valley to areas like Chilliwack and Abbotsford and other areas. So as a regional standard, we have to be very, very careful in the way that we manage things to make sure that…. Well, it might be all right for a certain area; for other areas, we're impacting them. The cumulative impact of all of these things that in isolation may look fine is quite large.
I look at some of the independent power producers and some of the projects that they've been putting on stream and some of the green energy initiatives — things like the wind initiatives by NaiKun that they've been working on for some time, issues like run-of-river projects and other projects. I have to commend those in the opposition, because when public policy is done right and we do move in the right direction, basically, one must say that you're going in the right direction and commend you for that. I will note that it was the opposition in the 1990s that actually started to move forward with independent power projects and with green power initiatives.
I have personally visited a number of run-of-the-river projects, and I have to say that the assurance that those projects are environmentally sustainable — that, basically, fish and habitat and those types of things are well addressed within the design and the way that those projects are put together — is commendable. I think that's why a number of First Nations are also getting involved with those types of projects, because they are sustainable. They produce the power that's required for the residents and for the larger, broader province.
It's important, you know. You take a look at our elec-
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tricity rates. Our electricity in British Columbia is one of the things that, I think…. Low-cost power is something that British Columbians have become very comfortable with. It's something that we see as a right and something that, with the abundance of energy we have, we should continue to be able to enjoy.
I look at British Columbia today. We enjoy the second-lowest power rates in all of Canada. Only Manitoba and Quebec have lower rates than ourselves in British Columbia at this point. I think it's through that important management — some of the projects that our government has worked on, with audits of B.C. Hydro and ensuring that rates are kept low — that we do have the economic boom that we have as well, which is extremely important to British Columbians. It's extremely important to ensuring that we have the jobs and that we create the benefit for all British Columbians across the province.
Lastly — I know I'm running out of time — I'd like to talk about Harmony House, because Harmony House is a zero-input house that I've been very involved with and proud of and have seen built. It just shows that you can have a house, build a house, with actual zero impact.
The one thing that I'm most proud of with that project is the fact that many, many local companies provided technology that allowed for that house to be zero impact. I think that really talks about the technology that British Columbia has, the innovation we have and our ability to highlight that innovation to the world.
With projects like Harmony House, with the other initiatives on green energy that we're currently embarking on, hopefully we'll have a wonderful place for future generations to enjoy and really have a clean, beautiful province that all of us take for granted today.
J. Horgan: It's my pleasure to take my place in the private members' debate this morning and engage with some of the points raised by my colleague from the Lower Mainland, from the Coquitlam area. I can't be more specific than that, but I think everyone knows where the member is from. So I'll leave it at that.
An interesting array of issues this morning. We had Burrard Thermal. We had independent power production. We had a reference to being the second-lowest cost jurisdiction in North America. Then we had Quebec and Manitoba put ahead of us, which makes us three, I think. But I'll leave the math to the member's response.
I want to talk a little bit, in the very few moments I have available to me, about the Clean Energy Act and the impact that has had on our clean energy sector since 2010 when the bill was passed by closure, without debate, on issues as important as the self-sufficiency policy which is now, of course, before the House in a new piece of legislation reversing that position.
The position on self-sufficiency was that B.C. Hydro was required to purchase all the power required to meet peak demand in critical water years, regardless of what the reality of the situation was. In other words, if we were brimming, if our reservoirs were overflowing with water…. Despite that, we were required to purchase from the marketplace, from independent power producers, enough power to meet peak demand plus an insurance policy, believe it or not, of 3,000 gigawatt hours.
The impact of that has been estimated over the next four years to cost taxpayers, ratepayers of B.C. Hydro, $1.28 billion to purchase power that we don't need at a market price that is in some instances three times the going rate. We can purchase, according to the budget documents….
I don't want to make stuff up. I'll just refer to the Minister of Finance's projections. The Minister of Finance's projections are that the average cost of electricity over the next 12 months will be about $40 a megawatt hour. Now, that's all good news to keep our rates low, one would think. If you can purchase power at $40 a megawatt hour, that would be a good thing. But unfortunately, government policy has B.C. Hydro purchasing on the market, from independent power producers within the borders of British Columbia, power at $120 a megawatt hour on average.
Just to recap, if you're keeping score at home: marketplace, $40; B.C. Liberals, $120. So we buy it at $120, and we're selling into the market for $40. How sustainable is that? Not very much, I would argue. Not very much. The end result of that has been some $2.2 billion in deferral accounts at B.C. Hydro which, of course, is debt that we will have to pay in the future.
Our position at No. 3, which I believe is what the member wanted to say — No. 3 in Canada with respect to the cost of electricity — is in jeopardy, absolute jeopardy, because of deferral accounts and because of unfunded liabilities in the tens of billions of dollars to independent power producers now and 40 years into the future. This is not a recipe for success. It's a recipe for disaster. Some of that is coming home to roost now.
I mentioned at the start of my comments that there was no debate on the Clean Energy Act in this place with respect to what's called committee stage, and that's absolutely true.
The result has been bad policy that's been compounding bad policy to lead to B.C. Hydro being on its knees with respect to its fiscal position and rate increases in the 30 and 40 percent range over the next number of years. It's absolutely off the charts, not sustainable by the citizens of British Columbia and very difficult for B.C. Hydro to sell to its customers.
We're implementing a smart meter program right now, a billion-dollar expenditure without any oversight. It would have been debated in this Legislature had the government not introduced closure, and people are finding that their new meters are reading a spike in consumption
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even though their behaviours have not changed. Over the weekend the Vancouver Province did an exposé on the smart meter initiative and how it's having an impact on rates.
These are big problems. We want to talk about the need to transition from the old economy to the new economy. There is a cost to that. We'll all agree on it. But the cost that's been put forward by the B.C. Liberals — and, I think, highlighted by some of the comments of my colleague from Coquitlam today — is going to cripple B.C. Hydro.
Our Crown corporation that has served us so very, very well for 50 years is looking forward to a very bleak future, and that bleak future will end up coming out of the pockets — to solve the problems — of ratepayers right across B.C. It's really sad. When we think of the legacy of W.A.C. Bennett and the green initiatives that…. Of course, once you flood a valley, the damage is done. And for years and years and decades…
Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Member.
J. Horgan: …the people of the Peace have enjoyed listening to what I had to say.
D. Horne: I found the member's comments interesting, especially when it comes to production of power for export and for British Columbia. I'll read a quote from the member, specifically about Burrard Thermal. It talks about the time, obviously, that the opposition were in government, and he's talking about: "At the time that Burrard was running flat out, that was to keep the lights on in California. We were doing an international service, remember."
Here we were. We were producing significant amounts of greenhouse gas — I guess with the member's support — to provide power to California, doing our international service. I think that as the member has noted, one of the things we always have to do — and something that's very, very important for British Columbians — is take a look at the way we are doing things and try to do them better.
When it comes to how much water is in the dams and how we manage that water and how we manage our power supply, I think it's incredibly important to stay on top of that and make sure that we do that properly. I know for a fact that is one of the things we're currently addressing and one of the things that need to be dealt with in order to, as the member pointed out, ensure that we have sustainable, strong power solutions for the future.
Specifically for the greenhouse gases and especially within the GVRD and within our watershed, I notice within the overall Lower Mainland, being a valley and having the mountains on all sides so that basically the air goes up the valley, that airshed really is of importance to a vast number of British Columbians.
I'll note that Joe Trasolini, as mayor of Port Moody, put forward a resolution to UBCM asking the provincial government not to close the Burrard Thermal generating plant in 2013 but to keep it in place. He also on numerous occasions talked about the importance of Burrard Thermal and, basically, keeping it open. I have to say, not only for my area, keeping Burrard Thermal open, keeping the emissions that that plant represents open, is something that not only affects the Tri-Cities but affects the larger area in general, and it's something that truly we need to address.
The member is right, in some aspects, that we do need to make sure that we manage energy and clean energy as well as we can, but it's very important that we take a look at each region and make sure we do it well.
HONESTY AND DEMOCRACY
D. Routley: I rise today to speak about honesty and integrity in politics. I think the people of this province will probably agree with the statement that cynicism is one of our most booming commodities in this province. People are disengaged from the public process, and that cynicism, in fact, is well earned by the practices of political parties and politicians in certain abuses of the process in order to maintain a partisan advantage.
The reason I'd like to speak about this today is that we're now in the middle of two by-elections. It was approximately a year ago in this House that I asked questions about the by-election which elected our current Premier. During that by-election there was very obvious use of public resources to make announcements in the constituency that the Premier was running in, and it became quite a controversy and contributed again to this cynicism and disengagement that people have with process.
This isn't the first time people's faith with the current government has been challenged through practice. The promises that were made before this government was elected in 2001 not to tear up the HEU contracts or the teachers' contracts were promises that were quickly broken and have now cost the public purse of this province tens of millions of dollars, both in fighting the decisions in court and in bringing redress to those who were negatively impacted, most notably the HEU workers.
That broken promise led to cynicism but also to the largest mass firing of women in Canadian history, so it's no wonder that British Columbians are cynical about their government's practices.
There was a promise not to sell B.C. Rail, and that promise was broken. The most recent and most celebrated broken promise with the B.C. Liberals was around the HST, and we have all seen what that has led to — four years of, essentially, diverted attention by a government struggling to deal with the tangled web it wove in this deception around the HST.
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So when the previous Premier made a promise around the use of public resources during election campaigns, I think it was probably rightly greeted with the same type of cynicism. The former Premier, Gordon Campbell, promised not to use public ads, government ads, during elections or even six months leading up to elections. And yet what we've seen as a common practice is the….
Deputy Speaker: Member, the process for members' statements is meant to be your own views and of a non-partisan nature. I'll just remind you of that, please.
D. Routley: Okay. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Well, I don't think it would be partisan to say that the public have an expectation that there will be a clear openness about the use of public resources. So I would encourage the government to reflect on the promise made not to use public funds to advertise the government's programs or itself during election campaigns.
During the Point Grey by-election there was use of the government public engagement unit to write speeches and to set up opportunities for the government to feature its programs and itself. No legal opinion was sought from Elections B.C. at the time as to whether this was correct or not. I don't think that these tactics, by any government, work. In fact, what they do is contribute to undermining people's faith.
Now that we have the budgeting of $13 million to promote the jobs plan of the province, I think it's particularly important that all of us consider whether or not it would be fair to use any of those funds in the constituencies that are now being contested in the by-elections.
Any obvious use — and I think we've already seen that in Chilliwack and Port Moody — would be further contribution to a voter disengagement that hurts us all, hurts this entire process, hurts every party and hurts democracy. Any use of an unfair tactic during a democratic process such as a by-election would be an unfortunate retreat from the notion of open government.
In fact, during the last by-election in May in Point Grey when the Premier was elected, provincial announcements were made but focused in that riding — announcements around the removal of parking meters from parks, announcements of the new minimum wage, announcements of the return of gaming grants. That announcement was made in a playground in Point Grey.
It would be unfortunate if that practice were to continue during these by-elections. I think it's an opportunity for the government to make a new commitment to an unbiased openness and fairness in elections if we were to see that there would not be an increased frequency of placement of ads by government in the by-election constituencies. Unfortunately, we've already seen that in the lead-up.
So I would hope that we, on both sides of the House, can commit that we do not in any way use our public positions in order to promote either side during these by-elections.
In fact, as the Speaker knows, during elections Elections B.C. has very strict rules about even the colour of ink we can use on a notice that we send out, and we have to be careful not to imply the partisan position through our offices here in the Legislature.
That kind of scrutiny is something that I think, if it's followed, would contribute to a new faith from people if they were to see that government would not use its power over the public purse to use government resources to set up advertisements or funding announcements or opportunities in constituencies during by-elections.
K. Krueger: Madam Speaker, I kind of had two responses in mind, depending on what the member opposite might say. We have so much to talk about with regard to our record on making positive changes in this House, and I would have liked to focus on that. But you did afford considerable latitude, and I'd like to respond to some of what was said too. So I'll try and make it kind of half-and-half here.
Our government is all about listening to the public and sharing information with the public. I serve on the Premier's cabinet committee on open government, and I'm tremendously proud of the things that we are doing. We're involving citizens as never before here in British Columbia. As an example, I would suggest that the members have a look at the Finance Minister's approach, where the public was invited to build its own budget and give us input as he prepared for this year's important budget.
We believe in giving the public access on line to government information, and we've been gratified with the results. There are a lot of very smart people out there who process that data, make suggestions, and they begin doing that as soon as they have access to new material. It's very helpful to us, and it's good for British Columbia.
When we were in opposition, we made a commitment that we were going to reform the way this House worked. We were going to calendar legislative sessions. We would start the second Tuesday in February, and we would end at the end of May.
We wanted to make this place more friendly to women. A lot of women on both sides of the House…. We work to try and recruit more women. We're happy for the ones that we get, but many women aren't very happy here, haven't been in the past, and they don't necessarily run again. One of the reasons was the unpredictability of when we would be in session, so we calendared fall sittings when necessary. We also made a parliamentary calendar for elections. Those are every four years.
It's been a very orderly process, and it has worked. We have had more women participating, and they have less concern about being able to plan their family life around
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That is one of the examples of things that we've done. We've also had committees that include private members on various cabinet committees. We get a lot of good input.
I am constantly reminded of the way my father and mother and their friends felt when I was growing up on a homestead. Farmers would say: "Why do we send these people down to Victoria or out to Ottawa who sound like us, think like us, know what we're concerned about and then turn into somebody different as soon as they're gone?" It is up to MLAs in this House to speak the truth, including speaking the truth about what their constituents are telling them and getting it on the record.
I made some remarks recently about the judicial system. A few of the press gallery opinion writers really took exception to that. I can tell you that….
K. Krueger: The member from Powell River said: "So did the judges; so did the legal system." But the public….
Deputy Speaker: Member. Member. The member from Kamloops has the floor.
K. Krueger: Thank you, hon. Speaker.
But the public responded to those opinion writers with e-mails from all over the province. I do not think one of them was negative to those remarks. The public was saying: "We've been waiting a long time for somebody to stand up in the House and say these things." There's more to follow on that. The member from Powell River is probably not representing his members when he's heckling on that subject.
The Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform was something that has never been done anywhere in the world, anything like it. We did it twice because the proponents of the recommendation didn't feel that they'd had adequate coverage of why they were presenting the proposal that they did. So we did it twice.
The irony of what the member was just saying. There was only one person fired from the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform. That was a person they had hired who didn't make a truthful statement about her background, and she's a member of that caucus opposite us right now, a member of the official opposition caucus.
There have been a lot of very, very negative things that the NDP have done. They have a sorry record. Today on the front page of the Vancouver Sun there's an article about someone not having paid his transit fee, apparently.
Deputy Speaker: Member, Member.
K. Krueger: Thank you, hon. Chair. It's hardly appropriate for the member opposite to make any negative remarks about Gordon Campbell or anybody else's record. Gordon Campbell will go down in history as one of the finest Premiers that this province has ever had.
It has been humorous to me over the years to hear the members opposite praise W.A.C. Bennett as if he was one of their forefathers. In fact, what he frequently said…
Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Member.
K. Krueger: …was that the NDP couldn't run a peanut stand.
D. Routley: The blatant partisanship of the previous speaker….
Deputy Speaker: Member, would you please confine your remarks to your statement.
D. Routley: Yes. Yeah, I'll attempt to do that, Madam Speaker, as a comparison and contrast to what we've just heard.
What I attempted to bring to the attention of the House was the need for us to restore faith amongst the voters in what they consider to be a process that has justified cynicism on their part and a disengagement because of so many broken promises on the part of politicians.
In fact, the member in his reply to my initial comments has brought up another broken promise: the set calendar date. Yes, we were to sit from the second week of February through to the end of May each year. But we were promised and the people of B.C. were promised that there would be a fall session, that there would always be a fall session. Unfortunately, the government has, at least twice, broken that promise as well. One of the times that they didn't quite break it…. We came in here, I believe….
Deputy Speaker: Member?
K. Krueger: A point of order, Madam Speaker. What was just said is not true. We did not promise there would always be fall sessions. We said when we needed to have a fall session. The NDP only had three in ten years.
Deputy Speaker: Thank you.
Member, would you continue, please.
D. Routley: Anyway, the memory of voters is long enough to be acquainted with the many broken promises that the government has offered them over that time.
This is the point that I'm trying to make. The current by-elections offer the government and this House an opportunity to restore some of the faith that people have lost in the process. That could be done by adhering to their own commitments not to use government resources to
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advertise government, particularly in the constituencies where by-elections are being fought. Unfortunately, we've already seen that happening.
When I brought that up to the minister during estimates — the minister for Citizens' Services, responsible for the government's communications — it was simply…. The minister just said: "Well, government will continue doing the business of government." That was the answer that was given when the Premier herself was using public resources during her own by-election. So it's unfortunate.
It's unfortunate in the extreme that we continue, through this government's behaviour, to contribute to the cynicism that what people are told isn't true. That is, I think, the most undermining element of our democratic process at this time and in the recent past. We had all hoped that, in fact, those kinds of commitments would be honoured, because of course the government has much more power at its disposal to promote itself than do the contestants in a by-election who aren't from the governing side.
I think the people of B.C. are trying to have faith. You can see it in so much of their reaction to things like the HST — that people still react with an expectation that there will be truth and honour in politics. I call on the government to meet that test.
BARRACKS TO BOOKS
R. Hawes: Before I start I'd just like to say that my understanding has always been that these private members' statements are to be non-partisan. Frankly I'm absolutely appalled at the last 15 minutes for what I have heard here. If we're going to get into the partisanship, that's fine; we can all get down and rake in the muck. But that apparently is what we were just hearing, and I'm not very proud to hear that in this Legislature at this time of the morning.
To get on to my topic is.…
Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Member.
Can I just remind all members that we're not fighting a by-election on the floor of the Legislature. We are now in private members' statements, and I would like to hear the opinions of private members.
R. Hawes: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I was asked to fill in this morning for the member for Chilliwack. This was actually his topic, and it's in some ways a good thing that I was asked to do it because I can say some things, probably, that that member couldn't say.
I was a member, a director on the Fraser Valley regional district throughout the 1990s, as I was the mayor of Mission at the time. The member for Chilliwack was the chair of the regional district and the mayor of Chilliwack.
In 1995 there was devastating news delivered from Ottawa that the army base in Chilliwack was to close. For any community that loses a major employer it can be devastating, but in Chilliwack the army base was a critical, critical part of their infrastructure and their tax base and their job base. The loss of that army base to Chilliwack was a blow that was very difficult to recover from.
But the member for Chilliwack, who at the time was mayor, immediately took up the gauntlet and began to work asking for…. First, he looked at whether or not the base could be used for an educational purpose, and he approached both the federal government and the provincial government at the time. He, from Victoria, got an absolute cold shoulder, in fact, no response — nada, nothing, no assistance for Chilliwack.
He persisted, and he persisted hard, and in the late 1990s he resigned and left local government. Well he didn't resign, and he just didn't run for re-election, and as a private citizen he continued to work hard to try to get something to happen at the base.
He began to push the RCMP because he could see that all of the training was happening in Regina. E division for the RCMP was in Vancouver, who in fact had their own police force. We in the valley and around the province were the ones paying for the RCMP. So the thought was: "Well, why shouldn't we have a command post at least in an area where there is some RCMP payment from the citizens?"
The RCMP finally decided in 2000 that they would move E division to Chilliwack. They opened the Pacific Region Training Centre there with cooperation from the federal government. Today, there are 80,000 person training days a year on that former army base and hundreds of employees working for the RCMP in the E division training centre in Chilliwack. That was on the huge base. They are using, I think, around 60 acres. Their balance… That did not replace the army base.
The member for Chilliwack continued to push, and when he was elected here in this Legislature he pushed harder and began to work with the University of the Fraser Valley — then Fraser Valley College — suggesting perhaps there should be something put on the base. He worked with the federal government, hard, with the local MPs, and in 2003 the Canada Education Park was established by the federal government on that former army base.
Since that time the provincial government has jumped on board, with the University of the Fraser Valley, and has built the Trades and Technology Centre, which began with a $29 million grant from the province that was to purchase land and to do a rebuild of a large building on that site to accommodate a trades and technology centre on the base. That now is open. There are hundreds — literally thousands — of students who are going to be moving into that centre, and it is going to be a huge success.
The Canada Border Services Agency jumped on board.
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They have opened a training centre on the old army base. The Justice Institute of British Columbia has opened paramedic training on the old army base. There are now 300 students a year going through the Justice Institute, and they're planning a major expansion out to 750 by the year 2020. There will be 750 students with the Justice Institute there on the old army base.
There's a planned health sciences centre that is going to be built there on the Canada Education Park. It's a wellness centre, an ambulatory care centre, an urgent care centre. They will be doing research for the better delivery of health care. That is sponsored partly through the province and partly through Fraser Health Authority. That's going to provide even further use of that former site and put more tax dollars in the hands of local government and provide more jobs.
Frankly, the loss of the army base now has been completely mitigated. Frankly, I credit the work of the member for Chilliwack. If it were not for his steadfast adherence to making sure that something happened there, for his dogged determination, I don't think we would see anything but an empty park there.
I'll add to that. Now there's a thing called Garrison Crossing. It's a residential…. I'll come back to it.
M. Mungall: First I'd like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to the University of the Fraser Valley, to the Justice Institute of B.C. and to the variety of partners who have made the Canada Education Park a reality.
I was there not ten days ago, where I was taught by some of the students in the paramedic program that is actually working with Canadian Armed Forces. The students there taught me how to insert an IV — not on a live subject, thankfully. It was a wonderful experience.
I also got a tour of the trades-training centre by the dean for the trades-training centre, and I met some wonderful students who are taking courses, taking programs at that trades-training centre. I was very pleased to meet several women who were also in some programs where you don't see a lot of women.
It was a wonderful day touring this park, and it certainly would not be there if it wasn't for the incredible partners who have made it happen.
I think that it's also a very good-news story of how, when government gets involved with organizations, especially in the post-secondary sector…. We have two public post-secondary schools, institutions, who are involved in this. This is a good-news story of how government can create jobs, that government is in the business of creating jobs and of doing economic development.
The member prior to me gave much of the credit to the current member for Chilliwack. While I don't want to take away the work that he has done on this, I do think it's important to note that there's a little glitch in this story. Since we are talking about his involvement in this, I'd like to bring that up.
I think it goes to show that we're moving forward with the Canada Education Park, set to open up this May, despite some of the blunders that happened along the way. One of them, of course, is the renowned World Trade University.
The member opposite who spoke about this would know about this story very well, because he introduced the private member's bill to ram forward legislation to allow for this World Trade University to be established outside of the usual parameters that we use in this province to establish an institution. Perhaps the reason why is that this was not one of the public institutions that are involved with the Canada Education Park, but it was a private institution.
The proponent for this World Trade University…. His name was Sujit Chowdhury, and I apologize if I pronounced his last name incorrectly. He was often referred to by members opposite as a doctor, someone with a PhD. Not only did he not have a PhD, but there were absolutely no credentials to support the World Trade University in moving forward. Nonetheless, members opposite bought the line around the World Trade University hook, line and sinker.
What a big blunder it was, because at the end of the day there was not a shred of truth behind the claims to put forward the World Trade University, which was slated to be a part of the Canada Education Park. When that fell through, because members opposite had not done their due diligence, including the member from Chilliwack, who is being touted by the Liberals as the person behind the Canada Education Park….
He did not do his homework. The member for Abbotsford-Mission did not do his homework. The former member for Chilliwack-Hope did not do his homework either. And when it all fell apart, there was grave concern that it would have a negative ripple effect and pull the whole project down. But it didn't.
It didn't — not because of the members opposite but because of the very people who have put post-secondary education first and foremost, front and centre in their day-to-day work. That's people like the Justice Institute of B.C. and the University of the Fraser Valley. With that, I think it's fantastic that the Canada Education Park is moving forward. They are doing a tremendous job, and full credit needs to go to all the partners.
R. Hawes: I wasn't going to bring up the World Trade University, but that's fine. I'm not unhappy that it has been brought up. Not one person was hurt by it. Not one student invested a dime in it. Not one piece of land was ever touched by them in Chilliwack. It was a concept that actually looked pretty good and had good merit, but it didn't work.
You know, sometimes you take a step, and you find out that it's not working, and then you take a step back-
[ Page 10316 ]
wards. I see absolutely nothing wrong with that, particularly when no one was hurt. However, I do have to take exception to a couple of things.
First and foremost, the University of the Fraser Valley exists today, and it's not the Fraser Valley College anymore, because this government decided that we needed to create a number of new universities around British Columbia. There were members of this Legislature, and I won't say which ones, that were opposed to this — in fact, called it a farce that colleges around British Columbia would be given full university status. Some of those members are sitting today in this Legislature as I look across the way.
To hear the sanctimony about how it couldn't be the member for Chilliwack, and it's all of the University of the Fraser Valley…. Frankly, the University of the Fraser Valley is an exceptional university — in fact, rated by the Globe and Mail survey as one of the top ten universities in Canada and number one in a number of categories, including student satisfaction.
While we're on the topic, I constantly hear a barrage coming from a part of this Legislature about how we're not doing a good job in trades in British Columbia. Now, the trades centre that is opening on the Canada Education Park is going to offer a wide variety for hundreds and hundreds of trades students around British Columbia. In fact, since this government took place and we made the move to say that unions would no longer be the gatekeeper to an apprenticeship, many thousands more people are in apprenticeship training. We have given them an opportunity to get into the trade, to obtain part certification, to step off and work for a while if they wish and step back in. There are entrances and exits from the program that never existed before that really actually help people get on with getting a Red Seal in this province.
What's being done for trades in this province is unprecedented, something that could never, ever have happened under regimes that were tied in closely with the trade union movement in this province. I'm really proud of the work being there, and I'm proud of that member from Chilliwack.
Deputy Speaker: I'd like to be able to recognize the member for Victoria–Swan Lake, but I'm waiting until people are paying attention.
The member for Victoria–Swan Lake.
STEWARDING OUR RESOURCES
R. Fleming: It's a pleasure to speak to the topic of stewarding our natural resources in British Columbia this morning, because our province is truly a blessed jurisdiction in terms of its natural wealth.
There are few places in the world that can rival our diverse ecosystems and our species of plants and wildlife. We have an abundance of clean, fresh sources of water. Our publicly owned clean energy infrastructure and our capacity for developing new sources of 100 percent renewable electricity are unrivalled, and of course, our province has extensive deposits of precious metals, minerals and fossil fuels found beneath the surface of our vast land mass.
The natural capital contained within B.C.'s complex geology, our coastline and rivers that sustain fisheries, the glaciers and spring freshets, the vast expanse of forest canopy and the annual cyclical services that nature provides are inestimable, but economists have tried, and they have valued this natural wealth in the trillions of dollars.
Of course, B.C.'s resources do not belong exclusively to this present generation. They belong to all of us and to the generations to come. That is why it is so important that we have strong leadership in government, in industry, in science and that communities large and small and our First Nations people all act together as responsible stewards of this province's natural legacy.
The pattern of B.C.'s industrial development has not always lived up to environmental standards that we would find acceptable today. One can think of the impact of the pulp and paper industry on Howe Sound before new regulations were brought in about discharges, or the maturity of the mining sector that today stands in marked contrast to the industry decades ago regarding the acid drain rock and tailings storage issues that challenge that industry.
The concept of sustainability and its measurement by government agencies and decision-makers is incredibly important, especially in light of the cancellation of the Progress Board by this government just last December. It's important to measure, in British Columbia, the scale and timelines of resource depletion and to determine and disclose whether we are living within nature's carrying capacity as we do business here in British Columbia. Measuring cumulative impacts, for example, is incredibly important for how we plan and approve industrial developments in the province of British Columbia.
The evolution of environmental assessment in B.C. is something that was critical to ending so-called valley-by-valley disputes and regional disputes that beset the ability of government to make decisions in the decades prior to the 1990s. It allowed government to finally set the bar for what responsible development is, to provide credible environmental mitigation measures when projects were approved and to have a strong public process in place so that affected parties could have their views made and could influence the process.
That is something that has been eroded under this government, beginning in 2002, when public process was greatly circumscribed, when the scope of environmental
[ Page 10317 ]
assessments was denigrated.
Even today — after legislation that was passed in 2008, for example, around targeting of greenhouse gas initiatives and climate change in British Columbia — we still have an environmental assessment process that is completely divorced from legal targets that now bind this province to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That is something that is completely unwise.
We have a government that has vaguely referred in throne speeches — several of them — and in government rhetoric, occasionally, to favouring a single environmental assessment process with the federal government. But we have a government that in fact cherry-picks which projects it favours it for and which ones it doesn't. For example, this government decided that it did not favour a joint assessment on the Prosperity mine application with the federal government.
What happened in that assessment that was rejected by the federal government just a year ago? There was an incredible divergence between the federal and B.C. conclusions about that project application. The federal government called it an unacceptable project application. The minister of the day rejected the application as predicated "on the destruction of entire ecosystems and habitat."
Now, the B.C. environmental assessment office and the Ministry of Environment ignored Department of Fisheries and Oceans studies. They came to radically different and sunny, optimistic conclusions. That has lowered the confidence in its work. There are outstanding questions from Prosperity that this government owes the public an explanation for so that it can rebuild confidence in how environmental assessments are conducted in British Columbia.
B.C.'s failure to be involved in National Energy Board hearings on the Enbridge pipeline project or to even review it or comment on the project's major environmental risks begs serious questions about why this government has chosen that path. Alberta has shown no such hesitation to be involved in those hearings, while British Columbia has hidden from having an opinion on the environmental risk posed to our province.
We are talking about a government here that favours offshore drilling, even after they commissioned the Royal Society to study the issue of offshore drilling on B.C.'s coast — and who recommended against any change to the moratorium on offshore drilling.
This government claims to want faster environmental assessments without lowering the bar on standards, yet in the most recent budget that was tabled in this House, there were no such resources to help the environmental assessment increase its capacity so that it could process applications in a more timely and thorough manner.
The Auditor General of British Columbia could not have been more scathing in his condemnation of how this province fails to look at post-certificate compliance after environmental assessments are conducted. There is no inspection regime or enforcement. We have recent events that were publicized — the Mamquam and the Ashlu fish kills, on those rivers — that show the government's ongoing failure to enforce things like stream flow agreements.
It's interesting that this government has approved a waste management plan for incinerating waste adjacent to the Fraser Valley before even making any efforts to divert solid waste, including organic waste, from the waste stream. If the government had taken action and pursued zero waste, we'd be in a different place.
I thank you for the opportunity this morning, Madam Speaker.
J. McIntyre: I'm pleased to rise today to speak to the statement on stewarding our resources. It's very interesting to see different perspectives here on looking at some of the same topics, but I think that we have a very strong record in a number of ways. Certainly, looking at clean energy, the members, actually, before me, in a different statement — members for Coquitlam–Burke Mountain and Juan de Fuca — had a lively debate on the whole topic of clean energy. I think it's very important.
In fact, there was an article this morning in the Vancouver Sun, by Paul Kariya, talking about how important it is that we have a mix of sources and an opportunity to develop clean energy sources, like the small run of the river, wind, biomass — all sorts of things.
I know from my public opinion business that the public expects us to be looking at clean sources of energy. We have, as the member before said, an abundance of clean water, but we want to make sure that we maximize and maximize the expertise.
We have a number of projects — less than 50 projects, not hundreds of projects — that are operating and have allowed employment for First Nations, who have actually been involved in some of the rural areas of the province. I do agree that we need both big hydro and also opportunities to involve smaller projects.
I have a number of those examples in my riding, and I urge people who have criticisms about this to visit them. We have very successful projects: Fitzsimmons, the Upper Mamquam, Furry Creek, Brandywine. I've actually been in the powerhouse and seen the penstock, how we divert water. It goes through the turbines, produces energy from very clean, renewable sources. They are a very important part of the mix.
Speaking of water, we also have, I think, great success in protecting the water resources. We're the first to establish a living rivers initiative to protect the province's waterways and fish habitat, including a $21 million living rivers trust. We've developed Living Water Smart, which also involves water stewardship, where we're protecting
[ Page 10318 ]
sources of drinking water, strengthening flood protection — again, right in my riding in places like Pemberton and Squamish that need that protection.
We've been ensuring that wetlands and waterways are protected, rehabilitated. We have strong water-efficiency targets, and we've been working with industry to develop water-efficiency labelling systems for water-consuming parks. We've got all sorts of examples where we are dealing with that.
Again, on land stewardship we have had a very successful program — I think actually brought in by the former government in the '90s — of looking at land resource management planning. In my tenure as MLA in the Sea to Sky area, we have a very successful…. We've protected Wild Spirit and conservancies. We've added to parkland. We have an amazing record of adding 60 parks, six ecological reserves and protecting more than 1.9 million hectares.
I remember that in the '90s the former government was aiming for 12 percent of land protected, which I think is a UN standard. We're now at basically 15 percent in this province. We've done, I think, a very good job of preserving our land resources. Again, in my riding we've added ten hectares to the Malamute lands, to Stawamus Provincial Park. We're looking at a Garibaldi Park master plan update. These processes go on all the time.
I do want to speak on some specifics, because the member before me talked about the Prosperity mine. He was talking about it in negative terms and the difference between a federal and provincial joint review of the projects.
I just want to remind those who may be following this debate that those two processes came to very similar conclusions. It's just that the provincial process takes into account social and economic factors — that when you put those factors into play, did end up coming to a slightly different result. But the conclusions on the environmental assessment were very, very similar. I just want to make that point.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
I also want to talk about a couple of little things in my riding, again, very specifically. When you look at the whole story about the restocking after the unfortunate dumping of caustic soda into the Cheakamus River, our government went through a major process of trying to figure out how we could deal with that, to protect the steelhead in particular, which is an iconic B.C. fish.
I want to applaud the efforts of the ministry and former minister — I think I can name him now — Barry Penner. He is no longer in government. They went through a very important process where we did come to a very healthy conclusion.
R. Fleming: I want to thank the member for West Vancouver–Sea to Sky for contributing to a discussion we're having this morning about stewarding our resources in British Columbia. She's made some points, and I want to come back to a couple.
I think we're in a situation now where we are able to look back on a decade of a government record that has weakened environmental legislation and where we have seen general decline for the resources provided for those agencies and personnel charged with protecting our environment and ensuring that B.C.'s resources are well stewarded.
I ran out of time earlier when I was speaking of the example in the Fraser Valley, where really what we are seeing now is a decade of no real ambition on solid waste, by this government, to divert solid waste significantly. This government did not do, for example, what Nova Scotia did in 1998 when it banned organic material from the waste stream. Metro Vancouver could be diverting 75, perhaps even 85, percent of solid waste from landfills instead of the 55 percent on a good day that it does currently.
I think that would remove the threat — at least three Liberal MLAs on the other side of the aisle would, I think, agree with me — of mass waste incineration just adjacent to their airshed. I know they're very concerned about that, but still we have a Minister of Environment that has approved a waste management plan in Metro Vancouver that is predicated on a landfill in the sky and burning solid waste in Metro Vancouver. We could have done so much with a decade to avoid that situation, but that is where we are today.
Let me end on a point that I think is something the Premier needs to learn. She has said, essentially, that in British Columbia we have a choice to make — in my view it's a false choice — and that we can't have good jobs and a clean environment. It's jobs or the environment. That is a silly debate that is decades old, that has been discouraged and discredited. Yet it's one she has advanced all the time.
She did it when she called the federal government dumb for turning down the Prosperity mine, and she's done it again on several occasions when she has cheer-led the Enbridge pipeline and dismissed all environmental concerns that British Columbians legitimately make.
This is a view that is wrong. The new jobs and the new economy don't come at the expense of the environment. Advanced skills and a high-wage economy come from managing the environment in a sustainable manner. You know what? Industry knows this better than this government. They, at least, are ahead of government in many areas through their own voluntary efforts and through a sense of corporate and environmental responsibility.
That's what we heard from energy, mining and clean executives at the GLOBE 2012 last week. They're up to the challenge. They embrace a new way of doing business.
[ Page 10319 ]
They understand, as this side does…
Mr. Speaker: Thank you, Member.
R. Fleming: …that that's how the world works today and should work.
Thank you for the chance to make those points.
Mr. Speaker: I want to remind members. It's been brought to my attention this morning that a number of the private members' statements had strayed over the line to become more partisan than what they should be. So just a reminder for members for — not next Monday — when we sit again on Monday to keep them down to at least a dull roar.
Hon. S. Cadieux: I would call private member's Motion 35.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, unanimous consent of the House is required to proceed with Motion 35 without disturbing the priorities of motions preceding it on the order paper.
Private Members' Motions
MOTION 35 — MINING INDUSTRY EMPLOYMENT
R. Hawes: It gives me great pleasure to move this motion, which is:
[Be it resolved that this House supports maintaining and creating jobs for British Columbians working in the mining sector.]
I'll start by saying mining is providing the highest-paid jobs in British Columbia of any heavy industry — over $108,000 on average, per annum, for the average employee. It's also, from a safety perspective, the safest heavy industry in British Columbia. It also provides highly significant government revenue to pay for the services that we all want.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
Pierre Gratton, the former head of the Mining Association of British Columbia, now the Canadian mining association, has called what's going on in British Columbia right now a renaissance in mining. But to understand what that is, I think we have to just look at some chronological history here.
Let's start with the 1970s, when the Barrett government was elected in this province. Mining left in great numbers. I was working at the time in a bank in the Yukon, and I saw the money pouring in, talked to the exploration companies that came saying: "We can't work in British Columbia. We don't even want to park our money there." They were bringing it to the Yukon in buckets.
When the Barrett government was defeated, that came back to British Columbia, because we are a province rich in natural resources. In the 1990s, once again, devastation — everybody left.
R. Hawes: The member opposite wants to talk about Huckleberry, the one mine that opened, but let's get to the chronology.
How do mines open? Well, it starts with exploration, and there's a fairly lengthy period of time between first exploring, finding a mineralization that's rich enough to create a mine and then putting together the money and the mine plan. Finally getting a mine open takes years and years and years.
I would suggest the Huckleberry mine that opened in the 1990s was really probably a product of what was going on in the 1980s under the former Social Credit government. However, let's go on, then. After the devastation of the 1990s, remembering that exploration is the key here to find a mine, in the year 2000 we were….
Deputy Speaker: Members, I'm having difficulty hearing the member who has the floor.
R. Hawes: In the year 2000 we were down to $25 million in exploration in British Columbia — $25 million, next to nothing. The exploration companies, most of them centred in Vancouver — actually, the mining capital of the world — had left to other places in the world to do their exploration because they couldn't work under the former government, the NDP government. Frankly, they can revise history all they like, but that's what the mining companies tell us.
By the year 2010 we were over $350 million and climbing. Exploration is back, and it's back in a big way. But what has it led to? Well, we've got Red Chris mine that's going to open in the north. Galore is likely to open. Huckleberry has expanded. Mount Milligan — work is going to put that mine together. Tulsequah Chief — probably going to reopen. Maybe even Kemess.
We've got, in the northeast, Canadian Dehua opening coal mines; Walter Energy opening coal mines; New Afton expanding and open; Endako expanding; Gibraltar mine expanding; Copper Mountain, after over 25 years, open and running. We've got the Elk Valley — more coal expansion going on in the Elk Valley. The investment is huge in British Columbia today in the mining industry because the mining industry likes what this government is providing, including things like flow-through min-
[ Page 10320 ]
Those on that side of the House refer on a constant basis to our corporate friends. They like to say that we have corporate friends, inferring they don't have them for some reason. And the way they talk about increasing taxes if, God forbid, they ever get re-elected, we know that mining is going to leave again.
I'm really proud to say that mining companies are corporate friends of ours, and they're big. It costs billions of dollars in some cases to open a mine. These are big. Sometimes — oh my goodness, what a terrible thing — multinational companies actually are engaged in mining. What a terrible thing.
And you know what? Mining companies, these big, dreaded multinational companies, are friends of families, too, because that's who's providing the jobs and the high income that build families, that keep families working together, that keep bread on the table and keep all the areas of our province working the way that they should work. They're big for our economy.
I'm going to sit now, and I'm going to think about Pinocchio. As they revise history, I'm going to sit down and watch their noses grow.
D. Donaldson: I'm very pleased to take my place in this debate on the private member's motion that the House supports maintaining and creating jobs for British Columbians working in the mining sector.
In the spirit of debating a private member's motion, I'm going to attempt to be non-partisan and to talk to the ideas that have been brought forward. I'm not going to debate the very dubious factual statements presented by the member for Abbotsford-Mission. I believe that people in B.C. want a new way of approaching mining and a new way of approaching debates in this Legislature, not the tired old arguments brought forward by the member for Abbotsford-Mission.
In that spirit, I'm going to talk about cooperation. I think the people in B.C. want to see the people that represent them in this Legislature talk about how we work together to promote different issues, and one of them is mining. I'd like to point out three ways that we have supported the mining industry in just recent times in cooperation with the government side. Those three items I'll start with, and then I'll talk about things that could be done better, and done better by the government side.
Those three things are Geoscience B.C. We supported spending $12 million in 2011 with Geoscience B.C., an industry-led non-profit society. They have undertaken work in partnership with private industry, with academia and with consultants to do mapping in the northwest part of the province around mining, to look at groundwater impacts of the Montney and Horn River plays. So that was a good use of taxpayers' dollars, we felt, and we supported that expenditure.
We've supported the extension of mining flow-through shares that the member for Abbotsford-Mission discussed. That's where tax deductions flow through from companies to investors and create a better investment climate for mineral resource companies. We supported, through the Finance Committee recommendation and through this Legislature, the extension in March 2010 of the mining flow-through share tax credits to December 2013.
Genome B.C. — that's another non-profit research organization that's incredible in the way it can take dollars that the province provides and multiply them into additional research dollars. For instance, in their 2010-2015 plan, Genome B.C…. We supported the expenditure of $75 million of provincial funds into that organization, and they predict they will be able to do $340 million worth of research over that five-year period — so the province supplying only 25 percent of the total.
How does this impact mining? Well, one of the areas that they are investigating is mining, and in the mining sector how the use of naturally occurring microbes can detoxify contaminated water. That's very important in the mining sector when it comes to wastewater treatment, not just in tailing ponds but elsewhere.
Those are three areas where we have cooperated with the government in the mining sector. I wanted to point that out first, because just going after the tired old partisan debate that the member for Abbotsford-Mission pointed out in his opening remarks is not the way, I believe, the people of this province want to see us working here in the Legislature.
There are vast areas for improvement in this sector and in this file. The one that I wanted to point out quickly in my limited time that's left is skills training. The skills training around the mining sector has not been well thought out by this government. I couldn't have picked a better example than what happened two weeks ago with the Finance Minister's cockamamy scheme — and that's the only way I can typify it — of paying welfare recipients to move north to apparently fill labour gaps.
I was very surprised that the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, who is from the north, supported this cockamamy scheme. It just demonstrated a total lack of understanding on the government's behalf about why most people are needing social assistance in the first place and the multiple barriers they face and the reason they are on welfare. It also demonstrates a lack of understanding of what's going on in northern communities in the first place. I mean we have the mayor….
Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Member.
J. Rustad: In many ways I wouldn't mind the member for Stikine continuing. My nickname for him is No-Digging Doug. There are so many opportunities up in the Stikine that are phenomenal that he refuses to support —
[ Page 10321 ]
not a single project that isn't already approved. To hear the member stand up and say that he now supports mining — he thinks it's a great opportunity — when he won't support a single project in his own riding, quite frankly, I think, is very unfortunate.
The motion around supporting mining and creating jobs for British Columbia can't be more true than in my own riding. We have had a situation in Burns Lake where we had a disaster around the mill, and Endako stepped up to the plate, and it's now hired more than 40 people. So 40 people from that tragedy are now working and part of the mining industry, are moving forward and waiting, hopefully, for a rebuild in Burns Lake. But it's the mining that is critical to being able to provide that support for communities.
I'm very proud of mining in my riding. I've got two mines — and a third one just outside of my riding, but it's serviced through my riding — that have been operating, both going through expansions. The Huckleberry expansion, the Endako expansion — what that has done for communities and the jobs is absolutely phenomenal. And yet, with that kind of a success, I find it somewhat disappointing. The member for Juan de Fuca, in a debate a number of years ago, was talking about, you know, maybe in the northwest we'll maybe see one, maybe two mines. He forwarded the notion of maybe one mine per generation.
That is devastating for the exploration industry, and it's exploration that is critical to be able to get mines moving forward. It's estimated that you need to see more than $100 million of exploration just to have an opportunity to see one mine come forward over a period of time. It takes an enormous amount of resources and people to be able to move these projects forward.
It cannot be just: "We don't support this unless it gets permitted." Well, isn't that a chicken-and-egg? You actually have to go through, do the work, move things forward and have a little bit of push and support to try to get there in order to get the project permitted. Yet they on the other side refuse to support a single project.
I found it also a little bit interesting that the member for Stikine, our no-digging MLA up there, has suggested that he promotes and supports Geoscience B.C.. When Geoscience B.C. was first created, they didn't support it. It was only through the great work they've done and success that they said: "Well, maybe they're not doing a bad job after all."
The other issue I wanted to bring up that the member for Stikine brought up is training, of course.
Deputy Speaker: Members, comments will come through the Chair.
J. Rustad: Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Training, of course, is critical, and it's one of the key pieces and pillars of our jobs strategy we have coming forward. We recognize there is an enormous opportunity throughout northern B.C. for mining, both within my area — and there is certainly lots of enthusiasm, lots of excitement and lots of exploration going on — as well as throughout the entire area.
That skills development, that skills training, is critical. We've got a regional force that's up in the northwest of the province right now and in the northeast. They're looking at the opportunities around how we can advance the training, what we need to do. The Mining Association's coming forward and working with us, and they're partnering, creating opportunities for training.
In the member for Stikine's own riding we've got a mining exploration group in Smithers that is doing great work in terms of training, especially with First Nations.
Mining has an opportunity to really set an area in the north on fire, in terms of growth, in terms of potential, in terms of the ability to support families and to support areas.
J. Rustad: I'm glad to hear now that they're chirping a little bit on the other side about actually supporting mining, because it is critical.
Clearly, through the 1990s that wasn't the case. Mount Milligan in the 1990s was permitted but never built. In the 1970s under the NDP that was not the case. Opportunity shut down.
Today we're pushing opportunities forward. In my riding there's a ton of excitement. We've got the New Gold project south of Vanderhoof that wants to start construction in 2015. They're moving through. They've got a hiring hall in place. They're spending $40 million on exploration and projecting along.
There are so many opportunities that I could speak for an hour on mining alone. I have to conclude by saying that I want to thank the member for bringing forward this debate. I like what I'm hearing from the other side, in terms that they're actually starting to wake up that maybe they should support it. But I have to tell you that it's pretty rich for them to try to turn the leaf.
J. Kwan: I rise to enter into this debate. As I hear the debate, I find it fascinating, really, because there are a number of things that I think members have forgotten to mention on the government side.
I think it is important to note that the mining sector is an important sector to B.C.'s economy. There's no doubt about that, and I don't think anybody questions that. But I also want to put on the public record as well that in British Columbia we have a diversified economy. We need to ensure that that economy flourishes in every
[ Page 10322 ]
That includes in the forestry sector, where we do not ship out and export our jobs to China and make sure that we produce and add value to our resources in British Columbia. I want to add to say that we have tourism as well that is an expanding industry that we need to add on to. We have the green technology, which my colleague the member for Victoria–Swan Lake just talked about and how we need to maximize those opportunities as well.
So there are many, many areas to which we need to ensure that B.C.'s economy is supported and operates and functions at its optimal level.
On the question around mining, I want to say this, which the members actually tend to neglect: so much to do with what goes on in the mining sector has something to do with what's called commodity prices. The member might have forgotten about that. Actually, exploration tends to go up and the sector tends to do well when commodity prices go up.
Commodity prices are not controlled — yes — by the B.C. Liberals, as they will have you believe. It's actually controlled by global forces, and that dominates what happens in the mining sector.
The members will have to acknowledge…. I know it grates them to no end, but they will simply have to acknowledge that under the former NDP government, exploration that took place actually paid dividends towards the provincial treasury after the NDP left office — to benefit the B.C. Liberal government. But who's counting? It really doesn't matter at the end of the day, does it? I know that the Liberal members, the government members, want to gloss over that. They don't want to pay attention to that because — you know what? — they cannot see beyond the partisanship to what is necessary for British Columbia and for B.C.'s economy.
I just want to add this as well. Recently we just had the Premier over in China making announcements — all sorts of different announcements — around her job creation, investment opportunities and so on. Included in that were a couple of mines that she announced overseas. But she, of course, neglected to remember the homework that needs to be done back home — that is, to ensure that the First Nations community is actually on side, because they are essential as a partner in this development for British Columbia. She forgot to mention that.
She forgot to mention that — oops — there are some 7,000 permits that were in the backlog, sitting back there waiting to be assessed and approved. Why? Because the Liberal government cut the funding in the ministry so that those permits can get access to approval. The government forgot to, well, mention that. They forget to mention that and to remember the major flaw in their so-called support for the mining sector.
These things are not happening in isolation. You need to ensure that all the pieces are in place for the project to go through. Yes, environmental assessment counts and permitting counts. And working with the First Nations community — bringing communities on side and not dividing communities — absolutely counts for the prosperity of B.C.'s economy.
J. Kwan: Certainty is what the business community asks for all the time, and the government has completely neglected that essential ingredient to success in investment opportunities and to growing B.C.'s economy.
Now, I have to say, as well, that there's also another piece or ingredient to that equation. That would be ensuring that British Columbians are ready to actually participate in the economy. That means we need to have skills training in place. What happens in this year's budget? The government singled out that ministry and cut $9 million out of that sector instead of growing our economy and building and sustaining the folks in our community. We should be investing in that so that we can benefit from it.
J. Slater: You know, mining has made a strong contribution to the B.C. jobs plan. We're set to add 39,000 net new jobs to the B.C. economy. Mining expansion keeps working in B.C. instead of sending people to Alberta like they did in the 1990s.
B.C. was one of the very first provinces to enact reclamation legislation, and we are a national leader with award-winning reclamation programs. Companies now are required to post a bond and plan for closures before the mine even opens. Mining is one of the safest heavy industries in B.C., and tough provincial programs and policies will keep it this way.
I'll use an old minesite that was in the Nelson-Creston area. It's called the Ymir Yankee Girl mine. We had to put $6 million into reclamation to protect the regional area, and the small community of Ymir is certainly appreciative of that kind of project.
The other project that I'd like to talk about is the new Copper Mountain mine near Princeton. It opened last June, and we're having the grand opening this year. It has created 250 jobs for the town of Princeton.
You know, that may not sound like a big deal, but when you're a community like Princeton, this helps your schools, helps your hospital, helps all of your recreation facilities. It puts people to work. During the construction all the motels were full. All the restaurants were packed. This is what makes small communities in British Columbia survive.
The other project that we're looking at right now is the Highway 3 Hope-Princeton area. Those trucks that are coming off that mine hill have to go down through Princeton and go all the way around. They're looking at
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an engineering program right now to maybe take them down the east side of the river, the Similkameen River, and connect so that we lower our greenhouse gases by making it a lot more efficient for the product to go down to the coast.
One new mine could create 300 to 600 high-paying jobs and lead to the creation of another 450 to 900 spinoff jobs in local communities. Most of these communities are small rural communities. You know, we get condemned for closing rural schools and making it far more difficult for people to stay in rural communities. These mines will certainly help that. I think we're on the right track, and we just need to keep working forward.
Since we're short of time, Madam Speaker, I'm going to cut my comments short.
K. Conroy: I'd just like to remind the members from the opposite side of some facts about what's happening right now in my area. People aren't leaving from the '90s. They're leaving now. From just my own family, my son, my two nephews and a good friend are all working in mining up in Fort McMurray, not in B.C. They've all had to leave now. In the last five years, the last six years they've left this province because they couldn't get jobs in this province. Not in the '90s — now. And there are considerably more that are leaving today.
I'd like to also remind them about something….
K. Conroy: I think the member is questioning my honesty.
All right. Let's talk about something honest that happened in the '90s. In the early '90s Cominco, which is in my constituency area…. Everybody knows Cominco — Cominco at the time, Teck now. It was struggling, and there were some issues. They'd done a major expansion. Things hadn't gone well. The equipment wasn't working, and there were some issues with commodities. There was a concern. There was real fear that, in fact, Cominco might actually shut down.
Deputy Speaker: Member, through the Chair.
K. Conroy: The concern was that this would leave a devastating hole in the region. What would happen? So what was decided was that people needed to come together to solve this problem. What was the key for bringing people together to solve the problem? Well, the key was that the government of the day had the foresight to have a job protection commissioner, and that position ensured that jobs actually stayed in the community.
The commissioner came to Trail, worked with a very diverse group of stakeholders, including Cominco's management, the two United Steelworkers union, locals 480 and 9705, as well as provincial and municipal politicians and interested community activists. Everyone who could gave a bit. The city of Trail reduced corporate taxes for Cominco. The workers took concessions, and Cominco gave rights to their dams — at the time their dams were the Brilliant dam and the Waneta site — for future development for the province. They gave those rights to the province.
What happened with those rights is what we had in our region where we had the Brilliant dam expansion, and now we have the Waneta dam expansion — thousands of people working. That's because of a government forward-thinking enough to think we have to think more than beyond our faces, and we have to look and see what can happen.
The province ensured Cominco's stability to carry on their operations in Trail, and this worked only because of the collaboration of the job protection commissioner, a position that not only saved jobs on the hill, as we locals like to call it, but the spinoff in the region was and is considerable to this day. Today we have over 1,500 people working, direct jobs at Cominco. They are working because of the foresight of that government.
Unfortunately, this Liberal government has eliminated the jobs protection commissioner, and that's no longer there for people. That is just…. When you really need it — you need to maintain those jobs, sustain the jobs — you can't. We don't have a job protection commissioner. It's gone.
When you think about it, in the forest industry 35,000 jobs were lost in this province in the last ten years, lost in the forest industry. How many of those communities could have benefited from a job protection commissioner the way Trail has benefited, the way the region has benefited? The entire region has benefited, and Trail continues to provide those great jobs in our area, those good family-supporting jobs, and Trail itself is benefiting.
The community benefits from the generosity of Teck — not only from the generosity of Teck but from the unions as well, who also provide considerable benefits to the region. Because of that, because of the forward-thinking government in the '90s, that continues to happen today.
There are probably not too many organizations or groups, communities, in our region, that haven't benefited somehow by the generosity of Teck and also by the generosity of the Steelworkers. You know, it's great. I go every year to…. The United Steelworkers do a picnic for their retirees, where the retirees get together. Thousands of people come. They sit, and they have a great barbecue beef meal with all of the trimmings, and they connect with old friends and talk about their days. It's such a community event, and it's done with the support of the union and Teck.
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One other thing that Teck's really involved in and people don't know a lot about is their zinc initiative to save kids. Hundreds of thousands of kids die every year because of zinc deficiency. It's such a small amount of zinc that could actually sustain people worldwide. Cominco is really involved in this program. They're out there and working with people across the world, working with UNICEF, to ensure that zinc deficiency isn't becoming an issue — that they can stem the issues with it. They are….
Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Member.
D. Hayer: Thank you for the opportunity to speak in favour of this motion.
When I've met with the mining companies here over the last 11 years, they always have reminded me, regardless of which party they meet with…. They say that in the '90s exploration for mining was down to $25 million per year because most of the mines were starting to move to South America or other parts of the world. They have over $250 million in exploration they're spending now, and they expect it to go maybe up to $500 million per year.
It's not just the commodity prices, they tell me; it's also the government policy. It's a combination of both. It is commodity prices partially. The rest is the government policy that determines if they're going to be exploring here or not, if they're going to be investing here or not.
Mining is the genesis of British Columbia. It was the discovery of the gold in the bars of the Fraser River that brought placer miners to what we now know as British Columbia. It was their appearance that caused Governor James Douglas to initiate this action that created our province of British Columbia.
Mining is what spurred our initial prosperity, and it is mining today in its various forms that continues our growth and our prosperity. The Mines Act was one of the first acts, if not the first acts, that this Legislature passed when this province was formed, the province of British Columbia.
Mining was the backbone of our current history, and its jobs and products generated the revenue that add great strength to our province today. Today more than 28,000 British Columbians in communities across the province work in the industry. They work in very good-paying jobs, and the spinoffs from those good-paying payrolls create stability in our economy, and of our health care, education and social programs.
Mining is a very general term that describes a great variety of resource and energy extraction in our province. The products generated by mining in British Columbia are in demand across the world, as I have learned on my recent trip to Korea and Taiwan. They're looking forward to our natural resources, especially from mining and oil and gas, and they drive our business in our ports and create jobs for families here.
Whether it is coal or copper, oil or natural gas or a variety of many other natural resources that British Columbia is so blessed with, the mining industry in one way or another affects and benefits all of us. It is one of the major drivers of our economy. The industry boasts an average workers' salary of over $108,000 a year. That type of income supports families very well.
Offshoot spending by those workers supports the home-building trade, automobile sales, restaurants, grocery stores and every other business and many services that we receive from government, such as health care, education and social programs and other services that the government provides.
It is important that British Columbia's natural resources are in abundance and that more than half of Canada's exploration mines are right here in British Columbia, and the highest concentration of mining professionals such as geologists, engineers, prospectors and lawyers and accountants and financiers and every other professional for the mines that is needed lives right here in British Columbia.
In more than 50 communities across the province families and businesses are benefiting from the boom in mining. The highly paying, family-supporting jobs contribute immensely to our economy.
As part of Canada Starts Here, the B.C. jobs plan, our government is committed to having 18 mines in operation and seeing the expansion of another nine mines currently operating in B.C. by 2015.
To show how effective our jobs plan is, just within the six months of it being advanced four mines have begun construction, been approved or had operations extended, and we have reduced by almost two-thirds the backlog of notice-of-work application for mines.
Mines are very important in my riding of Surrey-Tynehead and the Port Kells area. Much of the equipment and supplies to the mining and the natural resource sector is supplied from my constituency. Many people live in my riding who work for the mines, and many people benefit indirectly from the jobs that are created in the mines, so I support this motion.
I think it is important for all of us to support our natural resource sector, especially mining. In mining, when you take a look at the gravel and sand and rock-crushing, that is also very important because they're used in our roads. Surrey is expanding. We are building new roads and bridges, hospitals and universities and houses there, and we need it for the universities and everything else. All of our people benefit from the mines either directly or indirectly. I support this motion. Thank you very much for allowing me to speak.
G. Coons: I want to commend the member for Abbotsford-Mission for bringing forward the motion
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that this House supports maintaining and creating jobs for British Columbians working in the mining sector. But we have to remember that there are many elements to this. There are the jobs, and there's maintaining and creating them, but we also need the proper and appropriate environmental assessments. They must be there.
We must build First Nations trust with true consultation, and we have to ensure that we're doing it right, that we must have sustainable and responsible mining in British Columbia.
In Prince Rupert, my community where I live, we depend on resource extraction, with Ridley Terminals, a federal Crown corporation, one of the most advanced coal unloading and loading terminals in North America. The multiphase project that's going on right now will allow it to increase its annual capacity from 12 million tonnes to 24 million tonnes. This is going on in four stages. But again, I do have to comment that after putting millions and millions of dollars into Ridley Terminals, the federal government is now looking at selling it off, putting it up for sale.
You know, when it's finally making money — $120 million in the bank — it doesn't make much sense, except it's just some sort of ideology of current governments, including this one, that just want to privatize everything and sell off Crown corporations and, in the end, lose money.
The real story here is the lost opportunity in mining under the Liberal government. They've failed to capitalize on high commodity prices, leaving behind ten years of lost opportunities. They've cut the capacity to support permitting and development. They've abdicated their responsibility to create a framework for consultation with First Nations, and they've failed to gain public trust around environmental standards.
We look at the years of cuts in the resource ministries. There's a massive backlog in permits. There are thousands of permits, including hundreds of mining or notice-of-work permits, that have sat there, and the backlog hasn't improved. Even the member for Kootenay East a couple years ago, a former minister responsible for mining, admitted: "I know the resource ministries are starving for resources. You can't get your work done in any of the resource ministries."
So here we are. We're at a point where we need to move forward, not only in the mining sector but all the sectors, whether it's forestry, tourism or fishing, and do it responsibly. Again, you look at what this Liberal government did to the environmental review process.
In 1994 the NDP brought in a process by passing B.C.'s first Environmental Assessment Act, and it established the environmental assessment office, but this was repealed in 2002 by the Liberal government as part of a broad deregulation and gutting of environmental laws.
This act under this government, the Liberal government, eliminated and gutted the provisions requiring engagement of local governments and First Nations on project committees and provisions allowing for inclusion of other stakeholders. Again, as we move forward, we look at what has happened in mining, and the one record of this Liberal government has been a failure to achieve potential. Despite the high commodity prices, we move forward with not really reaching the potential.
One thing that I do have to comment on, noticing my time, is that there was the Future of Mining in B.C.: Co-operation, Not Conflict that was by the First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining in British Columbia. It was put on with Chief Bev Sellars, Chief Ed John, Gavin Dirom from Mineral Exploration B.C., and others. They said, the key message, we need responsible mining. In order to do that, you have to work with First Nations.
Some of their recommendations said we need to reform in three areas: involve First Nations in decision-making, increase the protections regarding health and environment and cultural practices of First Nations, and finally, encourage better balancing of the many benefits of mining.
As we move forward…. My colleague from Stikine talked about skills training, and again, the School of Exploration and Mining in Smithers is key. But again, working through the Northwest Community College, there have been cutbacks, and the budget for apprenticeship training has declined. So we have a huge, huge disconnect with this government.
Their job program doesn't mesh with protecting the environment and consulting with First Nations and communities. So what we have to do…. As we maintain and create jobs, it's very important, but it goes hand in hand with building trust and partnerships with First Nations, respecting their issues and concerns and having the proper environmental assessments.
K. Krueger: Mining is a tremendously important part of the regional economy where I live, in Kamloops and the Thompson valleys. Highland Valley Copper has been operating for decades longer than was initially expected and still employs a thousand people.
It's tremendous employment for Logan Lake, for Merritt, for Cache Creek, for Ashcroft and for Kamloops. A thousand employees averaging $108,000 per year in remuneration, which is the average around the province, as some of the other members have mentioned — great family-supporting jobs — and also supporting hundreds of small businesses that service the mine. As with all big mines, it's a tremendous industry.
We have one of British Columbia's newest mines under construction presently in Kamloops, the New Afton Mine. It already employs hundreds of people in the construction, and it's stockpiling the ore. It'll be employing people long term, supporting our well-diversified econ-
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omy in Kamloops.
Yellowhead Mining is bringing on a project up in the North Thompson Valley which is going to generate jobs and wealth for the small communities of Barrier, Clearwater and, of course, reaching down to Kamloops as well. It'll be, if the plans come to fruition, the second-largest open-pit copper mine in Canada. We really like mining in the Thompson valleys.
There is a controversial proposal, not just adjacent to Kamloops, but actually its boundaries infringe a little on Kamloops' own territory, and we're working through that process very carefully as a community. There are many people who think it's too close to a large urban centre, but there are many people who really prize the employment as well, recognizing what a tremendous boon mining is to our city.
I was unhappy to hear that the Leader of the Opposition had declared, as I understand it, that he would nix that project if he got a chance. I think it's really important for the industry, for the jobs that it creates all around British Columbia, that we follow due process. We have an excellent process.
You can't get a mining permit in British Columbia until you have signed off every detail of construction, operation and reclamation. You have to pay a big deposit so that the government has confidence that the taxpayers won't get stuck with the cost of reclamation, as taxpayers in British Columbia have in the past.
It's a great process, and it's "Safety first" all the way — safety of the environment, safety of the community, safety of the workers. I've heard other members speak in this debate about the industry's phenomenal safety record in British Columbia. They're fiercely proud of that, and they should be. It's the safest heavy industry in Canada, and it's because the workers, their managers, the unions and the companies all collaborate and they have a safety-first maxim.
It was a real delight to me and a tremendous learning experience to be the Minister of State for Mining for a year and a half, to work with these wonderful people, to see how carefully they guard one another and guard the environment.
I remember some of the accidents that happened over that time and how everyone came together. The face of a quarry near Hat Creek collapsed onto a worker in his machine. The Highland Valley Copper rescue team was there as fast as humanly possible. They dug that man out, and he was still alive. He said when he came out: "I knew the people would come and get me." There's a tremendous confidence within the industry and a well-based confidence in the safety motivations of the industry.
I would really like to see the entire House support this motion. It's a very important industry to British Columbia. Vancouver itself is a mining town. More than half of Canada's exploration companies are based in British Columbia, and many of their head offices are in Vancouver.
Madam Chair, I'm going to cut my remarks short, because I want to make sure that our éminence grise gets his chance to wrap up. He'll be doing that shortly, after another opposition speaker.
C. Trevena: I thank the members who preceded and who cut their remarks short so we can all get an opportunity to talk about this sector of the economy and this private member's motion. I think it's quite clear that on both sides of the House there is definite support of mining, as long as mining is done responsibly.
I'd like to pick up on a couple of points made by members of the government side. The member for Surrey-Tynehead did mention that commodity prices had little to do with whether mining would continue in the community or not. I have to disagree. I've got to say that if it's worth a company's investment, they're going to carry on, staying and making money. It is quite natural for a company to do that. If they can make money, that's what they're going to want to do.
Likewise, the member for Kamloops–South Thompson was talking about the real importance of mine safety and the involvement in the philosophy of mine safety. I could not agree more wholeheartedly. The mines in my constituency, Myra Falls and Quinsam Coal, have been very active in mine safety competitions. It's up on there…. Number one on the list is that mine safety is vital.
But I would hope that the former minister and now backbencher would lobby his own government to ensure that there are actually more mine inspectors on the ground. I believe we only have four mine inspectors across the whole province of B.C.
If we are all committed to mining as an industry, we should be making sure that we have the people there to create that sense of safety and not be looking at, as this government has been doing, getting people who've been working in the Forest Service to now become working in the mines as inspectors after maybe just one week of training. I think this is something that if we're all agreed on this, we should actually have the resources within the bureaucracy to ensure that we can have a safe and proper industry.
As I mentioned, Madam Speaker, I have two underground mines in my constituency — Myra Falls, out in Strathcona Park, and Quinsam Coal, both underground mines; one is minerals; one is coal — and also Orca Sand and Gravel, up in the north end of the Island.
As other members have mentioned, this is vitally important for jobs in the community. Mining does create high-paying jobs. They are also unionized jobs, which gives a certain sense of security both to the employers and to the employees. You can have better bargaining. You can have better safety protocols. You can have a better working relationship with this.
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[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
As the member for Boundary-Similkameen said, it's very important for the local economy, even if it is only a couple of hundred jobs in each mine, because these are well-paid jobs. Particularly in a constituency where there is a lack of other production…. I mean, we have in the north Island seen where all the mills have closed.
We have the extraction of our lumber. We have no secondary manufacturing. So people are very eager to have the mines. They're also eager to have the mines so that they can work at home. They don't want to be going off to the Yukon, as many are doing, or off to Alberta. They'd like to work at home, so they appreciate the opportunity to work in the mining sector in their own community.
But I have got to comment, Mr. Speaker, in the very limited time that I have left, that there is always controversy around mining, and there's no question about it. Myra Falls, as I mentioned, is in Strathcona Park. There was a huge political battle when that first opened, about whether a mine could be opened in a provincial park. It still is a very controversial issue for many people — whether or not we should have a mine in a provincial park. Likewise, Quinsam Coal has very close monitoring by environmental groups in the community who are worried about the leaks of arsenic into Long Lake and other potential impacts at that mine that coal mining could have.
Bearing in mind that there is always going to be a controversy, we need to make sure that mining is done in the safest way possible — not just for workers' safety but for the environmental integrity for our communities. We don't want to be damaging watersheds. We don't want to be damaging the environment. We want to be adding to the local economy both in the ability to do the mining, to extract the resource, and then in the value-added.
I don't know if many people are aware of this, but the coal for Quinsam Coal was used for construction of highway barriers. The barriers that people see on Highway 19, up the Island, come from Quinsam Coal. The barriers on the Sea to Sky Highway come from Quinsam Coal. It goes into the cement industry. It's important for our own economy, the high-paying jobs in our economy, and the economy of the province. While we are welcome to ensure that we can have a healthy mining sector, we also have to ensure that we have a healthy environmental sector. There is a very strict environmental approval process that there is….
Mr. Speaker: Thank you, Member.
R. Sultan: It's incredibly heartwarming to see the love-in for the mining industry displayed on benches opposite and have them indicate their support for Geoscience B.C., for Teck Cominco, for speaking against mine permitting delays, supporting the Smithers mining school, decrying the scarcity of permitting staff, extolling the high-paying union jobs and so on. Unfortunately, actions speak louder than words, and in the two minutes which remain I'll sum it all up with two words — Windy Craggy.
Windy Craggy was worked on by a lady geologist named Mary Page Webster. Her father happened to be the president of Geddes Resources. By the time they'd finished their preliminary geological survey, they estimated the value…. In fact, their information as estimated by the Ministry of Energy and Mines in this town was that this deposit had $15 billion worth of copper metal in it — and at today's prices, probably double that value estimate.
In production, this one deposit up there in the panhandle of British Columbia, tucked up against Alaska, would have produced economic tax benefits and royalties for the provincial government about on the order of magnitude of the entire oil and gas industry today. That one mine would have equalled the entire oil and gas industry today. What happened to it?
Well, some folks came along and talked to Minister Harcourt and said: "It'd be just terrible up there in that desolate area" — which, actually, I've travelled by raft. There's nobody up there. "We should petition the United Nations to declare this a heritage site forever free of human interference." And they succeeded.
Mike went down to Washington and had a great black-tie dinner hosted by who else but Al Gore, and Windy Craggy was finished. This province walked away from an immense source of wealth, income and high-paying union jobs — 500 of them directly, probably another 1,500 indirectly — forever, without consultation with the people, without public hearings, without parliamentary debate, without serious consultation with the First Nations — frankly, no consultation, as confirmed in a conversation I had with the chief of the Champagne-Aishihik band. Nobody asked them.
Mr. Speaker: Noting the hour, Member.
R. Sultan: And on it goes. I think I'm getting a signal that I've made my point. So actions speak louder than words.
R. Sultan moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. S. Cadieux moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 this afternoon.
The House adjourned at 12:00 noon.
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