Legislative Session: 3rd Session, 39th Parliament
Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services
This is a DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY of debate in one sitting of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. This transcript is subject to corrections, and will be replaced by the final, official Hansard report. Use of this transcript, other than in the legislative precinct, is not protected by parliamentary privilege, and public attribution of any of the debate as transcribed here could entail legal liability.
REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS
FINANCE AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2011
The committee met at 9:01 a.m.
[R. Howard in the chair.]
R. Howard (Chair): I'm Rob Howard, MLA for Richmond Centre and the Chair of this parliamentary committee. As we wait for the balance of members to file in, I'll do my little preamble here. I'd like to welcome everyone and thank you for taking the time to participate in this process.
Each year in preparation for next year's budget the Minister of Finance releases a budget consultation paper which guides the committee's annual consultation process. The budget consultation paper presents a current fiscal and economic forecast. It also identifies key issues that need to be addressed in the next budget.
We are looking for input on vital questions such as: how can we maintain B.C. as a preferred destination for investment; and with current fiscal challenges, what measures can government take to help families; and what programs and spending are your priorities?
Print copies of the Budget 2012 consultation paper are available on the information table in this room.
The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services is the parliamentary committee which is responsible to conduct public consultations on the forthcoming provincial budget. Our all-party committee is required to report back to the Legislative Assembly no later than November 15 of this year.
This year we will hold 13 public hearings in each region of the province. We've also scheduled two video conference sessions to hear from residents of eight rural communities living in more remote areas of B.C. This is the third time we have tried this consultation method.
Last week we were in Vancouver; yesterday in Fort Nelson; today Smithers and Prince George; then Williams Lake, Kamloops and Courtenay before returning to Victoria. In the weeks that follow we will be meeting in Surrey, Chilliwack, Cranbrook, Kelowna and Richmond.
In addition to public hearings, there are a variety of other ways that British Columbians can share their ideas with us. We accept written submissions by letter or e-mail and also video or audio files. Further information on how you may participate using one of these methods is available on our website, www.leg.bc.ca/budgetconsultations.
Committee members carefully consider all the public input we receive, whether it's an oral presentation made here today, an on-line survey form, a submission in writing or an audio or video clip. Our deadline to receive submissions is Friday, October 14.
At today's meeting each presenter may speak for ten minutes, with up to five additional minutes allotted for members' questions. Time permitting, we may also have an open-mike session near the end of the hearing, with five minutes allocated for each presentation. If you would like to register for an open-mike spot, please check with Arlene at the information table at the back of the room.
Today's meeting is a public meeting which will be recorded and transcribed by Hansard Services. A copy of this transcript, along with the minutes of this meeting, will be printed and will be made available on the committee's website.
In addition to the meeting transcript, a live, audio webcast of this meeting is also produced and available also on the committee's website. This enables interested listeners to hear the proceedings as they occur. An archived copy of this audio broadcast will also be retained on the committee's website.
I'll now ask the other members of the Finance Committee to introduce themselves.
B. Bennett: Bill Bennett, MLA for Kootenay East. Chair already knows that.
B. Routley: Good morning. Bill Routley, MLA for the Cowichan Valley.
P. Pimm: I'm Pat Pimm. I'm the MLA for Peace River North.
M. Elmore: Good morning. I'm Mable Elmore, MLA for Vancouver-Kensington.
J. Thornthwaite: Jane Thornthwaite, MLA for North Vancouver–Seymour.
B. Ralston: Good morning. Bruce Ralston. I represent Surrey-Whalley.
D. Hayer: Good morning. I'm Dave Hayer, MLA for Surrey-Tynehead.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Good morning, Christine. Good morning, Julie. Doug Donaldson, MLA Stikine and Deputy Chair of the committee.
R. Howard (Chair): Thanks, Doug.
Joining us today, I'm pleased to introduce our Clerk, Susan Sourial. Also with us are Arlene Carlson, staffing the registration desk at the back of the room. Hansard Services staff, Michael Baer and Monique Goffinet Miller, will record and prepare the written transcript of this meeting.
With that, I'd like to call our first witness. Now, we have a witness list. I understand that our first witness is not here, but I understand that our third witness is here and willing to step up to the plate.
We have the Smithers Exploration Group — Christine Ogryzlo.
Welcome, Christine. You have a total of 15 minutes. At about ten minutes I'll give a heads-up, and you can use some time for questions. Or you can go all the way through, if you like.
C. Ogryzlo: Thank you very much. Good morning. I want to thank the standing committee for giving Smithers Exploration Group this opportunity to present its ideas on what we're calling "Maintaining the mineral momentum."
Sometimes it's about the simplest answers — like how about making it possible to apply for a permit by filling out a PDF form on line, ensuring that regional geologists get out of the office into the field and training northerners for jobs in their own back yards?
Smithers Exploration Group has been serving and promoting the minerals industry in northwestern British Columbia since 1971. We're dedicated to the advancement of geology exploration and mining in the northwest. Our membership includes prospectors, geologists, miners, drillers, all the way to the many people from supporting service industries and the professions.
The northern half of B.C. covers ten operating mines, two mines under development and nine major mine projects under provincial and federal government review. In 2010 mineral exploration expenditures in that region were approximately $249 million — a quarter of a billion dollars — accounting for 77 percent of provincewide expenditures. Northwest B.C. alone saw a record $172 million spent in 2010.
Let me drill down a little bit and show you the local impact of the minerals industry. In 2010 the government's rural B.C. secretariat analyzed returns to the Bulkley Valley from the mineral industry. Two mines, Huckleberry and Kemess, injected $53 million in payroll and the purchase of goods and services.
Direct and indirect revenue in that year totalled $106 million, for a total economic impact of $160 million in the Bulkley Valley alone. The analyst who did the work said this was a very conservative estimate. All told, the industry and its supply sector employ about 1,000 people in the Bulkley Valley. Think what the industry impact across the entire north must be.
B.C. needs to develop the policies that ensure those jobs stay in the northern part of the province. The reality, though, is that B.C. is already falling behind other jurisdictions in Canada — especially Yukon, Ontario and Quebec — when it comes to attracting investment in the industry. And I note that Mr. Howard talked about that being an important aspect as the committee makes its decisions on how to recommend expenditures.
Without solutions to challenges such as slow permitting and First Nation relations, weak investor confidence in B.C. is going to cut into the investment that brings jobs and taxes to support Premier Clark's focus on sustaining B.C. families.
Smithers Exploration Group would like to recommend three what it thinks are cost-effective actions to make the province an attractive place to invest. We're focused on permitting, geoscience and capacity-building among First Nations.
First, problems in the permitting process. One project, one process — that's an excellent objective, in theory, as it affects companies submitting their notices of work and various permit applications. But in practice, it's not working. The processes are awkward and time-consuming, and there is a shortage of skilled, experienced staff to process the permits.
In talking to Smithers Exploration Group members in preparation for this presentation, most of them said the permitting process in the northwest, based out of the Smithers office of Energy and Mines, is working. But that's thanks to a staff with years of experience who have, in some cases, been able to adapt the new processes to make them work.
The northwest is the exception to the rule around the province. A couple of examples. Bureaucrats who have no familiarity with map-based projects and reports are trying to process reports that rely on maps. In another instance, people are still filling out forms manually instead of having the form in a PDF that can be accessed, filled out and filed on line. After they file this paper, a staff person has to sit down and transcribe the handwritten form to digital format. In this day and age I find that unbelievable.
The cost-effective solution: access the expertise in the Smithers office of the Ministry of Energy and Mines for suggestions and recommendations on solutions to the confusion and delays in the permitting process. They've already told me they'd be quite happy to share their thoughts.
Geoscience tools. Before explorationists go out to break rocks that lead to discoveries that lead to mines, there is a lot of geoscience that supports that work — Geoscience B.C., the regional geologists and the geological survey of B.C., to name a few.
In May the province funded Geoscience B.C. to continue its applied geoscience research in projects like the original QUEST and the current QUEST Northwest, and this week we heard that two regional geologists have been hired, one in Smithers and one in Prince George. That is terrific news. We want to congratulate the province for the allocation of funds into those two positions and for Geoscience B.C.
But I want to add a word of caution. Regional geologists are often called the government's eyes and ears on the ground. They provide technical information to the industry and advice to local communities and First Nations. That technical information is compiled every year into reports on what's happening where. Those reports are used across a wide range of the industry and by the public. It's imperative that all regional geologist positions are funded to continue the fieldwork that goes into those reports.
The regional geologists cannot be the eyes and the ears in the field if they are sitting in an office because there is no money for helicopters and there is no money to get out. They must be funded to visit the projects and mines within their region. Our solution there: ensure funding is attached to the regional geologist positions to allow fieldwork.
My last point is building capacity among First Nations. The minerals industry in B.C will need 10,000 new workers in the coming decade, thanks to industry growth and retirement. That labour market challenge provides an excellent opportunity for the government and the industry to work with First Nations in B.C. to help ensure they benefit from the huge growth in exploration and mining expenditures I described earlier. Capacity-building for employment builds bridges to improved relations with First Nations.
The minerals industry is already the largest employer of First Nations in the country, and it fully intends to continue that trend. With most of the major projects in the traditional territories of First Nations in B.C., it makes perfect sense to hire locally. The various agreements being signed between companies and First Nations, as well as the province's revenue-sharing agreements, always include commitments for capacity-building.
The Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation. I listened to Pat Bell talk this morning on CBC's Morning Show. That ministry is already supporting that capacity-building. For example, it's funding a program currently underway at Northwest Community College School of Exploration and Mining here in Smithers. Smithers Exploration Group is the industry partner in that school.
The school is recognized for its innovative training delivered at the Ganokwa training camp about 20 kilometres out of town, where students learn in a real-life setting. More than 850 students have graduated from the school's programs, 75 of those students are First Nations, and 80 percent of graduates have found work or returned to school.
But the school exists on grants. It has a long-term goal of securing core funding for basic staffing. This will allow better long-range planning and the ability to leverage the core funding with industry funds and additional grants.
The school works closely, as well, with another important provincial training initiative. That's the B.C. Aboriginal Mine Training Association. It's helping build capacity among First Nations to take advantage of the development across the province in mineral resources.
BCAMTA is an excellent vehicle for bringing the players to the table so everyone leverages their training dollars. However, it is at risk. Funding runs out at the end of March, and the province needs to commit its funding to avoid that loss.
A cost-effective solution there: provide core funding to the Northwest Community College School of Exploration and Mining, and provincial support to BCAMTA, both of which can ensure capacity-building among First Nations.
Smithers Exploration Group thanks…
R. Howard (Chair): You're at ten minutes, just roughly.
C. Ogryzlo: …the Finance Committee for this opportunity to present our recommendations. B.C.'s mineral industry provides one of the best opportunities to deliver on the government's job plan by focusing on improvements to permitting processes, funding geoscience and building capacity among First Nations. Thank you very much.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you. We have some questions.
B. Ralston: Thanks very much. I know that my colleague Doug Donaldson raises these issues constantly in our caucus, and we're all the wiser because of his work on these issues.
But I did want to ask you about your first point, on permitting. Is it your view, the view of your group, that the reorganization that just took place in breaking up traditional ministries and moving into a natural resources ministry assisted the process in terms of reducing times to get permits that are required to get projects out the door and people to work, or did it hold it back?
C. Ogryzlo: It didn't improve the situation currently, and that, I think, is my reference to the fact that you've got people through FrontCounter B.C. processing permits who really aren't familiar with some of what they have to do. The mapping issue was an example that was given to me. You've got people processing reports that include maps, and the maps go out the door. They're not good examples of map work for an industry that depends on maps. The legends aren't clear. There are some technical issues.
It has been an interesting experiment in trying to speed the process up, and the objective was good because permits have always been an issue. But what some of the folks in Smithers are saying is that there are better ways of doing it. There are some other…. For instance, there are forestry resources that are used to working with maps, which are not being used. There are ways of bringing those other resources through other ministries to bear that will maybe expedite it.
The permitting issue is a huge issue across the province — as I said, not so much in the northwest, simply because our folks are a little more experienced with what they're doing.
B. Bennett: I think you'll be relieved and pleased to hear that the situation with permitting has been recognized over the spring and summer. It takes government a while to really figure out how they're going to respond to things. But there are some new dollars that have gone into it, and that may be where your geologists' funding came from. I'm not sure about that. I know there has been a lack of geologists here in Smithers and Prince George, so it's great to get those people in place.
The permitting dollars are also on their way. It's going to take a little while to find people. The economy is strong enough in oil and gas, and mining, that a lot of the good people have been hired by the private sector — including a lot of the people from the ministry — and by the mining association, as I know you're aware.
I've been talking to you about mining for quite a few years, and you didn't mention anything about the northwest power line. You used to always mention that.
C. Ogryzlo: I should have thanked you. You know, you never thank what you've got. You go on to the next issue — don't you? The northwest transmission line has been an excellent boost to everything in the north. We understand that work will start — they'll start breaking ground — within months. It's going to make a huge difference.
B. Bennett: So Red Chris will go ahead, and Galore will probably go ahead.
C. Ogryzlo: And what I really say that…. You know, I'm an individual here. I can't speak to Red Chris, and I can't speak to Galore. But I know that it has been the boost that the industry needed — and the confidence that the infrastructure is going to be there to make those developments happen. Now we're waiting and hoping that…. Yeah. Red Chris, KSM….. Seabridge has opened an office here in town to deal with its KSM project, and that was welcome news.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks for the presentation, Christine. You mentioned many positive aspects, and then you mentioned a few things that caused me concern, especially the one I hadn't heard in as much detail around the fieldwork aspect of the regional geologist position. Eyes and ears on the ground — I mean, we know we've lost the district mining inspectors, and it's good to hear we should be getting a regional geologist back in Smithers quite soon. I know Prince George has been vacant for a number of years, so it's good there too.
Can you elaborate a little bit on the fieldwork aspect of the regional geologist position, and how much of it was done in the past and what currently is the state…?
C. Ogryzlo: The fieldwork is vital. Some of you know Paul Wojdak, who was the regional geologist here in Smithers. He spent a great deal of his time on the road, and it's getting more and more challenging to come up with the dollars to do the kind of fieldwork that he has to do, which is go out to every project and compile the report.
One of the gaps that I can specifically report on the last two years…. We used to get a report from the regional geologists called "Communities Benefiting." It was a table that was compiled that showed how much money was spent near each community, how many jobs were created. It was for people who do outreach — a wonderful tool that has died because there just wasn't the kind of funding that was necessary for the regional geologists to do that.
It used to be a terrific tool and probably was back in your day, Bill, and it's gone, and that's been a loss.
So those are the kinds of things that we want to be able to maintain through the kind of — not the position funding but the funding that goes around, and that's often easy to ignore.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you, Christine. We've run you out of time, but we appreciate you taking the time to show up today and present to us.
C. Ogryzlo: Thank you.
R. Howard (Chair): Next up, the Smithers District Chamber of Commerce — George Whitehead.
Welcome, George. You've got 15 minutes. At about ten I'll give you a little heads-up, and you can either leave some time for questions or push all the way through — your choice.
G. Whitehead: Okay. Good morning, and welcome to Smithers, everybody. Sorry for my tardiness this morning. I'm the president of the Smithers District Chamber of Commerce, and as the president, I represent 228 local businesses and individual members.
I'm going to be brutally honest here and say that when I got asked to do this for the chamber, I was told that I'd have a presentation provided to me by the B.C. Chamber of Commerce that would put out our policy positions that we developed at our AGM in Prince George in May, with a bit more of a northern flavour and a few opportunities to insert some local issues into this presentation.
Yesterday afternoon it became abundantly clear that this presentation did not exist and was not coming my way, so in a panic I thought about what to do. I spent the afternoon and last evening talking to chamber members, trying to get a bit of a grasp of what they would like me to present as their chamber president. I tried my best to get a cross-section of different industries, and I did my best to group these ideas up.
It became clear early on that asking people what you want from your government is maybe too big of an open-ended question — a pretty long shopping list that gets given to you — and it quickly became clear that I was a bit of the enemy, almost. If I didn't get this from you guys, I was no longer welcome in Smithers. [Laughter.]
R. Howard (Chair): No truth to that.
G. Whitehead: I started asking what we would like to see from the government but then asking how to pay for these things, and the conversation became a little quieter, but it did get some good ideas.
From the retail people that I talked to, the biggest concern, the constant concern, was the changing HST, reverting to the PST. A couple of people asked: "Do we really have to go to the PST? Could we not go to a different type of provincial tax, whether it's a consumption tax…?" One person suggested just really high income taxes — which I'm sure wouldn't be politically popular — or more of a value-added tax as opposed to the previous PST.
A couple of people asked for another vote, actually — a real vote, not a mail-in vote. When I put that out to a few other people, everyone seemed to think that an actual polling station and a proper vote and a clear "Do you want this tax or that tax?" — with the numbers spelled out — would probably be much more beneficial.
I'm sure everyone is dying to relive the whole thing, but I personally would actually be thrilled to do that again with a polling station type of vote and a bit more of an A or B choice or a black and white choice.
Anyway, moving on to the forestry members of our chamber. The HST and PST was, again, a pretty popular one. The uncertainty is making people a little hesitant to buy equipment. I work at the bank and do commercial credit, and I know it has been…. Every credit I've written in the last month, I guess, that's been the constant question: "How does this affect my PST and HST? Should I get a lease and pay it in installments? Should I get it all paid out now and get it all back?" It's a constant question, and the uncertainty is definitely weighing on people and their spending habits in the forestry industry. And those are big purchases — the equipment for the logging contractors locally.
Beyond that, the other thing that comes up quite often in talking to foresters is that up to this spring, Smithers was home to the last mill going west on Highway 16. This spring Kitwanga Lumber opened up on the other side of Doug's riding, in the east-to-west line here anyway, and that's now the last mill. There used to be mills in Terrace, Kitimat and Rupert, and they're all gone. There used to be a few mills in several of these towns, not just one.
Most people are quick to blame raw log exports, and they'd like to see maybe more incentive to cut them out here as opposed to simply exporting them. They don't want to do away with those exports either, because those do create jobs. But they'd like to see incentives to reopen the mills that were west of here or to upgrade the properties that were home to those mills, or anything to create some demand for the contractors west of Smithers.
The next thing that came up quite often, especially with our mining services people that I talked to, was more opportunity to train people to do the jobs that are out here and are going unfilled. One example — not mining, mind you — is Bandstra Transportation, a local trucking company. It's a fairly big employer in our town. They've told me they've got enough work to buy 20 new trucks and get them working today. Unfortunately, they can't find 20 long-haul drivers.
Many of the loggers, as well, can't find guys to haul their logs. They'd quite happily put another truck on, or two trucks — whatever the case may be — but they can't find the drivers. In logging it's not so bad. They pile up the wood, and they'll truck it over the summer, the spring breakup — whatever. But then they're gambling on the road conditions being suitable to be open and running.
But for Bandstra, for example…. They're providing the goods, hauling them to the camps that are being built for the run-of-the-river project at Forrest Kerr. They're moving the stuff into the Alcan modernization. They're moving a lot of goods, and without those 20 trucks, they're not necessarily getting it all there as efficiently as they could be.
So more training centres in the north for the north would be greatly appreciated. I know that Northwest Community College got a huge grant to build a new campus here in Smithers. It looks great and everything else, but I keep hearing that they didn't get any operating funds to offer the courses that they could provide in this new building. That would be part of what the big ask is — for the training.
As well, many people in the north here have to travel to Vancouver or even further afield to do recertification or retraining or continuing education credits for their profession. But more operating cash for the college or other institutions in the north would cut down on those costs that we incur up here and make life a little cheaper, a little more efficient, a little easier for people to be professionals and in the north.
A great effort has been made for doctors, for example, in the north, with UNBC's northern medical school. But there are other professions that could use that benefit of not having to travel as far, whether it's physiotherapists or…. I know they've mentioned it a couple times. Even accountants have to travel for continuing education and whatnot. A training centre would be able to cover that in the north.
Back to the mining people. The training was a big one. Again, HST, PST — the big unknown there is a big issue as well.
The environmental approval process is also…. These guys are the service industry side of things, not the actual people making the permit requests, but it seems to be a big worry in their minds. The sooner they get the permit in place, the sooner these guys can do those services and provide their expertise to those people.
Back to my beginning. I mentioned I got a big want list from everybody and then asked how to pay for it. The "how to pay for it" part really fell off. I talked to a few accountants towards the end, and I was quite frustrated because I didn't want to sit here and just whine that I want this, that and the other thing and not have any sort of constructive way of paying for it.
A neat idea was presented to me. The Peace River area has a royalty-sharing plan — the Fair Share program, I guess it's called. We have all sorts of mining here. With the pine beetle epidemic in the north here, there's been a huge run on all our lumber inventory. There are all sorts of big projects happening in the north that are going to benefit the whole province.
Most of the benefits, when they get redistributed back to the towns and municipalities, are done on a per-capita basis. I know that in Smithers we're getting crushed by our policing bill, because we're a town of 5,100, and after 5,000 people you have to pay 70 percent of your policing. We might be the smallest town that has to pay for policing. That expense is crushing our municipal budget, because it comes back in a per-capita basis, but it leaves on a royalty-as-a-percentage basis.
Many people feel we're not getting our fair share as well. The Peace River is having huge growth and lots of new business developed out of this program that they've had. Several people, when this idea came up, would really like to see that in the northwest or even the north, in general.
R. Howard (Chair): George, just so you know, you've got about four minutes left. We have a couple of questions if….
G. Whitehead: Okay. The only other thing I would ask, which came up, is the return of the B.C. gaming grants that were cut back a bit. Lots of the arts and culture people would feel that on a per-capita basis, we can't afford to do what we used to do. The Fair Share program could be the answer to that as well. Basically, that was everything that I had from talking to people last night.
R. Howard (Chair): Good stuff. We've got a few questions.
B. Bennett: I used to have your job in Cranbrook. I know what it's like to go talk to members. I think you did a good job in a short period of time. We appreciate the effort.
I'm curious. Smithers is a ways from the coast, but not really that far from the coast. Do you think there'll be much of an impact…? Do you support the liquefied natural gas terminal project that is going forward there in Kitimat? Is that going to make a difference?
G. Whitehead: Speaking for myself, I personally would support it. I used to work in the oil patch in Alberta — it's how I put myself through university — so I have no qualms about LNG or pipelines or any other oil and gas development personally. I don't know what the chamber's position is on it per se, but I do know that for my day job at the bank, a lot of our tradesmen are going to Kitimat to do work, so I think it would benefit Smithers.
We're not super close to Kitimat. Terrace would probably benefit more, but I know individuals from here that are going to work in Kitimat most likely for the Alcan project at the moment, but I'm sure they will end up working on the LNG plant as well.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks for the presentation, George. I think it was a pretty good survey you did on the last afternoon and last night amongst your members.
Interesting — the level of raw log export feedback you got that it's a disincentive to creating jobs in the northwest.
Another point you made on forestry I have a question on. It relates to mining as well — the uncertainty of waiting for 18 months to resolve the HST situation back to the GST-PST. The government is on record as saying it would be 18 months. Are your members, in the feedback you got, saying that it would be more beneficial to get that done in a year and get that uncertainty resolved more quickly?
G. Whitehead: The uncertainty around the HST and the PST…. I think a lot of that is a bit of an accounting issue. They want to make sure that they can get as much back as they can. They're worried about: would any of it be lost per se if they were to do a rebate? A bit of certainty on how it'll look and whatnot would be great — a firm deadline; make some plans around it.
The big part of it for small businesses locally is that you typically need a down payment to buy a piece of equipment. If you're getting credit — most people do purchase half-million-dollar pieces with credit — you need your 12 percent upfront for the taxes. Most financial institutions won't finance the taxes. So it's a fairly healthy sum you need upfront. They want to make sure they get it back.
The PST was something that could be financed, because you didn't get a rebate and whatever. It became part of the capital cost for a lot of people. On that side of it there was a little less required upfront, but of course you didn't get it back as well. So a lot of people are just sort of caught off guard trying to make plans on how to keep their monthly cash flow going and get the pieces. Some people are thinking they should rush out and buy everything they can now and hope they get most of the HST back in the rebates, but they're not really sure.
I know in talking to accountants, they're getting questions constantly about what their clients should do, and they're not really too sure. It takes time for everyone to get educated on the topic again. I do know someone who used to work for the Ministry of Finance in the PST department, and they've gone to Revenue Canada now. I don't think anyone works for the government collecting PST, so I'm sure it is hiring people and everything else. It would be quite the huge burden. So there's nowhere to call yet to ask about that because there's no one in place — right? That uncertainty is just unnerving for a lot of local small businesses.
The raw log export. I'm not an expert on this in any way. I did work in a few mills in my past. I've worked in three mills myself and kind of appreciated it at the time especially. It seems like there are more jobs when there's a mill than when there's just a barge taking the trees away. But I do know a lot of contractors in this area that do that. Especially in Hazelton, where Doug is from, there's a fair bit of people that are logging for raw log exports, but they'd rather be trucking it to a mill and having their neighbours working at that mill.
I don't know what kind of incentives need to be created, but I do know that…. That's one of those questions I did ask, and I didn't get much of a response, to be truthful.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent, George. We've run you out of time. Thank you so much for coming forward. Good presentation.
Next up we have Christoph Dietzfelbinger.
C. Dietzfelbinger: Good morning.
R. Howard (Chair): Good morning. Christoph, you know — 15 minutes. At about ten I'll give you a heads-up, and you can take some questions or you can keep going.
C. Dietzfelbinger: My presentation will be a lot more modest in every respect than those of my predecessors. I'd like to speak about public infrastructure — again, on a far smaller scale than what's being envisioned for the Highway 16 corridor at this point — but public infrastructure that benefits the local economy in a much more direct and permanent way than many large projects do.
I'm going to use two examples. I was hoping to be able to do this presentation on a screen, because the imagery, the images that I've used, would lend it a lot more impact. But all I could do was print you a few handouts.
One example I'm going to use is a new park that was created after the Morice LRMP, one of the last in the province, was finished. It was legislated, I think, in 2004. It was called Burnie-Shea. The Wet'suwet'en name isn't quite clear yet, but it will have a First Nations name as well.
I operate a back-country lodge in that park, which predates the park. It was built before the park was there. It was deemed quite compatible with the park, so it's in there now. I am a mountain guide by trade. I also work as a snow avalanche consultant in the mining and forest industries. So I operate this back-country skiing and summer mountaineering lodge. I've operated in this field for the last 25 years, out of the valley.
The other example I'm going to use is a much shorter public trail right out of town — the Glacier Gulch Trail.
Burnie-Shea is quite a magnificent place. You will receive the presentation on e-mail, so you'll be able to look at the pictures. It's one of the newer parks in B.C., mostly high mountain but also fairly significant ecological values along the river bottom of the Burnie River.
At this point realistic access to this park is by air only. There is no ground access. The nearest road is 18 kilometres and two mountain ridges away. No trails exist into this park at this point. So you have to fly in there, either by floatplane or by helicopter, and that reduces the visitation a great deal.
Cost, of course, plays a role, but also, quite a few people have reservations about flying to do their recreation. They want to drive there and walk there. So there is a bit of a threshold there that I run into when people tell me about why they do or don't use that park.
What the public does in there ranges a great deal. There is very nice mountain hiking. There is ski mountaineering — that's the main activity at this point — and there is also alpine climbing, which is of very high quality but not done very much.
Before and since the park has been in existence I've built around 15 kilometres of trail, and at this point it's nine bridges that have constantly broken under the snow load. Of course, my means are limited, but I've built these bridges and these trails, and I've been replacing and maintaining them at my expense.
The infrastructure, it has to be understood, is public. I do not own it. I do not control access to it. I cannot charge for its use. So anybody who goes there is free to use the infrastructure. That is a lot like, say, a forest road or a mining road, which is usually also public access. It's somewhat different in mining. Mining companies can put restrictions on the use of the roads.
The difference is that any other resource user has a way to be reimbursed or to write off the cost for that infrastructure. If you build a forest road, it's reflected in your stumpage, and in mining there are other ways to recoup that cost.
For tourism operators, that is not so. You have no way to recoup these costs. They just come out of your pocket. We're not talking very large amounts here, but for an individual operator, they are significant.
If you go to the second page, you'll see an image of a bridge that I put in. I was not able to have it engineered, so I overbuilt it. It's a steel truss structure that had to be flown into place, of course, and still needs a bit of work. Costs for two bridges — knowing the tradespeople, having good relations with them and fitting it in with other projects — was $4,700, and I was able to fly them and position them in place for another $1,300. That's a $6,000 out-of-pocket expense to maintain this trail system. Like I said, I have no way to recoup that the way my tenure is set up.
There's a similar situation with another trail. You see a picture on the last page of the Glacier Gulch Trail. That's one of the most heavily used hiking trails in this district. During the summer you see people on it pretty much every day. It provides very fast access from town to glaciated alpine, so a very impressive experience to hike up it. It takes between two and three hours to get to the toe of the glacier. You pass through a number of quite spectacular biogeoclimatic zones. The views are quite incredible, and there's access to good-quality alpine climbing.
The trail was originally a mining trail, built in the '50s and quite well laid out. It goes through really steep terrain. It was quite a feat to build it the way they did. However, there is no maintenance for it. I should modify that. Maintenance becomes available in fits and spurts, depending on who is in charge of the trail. The tenure has changed. It's now Ministry of Tourism, through one of the resource ministries. Sometimes the money becomes available, and there is a spurt of maintenance done, but there's nothing regular. There is no plan to maintain these things. There is no funding. There is no capacity built locally to maintain these things.
Now, a trail like that, if it's not maintained on a regular basis, will deteriorate dramatically, and it will become a lot more expensive and more difficult to restore it. It's steep. There's erosion, there's vegetation, and there's rockfall, people cutting off, switchbacks and all kinds of issues with that. That could be addressed quite easily if there was regular, reliable funding to send two people up there for two days every year. I'm just throwing the number out. So fairly low-cost, low-effort ways would be available locally to maintain this stuff, but we don't have the means to do that.
Back-country tourism, as we know, is growing quite a bit in British Columbia. It's seen as iconic to British Columbia. We pride ourselves in the back-country resources we have, but there is no plan and no reliable funding to maintain the public infrastructure that's there.
I've approached both Parks and B.C. recreation sites and trails. They both tell me they will not fund any maintenance, neither for the public trails around town or in the district nor for those I've built at my expense at Burnie because they do not have the funding. It's just not there. They have no way to put a plan into place that would see this infrastructure maintained on a regular basis.
I think that there would be a very good return if there was reliable core funding that allowed the agencies responsible to maintain this infrastructure in a reasonable fashion. The back-country tourism industry relies on this infrastructure. It is extremely difficult to operate without it.
R. Howard (Chair): You're at about ten minutes, Christoph. Just so you know.
C. Dietzfelbinger: Yeah, I'm pretty much at the end.
If it's desired to facilitate further growth of this industry, then there need to be plans and reliable funding in place to maintain the infrastructure.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. A few questions, but just before…. So the reason you don't get to write it off is because it becomes a public asset once it's placed. Is that…?
C. Dietzfelbinger: Yes, that's correct.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks for the presentation, Christoph. Just to comment on the last part of your presentation, the Glacier Gulch Trail. It's a facility that helps support businesses in town, and so one way that the maintenance work that you've been discussing could apply across the province is a youth employment program to get those kinds of trails up to snuff. That's something that official opposition leader Adrian Dix has suggested — not only employing youth but creating employment for retail outlets in town because of that infrastructure.
On the first part of the presentation, if one were concerned about job creation, you'd think that that kind of public infrastructure that you've supported privately would be encouraged. Have you any suggestions about how those kinds of costs that you explained could be recouped for yourself or for others? With what kind of mechanism would you see that happening? Would it be on your lease fees? Would it be a tax deduction? How?
C. Dietzfelbinger: It would be the easiest, I think, to combine it with lease fees and just to make it analogous to other resource users. If you build a forest road, that's reflected in your stumpage, for example. I pay $1,200 every year to be able to operate in this park. I cannot see any concrete benefit for those fees, and reflecting maintenance cost in that might be an option.
I would also like to mention that the local capacity needs to be built in this field. If this work is only sporadically available, you will not have people who are good at it. It's not totally unskilled work to do this. You need to understand a few things about layout, about geology, about safety and so on. Unless people know that they can use those skills, they will not build them.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you.
J. Thornthwaite: Thank you for your presentation. I'm not too sure exactly what costs you're projecting. You did say in this other one $30,000, but what specifically are you talking about by a good return? If we were to regularly maintain these trails, then what would be the return, besides just getting more people to buy goods and services in the town?
C. Dietzfelbinger: That would be the return. The viability of the industry would be enhanced. You can operate more and better tourism services if you have reliable infrastructure. It's like you were talking about maintaining highways so that goods can be moved. It's entirely analogous to that.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you, Christoph. We're right on time, so we will thank you for the presentation.
Next up we have the Kitimat Child Development Centre and the Bulkley Valley Child Development Centre Society — Margaret Warcup and Kerri Bassett-Kluss.
M. Warcup: Good morning.
K. Bassett-Kluss: Good morning.
R. Howard (Chair): Good morning. I'm sure you've heard, but you've got 15 minutes, and at about ten I'll give you a heads-up, and you can either take some questions or just keep going.
M. Warcup: Okay. Great. Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here on behalf of our non-profit boards of directors and the children, the youth and the families that we provide services for with the Kitimat, Bulkley Valley and Terrace Child Development Centres.
We provide services, respectively: Bulkley Valley, over 400 children and families; Kitimat, over 400 families; and Terrace, over 630 families and children that we affect with our services. In our presentation today we would like to support our provincial association, the B.C. Association of Child Development and Intervention, that will be making a submission to your committee with a lot more detail in it than ours. Ours is more conceptual, and we fully support what they're putting forward to you in terms of the policies and the funding that need to go forward for children and youth with special needs.
We also are recommending that the government really look at policies and funding that will integrate the three services: Health, Education and the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Our services are primarily funded by the Ministry of Children and Family Development, but we work so closely with Health and Education. We put forth that we're interconnected and interdependent and thus need to have our core services adequately protected in the budget process.
We also put forward that our services are core to the health of our communities. With a healthy community, our services provide the foundation for economic development to occur. So we are closely linked to economic development, as well, by having that safety network that should be in a community for a healthy community, so people can be there to work.
We are recommending a number of things. As non-profit agencies, we are committed to being community-driven agencies who work with our communities to have a safe and healthy place for all children and all families.
Our focus is children and youth with special needs, and we fully support the child and youth with special needs framework, which the Ministries of Health, Education and MCFD at the leadership has implemented in the province. We would like to see that policy continue to be implemented and continue to be funded.
We recommend that the services identified under the child and youth with special needs framework become core services and that their funding be maintained or increased so that all children and youth with special needs receive the essential services they need.
We know that for our early intervention services, which are the therapies, we have not had increased funding in a number of years. In fact, our funding has declined by about 37 percent in the last five years. This is a compounding reduction that is really affecting the ability to provide therapy services to children and youth with special needs. So we support BCACDI's very detailed submission, which they'll give you, in terms of doubling the resources for therapy services within the province.
We also support, for early childhood development, that a comprehensive strategy be developed so that interprogram collaboration can occur between Education, Health and MCFD. There have been many changes in the last few years — with the start of StrongStarts, with Education doing all-day kindergarten, with the Ministry of Health changing how they deal with healthy babies. We're putting forward that if the policy and funding go towards integrating those services, there are efficiencies and effectivenesses that we can obtain. But we are a core part of that collaboration and integration that need to occur.
Additionally, we support BCACDI's recommendation for increased provision of mental health services. Youth and infant mental health services and family mental health services are extremely high in need throughout the province, but we'll speak for the north. For the north, we're desperate in terms of having services in this area.
We also support the need for infrastructure funding. Many of us, as non-profits, are struggling to maintain the costs of our administration and building costs, so infrastructure funding that can focus on more efficient energy use and accessibility would be greatly appreciated.
Lastly in this section, we recommend that the education of physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists in all of our universities be augmented or increased. But in particular — a little bit of a bias coming from me, because I'm from the north and used to be with the University of Northern British Columbia as both a student and on the board to get the university going — I really urge you to get the training occurring in the north.
If we train our practitioners in the north, then we'll be able to keep them. They'll stay. They know our services and our people. I urge all universities, but I have a bias towards the University of Northern B.C. being supported for that program.
K. Bassett-Kluss: School-age therapy. We recommend that the government immediately address the funding and policy direction for the provision of school-age therapies. The current underfunding inequities of these needed services are well documented. Therapy support external to education services integrated into the education school system should address the needs of children and youth within the school as an efficient way of using resources and addressing service gaps.
We recommend resources be focused for youth transitioning to the service of CLBC, Community Living B.C. Many youth and their families are not accessing services because of wait-lists and access to psychology services. We need increased funding.
M. Warcup: Under accreditation, accountability and support of us as non-profit contractors, we believe that as non-profit agencies, we provide efficient and effective services and that we are accountable to our contracts and to the people that we serve, because there is accreditation in the province under MCFD by either CARF or COA. We are recommending that all contractors and your MCFD offices strive or move forward to having accreditations so that services are meeting all business and practice standards that are international standards.
There are ways, under CARF and COA, that you can look at efficiencies, effectiveness and satisfaction of all your services every year as part of the process. We are recommending that continue and be expanded. Additionally, we put forward that there could be efficiencies obtained by the government when it contracts with us if it would allow integrated contracts.
Stop these one-off contracts — one for Building Blocks, one for infant development and one for early intervention — when we're all serving the same families and the same children and there is a continuity of services between those programs. Integrate those contracts into one contract that is more manageable and can have some administrative efficiencies attached to it by doing it that way.
We thank you for the input, or the opportunity to give you input — I didn't get the input; you got it — into how we feel the financing and policy directions that can impact children and youth with special needs and their families in this province could go forward with your deliberations.
In thanking you, we want to acknowledge the importance of economic development in our region. We're certainly living and breathing it every day in our communities, and we see the effect it has on our families. Without our support services, we don't have healthy families and communities, and that affects the ability to have these people go to work.
We are constantly…. I come from Kitimat, as you know. There's been a huge increase lately in Kitimat of people coming in looking at economic development. They phone us and ask about the health of our hospital, our social services, the services we provide at the CDC and what's happening in education, because these people that are investing are also looking at the quality of life for their employees and the ability to attract people to work.
We are urging, as you do your budget decisions, that you balance that job creation with investment into our services so that we can maintain them.
K. Bassett-Kluss: I just wanted to follow up. Here in the Bulkley Valley area we've had an increase of 60 percent in children under zero to three who have been referred to our services for the infant development program in the last three years. So we have a high needs referral right now for zero to three, so children who are needing extra support or are at risk for developmental delay, coming into the Bulkley Valley area.
That's 22 rural communities where we've seen an increase, yet we have not received any funding increases as well.
M. Warcup: Did I meet my ten minutes? I talk pretty fast, don't I?
R. Howard (Chair): You're pretty close. We do have some questions for you.
M. Elmore: Thank you very much for your presentation and also for the important work you do in supporting communities and families and children. Also, we've heard that reflected in terms of the importance of infrastructure in the community, in terms of supporting families and how that supports economic development and growth.
I'd like to hear about the experience, particularly, with developmentally disabled children and their experience with group homes and funding from CLBC. Are there stories here on that?
M. Warcup: I think you'd need to have a serious look at what's happening with CLBC and the transition of youth to services with CLBC. There are huge gaps.
There are parents who are coping on their own and not accessing services because we have the lack of services for the youths to get the right diagnostic criteria met. It should be looked at, to start off with, as well, in terms that we should be basing it on the needs of the child and the family, not an arbitrary IQ.
In terms of homes, I think you need a mix of homes in this province, and the move to home share — I'm not speaking for my board — scares me. It does not have enough accountability and protection measures in there to protect all people who would be home-sharing.
K. Bassett-Kluss: Just to follow up. In order to do a healthy transition from youth to adulthood, we need services to transition them to, and we are seeing huge gaps in our area to be able to transition children and youth, particularly into the adult years.
There's a cross-ministry document that looks at transitioning protocol. We've been trying to fine-tune that for our area, and it's becoming very challenging to make that happen.
M. Elmore: If you could also comment on your…. I'm also alarmed to hear about the increase in the number of referrals to your infant development program. How have you been able to cope? If you could just talk about that.
K. Bassett-Kluss: We've done a lot of case management group work. Sometimes it's beneficial but doesn't meet everybody's needs. Sometimes families would like to meet one to one with a therapist or consultant.
What we've tried to do is offset that and do more group work in all the communities. Group work has been beneficial, but we are struggling with high caseloads right now.
Then we have other issues happening within our programs, as well, where there is staff turnover, so we need to look at that.
M. Warcup: It also links to the recommendation of integrated contracts between Health and MCFD — Healthy Babies, infant development, Building Blocks, early intervention therapies. By being integrated we can cope a bit better with the high caseloads, but we're again seeing a lot of young parents and young children.
K. Bassett-Kluss: We've an impact from public health, reduction in the FTEs through Northern Health right now, which has impacted our caseload in the infant development program, where referrals are getting done right away because nurses are unable to provide as many services as they had done in the past. So we need to be more responsive earlier on to help out.
J. Thornthwaite: Thank you very much for your presentation. I just have a question that follows up on what MLA Elmore was saying with regards to your recommendations on accreditation. It is my understanding that the province, through MCFD and Community Living, contracts out to services providers — non-profits, etc. — who supply the work and make up their own budget decision as to how that money is going to be spent on behalf of the folks that they serve.
So when the ministry is trying to reconcile accountability, how do you suggest we reconcile the autonomy that the service providers have and the accountability that the ministry might want to ensure, perhaps better, in the minds of yourselves? But how would you suggest that, when you've got service providers that are saying: "We want to manage our own budgets"? Could you comment on that?
M. Warcup: One of the things about accreditation is that the business practice standards in accreditation have a lot of financial, legal and business practice standards — which are international standards — on how budgets, etc., are managed, reported out, percentage of direct staff time that's being funded versus administrative expenditures.
The process in accreditation is very accountable. So take that accreditation report, of which peers have come in and looked at your agency on how you're doing business, and use that as your accountability measure. That's why we're recommending that all agencies become accredited.
Right now the province funds those over $800,000 of funding. If I had my wishes, it would be those under $800,000 that have to go through the process so that their accountability, their business practice steps, their processes are in place for all of those agencies.
I'm not sure I answered the question, but that's where my head….
J. Thornthwaite: You said that the cutoff is $800,000?
K. Bassett-Kluss: It's $500,000.
M. Warcup: I thought they upped it to $800,000. It's $500,000 or $800,000. I'm not 100 percent sure anymore.
J. Thornthwaite: Okay. So you're saying that the accreditation standards should be consistent.
M. Warcup: Yes, for all.
K. Bassett-Kluss: In order for us to be accredited, too, we need to have contracts that will support us to deliver our services at the level. Right now we have that standard that we have to achieve through our contracts with MCFD to be able to have the adequate funding to deliver the services to our communities. So there is that link between what the accreditation standards are saying and how much funding we have to deliver the services too.
M. Warcup: In accreditation every program so funded must have an efficiency, effectiveness and access and a satisfaction measure, outcome measure, done annually and reported out. So that's where you can get, for every program, those accountability measures.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you. We've run you right over time. I appreciate you both very much coming forward.
Next up we have the Kitimat Health Advocacy Group.
R. Goffinet: Thank you very much, Chair.
R. Howard (Chair): Welcome, Rob. As you probably know, you have 15 minutes. At about ten I'll give you a heads-up, and you can stop and take some questions if you like, or you can go right through.
R. Goffinet: Please really flash, because I'm an ex-teacher, and I will use all the time talking.
R. Howard (Chair): All right. Welcome.
R. Goffinet: It's really great to see you again. Many of you I recognize. I was up in Whistler last year, and I was in the room, but I didn't speak to you. So it's great to be here.
I am a director of the Kitimat Health Advocacy Group. I'm also a municipal councillor in Kitimat, because there's a connection in our town between the two.
We want to just look at some issues regarding this budget you're looking at and health care in our community and other communities in the north. We are a community-based group of about a dozen organizations within our town and the general public interested in health care in our community. I recognize that my colleague Marg, who just spoke, is a member of our group.
KHAG — this is another thing — is funded and encouraged by the local municipal government. They fund us in order to augment Northern Health in our community.
We have four issues of concern that we would like to raise.
(1) Multilevel-care construction. Multilevel care in Kitimat was not even really thought of a decade or two ago. Kitimat used to be a young, working-class, family-orientated community. The demographics of Kitimat are changing so radically for various reasons. One, the huge industrial workforce was all unionized. Therefore they have excellent pensions. For the first time in our history our people are choosing to remain in the north in retirement. Two, outsiders are looking upon the opportunity of the north coast environment to come and actually put up property in Kitimat, so our elder population is increasing surprisingly rapidly.
Now, it goes beyond that, though. We've got one of the most modern, up-to-date hospitals in British Columbia, but upwards of 25 to 30 percent of our acute care beds are consistently now filled with multilevel-care patients. This is crucial in our hospital, because our hospital is anchored by two surgeons. For a small hospital, they are our ace up our sleeve — a general surgeon and a regional orthopedic surgeon.
Our concern is about multilevel-care construction in your budget for the north. Our whole hospital is put at risk because the surgeon and emergency often have to delay the effective use of our surgeons and our two operating rooms because acute care beds are being filled by multilevel-care patients.
This is new for Kitimat, but we can see it's the leading edge. What we're advocating is: please, we need action now, when some support for Northern Health for multilevel-care construction would do the most good.
We have confirmed, as our group and the district of Kitimat…. With Northern Health we have offered long-term joint study and action with financial support to increase multilevel-care bed construction in Kitimat. What we need of the provincial government is your commitment to do the same on a regional basis, and we will benefit.
(2) Home care services. Because my colleague Marg has just focused upon that, I won't belabour this, but home care services in Kitimat are crucial to keep our seniors out of multilevel care. So far it's worked, but now we're finding that our baby boomer generation is retiring, and home care is now in a succession crisis.
What we are doing is we are putting funds forward, through our group and the district of Kitimat, to augment recruitment and retention of new home care providers. What we're doing is engaging, with money and support, succession planning. We would encourage in the budget that succession planning is crucial for health care, especially in the north.
(3) The recruitment and retention of trained personnel. This is the historical purpose of our organization. Eight years ago, with centralization of health care in Prince George in Northern Health, the district of Kitimat had funded us.
We've got over $65,000 worth of local funding to do retention and recruitment work. We augment. We work with Northern Health to top up to help bring in trained personnel. At the moment we are actively working closely with Northern Health to get one more added family physician to our town. We're sending out our ultrasound technician to train in Vancouver on vascular ultrasound techniques, and we're sending registered nurses out for an advanced pediatric life-support course in Vancouver.
How we do it is that NHA pays the registration. We pay the travel and the accommodation. Why? We put our money where our mouth is because we want highest-trained, happy and satisfied people working in our hospital. What do we need from you when you're deliberating on the budget? The provincial budget must help augment and be aware that retention and just recruitment of personnel in the north is an added difficulty.
(4) Economic development. Unintended effects on health care. Kitimat is absolutely happy and supportive of the RTA modernization — multibillion. KM LNG — multibillion dollars. We're in support of that. There's BC LNG, and there are other LNG proponents coming to our town. With that is one camp alone with 1,500 spaces for outside and regional workers.
What this is doing is bringing in individual workers and many families. It's wonderful, but it has an unintended effect on our local Kitimat General Hospital. Hundreds of people are now forced to use our emergency room as their family physician.
Therefore, in your budgets we would ask you to understand that hospitals like the Kitimat General need added funding for — we're advocating, and we're trying to recruit and augment — two to three times as many emergency room personnel as was historically the case in Kitimat. Why? Hundreds of people, because of the economic blessing, are being brought in, and they do not have a family physician, so our hospital is absorbing the hit.
In your deliberations, when you look at health, please understand that…. I think we put it here. The coming years will see tremendous economic activity in the northwest, which will be a direct benefit to the budget health of all of British Columbia. But those unintended health and social impacts upon Kitimat are real.
When we go out and ask for no budget cuts, keeping the services at the level they are, please understand that we are putting our municipal budget, municipal money, on the table, and we are augmenting, supporting, adding to every one of these concerns. What we need from you as provincial politicians is to understand that your major budget is crucial.
In ending up…. I don't know how many minutes I've got.
R. Howard (Chair): You've got five left.
R. Goffinet: Oh, that's good. I won't take it.
I totally concur with Marg. As these people come into our community, one of the first things they look at is not only schools but hospitals, social services and what type of service we can give to them and their families. If we keep the services of our health care system in the northwest healthy, the economic development that's coming here will be…. I think we put it here. We wish this future development to proceed safely, expeditiously and with a minimum of stress and peril to all the people and their families who are moving to Kitimat as a choice.
Thank you. That's generally it, and there's more detail in our submission.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent, Rob. I thank you very much for taking the time to present to us today. I'm sure we have one question from MLA Donaldson.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thank you for the presentation, Rob. I want to pick up on one theme that you mentioned. We've heard it in other parts of the province as well, with areas that are expecting to see major economic development, and as you've pointed out, Kitimat is one of them — the need for preparation of regional economic development planning that includes the social service side.
Some have suggested that the provincial government needs to play a bigger role in that. Is that something that you would think that your group, the health advisory group, would see as beneficial?
R. Goffinet: Absolutely. As a council, what we're finding is that not only health care is impacted, but now our renegotiation of the RCMP contract — right? In our budget problems, you might have heard that we lost our second-largest industry in the last five years, Eurocan Pulp and Paper.
We tried to retrench and cover a $3.5 million budget hole, and we cut down on a couple of RCMP, as an example. Now with the influx of people into our community, we're clearly seeing, because we're consulting with the RCMP, that the unintended effect is that possibly we now have to augment our RCMP detachment, as well as health and social services.
You know, there's one thing that, in my haste, I skipped over. That was in point 1, about multilevel care. It's totally unprecedented, new, but it's a good thing. People wish to stay in our community and retire. But you know, there's another thing too. We're finding that when there is not enough space in our multilevel-care facility — it's called Mountain View Lodge — couples are being separated, one in acute care and one in multilevel care. When the pressure builds up that the spouse cannot take it anymore in acute care, the inclination is to try to move them to another care facility.
You've got understand that in the north, the next nearest multilevel-care facility is so far away that you separate the spouses, and you just rip them apart at that crucial moment when they have decided to be together. On multilevel-care construction, that's the problem we see in Kitimat.
Yes, it's the next home care facility, but the closest one is either Terrace, 60 kilometres, or this town, 250 kilometres away. What you do is that you irrevocably destroy that family at the last moment. That's what we would like to avoid in our town.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you, Rob. We've run you right out of time. We appreciate you coming out today and presenting to us.
R. Goffinet: I appreciate it, and good luck in your work.
R. Howard (Chair): Next up we have Dze L K'ant Friendship Centre — Mel Bazil. Welcome, Mel. As you know, you've got 15 minutes. At about ten, I'll give you a heads-up. You can either stop and take some questions if you like, or you can keep going. Your choice.
M. Bazil: Thank you, Rob. First of all, welcome to Gitdumden territory.
My name is Mel Bazil. I work with the Dze L K'ant Friendship Centre Society. I've worked here for ten years. I learned how to walk in a friendship centre when I was a baby. My mother has worked in a friendship centre my whole life, offering healing and promoting indigenous knowledge, holistic knowledge and good humour, movement and community tools to families, single moms, single dads — parents who have suffered at residential school before AHF existed. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation doled out $350 million about 1998.
Our Dze L K'ant Friendship Centre Society has received funds from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation since its inception. We were one of the last friendship centres, also, who had delivered programming based on those funds, serving intergenerational survivors of residential schools.
What these programs did not deliver is a way to challenge the disenfranchisement of our peoples from each other and from their lands. Our people, for thousands of years, have enjoyed intimate relationships with the natural world around them, based on natural laws. With those natural laws our people have governed how they raise families, how they take care of their elders, how to gather and cultivate food with very, very little impact. This world has enjoyed the conditions that our people left them in, for only around a hundred years here and a little more to the east.
As a Gitxsan and as a Wet'suwet'en person, I don't totally fit into a friendship centre mould solely. There's a lot more to who I am. But I support the friendship centre I work in because it's a space that our people call our own.
Friendship centres throughout Canada and what is now called B.C. here have been serving people since the 1970s. They've provided a great deal of advancement and healing but also a way to fit into mainstream society that occurs here in Smithers and other towns throughout B.C. There are 24 friendship centres throughout B.C., and in these spaces our people go through counselling. They sit and meet and enjoy a cup of coffee, and they enjoy each other's company. There are events, fundraising. There's a space for fundraising for local families.
These 24 friendship centres are under an umbrella called the British Columbia Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres. The BCAAFC is also very interested in seeing investments into the friendship centre movement. Many, many circles throughout history in these last two decades have enjoyed increases in spending in their structures: hospitals, policing, schools. They've also not enjoyed cuts and disruptions to services.
Friendship centres have been quite consistent with dealing with the cuts as well as not having any increases since 1992. The friendship centre movement is seeking to ask the Finance Committee for a $3.1 million investment into the BCAAFC's 24 centres in B.C. That would mean $129,166, approximately, per each friendship centre, which is quite minimal. But what $129,000 a year could perform for our friendship centre locally would be to ensure that we could continue services, as we are starting to see a greater deal of struggle each year. We're rampantly seeking extra funds through proposal writing and fundraising and also seeking interest in our community to continue on with this work. It's very important work.
Each year we go through the proposal stages of our development. That takes about a month or two out of each year — a month or two that we could be spending on actually delivering services. We could increase a program director in each friendship centre — their spending — so that they could have more hours to produce more proposals on our behalf — those of us who are actually on the front line doing the work.
Other priorities that we are looking at are homelessness issues and violence against women, domestic violence against women and men, and also the issues of increasing poverty. When we speak of the investments into each friendship centre, $129,000 per friendship centre could greatly support children in terms of seeing the potential of grass-roots initiatives being expanded upon.
Many of our friendship centres operate with grass-roots knowledge and indigenous knowledge. Traditionally, indigenous knowledge did not take a lot of cash, did not take money. Today we are expected to operate in a nine-to-five…. We are expected to see our children in school and our elders taken care of amidst all of that.
In history our people had a close relationship with each other. They had a lot of time to spend with their elders and their children. Today the disruption in our society is that we are separated as generations throughout each day. We have minimal time to be a family. Friendship centres and other organizations throughout our British Columbian territories, throughout all these nations that are impacted by residential school and deterritorialization, have adjusted to that major impact of seeing our families being disrupted throughout each day.
We are operating with healing models and grass-roots models to challenge the impacts of residential school and deterritorialization through the means of western models. We would like to see an increase in how our grass-roots models could grow. I guess an example could be a bentwood box stories project. We could build bentwood boxes with families, show them how it's done.
A bentwood box is a traditional form of storing dried foods. It is a traditional form of cooking our foods, and we could even cache our foods in the ground for a number of months. This is a very innovative tool. It's lasted for thousands of years. Our people have made them for each of their families in the hundreds. Today our people expect to have pots and pans, a stove and a schedule.
Our traditional knowledge can challenge climate change. It can challenge potential impacts to the environment and could also teach western society about reducing consumption.
What I'll conclude with is our interests to build on grass-roots ideas and initiatives with grass-roots tools, to challenge homelessness, challenge violence against women, domestic violence and increasing poverty with an investment to each of the 24 present friendship centres throughout B.C.
Thank you for the time. I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay here.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you. We have a few questions.
J. Thornthwaite: Thank you very much for your presentation. My question is: are the aboriginal centres, and specifically the one that you're talking about here in your area, designed for on-reserve or off-reserve people? And do you open up your doors to non-aboriginal people, as well, to teach non-aboriginal people your indigenous knowledge?
M. Bazil: Thank you. That's a good question. We operate for all peoples. We are in an urban centre; however, we do not focus our attentions only on on reserve or off reserve. We will see both. It's their choice. If they choose to seek out our services, we will provide our best services to on-reserve, off-reserve clients.
We also have clients who are non-aboriginal. What we do is provide counselling to all peoples based on indigenous values. That is our stance with that question.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks for the presentation, Mel, and for the welcome to Gitdumden territory.
I wanted to note that this committee, by consensus, reached a recommendation last year regarding the increased funding to aboriginal friendship centres across B.C. Unfortunately, that was not implemented by the government, but we did recommend it last year as well.
You talk about the foundation and culture. I think the linkage there, which I understand, is that it leads to greater success, whether it's economically or socially, by having that foundation and culture.
Can you talk a bit about the increase in demand for the services that you've seen in the friendship centre here in Smithers over the last few years?
M. Bazil: It's a really good question. We have witnessed a great deal of movement when the Aboriginal Healing Foundation provided funds to different centres throughout Canada to assist in the healing for survivors of residential schools.
Throughout those ten years that we operated with the residential school legacy project, we had seen an increase in our services because we were looking at intergenerational impacts to our culture, to our spirituality, to our social structures. That healing that is occurring is still ongoing, regardless of our Canadian government no longer sponsoring the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
Much of what we began, work with these families in terms of intergenerational impacts from residential school experiences…. Our people are still motivated to seek out that healing path.
There has been an increase in needs and for services. I read an article from Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond that the population of children in care throughout Canada has exceeded the population of children that attended residential school throughout all of residential school history. This year alone, children in care have increased to that population. That's very startling.
We are also seeing a greater need for collaborative services throughout our area, and our friendship centre is equipped and ready to work collaboratively with the community around us based on referrals, integrated case managements.
I work in a program called Circle of Supports. Our program is ready to meet ICMs halfway. It doesn't really matter what we call our group when we're a circle, but we're ready to serve clients and power with them.
D. Hayer: Thank you very much, Mel. We also had a presentation from the Vancouver friendship centre and some other ones. The funding — is it all from the federal and provincial governments? Or are there also some donations — the community gives some funding too? Or do you do fundraising for your friendship centres as well?
M. Bazil: Because we are a registered charity, we can also issue our charitable number for fundraising purposes. It doesn't produce a great, great deal of funds. Much of our funds that we operate with to provide services to clients come from provincial and federal funds. When the Aboriginal Healing Foundation was still in existence, we operated with a greater deal of federal funds. Since they have disbanded, and they no longer provide services through the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, our services now rely mostly on provincial funds — through Ministry of Children and Family Development.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you, Mel. We've run right out of time. Appreciate you coming forward today.
Next up we have Anspayaxw Development Ltd. — Maxwell Stevens and Lorne Wilson.
Welcome, gentlemen. As you probably know, because you've been sitting there for a while, you've got 15 minutes. At about ten minutes I'll give you a heads-up, and you can take some questions, or you can keep going.
M. Stevens: My name is Maxwell Stevens. I am the manager for Anspayaxw Development Ltd. It's a silviculture company, and we operate out of the community of Kispiox. There are about 700 or 800 people that live in Kispiox. We as a silviculture company have been finding it a little difficult to operate in the Kispiox district over the last two years. Historically, we were getting anywhere from 400 to 500 hectares of brushing or spacing. The last few years we've been just struggling. There are numerous reasons why. It's like Kispiox district has been a forgotten area in silviculture.
A few years ago they had northwest FREP, FIA funding, northwest strategy and Dothistroma program. All they have now is the Dothistroma program. As you know, there are no mills around in our community, in the area. There used to be two mills operating. The only players in our district are BCTS and…. We've managed to get our share of contracts through the bidding process, but it's getting pretty difficult to….
We want our workers to make a decent living. With the high competition for work, it seems like our workers are just getting minimum wage. You know, once you get them trained, they're gone. "Well, I could make more money in mining or whatever." I think that we should be looking at our area for some spacing. There's a lot of areas that could be spaced, and I think my friend here could attest to that.
L. Wilson: With industry coming into town and leaving, and then leaving the obligations to government, it kind of gets forgotten. It never gets treated for years. For me, it's just not enough investment. You think back 20 years or so, the reserve of Kispiox. I'd say about 200 to 250 loads of logs went by the bridge on a daily basis. Right now you're lucky to get one load or two loads — right? And that's going to export. It's not staying here.
Carnaby has come and gone. Kispiox Forest Products has come and gone. They've left these obligations. They've left them to who — right? It ends up being the government.
For us as contractors or stewards of the land, we take pride in putting a tree in the ground, coming back in five years and actually seeing that: "Wow, those trees have grown." Something that was destroyed, we're proud of rebuilding.
I tell you, my crew puts everything into what they do. They love it, but it's just not enough. That's why we're here. We've been knocking on doors. No one is going to do it for us. We've taken it upon ourselves to do it. We've gone to people, asked questions.
I'm so happy to have the opportunity to be speaking and let you know what's real in the Hazeltons. It's real.
I don't know. I know that the government likes to go for a bang for their buck — you know, the best thing for their dollar. So do we. We as contractors are small. We're not big. If you look on B.C. Bid right now, there are 2.4 million trees right from here to Houston. Do you think we have a chance? We don't. All we can do is look at it and say: "How can we get a chance? How can we get an opportunity to show what we can do?" There are too many regs and rules.
When you have to put 80,000 trees in a day? Well, we don't have a hundred people, or we don't have the best of Canada helping us do that — right? Some contractors do.
It's just been going down and down. For us, it just feels like we're forgotten. There's nobody speaking for us. There's nobody lobbying for dollars. In between Terrace and Smithers, we're nothing — right? It just seems like we're nothing.
To tell you the truth, if I had my crew here, to let them speak and say how they feel about what they do…. They love it. They take pride. They enjoy. Everybody enjoys a paycheque, especially when it's good. When it's no good, we won't be here. If we were all minimum wage, we won't be here.
I think that we need more investment. We can't be forgotten forever. I know that the bugwood is there, and Terrace is kind of a little bit forgotten. The port in Rupert is starting to move. Those are all awesome things, and mining is awesome. But how do we get into it?
I mean, you've got to train. You've got to keep getting that workforce up to par, you know. We're a work-certified company. I mean, we've got certification. For what? Just to look at and say: "Yeah, we're certified"?
If we all were able to drive a vehicle without a licence, and some had licences, there's a big difference. We should be all certified if we're going to be…. If you want to be a doctor, you've got to have the papers. It just doesn't make sense that some people can be certified and some just have the WCB number.
We've worked hard over the past 15 or 20 years to build this company, and we're not going to go away. We're just going to keep working hard, keep plugging away and trying to make the best of what we have. At the end of the day — you know what? — we're still going to be here. We're still going to be on the land. We're still going to be looking after it, after everybody has come and gone.
R. Howard (Chair): Lorne, you're at about ten minutes, just so you know.
L. Wilson: Sure, I'm pretty good. I don't know if my buddy Max has anything to add.
M. Stevens: Yeah, we want to be a part of the solution in fixing the land. That's what we came here for. Like Lorne says, there should be more investment in our area.
It's pretty hard to compete, with BCTS there. They have one contract, and that's supposed to sustain everybody in our area. One contract a year, and they have five people doing that work. Is that bang for your buck? I don't know.
R. Howard (Chair): Okay, we have some questions.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks for coming in today, you guys. It was a really great presentation.
We hear a message from government about local job opportunities for local people, yet the situation you've described…. It seems like government has structured the contract process directly against that. Can you make some suggestions about how that could be altered — maybe smaller contracts or something that would help local people actually get local jobs?
L. Wilson: If I could say something. I think having them a little smaller or even if there was a percentage, a 20 percent leeway, for First Nations or smaller companies to bid on them…. That may help. We don't know. Certainly, we've asked for smaller contracts. Instead of having $2.4 million, put out a hundred thousand, $300,000, half a million apiece.
The big players. To tell you the truth, when they bid on our stuff in Hazelton…. It could be a month's work for us. For them, four days, because they can put $80,000 in — right? You're getting your bang for your buck, but what is really staying there? Nothing.
Anything — 20 percent rule or direct awards with the 20 percent rule…. Most of the times we put in a bid, it's too high, and the ministry says: "Sorry, you're too high."
We're in a catch. What do you do? We walk away and say: "We give up. Let those guys take it." Certainly, we're going to say: "Well, jeez, we want it at this price. This is our bottom line." But the ministry has its bottom line, and it's just not cutting it right now. It's just not. I don't know what it is or why.
It's the younger generation. It's got to learn to work harder. The older generation…. I tell you that when we first started, we had a crew that kicked ass. Sorry for that, but they worked hard. They were taught how to work. They know how to work, and they know how to get up.
The problem now is they don't know how to get up; they don't know how to work. They need that guidance. They need that training to stay. At the end of the day, you know what they would love that would make it much easier? A big fat wallet or paycheque — that would help.
Hopefully, I've answered it. I don't know if it's good enough or clear enough, but that's what I kind of think.
R. Howard (Chair): Thanks, Lorne. We've got two minutes left and four people still on the list, so we'll have to be brief.
P. Pimm: That's fine.
I guess what I heard you say is that if there are smaller contracts, it would give you a better opportunity. Is that it in a nutshell?
L. Wilson: That may help, yes.
M. Elmore: Thank you very much for your presentation. Appreciate it. It also helps to hear your stories, because on the budget side we know that the investment in silviculture has dropped over the last number of years, so some of the impacts…. So you do spacing, and you also plant trees. How many employees do you have working on your crew?
L. Wilson: It depends on size. We're usually running around 20 to 30, sometimes 40. We look at it as a spin. For every person, three or four people benefit. For me, I work, and my family benefits — three or four of them. I think we kind of look at it like that.
M. Stevens: It all depends on what we're doing too. We could be brushing, and we have a smaller crew. Then we're tree planting, and we have to get it done as fast as we can.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent, gentlemen. We've run right out of time. Thank you so much for coming forward with a thoughtful presentation. Thanks, Lorne. Thanks, Maxwell.
Next up we have Northwest Community College — Cathay Sousa.
D. O'Leary: Hi, there. A different-looking Cathay Sousa today for the committee. Cathay sends her regrets. She is in Victoria, actually, meeting with ministry folks, talking about finance in this year.
It's an honour to be here. I'm Dave O'Leary. I'm the vice-president of institutional advancement at Northwest Community College. I have a presentation for you today. Then at the end I'll be happy to hear any questions.
R. Howard (Chair): Perfect. You've got 15 minutes in total. I'll give you a little heads-up around ten.
D. O'Leary: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in today's prebudget consultation process. The government is to be commended for giving us this voice as we shape 2012-13.
Northwest Community College recognizes and is sensitive to the fiscal challenges facing the province. At the outset, we want to acknowledge and thank both the provincial and federal governments for the $17 million investment in our new campus here in Smithers, which will officially open on September 23. That is this coming Friday, for those who don't know. You're all invited to come.
It's going to be quite an amazing day, and there will be a pole raised as well. Certainly, participating in that event is an honour and a privilege. That's going to be quite the day. If you're there, come on in.
A little bit about Northwest Community College. Last year we served over 8,000 students in credit and non-credit programs. Our region that we deliver this training in has a population of approximately 72,000, 30 to 32 percent of whom are aboriginal people. This is by far the largest percentage of aboriginal population as a percent of total population of all the colleges in British Columbia.
Our region encompasses just over 102,000 square kilometres. So for those of you who travel in Europe, approximately the size of France. This geography profoundly affects access and delivery of educational services in the region. For those of you who travel around here, you'll know that's particularly in the winter, when travel is often hazardous and sometimes impossible.
We are a community college that celebrates the diversity of our northern and aboriginal populations, and we reflect this diversity in our programs, services and workforce. Within this vast geographical area NWCC operates physical facilities in nine communities throughout the region. We serve 27 First Nations communities and have offered community-based programs in most of them.
Northwest Community College is unique, in that 49 percent of our students in our credit-based programs are of aboriginal descent. The number of aboriginal students served by the college is by far much greater than any other non-aboriginal post-secondary institution in the province. That number is about 3,400, approximately.
We play an important role in developing advanced skills for employment. It has been very instructive listening to the presenters ahead of me, looking at some of the gaps and deficits and challenges that communities in our region are facing.
The economy of northwest B.C. is enjoying the opportunity and challenge of a boom in projects, driven mainly by mining and energy production. The college is the key strategic player needed to train the needed workforce in a B.C. economy that has a documented skills shortage. I've heard training mentioned a couple of times in the presentations so far today.
The unemployment rates in our communities are higher than the provincial average, particularly in First Nations communities, where that rate can range from 37 up to as high as 80 percent.
As the demand for business and industry for workers grows at a staggering pace, our region finds itself with the lack of a skilled workforce at the technical, trade and professional levels. The lack of a skilled workforce is a deterrent to investment in this or any other region. Encouraging investment is one reason I believe that yesterday the Premier announced millions of dollars of infrastructure support for Prince Rupert and Kitimat. Without a trained workforce, that additional investment is harder to attract.
The northwest ranks among the lowest in education levels in the province. We're developing and delivering ACCESS programs to all of our campuses and our 27 First Nations communities to create opportunities for those who lack entrance requirements for post-secondary participation. As more people turn to colleges for training or retraining, our college faces both physical and financial capacity challenges that limit our ability to serve our communities.
Many of our students are learning with outdated equipment and technology, which makes providing a skilled job-ready workforce challenging. This is especially evident in the trades programs.
As northerners, with the power line and mining rapidly coming on board, we are greatly concerned with how we will provide local workers with the opportunities that will undoubtedly come their way. The Industry Training Authority can address this opportunity with innovative program structuring and metrics in the trades areas.
Northwest Community College is vitally responding to the workforce demands of this exciting investment and all the related projects that are currently happening in northwest B.C. In order to achieve the sustained economic success, though, we must invest in the type of education and training that is required by the immediate industry demands of today and the opportunity of a more knowledge-based economy ahead.
NWCC continually aligns its programs to respond to the advanced skills and education requirements of our many communities, and we're currently visiting in person 17 communities and surveying all of our communities in our priority-planning Together This Way Forward 2012-2015 activity, which will guide us for the next few years. In that action we're out meeting with community members, hearing what they say, what they identify as their priorities.
As more people turn to our college, we face increasing pressures on our capacity, both financially and physically, so increased investment in Northwest Community College is absolutely necessary to ensure we have the workforce in place to meet the immediate needs of today and the opportunities of the future.
Here are some of the budget challenges we've been facing and our responses to them. The restraint on base funding and the reduction in funding for trades from the Industry Training Authority and the 74 percent reduction of the annual capital cost allowance — from $827,000 down to a total of $215,000, which has to look after every campus in our whole region — has meant that the college has had to undertake extraordinary measures to continue to meet the range of programs and services required by our population.
We have developed innovative and collaborative programs through partnerships such as the award-winning Northwest Community School of Exploration and Mining, which the committee heard about earlier today, a partnership between education and industry. The school's approach is unique. It combines experiential learning in a bush camp setting with a strong First Nations cultural component.
Essential skills for work and interdisciplinary ACCESS programs have been offered in most of our First Nations communities — including Kispiox, for the folks who presented just ahead of me here — over the past three years, but that's been curtailed this year due to budget restraints.
Our college is helping B.C.'s economy and investing in B.C.'s future, and 96 percent of all the B.C. college graduates actually stay and work in B.C. These graduates then contribute $7.7 billion worth of income to the provincial economy.
Our own college contributes $219.3 million, approximately, in added regional income to our local economy. We are one of the largest employers in the region. After years of economic recession northwest B.C. finds itself in a positive economic environment, and the people of our region need training to participate in the construction and production phases of these projects and the secondary business opportunities that they'll produce.
In order to continue to support the participation of these groups, we do require a stable level of funding, though. We're asking for a commitment from government in order to successfully train and educate the citizens of B.C., particularly those citizens here in northwestern B.C., where we're poised on the edge of an economic recovery.
Our college's unique geographic challenges and the student demographics call for a different funding formula, one that recognizes the increased cost of providing essential educational services to our communities, be that at the literacy level or at the skilled-trades and professional level.
Northwest Community College requires a sustainable operating base, and in 2012-13 there needs to be an increase in operating budgets to accommodate not only inflation and other contractual and statutory increases but also to address our ever-increasing deficit. Our government needs to take a new funding commitment to support increased access and success for aboriginal, immigrant and disabled students, and this has to address the real costs of these programs being delivered in the learners' communities.
Government needs to restore the annual capital allowance back to pre-2000 line levels. We don't have the capacity to provide even minimal maintenance with the funds we currently receive. You recall that that's a 74 percent reduction since 2009.
As predicted last year, changes in the government administrative and accounting policies that limit the use of surplus funds have restricted our ability to respond effectively to the changing needs of students and the incredible opportunities presented by the growing investment currently happening in northwestern British Columbia. At a time when we need to be as agile and adaptable as possible, these policies are inhibiting our ability to respond efficiently. We call on government to make the necessary changes so we can work more effectively with what we have available.
We do not expect to spend money we don't have, but we would like to have the flexibility with the money we do have in this time of economic opportunity. We believe that would be a solid investment on behalf of this province. Northwest Community College — speaking back to the School of Exploration and Mining and its partnerships with industry and First Nations communities — is proposing a partnership approach to funding and then asking the province to provide core funding in the order of $500,000 annually for five years.
In conclusion, our college, Northwest Community College, is a primary provider of advanced skills and education for employment in the northwest region of British Columbia. Investing in our college is vital to the future economic health of the northwest region and to enable business and industry to get the workers they need right now.
B.C. colleges, generally, are a great investment. They return about $3.80 to the provincial economy for every dollar of taxpayer investment. Given the rapid investment growth in northwest B.C. and the critical role that our college has to play in bridging the gap of skilled workers, our return for that dollar investment will exceed that average, but only if we are enabled to address the opportunity. That's going to require enlightened government investment and policy.
Northwest Community College is committed to working with our community and the government to further the economic health of British Columbia by providing programs and services that result in advanced skills and education for employment. That's what we want to do. We need your help to do it.
Thank you for your time. I'd be pleased to respond to any questions you might have.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thanks, Dave. We have a few.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks, Dave, for the presentation. You're clearly pointing out the link between training and local people getting local jobs. The numbers you've described around a 74 percent reduction in trades training and the need for funding in literacy is concerning. Otherwise, it doesn't matter how much money we put into infrastructure. We'll be faced with the fly-in, fly-out phenomenon and local people not being able to take advantage of those opportunities.
Along those lines, I'd just like to get an update from you on a couple of important programs. I know the Northwest School of Exploration and Mining — as you pointed out, award-winning — has been seeking core funding. Can you give us an update on how that's progressing from the college point of view?
Another important topic. Dease Lake, the epicentre of a lot of the development that's going to occur in the Bowser basin and the mining, has been without a college campus now for two years. I know Northwest Community College is trying to fill the gap that was left by Northern Lights College. So far, as far as I've heard, there's been no funding from Ministry of Advanced Education for an operating budget up there. How are those two training concerns progressing?
D. O'Leary: Certainly, for the School of Exploration and Mining, we're still seeking. You heard from Chris earlier today, one of our industry partner presentations, that we are still seeking that core funding.
We're poised with an incredible opportunity right now to expand that success and that award-winning teaching and learning model to other areas of the economy that are growing here, not only the exploration side but right across the resource sector across northwestern British Columbia, and not just across B.C.
We believe this model is highly scalable and could actually become a revenue opportunity both for our college and for the province. We can take a leadership position globally with what we're doing here. So we're still seeking, hence our requests today. We'll continue to seek, and we hope, as we say, for that enlightenment to help us forward.
We have had lots of support. This is something where we want to be able to plan forward five years, as opposed to always having to respond. I don't want to sound ungrateful for the support we have received. It's been extremely helpful and has helped us get this underway in the first place.
Three weeks ago our president, Dr. Denise Henning, and the president of Northern Lights College travelled to Dease Lake together, along with a team of researchers. I was one of those folks. We met with community members there. There were members there from both the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation and also from our own Ministry of Advanced Education. We had a really good meeting with the community.
We are committed to working with Northern Lights College, who are still the legal representatives of college training in the Dease Lake and Tahltan traditional territory area. What we have committed is to work in a partnership with them in response to identified community needs. We had 47 people show up throughout the day there. It was an amazing day.
We heard from the community very clearly what they wanted, what they needed. Ministry representatives who were there heard that, and we are continuing to work…. That's partly where Cathay Sousa is today, having those discussions, as well as our president, with our ministry folks.
There's a huge opportunity there to do something different, to do something collaboratively, I believe, to bring industry…. Industry is a willing partner there. I think there is an opportunity — yeah, I will say it — for a new model that really brings the education providers, the community and industry to the table to put together something that is designed by that group to work for everyone.
Where we are stuck a bit right now is that what we really need is somebody really, really good to facilitate that communication and the development of that process. We've been racking our brains trying to think of someone who could do that with us, with the communities. Get everybody together up in Dease Lake and figure this out, because there is a way to make it work.
It is expensive. Any of you who've travelled in the northwest of British Columbia know that…. I was just teasing a friend at Douglas College the other day that they had to go all the way to Coquitlam to go to their other campus. I said: "Well, yeah, you do have to change buses at Lougheed if you take the SkyTrain in, so that's difficult." For us, it's not even something that's understood.
Those are two areas. If there is anything else I can add, please feel free to ask a follow-up.
R. Howard (Chair): Thanks, Dave. One minute left. A brief question.
B. Bennett: I've been coming up for about ten years — various ministry portfolios and so forth — and it is really great to see the opportunities, finally, that are developing here in the northwest.
I guess my question would be…. Northwest transmission line, Kitimat LNG, Alcan, all of the mining proposals that are out there, some of which are pretty mature and close. Does the college know what it needs to do in terms of being given the resources to train local people to fill in those jobs? Or is their still a planning, organizational component to this that has to take place? I mean, are you ready for us to give you the money? You know what needs to be done? Or again, is there a step that needs to take place first?
D. O'Leary: The short answer is yes, we're ready. Give us the money, and we'll get her done.
Northwest Community College is at the table with every one of those folks that you just mentioned, and we are working very diligently with them. We're also working with industry and with colleges across the country, because we're not big enough. That need is so big and the opportunity for local people to get trained and for there to be a legacy in the northwest — as opposed to just sending the money back to all my family in Newfoundland, like we did with Fort McMurray and places like that — is incredible.
We are quite prepared and happy to be the broker for the training. We can't deliver it all, but we can get our partners in other parts of the country to come in, whether that's the folks down in the Lower Mainland, the BCITs of the world, NVIT in the Nicola Valley or other institutions across the province.
As a matter of fact, in these meetings that we're currently having, and particularly in some of the mining sector, the vice-president of the Association of Canadian Community Colleges, André Beaudry, is part of our team that's having these discussions and consultations.
We know this is a huge opportunity. Our community has told us that. You heard the presenters ahead of me. Local people want to take part in this. They have a right to take part in it. Our college will be the catalyst, will be the piece it takes. We don't need to do it all ourselves. We will use all the resources this country has to offer to make this happen for our region.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Good way to end. Thank you very much, Dave. We've run out of time. Appreciate that.
Next up we have Guy Brown.
Welcome, Guy. For the record, could we know who you have with you?
G. Brown: Marilyn George. She's from Domestic Peace — right?
R. Howard (Chair): Hello, Marilyn.
M. George: Northern Society for Domestic Peace, Stopping the Violence outreach worker, and I'm here to support Guy.
R. Howard (Chair): Welcome. As you know, you've got 15 minutes. At about ten I'll give you a heads-up, and you can either respond to some questions or go through.
G. Brown: Well, I have more than 15 minutes.
R. Howard (Chair): Unfortunately, we have a tight schedule, and we've booked in at 15 minutes. You can submit, either written to us here or on line, or talk to us after.
G. Brown: Okay.
R. Howard (Chair): I'll have to hold you to 15 minutes, though.
G. Brown: Well, I guess I could start out with…. My true name is [Gitsenimx was spoken]. I am from Kispiox. I'm Gitxsan, and I'm here because I wanted to talk about prevention.
I've been looking for a lot of support in this community and have found some, but there is really not enough support for single men or single parents. I am a single parent of three, and I want to prevent stuff from happening in the future, because my kids are going to grow up on the streets of Smithers here.
I keep thinking about all this stuff that has happened. We moved away from Kispiox because I wanted to try and get a real good education for my kids. At home in Kispiox and in the Hazelton area I was put through a system. I wanted to make sure that my kids weren't put through a system.
I keep thinking about it. They said: "You're going there to get an education." I didn't get an education, and I wondered: what can I do about it? It's hard to go through a lot of it, but I just want to make sure that my kids don't get put through the system, and I want them to be heard. So I came up with a few things that I thought were really important, like prevention. I need more stuff for….
The past few years I've been here, I've walked out to check out the sports in the summertime. I see no native kids running around on the fields. That's because there are a lot of native families in this urban area limited in their funds. They're set on a fixed income. There is funding out there, but it's hard to access. I worked hard at trying to get access to some of that funding, but for some reason, I got put to the bottom of the list.
I just want to make sure that I will be heard. I needed to make sure that my kids would grow up healthy and learn a lot more. I keep thinking about a lot of stuff — why there's not much help for native kids in their urban area. The people that you heard before me had a lot to say, and that had a lot to with it — no work, low self-esteem.
I've accessed the friendship centre for help. They're limited in it. I want to keep going back there, but their hands are tied. At home in the village — Kispiox, where I'm from — no work. So I moved. Every time I look at a lot of stuff….
I wondered a lot: why does the government invest a lot in French immersion if it can't do anything for First Nations?
Some of the stuff that I thought about was…. I kept thinking about my kids, I guess. I don't want them to go through what I went through. Where I am today is on social assistance, no job, limited funds. I want everything for my kids.
I would like to do something in this community for native kids, because you don't want them in the system. If you went to the courthouse, you would find lots of kids in there that are native. I fear that my kids will be there next.
I keep thinking about a lot of stuff — of the past, the present and the future. In the past there were other hereditary chiefs who thought the same way. Move away and learn what the white people think. So I took my kids, and I brought them here. Maybe it was a bad thing. Maybe it was good. But you guys seem to have a lot power to say what some people can and cannot do. My kids are in the system here. I don't want them to end up in the court system — or any other kids.
The government had talked about a lot of stuff like, "There's money there for education," but I feel that there's not enough in this area. I'm a father of three, a single dad. My oldest son falls in the category of needs. In this area you see some of the needs of native kids, getting into trouble out there all the time.
The other day I had all this written out, and I had it on my dashboard. He said: "What is this for?" I said: "Hmm, not sure. It's a voice. I'm certain." He said: "Why do you need to do that?" "Well, I want to speak for you." I asked him: "Well, if you wanted them to hear what you were thinking, what would you say?" He said: "More money." I said: "Why would you want more money?" He said: "More food."
The fixed income that we have limits us on food. Some people are foolish, and some are not. I try to make ours last through one month. My son gets to the end of the month, and he's like: "Well, when are we going to get some more food?" We get the food, but it's just that he wants certain foods. We're not starving. It's just that they won't eat…. What is left over is stuff that doesn't suit him. He wants something decent. I don't know why.
I just want to make sure my kids don't end up like a lot of other kids out here. Every time I go into a store, I'm being watched because we're all the same. Native people in this area — we're all the same. It doesn't matter. I was followed around by one of these managers in a store because I was native. My kids are probably going to go through that too, because they're native.
I need to make sure that they get an education and that people like you will hear them. I guess I am just….
R. Howard (Chair): Guy, just so you know, you're at about ten minutes. You do have five left. We have at least one question for you.
G. Brown: You have one question.
R. Howard (Chair): So far.
G. Brown: I'd like to make sure that sports are available for kids in this area — native kids. Because the kids, they don't have any self-esteem. Either that or they don't have the parents that want to support them. I'll finish with that.
R. Howard (Chair): I'll pass it on to MLA Thornthwaite in just one sec, but I would just like to observe that with somebody as passionate as yourself, your kids have got a pretty good chance of being successful. So I'll pass the question to MLA Thornthwaite.
J. Thornthwaite: Yes, thank you very much for your passionate presentation. I'm from the coast, so take that for what it's worth with the question I'm going to ask you, and I also come from a school board background.
Have you talked to the school trustees in your region with regards to your requests on the education end of it? That's the first question. And in North Vancouver, where I'm from, we do have aboriginal support workers within the existing school system that help with the situations that I think you're referring to. Have you accessed those, or are those available in your school? Or would you prefer to have a school specifically designed and individualized for the issues that you have addressed?
I'm just trying to get a feel of where you would like the school system to go to assist you and your children and their peers.
G. Brown: Yeah, I think the second one would be a lot better because of the class sizes. You know, like I said, my son falls into your category. It's not good. I always try to go with the suggestion of most of the professionals I've met so far because I ask questions about a lot of these things. When they asked me something, I tried to answer them, but I thought: "I can't give you the actual answer. You'd have to talk to my son and see where it actually goes. You'd have to get into the mind of a 12-year-old." I could make a suggestion like you could, but we won't have that 12-year-old mind.
J. Thornthwaite: I understand that. I have a 12-year-old myself. Yeah, I know, that would just be my only suggestion, to talk to your school board people. I think you've got some good suggestions, and also from your son as well.
G. Brown: Thank you.
B. Routley: Thank you, Guy, for your presentation. Certainly, I can tell that you're speaking from your heart when you talk about your family and your children.
Could you elaborate a little bit more on what the barriers are for you? Is child care one of them? One of the things that I'm aware of…. I come from the Cowichan Valley, and we've got the Cowichan Tribes. There are seven different First Nations groups there. I know that child care has been helpful in allowing, say, single moms to get education, and we have some success stories in those kinds of ways.
One of my comments would be that I hear, ironically, on these tours about the need for business to train more people to get them to the jobs that are being created in the north and that they want to reach out to First Nations. So could you tell me: what are the barriers to that connection, from your point of view?
We have business saying that they want to connect with First Nations and that somehow it's not fitting together the way it should. Could you give us some suggestions or ideas on how to connect you with employment? Is child care, for example, in education or specialized education for the kind of work that might be available…? Are those barriers?
M. George: Could I just help Guy here? I think some of the things that Guy is experiencing when he talks about the system is what you suggested about going to…. I'm sorry. I forgot the group.
J. Thornthwaite: The school board?
M. George: Yeah. In my experience…. Along with Guy, I believe that I speak for our First Nation voices. We were just recently at the inquiry for missing women here in Smithers. One of the things that I expressed there is that more of our First Nation people need to bring their voice out and voice what their needs are.
In the system the First Nation aspect of child care and the needs that he would like for his children — to be in sports, to be more involved…. Some of the barriers that he's feeling for his children is that they fall short of being a part of whatever sports activities are here, whether it's money…. Money is a really big one. Sometimes there's a process that has to be met in being a part of whatever sport might be out there, whether it's the size of the sport or whatever sport it is that his kids don't meet the criteria.
The child care — I'm not sure how you feel, Guy, about…. Do you have enough child care for yourself?
G. Brown: I haven't accessed any child care really. Only back in the Hazelton area I had accessed it, but not here. I'm on a list for that special needs part, and it's a long waiting list.
I think it might have been about eight, nine years ago when I first moved here that I asked for a test for my son, and I just got it done last year. When they told me that this test would be important, I pushed and pushed for eight years to get this test. Somewhere along the line we ended up on the bottom somewhere.
R. Howard (Chair): I'll have to say thank you, Guy, and thank you, Marilyn. We've run over time here. Thank you for coming forward and making a thoughtful presentation.
Next up we have Alison Norman and Cory Norman.
A. Norman: Hi. How are you?
R. Howard (Chair): Very well, thank you. How are you?
A. Norman: I'm super, thanks.
R. Howard (Chair): Hello, Cory.
C. Norman: Hi.
R. Howard (Chair): I'm sure you know from observing that we have 15 minutes. I'll give you a heads-up at about ten minutes, and you can either take some questions or carry on.
C. Norman: Okay. I don't think we'll be that long, thank you.
Good morning, and thank you for this opportunity to speak at this presentation. My name is Cory Norman, and I live here in Smithers. With me is my daughter Alison. We are here to express our concerns regarding the financial cutbacks for those persons living in British Columbia who have recently turned 19 and find themselves on the dreaded wait-list.
This is our personal story, which I'm sure can be shared by many others across this province. Alison has, with assistance, prepared a statement, which she would like to read to you.
A. Norman: Hi. My name is Alison Norman. I am 19 years old, and I have Down syndrome. I graduated from high school last June. We moved to Smithers about six years ago. All of this time I did not get any services to help with my activities. This means that I was always on the wait-list. So all of this time my friends from school went to different places for people to work on socializing, but I could not go. This made me very sad.
Now I am finished, and my mom told me that I'm still on the wait-list. I know what this means. I don't like it. I think it is not fair. I can go to High Road for group activities. I like this because we have so much fun. I can't go to life skills or get help with a job in the community because I am on a wait-list. This really makes me sad because I really need someone to help me so I can learn to do more things for myself and so I can work better in my community.
So please help me to get off this wait-list so I can have some services. This will make me happy. I'll have a better life. Thank you very much.
C. Norman: As Alison as indicated, she has been on a wait-list for several years. It is a term with which she has become quite familiar. While she was in school we reluctantly accepted that there were other children who may have needed services more than Alison, and we were grateful that many of her needs were met while she was in school.
Two years prior to Alison turning 19, we began the critical steps necessary to develop a plan which would be specific to her needs. It was our belief that we were being proactive and that our organizational skills would ensure that once she reached this age, the services for support would be in place. We worked alongside a facilitator who guided us through these steps, and we were confident that although she had lacked these services as a child, they would definitely be in place once she became an adult.
Unfortunately, in April, four months after filing these documents with CLBC, we were informed that in spite of Alison's disability, there would be no funds available to assist with any of the requested services. It was explained to us that she did not meet the necessary health and safety requirements. In order to be eligible for health and safety funding, a person is required to be at risk. These individuals are perceived to be, for one reason or another, in an unstable, unsafe environment. In spite of their disability or need, those from a secure, loving environment do not qualify.
Since this time I have been in contact with CLBC supervisors in Terrace and Prince George. We have written to Mr. Mowles, the chief executive officer for CLBC; the Hon. Harry Bloy, Minister of Social Development; and Mr. Doug Donaldson, MLA for Stikine. Unfortunately for us, the replies are the same: Alison does not meet the health and safety requirements necessary to receive funding.
So it would appear that once again, Alison finds herself on a wait-list and, sadly, alone. Thankfully, she is able to participate in the morning drop-in sessions at High Road, which is a local non-profit organization with dedicated and caring staff that assist those in our community who, like Alison, have special needs. These mornings are set up for the enjoyment of the special needs community at large.
Without funding, however, Alison does not qualify for any individualized services. This means that she cannot participate in the life skills or supported employment programs which are also offered through High Road. Involvement in these programs is critical to helping Alison feel successful as she progresses through adulthood.
Currently, she does not have the skills necessary to support her activities of daily living. Many of the basic skills that we take for granted are considered a challenge for her. It is the assistance from support workers that would enable her to learn many of these tasks that would ultimately lead to Alison managing her day successfully. She could learn time management, meal planning, grocery shopping, basic cooking, banking and how to navigate around her community — to list but a few of the life skills necessary for success.
Support through employment would offer her an opportunity to be valued, while being included in an able-bodied workplace. All of these things would greatly increase her independence, and she does deserve this opportunity. Due to her disability, Alison has always had to work harder than others to prove that she has the right to be included. So I find it somewhat ironic that we now find ourselves fighting for Alison to be included in the very programs designed for special needs people. Without access to these services, she is left alone and becomes isolated.
As her quality of life becomes threatened, I can't help but wonder: at what point would she become at risk? It seems to me that inclusion in adult programs offered through CLBC would be the key to avoiding this scenario.
The government has stated, through the Ministry of Social Development, that there will be support for community living services to help adults with developmental disabilities and their families achieve their goals and connect to their community. It is difficult to see how this goal can be realized when cuts to CLBC threaten the lives of society's most vulnerable. This sector of society deserves a better quality of life.
As it is the vision of this government to ensure that British Columbians in need are assisted to achieve their social and economic potential, it is our hope that this will be addressed and that this young adult will be granted funding so that she can finally be removed from the wait-list and be provided the opportunity to grow as a happy, productive person within our society.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you. We have a question.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): I first just wanted to thank you, Alison, for coming in and reading your letter. It was excellent. You sounded great, just like you did when you read it in my office. Thanks very much for repeating it. The message is clear.
I would like to ask your mother…. Since we last talked and the obvious ludicrous situation of at-risk definitions and those other kinds of policies, we've learned that there has been some additional funding released by government. We had presentations last week about difficulties in really verifying the numbers of people that could be served by that from B.C. Association for Community Living. It sounds a bit overblown — the government estimates. Has that made any difference to your situation?
C. Norman: No, it hasn't. In fact, I spoke with the person — supervisor, I think — in Terrace just yesterday, and he has told me that he doesn't really know how the money is earmarked at this point. But he's under the impression that so far it is only to be used for health and safety, in that category. He's promised me that if in fact Alison's name comes up for money, he will be yahooing me on the phone. So we're all hoping that perhaps something will happen.
I just feel that it's just wrong. It's just wrong. I mean, she deserves as good a quality of life as the rest of us. We all had help somewhere along the line, and I don't see why she cannot be helped.
J. Thornthwaite: I just wanted to just briefly say thank you to Alison. You did a great job.
Obviously, you're doing something right because you were a very good public speaker. I know that's difficult at the best of times. I just wanted to say well done, and we'll definitely consider your presentation.
C. Norman: Thank you very much for your time.
R. Howard (Chair): The whole committee enjoyed your presentation, Alison, so thank you. Thank you, Cory.
Next up we have High Road Services Society — Dana Gorbahn.
Welcome, Dana. As you know, you have 15 minutes. I'll give you a little heads-up around ten.
D. Gorbahn: No worries.
This is great timing because Alison and Cory were the one and I'm the two to the one-two punch, and you guys can be the knockout punch. Hopefully, this can sort of come out to some influence towards you.
I do appreciate that you've taken your time and effort, your diligence in coming to Smithers. I know this can't be an easy process for you, but I certainly hope that as you're going around through the different communities, you get a better understanding of what people need and want and how they want the funds to be allocated throughout the province.
As mentioned, I am Dana Gorbahn. I'm the executive director at High Road Services Society, and we provide services for individuals developmental disabilities. Now, I'm not here just on a self-serving mission. I just want you to know that I am involved in the private sector as a business owner for many, many years.
This is my third time presenting to this committee in the last five years. Our organization has presented the other two years. So we've presented five years out of five years in the existence of our organization. It's because we're passionate and committed to advocating on behalf of the individuals that we serve and on behalf of the communities that we serve.
I hope today from what you've heard from Alison and Cory and from what I have to say that again, this could be an influence to you, because quite frankly, I don't believe that government has heard the importance or actually valued the importance of what community social services has rendered.
This might be brash, but I wish that we had the lobbyists that Health has enjoyed over the past years. As you're quite aware, Health will receive an increase of $1.2 billion this year. Now, as you probably are aware, that amount is greater than the whole budget of MCFD, and it's twice the amount of what CLBC receives on a budget for this year.
Now, some refer to these increases for Health — that I've heard, anyway — that it's because of our aging population. Well, here's an important fact to understand. CLBC has those same issues. We deal with an aging population, not only with the individuals that we serve but also those families that the individuals are living with. As their parents grow older, their capacity to be able to provide for their children who are also adults, who are developing greater needs.... Their ability to be able to provide for them is diminished. So where do they go to?
Now, Mr. Donaldson, you had mentioned about the $6 million that was allocated towards CLBC just recently, but other than that, there has been no indication of any increases for CLBC over the next projected three years. Yet for our sector, the population growth of adults for this year is projected to be at 5.5 percent, and over the next five years it will be 35 percent. So our individuals are living longer and longer and are developing greater and greater support needs.
Again, the provincial government has provided a flatline budget for this year and a probable budget for the next coming three years. That's zero — a zero increase. How can this work — increased capacity needs without additional funding, while wrestling with increased cost pressures of operations?
Have you ever heard of the straw that broke the camel's back? Well, this isn't straw that's being thrown on that back. These are rocks piled and piled as the camel's legs are being buckled and falling down.
In the past year we were required by CLBC to explore the cost savings initiatives of a residential redesign. This requirement was because of CLBC's budget shortfall. We went through this process and were able to find some cost measures. However, with those savings came increased risks in the lives of those people that we serve.
I asked one of our individuals about the effect that this residential redesign had had on him. Because of this redesign, he had lost some after-hours services and monitoring.
Now the predators know that this person does not have services after hours and hang around and wait till the staff leave, and then it is subject to his vulnerabilities and his trusting nature. So there is a cost to these reductions.
In Burns Lake this past year there was a supported employment program that was handed back that was being run by the college. It was handed back to CLBC because they could no longer afford to operate and manage it. That's the college. Now, that program never came out for re-tender because CLBC needed to recover the costs for their budgets — again, citing that they needed to find money even to cover the health and safety issues that they're finding themselves in. So they've lost a program that helps individuals develop competitive employment skills to be able to move forward and have a job.
You've heard from Alison about her plight in being able to access supports now that she has become an adult. She is told that because it is not a health and safety issue, she will not be authorized funds for support. As you know, this is not an isolated situation.
This is going on all over the province. Transitioning adults are struggling to be supported. They no longer have the school system to give them the needed supports, and as I mentioned last year, just because they had a birthday doesn't mean that their disabilities are gone and they don't need supports anymore. Our agency is trying to maximize our supports in whatever ways we can, but there goes another rock tossed onto the camel's back.
Where is CLBC's representation at Treasury? CLBC, as a Crown corporation, cannot raise their rates to cover their costs like ICBC. They need to have a true representation of the needs and the future needs of their service delivery requirements and then have the capacity to do so.
We try to fundraise, as some suggest us to do. We also try to operate a competitive social enterprise, but it is tough, especially in small and rural areas. We find ourselves with our hands tied when compared to other areas because many have relied upon gaming income and grants. We are not privy to gaming income, and we have been unsuccessful time and time again in our grant applications.
With so many of our member agencies already weak from years of insufficient funding, this is a dire moment in our sector. During any economic recession, having a strong network of social services is more critical than ever. Here in B.C. families are feeling the recession in all sorts of ways and reaching out for help. Our sector is being challenged on all fronts — greater community needs with reduced government and authority funding. B.C.'s investment in social services has not kept up with the demands of service.
Prevention does pay off. Every dollar invested in early childhood development, for instance, saves $7 in downstream costs.
Social services do not produce wealth like the business sector does. The World Bank describes our wealth as being the glue that holds communities together. As a politician, you might appreciate the public opinion poll that showed that almost 90 percent of British Columbians agree that social services make their communities a safer, better place to live and that such preventative services reduce the costs and societal burden of family breakdown and crisis intervention down the line.
The poll also noted that almost two out of three British Columbians believe that the current funding levels for community social services are too low. A 2007 study of the cost-benefit analysis of an investment into social development showed a return of $17.07 on each dollar spent as it refers to the long-term savings and benefits from crime prevention and response, education, income assistance and higher tax contributions from the individuals producing higher wages. If you knew a stock had that type of rate of return, would you ignore it? I don't think you would.
Health Canada has laid out 11 determinants of health — those factors that generate optimum health. Health services is just one of those determinants. Social services found in our sector encompass at least seven of them.
We should not be ignored. We recognize that we are in the midst of economic turmoil, but funding thoughts and attitudes need to change.
I remember driving down the road with my brother, who works for a landscaping company. He looked over and saw a row of trees. He says: "Guess how much those trees cost to plant." I looked over at this new row of trees, which his company was involved in planting, and I looked at him with uncertainty. He responded: "$1 million." My heart sank.
A million dollars in our organization could go a very long way in developing quality of life, and that's what Transportation spent on a row of trees. It just doesn't make sense.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you, Dana.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks, Dana, for taking time to come in. I know it means time away from the important work that you do. Thanks for being such an advocate for the community work that you do here in Smithers and the area.
Coming from a community economic development background, I know the success and the potential for social enterprises. It's not just in B.C., but there have been very positive examples in other jurisdictions.
Could you talk a little bit about the social enterprise aspect that you're involved with, how it can return money to the community and provide employment opportunities for some of the clients that you talk about, and how — I mean, government spends $4 billion a year on procurement for goods and services — we can funnel some of that towards the social enterprises, with supports you see that are needed?
D. Gorbahn: Well, that's a really good point. I think that's something that procurement departments should be looking at: helping support those social enterprises.
Our social enterprise right now is called Innovation Foods. As you're aware of, it's an operation that tries to reclaim foods that would eventually find themselves in the landfills. Then we're able to provide it for low-income individuals and families, not just individuals with disabilities. Guy, who was up here earlier, could have access to this to be able to find affordable foods for himself. Our ultimate goal is that for every dollar that you spend at this grocery store, you would also be able to get $5 worth of groceries.
Now, it's tough. I mean, the business model is very, very difficult, so we're looking at other avenues and ways to be able to make sure that that helps sustain itself. We're looking at ways to partner with aboriginal groups and bands to be able to provide foods through their commercial fisheries and things like that.
It's a tough go, and we're always trying to figure out how we can make that work so that we can improve the status and abilities for low-income individuals and families to be able to provide for themselves.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you, Dana. I appreciate your taking the time to come out and talk to us.
D. Gorbahn: Excellent, thanks. Remember, you can be the knockout punch — all right?
R. Howard (Chair): We'll remember that.
Next up we have one open-mike presentation of five minutes from Rosemary McKenzie. Welcome, Rosemary. We'll give you five minutes. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to hold you to that, because we've got to get on a plane.
R. McKenzie: All right. Thank you for this opportunity.
I have to admit that I wasn't aware of the whole process, and I will be doing a submission. I'm sitting here, and I'm just a member of the public. My name is Rosemary McKenzie, and I didn't get a chance to hear very much this morning. I just heard a little of several people.
What I wanted to talk to you about kind of started three years ago. My mother-in-law moved here. She is a low-income senior with no vehicle, and she lives just a little bit out of town. The shuttle bus that is free and that would allow her to get into town to buy groceries or just, you know, get to doctor's appointments was going to be shut down because there wasn't $30,000 to run it.
At the same time, I am married to someone who has worked in the civil service for over 30 years. I sit here with the recognition that it is a person's responsibility, who gets an audience such as yourself, to be positive and to be constructive. But truth should be spoken, I think.
What I would like to tell you is that…. I hear all these needs being presented to you. I had thought long and hard about that, and I went to see the MLA — MacKay then — about this, because I thought: "Well, I'm so upset to see that my mother-in-law would not have any transportation. Yet I know of many, many instances where money is so misspent in the public sector."
I do not sit here criticizing public sector employees. Most of them are hard-working, well-educated people. But the money is not looked after responsibly. I thought and I thought about it, and I think the problem is that there isn't accountability.
There are managers. There are supervisors and managers that have to sign off on trips and training and things like that, but I don't think that they are really accountable, so they will sign off on things that are absolutely not in the best interest of anybody. Fellow employees don't like it either. It's a very demoralizing situation.
I want to give you one little example. This was many years ago. In the office where my husband worked, the administration staff, which I guess some people would call secretaries, were offered a trip to the Khutzeymateen. I don't know if you know the Khutzeymateen, where the grizzlies are. It's a….
The rationale behind it was because the administrative staff never get to go on field trips, and they're working in an office where a lot of people are fieldworkers. There were office staff that declined it, but some took it, and that's very expensive. If I wanted to go — I looked for my family — it was $2,000 per person to go on the guided trip into the Khutzeymateen.
You know, it is a family…. In offices you want…. I know that the government has had initiatives to make sure the employees are committed and valued, but if there's not accountability, then people don't want to say no to their colleague and co-worker who's asking to go on the same training program — in one example, four times of basic training — because they get to go away for a week.
I don't sit here to denigrate our government workers, but anyone who knows…. If you don't have a system of accountability, then it doesn't work.
I actually had a proposal that I brought to Dennis MacKay, and he sent it off. I came back again to see Mr. MacKay, and nobody had responded. He had sent it, he said, to two ministers.
This is my proposal. It is that for every trip — every training trip, every trip that a supervisor signed physically…. The person asks, the supervisor signs it, then it is sent to the head — like, you know, a deputy minister's office — and they have an actual physical binder full of who authorized things. I don't think people would even want to know…. Well, they would want to know, but it's the outrage of, you know, where the money is spent.
No one should stand before people of this calibre, who have the power to do things, and be here to lightly rail against government employees or anything, but if you're looking for money….
People are asking for money. We're asking for shuttle buses for people who are poor and don't have a vehicle or people like the previous gentleman was describing. And there is money. Then there are training sessions being held for…. Landlocked regions are going to ocean spill response conferences and training sessions when they don't have any coastal area. You know what I mean?
It happens, and you know what? Good people are doing it. We're not talking bad, lazy public service workers. We're talking ethical people. But when there is not accountability…. Children in the classroom won't do their homework and turn it in if you don't ask them to. They won't. But they want to do things, and you have to have a system.
I think you'd have a lot of money where you could allocate it fairly. It has to be done by administrators. You can't have people who are on par with each other snitching or complaining. That just denigrates the morale of the staff. You must have managers that sign off on things and are held accountable. Asking them for a signature that was recorded in a book in the deputy minister's office for their…. That would be enough.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. We have your message. You've run over your time, but that's great. Thank you for….
R. McKenzie: Yes, and I apologize. I will revamp what I did give to Dennis MacKay. It was about three years ago. I will send it in via the proper….
R. Howard (Chair): You'll make a submission. Okay. You have until the 14th of October.
R. McKenzie: Yes, I just realized that.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent.
We'll adjourn now and reconvene at four o'clock this afternoon in Prince George.
The committee adjourned at 12:07 p.m.
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