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
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2011
The committee met at 3:59 p.m.
[R. Howard in the chair.]
R. Howard (Chair): Good afternoon, everybody. I'm Rob Howard, MLA for Richmond Centre and the Chair of this parliamentary committee. I'd like to welcome everybody in the audience and thank you for taking the time to participate.
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.
There are well-published global economic challenges in Europe and the States and elsewhere. What we are seeing is that governments that have not been fiscally responsible are being punished. In B.C. we have maintained our triple-A credit rating and are committed to balancing our budget in the 2013-2014 fiscal year. This will serve, as well, to protect and grow our job base. These challenging circumstances mean there are difficult questions ahead. We look forward to hearing about your priorities in these challenging times.
The paper asks questions such as: "How can we maintain B.C. as a preferred destination for investment? With current fiscal challenges, what measures can government take to help families? What programs and spending are your priorities?" Print copies of the Budget 2012 consultation paper are available on the information table at the back of the 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 have also scheduled two video conference sessions to hear from residents 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. This week we've been in Fort Nelson, Smithers, Prince George. This morning we were in Williams Lake, and now Kamloops. We'll be in Courtenay before returning to Victoria tomorrow. In the weeks that follow we'll also be meeting in Surrey, Chilliwack, Cranbrook, Kelowna and Richmond.
In addition to the 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 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 the 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 on the committee's website. This enables interested listeners to hear the proceedings as they occur, and an archived copy of the audio broadcast will 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.
R. Howard (Chair): On the other side of the table.
B. Routley: Bill Routley, MLA for Cowichan Valley.
P. Pimm: I'm Pat Pimm, MLA for Peace River North.
M. Elmore: Good afternoon. Mable Elmore, for Vancouver-Kensington.
J. Thornthwaite: Jane Thornthwaite, North Vancouver–Seymour.
B. Ralston: Bruce Ralston, MLA for Surrey-Whalley.
D. Hayer: Dave Hayer, MLA for Surrey-Tynehead.
R. Howard (Chair): Our Deputy Chair, MLA Doug Donaldson, is joining us shortly. Also joining us today, I'm pleased to introduce our Clerk, Susan Sourial. Also with us is Arlene Carlson, staffing the registration desk at the back of the room, and we have Hansard Services staff, Michael Baer and Monique Goffinet Miller, who will record and prepare the written transcript of this meeting.
Before we get started, I'd just like to let members know that we have a full slate. We're going to please limit our questions to one question at a time each and do what we can to limit the preamble, recognizing that this is a listening exercise.
With that said, let's call up our first witness, Thompson Rivers University Students Union — Jordan Harris and Alex McLellan. Welcome, gentlemen. As you've heard, you'll have 15 minutes. At about ten minutes I'll give you a heads-up. You could either wrap up around then and take questions, or you can go right through if you like. Your choice.
J. Harris: Hello, everyone. My name is Jordan Harris. I'm the vice-president external of the Thompson Rivers University Students Union.
A. McLellan: My name is Alex McLellan, and I'm the research coordinator of the TRUStudents Union. I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome you to our campus, first of all. It's great that you guys can have these meetings here.
J. Harris: The Thompson Rivers University Students Union is the membership organization that represents approximately 10,000 students studying at Thompson Rivers University here in Kamloops. We are also members of the Canadian Federation of Students–British Columbia, which has a collective membership of over 150,000.
On behalf of our members, I would like to thank you for this opportunity. Our goal today is to speak to you about the budget priorities of students and their families in the Kamloops region. It is also to demonstrate that investments in post-secondary education will be the key to addressing many of our most pressing issues as a province.
We are sure that most of the discussions you'll be having around the province in the coming days will focus on how we can get our economy back on track. We have also been following the discussion surrounding the fiscal challenges facing the province. Today we hope to demonstrate that these discussions would be incomplete without an understanding of, and a commitment to, the role of post-secondary education.
We know that socioeconomic possibilities in post-secondary education are clear. Education remains the central means of social mobility, increasing levels of income, standards of health and independence from social services. Providing affordable access to advanced education is one of the best ways that this government can serve families facing challenging economic times.
In fact, affordable, high-quality education is one of the best ways to address these economic challenges directly. As industry becomes more and more reliant on knowledge, creativity and advanced technical skills, an educated workforce is both a requirement and an asset. The latest labour market projections for B.C. show that 78 percent of job openings leading up to 2020 will require a post-secondary education.
Moving forward, investors often, before they evaluate a region's tax competitiveness, look for the availability of a highly educated labour pool that will make their businesses viable. Unfortunately, only 56 percent of British Columbians have a post-secondary education, and only 46 percent are in the process of receiving that education. In short, educating British Columbians is both an immediate economic concern and an important long-term economic strategy.
If I return just for a moment to the struggles that families are facing, it is important to note that the burden of economic downturn has been the heaviest for those who have lost their jobs. Youth have had the worst of it with an unemployment rate last month of over 16 percent.
Post-secondary education is one of the best employment strategies as well. We know that unemployment amongst graduates is consistently lower and more stable than the average. This is a testament to the versatility of their employable skills, their innovation and entrepreneurship — a necessity in a changing economy and a buffer against future economic volatility.
Post-secondary education is an economic recovery strategy. It's a job strategy. It's also an unparalleled public investment. The improved economic performance made possible by post-secondary education can support a strong public fiscal position. We know that we must work to ensure that we have a robust and reliable tax base, and we need to balance the demands for public services within our capacity to deliver them.
We don't know of a better way to address both sides of this problem than investing in post-secondary education. University graduates, who make up 22 percent of the population, contribute 41 percent of income taxes paid and only receive 14 percent of government support. The bottom line is that the standard of living, income and productivity of an educated population puts much more resources on the public table than it requires.
A. McLellan: Given all the benefits that post-secondary education has to offer the province, we want to share with you the vision that we have for the system. It's a vision that intends to generate the greatest possible outcomes in the most efficient way. It's a vision that meets the needs of students and the economy within the means of this government.
First, we envision a system that increases participation with two goals in mind — first, to meet labour market demand and, second, to improve the equity of that participation. As Jordan mentioned, 78 percent of jobs in this decade will require a post-secondary education, and we're currently only educating 46 percent of youth to this level.
Bringing participation rates up is crucial to improving productivity, attracting investment and encouraging innovation. Making that participation equitable is also important to ensuring that education can deliver its pathways out of poverty and reducing reliance on social services. So we must take advantage of these opportunities by providing real access to affordable education across all sectors of the population.
Second, we envision a system that increases completion, because any policy that facilitates access but does not support successful completion is a wasteful and inefficient one, both fiscally and socially. To meet the needs of our economy and to fill the potential of each of our students, we need a system that fosters and supports success.
Finally, we envision a system that puts academic excellence first for students and social and economic engagement first for graduates. That means creating a system that keeps the financial burdens on students and graduates to a minimum. We can assure you that students and graduates are eager to make contributions to this province, but the contributions they're best positioned to make are as learners, critical thinkers, innovators and entrepreneurs — not necessarily flipping burgers to pay fees when they should be studying, and not making debt payments when they could be investing, serving as community leaders or starting businesses.
So let's create a system that puts the pursuit of excellence first.
J. Harris: We have three sets of recommendations for you today, and they've each been tailored to achieving what Alex has just mentioned. Our first recommendation is the reduction in tuition and ancillary fees to the 2000-2001 levels, adjusted for inflation.
A. McLellan: This is the first and most important step to improving participation and the equity of participation in post-secondary education. Paying for post-secondary education has been clearly identified as the primary barrier to access. Seventy percent of those facing barriers cite financial issues, and debt aversion and cash constraints are the first among those.
Tuition and ancillary fees, for example, at TRU have increased 218 percent in the last decade. If we look at that as a proportion of the after-tax income of the lowest-quintile earners, it has actually increased by 340 percent since 1980, faster than any other province except Nova Scotia. We know the result has been a gap of more than 20 percent in the participation rates of people from high-income families as compared to low-income families.
It has also meant a decline in overall participation, from a peak of 67 percent of youth in 1993 to a low of 46 percent in 2006. We know we have to turn this trend around. A reduction in tuition fees is the most straightforward way to do that. We know that it works, because following the elimination of fees for adult basic education — a great step forward a couple of years ago by this government — we saw the enrolment in these courses increase 16 percent above overall enrolment at TRU. So let's build on this success.
J. Harris: Our second set of recommendations is targeted to improving student financial aid. We are asking for the establishment of a provincial system of upfront, need-based student grants. We would then like to see loan-remission grants transferred to upfront grants over four years. Finally, we're asking for the elimination of interest charged on student loans. Together, these recommendations, with a reduction in tuition fees, are targeted to reducing the average student loan per recipient per year to $3,000 by 2015.
A. McLellan: I know those recommendations kind of sound like a mouthful. But it's sort of a suite of recommendations that are targeted across the entire spectrum of post-secondary education, from access through completion, and to the excellence and the engagement of graduates.
As mentioned, debt aversion and cash constraints are the biggest financial barriers to access. Student loans, particularly because they've grown faster here in B.C. than anywhere else in Canada, only solve the cash flow problem. They provide the money upfront so students can access education, but it doesn't address the debt aversion problem.
On the other hand, upfront, need-based grants are transparent and guaranteed before fees are paid, which allows students to be sure of their financial position before entering the system. So that improves access as well.
Our current reliance on student loans, which now average about $7,500 per year, doesn't really support our goal of increasing completion rates either. As debt rises from $1,000 to $10,000 per year, completion rates plummet from 59 percent to 8 percent. So every financial aid dollar that we're making available that increases access but not completion is a wasted dollar. Sure, the student loan has to be repaid, but the institutional resources that have been committed to that student will be gone, with little or nothing to show for it.
So we believe the best use of student loans is one that maintains their ability to leverage access while minimizing the negative effects of debt aversion and the financial burdens that we know can lead to students dropping out. That's why we've set our target of $3,000 per year.
Limiting student loan debt also means that graduates will be better positioned as they come out of the post-secondary education system to take full advantage of all of the economic and social opportunities that will be available to them.
Finally, the issue of student loan interest is pretty clear. Charging interest on student loans means that the greater the loan required, the longer the repayment period, with larger and more interest payments. In effect, the more disadvantaged the student is in accessing post-secondary education and making the upfront payments, the higher the cost becomes for the same education. We can end this fundamental inequity with the stroke of a pen and some pretty minimal cost.
J. Harris: Our final recommendation is on per-student funding. The majority of our request comes in the form of funding the reduction in fees. We would like to see per-student funding topped up to the 2000-2001 levels, adjusted for inflation.
A. McLellan: This recommendation works together with the tuition fee reduction recommendation to improve access and completion. But it also, really importantly, puts the pursuit of excellence firmly in the driver's seat of post-secondary education. The reality is that there are two different types of resources that are needed to foster excellence in post-secondary education.
R. Howard (Chair): Alex, sorry to interrupt. I should let you know there's about four minutes left.
A. McLellan: Perfect. Thank you.
So there are two resources. We know that we need financial resources to support the system. But we can't forget the importance of the other resource, which is the time and effort of eager students.
Tuition fees over the last ten years have asked students for more and more financial resources, which they have a limited capacity to provide. That has really been to the detriment of their time and effort. Some 48 percent of full-time students and 85 percent of part-time students worked during their studies in 2009. In fact, full-time students are working an average of 16½ hours a week, in addition to their studies.
Numerous research papers have shown the negative impact this has on academic performance. Of course you can throw out the idea of additional research, work-study programs and attending conferences as well.
Funding the reduction in fees is important in improving the quality of education our institutions can provide but also the quality of education that students can engage in. So we want to see that kind of investment made to ensure that our system is as efficient as possible.
J. Harris: Once again we would like to thank you guys for this opportunity. We hope that we made the case for the importance and relevance of post-secondary today. As you can see, we have also put a great deal of thought into how we can make the best use of post-secondary education to contribute to the future prosperity and well-being of our province. We hope that you take our recommendations into serious consideration.
We are more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you. Just a few minutes for questions.
D. Hayer: Have you done any analysis to show how our fees compare to the other provinces? Are we the lowest, in the middle or the highest? Then, also, have you looked at how long it takes the person to take a course right now, compared to before 2001?
A. McLellan: We do have some numbers. Just off the top of my head, we're about average in Canada for tuition fees. But I could certainly follow up with the exact numbers of averages in each province, and I can follow up on the completion time as well. I don't have those with me at the moment.
M. Elmore: Thank you very much for your presentation. It's a consistent message we're hearing as well from other student associations across the province in terms of barriers to education with tuition fees.
Just wondering as well. Are there other barriers that you're hearing from students, making it difficult to complete studies? Number one, a lot of part-time students had, also, difficulty around accessing daycare on site. Do you have any of those other issues here?
A. McLellan: Well, just in terms of daycare, we have a child care society, actually, on campus, which is supported in part by fees that are collected through the students union. We do have pretty good access to child care on campus, so that's always a benefit.
Primarily, the barriers that we're seeing from students are financial. I think the important point that we've also tried to make, in this presentation particularly, is that we have to follow the effect of that financial barrier not just on access but through to completion and also the participation of graduates in the economy and in our society. I think sometimes that gets a little bit lost in the discussion on access.
Really, if we want an efficient system, we have to make sure that there is success in access, completion and the full participation of graduates.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you, gentlemen. We have run you out of time. Appreciate you taking the time to come out to us today.
Next up we have Thompson Rivers University — Alan Shaver and Karl deBruijn. Welcome, gentlemen. As you may have heard, you've got 15 minutes. I'll give you a little heads-up around ten minutes.
K. deBruijn: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I just want to take the opportunity to once again thank you for coming and listening to our concerns and hearing about our upcoming directions and stuff.
TRU serves the post-secondary needs of more than 29,000 students. These students are studying on campus in Kamloops, Williams Lake, at regional centres and throughout the country via Open Learning. Of the on-campus students, 1,500 of them are just beginning their post-secondary experience. This large and diverse population of domestic, international and aboriginal learners creates an intricate educational community that is rich in culture.
We are approaching the first complete year of leadership under president and vice-chancellor Alan Shaver, who's sitting beside me today — a highly accomplished academic with an impressive background in educational administration.
Just recently the hon. Wally Oppal, QC, was named TRU chancellor, in March. On September 6 he was on hand when TRU launched Canada's first new faculty of law in more than 33 years.
The inaugural class has come from various regions across the country to join our founding dean, Chris Axworthy — also Queen's Counsel. Since the faculty of law requires its own space, we have begun the expansion of our old main building. It always bothers me — the name "old main" — because it was where I started my post-secondary education. It was the new main then. But we still call it that, and I'm hoping we'll change that after we get the new floor on there.
We're getting this project underway. We've committed ten million of our dollars from the university to get it started. Over the next two years the expansion of old main will create hundreds of jobs and create much-needed space for many of our other programs as well. We're hoping to significantly enhance the opportunity for legal training and to offer those legal services to areas that traditionally have difficulty getting that. It is one of our major focuses of that law school. We look forward to the province's fiscal participation in supporting that capital expansion and the operational requirements of the faculty of law.
To meet the growing demand by the community of Kamloops for public venue space and to increase learning space for our students, we have taken the initiative to expand our campus activity centre. This $3.6 million project has created dozens of jobs as well. You probably noticed today that you're in the building that we're expanding right now.
We've also continued to strategically expand our academic programming. TRU's major academic initiatives for the upcoming year include the ongoing internationalization of our academic programs and the implementation of our academic plan, which is currently in the final stages of development.
TRU is building upon its tradition of excellence: undergraduate teaching with a focus on research supporting student learning, as well as the creation of new knowledge in graduate programs. We continue to meet the growing demands of the province's learners and support the ongoing growth of this region's robust tourism, construction, mining and service industries.
In addition, TRU is pleased to report the further growth in our Open Learning division. You may recall that when we first amalgamated TRU and B.C. Open University, creating TRU Open Learning — or OL, as we know it — the enrolments had been declining by more than 5 percent each year for nine years. It was at 60 percent of its capacity. Last year we were pleased to report that Open Learning was at 104 percent, a capacity based on the ministry's allocated targets.
TRU now has a physical presence in the Lower Mainland. We've opened an office space in downtown Vancouver, which will help us fill that mandate of reaching out to every part of the province. It will also support our international recruitment of students by being very strategically located in downtown Vancouver near other international schools and things, where we're hoping to attract and recruit.
Just as I reported last year, TRU World, our international division, continues to increase international student enrolments. More than 1,500 students from 90 countries and regions are attending TRU in 2011. Their tuition revenue accounts for 13 percent of TRU's annual budget, and now it creates an annual and economic impact in the Kamloops region of close to $100 million.
This university continues to be a leader in the recruitment and retention of international students, and it is internationally recognized for providing quality education in a safe learning environment.
Yesterday I was pleased to hear the Premier commit to increasing the number of international students in B.C. by 50 percent over the next four years. We wholeheartedly support this goal.
As government is aware, TRU has very successfully utilized debt financing to build a campus to meet the needs of our learners. Many of our facilities here were built through that process. So we once again would ask for a commitment from the province to review its policy on debt financing.
Moving forward, we would suggest maybe a case-by-case review process, allowing universities the ability to apply for strategic exemptions to this policy. This would allow the government to look at individual cases and to look at the track record and perhaps provide more confidence to government that this would be a good way to invest in the province and in specific universities. You'll certainly help us to build the space we need to expand the international program here.
While looking forward to increasing our capacity, we must also remain aware of the growing need to maintain our existing infrastructure. We do recognize the financial constraints faced by the province, as you outlined earlier in your introductory remarks. However, as we reported last year, the reduction of our capital improvement grant has compelled us to defer once again scheduled upgrades and maintenance to a number of our core buildings. The reduction in the annual capital allowance, funding for cyclical maintenance, will become an even greater issue for TRU in the near future.
The recently completed facilities audit indicated that TRU will need to invest considerable funds to maintain its core assets and improve the environmental sustainability of our physical infrastructure. British Columbians have made a significant capital investment in TRU, and this investment must be protected.
The goals and directions that we have brought forward today are unchanged from last year. We look forward to continuing to work with the province on each of these initiatives. As our student numbers and our beautiful campus demonstrate, we have been extremely successful in running an efficient and focused institution that remains true to its founding mission of meeting the educational needs of British Columbians. I think the province can remain confident that Thompson Rivers University will continue to be an educational and economic driver in British Columbia, especially in the interior of British Columbia.
In many ways, this has been a very big year for TRU, and we are determined not to lose momentum. Again, I thank you for this opportunity to present this, and certainly will entertain any questions.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent.
B. Ralston: Just on the issue of the debt financing, I believe that's an issue that involves whether the university is inside the reporting entity or not. You may recall the history of this — that the government wanted to put the SUCH sector inside the government reporting entity. That would seem to be a very difficult step to take backwards.
It would seem to me that with the business expertise and, perhaps, the accounting advice that you would have available in your business administration department, maybe there might be some solution that has eluded people in the ministry thus far. Is there any progress on that, beyond just expressing your concern about that and your objection to it?
K. deBruijn: I'll ask Dr. Shaver to respond, if that's okay.
A. Shaver: There has been a lot of discussion between the universities and the government, and you're quite right. It was put in the government reporting agency. I think we're not asking for that to change. But when we go through and work with people who want to do P3s — and we have a very creative VP of finance and administration, and we have access to all of the minds, as you say — we can't carry forward debt.
What we're looking for is a way of getting an exemption on a case-by-case basis so that the government will still have oversight on the level of university debt.
K. deBruijn: I think, if I may add, that if you look as you go outside here behind the new student residence, the international building…. This building itself was constructed that way. I think that we do have a lot of expertise in our accounting and our finance department here, and we'd certainly entertain the opportunity to come down and discuss the ways of doing this.
B. Ralston: Just as I understand P3s, they're not considered debt. They're a contingent liability and don't appear on the province's debt-to-GDP ratio. Anyway, obviously this is something that requires a discussion in a different forum.
J. Thornthwaite: Thank you very much for your presentation. Thank you, also, for your comments about the Premier's announcement yesterday to encourage more international students. Of course, I know that you've done a great job with your accommodation that is designed for international students.
My question is: what do you say to the parents of local kids when we have a focus on international students? Should they be worried that they might lose spots, or are these additional spots because you've accommodated them for accommodation?
A. Shaver: It's all additional.
K. deBruijn: We don't specifically have residences for international students right now. The residences here are open to anybody. The majority of our international students right now are in homestay visits, so we have partnerships with the people in the community to do that. That's great, but we're kind of at capacity with that. The school district utilizes that stuff as well as the university, building specific accommodation for that.
The concern that some people may have that there may be displacement of their own children is, I think, quite a needless one. It's just not accurate. In fact, I can say that the international students here really support our ability to fill classes and make those classes viable. You might have eight international students in a classroom and another 12 domestic students in there. You can run that program more cost-effectively, and we can offer a greater variety of that because we have those students. It creates teaching positions and instructor positions. It's an absolute win.
I agree. The perception, we need to work on. That's not something that's going to…. By improving our international…. I think if you talk to any of the students here, just the cultural gain that occurs with having international students is just wonderful for Kamloops.
A. Shaver: I'll just add to that. I stayed in the residence, the new res, for six months when I joined the university. So I lived with the students, and I can tell you that the majority of the students in the new res are what we'd call domestic students, and the international students are mixed in with them.
We feel that we're starting to come to the limit in terms of accommodation for domestic students and international students. There are only so many homestays that you can arrange — and they're very successful and very popular. If we're going to continue to advance our enrolment, not only for international students but also for domestic students…. More and more parents are saying: "Guarantee a place in residence for my child, at least for the first year." We want to be able to do that and serve the parents of domestic students too.
J. Thornthwaite: Thank you very much.
R. Howard (Chair): Time for one last quick one.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks for the presentation. Good to see you again this year.
The Minister of Advanced Education said yesterday after the international student announcement that the government is still working on a strategy around international students. Were you consulted by the Ministry of Advanced Education before the announcement, and have you been told you will be consulted around the strategy that has yet to be worked out, apparently?
A. Shaver: Absolutely. Yes, in both cases. I attended one of the meetings myself, with the minister, and there was earlier a meeting with representatives of TRU and other universities. I think over 30 people attended a meeting with the minister, and we've been assured, especially through the councils that are going to be set up for international education, that we'll have input into that.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you.
Well, Karl and Doctor, thank you both for taking the time to come and visit with us.
K. deBruijn: Thank you very much for indulging us.
R. Howard (Chair): Pleasure.
Next up we have Fred Legace. Welcome, Fred. You probably know the drill. You've got 15 minutes. I'll give you a little heads-up around ten.
F. Legace: I'm not going to need it. I'm a one-pager kind of guy. I've always believed that you need to make your point in about three minutes or less, so that's my goal.
A Voice: Hear, hear. Right on.
F. Legace: I'm the managing director at Kamloops Airport Ltd., and I've been the manager here at the airport for about seven years now. We've seen this area grow at almost leaps and bounds over the last few years.
Some of it, though, is due to the support of the province. The province of B.C. has a well-deserved reputation for supporting aviation. My colleagues across the country are very envious of the support that the province provides to airports in the province. We've seen small airports benefiting from provincial support for infrastructure development projects, something that the federal program through ACAP does not do, certainly, on the development side.
We've received $6 million here in support of our own $25 million expansion project. From that, we've seen our passenger traffic through Kamloops grow by just about 30 percent over the years. Now with the infrastructure in place, we can look forward to attracting even more services to the community and region.
Significant development by the province of B.C. and Vancouver Airport Authority has helped to bring more tourists to the Interior. The province of B.C. agreed to eliminate the fuel tax charge for international flights at Vancouver. In addition, the airport authority then froze their landing fees and processing fees at the 2010 level. The airport there has received commitments from more than 20 air carriers to expand their services on the basis of that fee freeze and lowering of taxation.
Those services are not just for Vancouver. I think the phrase is "A rising tide floats all boats." Those additional services that we see bringing people to the province of B.C. bring those people out into the interior of British Columbia. It brings skiers to Sun Peaks. It brings guests to resort ranches and golfers to many of the championship courses that we have around this area. Those are world-renowned, and certainly those are the flights that we look for to bring people into this region's tourism.
We certainly can't discuss the people who come to visit the province if they've never heard of us, so there's a significant body of people around the province who have banded into various organizations to promote our area to the world beyond us. Locally, Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, Tourism Kamloops and many others in communities around our area function as a result of the participation of the province and the collection of local fees to support marketing.
The period of the implementation of the HST, now with its impending withdrawal, has really introduced a lot of uncertainty in the tourism industry. Marketing commitments need to be consistent and need to function over many years. So a multi-year funding of an arm akin, probably, to Tourism British Columbia is necessary to ensure that the pipeline is filled with tourists coming to our area.
What does tourism do for our area? It provides jobs that are renewable for our young people so they can stay here and prosper. The tourism faculty at TRU is graduating people who are developing and investing in local tourism products like guiding and skiing, rafting and outdoor adventure. Our sons and daughters are making those careers for themselves, and we need to support them in their chosen industry by promoting the province to the world.
Thank you very much. I think that was less than three.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. That was very efficient, for sure.
Fred, have you undertaken any studies? Do you talk about what a new daily flight is worth to the airport? I'm thinking of this in terms of Open Skies, you know, and getting more traffic.
F. Legace: I don't have that with me, but that is actually a very well-known and very quantifiable number that's traditionally been used to identify the difference between a tourism customer from your local region, nationally from the balance of your country and then the international. The difference in spend ratio in the local economy that produces jobs is orders of magnitude greater when you look at the international tourists coming to your area.
Those are the ones that we want to attract. Those are the highest margin to come to our area without, I think, completely avoiding the fact that we need to do it regionally and nationally as well. But that international traveller is the high-margin one.
B. Ralston: I know the American market is a bit slow right now, but what in the way of direct flights from the States do you have or have you pursued? And what support do you get from the federal government in terms of customs clearance and that sort of thing that's necessary if you have international travellers coming directly to Kamloops?
F. Legace: The direct flights from the States have really been problematic over the last couple of years. Really, it boils down to the economy within the United States. The issue of customs clearance and customs clearance fees is important for smaller airports, not just Kamloops. It's almost chicken-and-egg. If you have enough people coming through your airport, the CBSA will provide the service as part of their program. However, getting to that means there's a significant penalty to the air carrier. They have to pay the fee for the provision of that service, so it's a little bit of that jump over to get to that point where CBSA will tackle that service internally.
We have been in touch with U.S. air carriers. The people from Horizon Air, now Alaska Airlines, are still interested in coming back here. I think the change to their business plan, however, from when they serviced Kamloops a couple of years ago, was as a purely seasonal service. They would really want to translate that into an annual type of service throughout the entire year. So it's incumbent on us to really build that summer product for them — you know, a lot of the summer product we have around here. It's a bit of a tough sell to someone in Seattle, though, to come to Kamloops, because it's just as nice there in the summer as it is here.
B. Ralston: I can't believe that's true.
F. Legace: That's what I'm told.
P. Pimm: I'm looking at your numbers here. It shows that there's 30 percent growth in passenger traffic since you did your expansion. When was the expansion done?
F. Legace: It was over 2007 and '08 and then just into early 2009. We went from about 180,000 people using the terminal building to now in the order of 260,000. So there's been a significant upside.
P. Pimm: So those numbers — do they translate correctly into a rise in tourism in the area? Could I project those that way?
F. Legace: Absolutely. From the air carriers' perspective, the Kamloops market has changed from an outbound market, which was normally people from Kamloops travelling out to other parts of the world or business people out doing meetings in other parts of the country, to where WestJet and Air Canada now consider Kamloops to be a destination. That's got a lot to do with the amount of promotional marketing that's happening out there from Tourism Kamloops, from the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association. They're really promoting this area and the tourism product out there in the greater world, and people are coming here in significant numbers.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Hi. Thanks for the presentation. We heard earlier in another community around the importance of Tourism B.C., a destination marketing organization that focuses outside our boundaries. The aspect of it that was emphasized is it being an industry-led body and not part of government. Is that your take, when you reference something akin to Tourism B.C. in your document?
F. Legace: My reference there is mostly to the process that's undergoing right now, which you speak of, where the whole way that this thing is going to be put together at the end of the year is…. I think in the industry locally they're looking for something akin to that, which has an arm of government solely focused on that destination marketing piece that's not diluted or directed into other areas.
So that's where the value of Tourism B.C. always was — really that focus on destination marketing. That's the piece that I think it would bring. How it works at the end of the day — I think it truly has to be industry-led. Those are — at least that I've been involved with — the smartest people in the world who know how their tourism product is developed and what their customers are looking for. So that's the piece we need to take care of to make sure we market that properly.
Yeah, there needs to be industry participation. But you know what? Government needs to be there along with us too. I don't think it's 100 percent that, but certainly the industry has a lot to offer about the direction it needs to go. Was that clear?
D. Hayer: Thank you, Fred. We landed at your airport earlier today. It was a very nice airport.
F. Legace: I hear you're a paying customer, yeah. Thank you.
D. Hayer: It was good to see that that expansion is very
nicely and well appreciated.
Now, you said in the last couple of years that you had a 30 percent increase in the traffic, number of passengers coming in . Have you looked at the next study to see what the next ten, 15, 20 years are going to be like for here upon the number of passengers coming to this airport or this region using your airport?
F. Legace: Most of the plans that we're putting in place right now really are more shorter-term in nature. It's probably more reflective of the uncertainty in the global economy. We do have longer-term plans around infrastructure and around what the facility is going to look like. But really for target markets, for talking to airlines and for encouraging people to come to this area, I think those plans are really short-term in nature. Those are two to three, maybe four years out.
If anyone would have told me where we would be sitting now three years ago, I probably would have called them a liar. But you know, that's the uncertainty of that business. It's really dependent on a lot of the global economy.
So our plans are a little shorter-term. The infrastructure plan, though, is a lot longer. It's out at 20 years, but it gives us the opportunity to really react to any growth that we have so that we can expand the facility.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you so much for taking the time to come out.
Next up, we have Thompson Rivers University Faculty Association — Jason Brown.
You are our third group from Thompson Rivers, so you're well represented today. You know the drill. You've got 15 minutes. I'll give you a heads-up around ten, and you can take some questions or push right through if you like — your choice.
J. Brown: Sounds good. Well, hopefully, I won't take more than ten minutes or so to deliver this. I do have a prepared statement, which I'll be forwarding to you afterwards.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you.
J. Brown: I won't be as short as Fred, but here we go.
Good afternoon. Welcome to Kamloops. Thank you for giving our faculty association this opportunity to present before you. Like other regions of the province, we face a number of economic and social challenges. However, like post-secondary institutions in other regions, our university plays an important role in not only helping our community make important transitions to more sustainable growth but also being a catalyst for greater diversification within our region.
I'm mindful of the committee's time — not as well as Fred — for presentations. So what I'd like to do is highlight some of the innovative and important work that TRU is doing in this region and then summarize the major challenges we face, both as educators and as academics.
First, a bit of background. TRU has a student base of 13,000 full-time and part-time students. We also have, as you've heard, the Open Learning university, which is housed at TRU — another 9,000 students who use on-line and remote learning to start, enhance or complete their post-secondary education.
When TRU was first launched in 2004, we were positioning ourselves to meet the post-secondary education needs of a significant region of the province, but unlike many of B.C.'s established universities, TRU did not abandon its commitment to being a comprehensive learning institution.
We take great pride in the fact that we provide not only undergraduate and graduate programs but also trades training and a wide range of developmental education programs. That's not only our strength as a post-secondary institution; it's our commitment to the community in which we operate. We strive to be relevant in the knowledge creation process and relevant to those who share in the interest of learning, whether that interest is sparked by the desire to complete their high school education or a master's program in one of the several disciplines that TRU offers.
Over the last year TRU has worked with a number of community stakeholders, as well as our association, to establish Canada's newest law school. In fact, the school is the first to be launched in the past 30 years. The school also represents a unique partnership with the University of Calgary, a partnership that will allow faculty from both universities to participate in program delivery as well as program design. It also means that students here in the region have choices and options other than travelling to the coast to pursue a law degree, an outcome that contributes to the stability in this region.
TRU has also become a significant post-secondary institution for international students. We currently have about 1,650 international students drawn from 90 different countries staying on the campus right now.
That international dimension has also worked its way into some of our existing programs. For example, in our nursing program we have developed a section in which our nursing students do some of their practicum in the developing nations of the Asia-Pacific region. It not only provides assistance to the health care system in those countries; it also provides invaluable experience to our students, experience that will inform and expand their understanding of the challenges in public health care.
Like every other public post-secondary institution in the province, we see ourselves as opening the doors to knowledge creation, skill development and lifelong learning opportunities for our students. There is an obvious social and equality dimension to opening those doors. But we also never lose sight of the economic dimension, as well. With improved skills and greater confidence to learn and adapt, the public investment that is made when we provide post-secondary education pays a positive return to the provincial treasury.
Various studies have described that return as an educational dividend which shows up in various forms. With higher skills, our students are on track for higher lifetime incomes, greater labour mobility and far lower levels of unemployment than would otherwise be the case. All of these outcomes benefit the provincial treasury and form the dividend that I described earlier.
It's not surprising to note that the public opinion research shows a strong degree of public support for greater investments in public post-secondary education. An April 2011 poll, for example, shows that 62 percent of B.C. residents strongly support greater investments in public colleges and universities, even if it meant paying more taxes.
Why the strong support? Most families see the connection between higher skills and a better future for their kids. Most adults see the correlation, as well — a correlation that explains, in part, why our universities put special emphasis on maintaining developmental programs that allow adult learners to return to complete their post-secondary education.
Where we face the greatest challenge, however, is on the funding side. The provincial government's most direct investment in our institution, the provincial operating grant, is not keeping pace with either the growing demands in this region or the basic cost pressures that arise from inflation. We know at a provincial level that real per-student operating grants for public post-secondary institutions have fallen by about 8.8 percent since 2001. The pattern at TRU tracks very closely to what we see happening at the provincial level.
What the funding shortfall means in terms of the programs we deliver and learning opportunities we provide can be summed up in the phrase "doing more with less." For our students that means more large lecture formats and fewer student support services. For our students it means fewer opportunities to revise and improve existing curriculum for faculty. None of these outcomes are what we believe should characterize B.C.'s public post-secondary education system. Quite the opposite. We want our institutions to have the capacity to create the knowledge and skills that research suggests will be more than just a source of innovation.
Those skills and knowledge are increasingly becoming the starting line for what makes a modern economy successful. However, the challenge isn't simply one of better funding for the institution. The challenge is also one of affordability. For the last ten years the public policy approach has been to have students pay an increasing share of their post-secondary education. So in 2002 tuition fees were deregulated and have since more than doubled for many programs and courses.
Not surprisingly, students now shoulder a much greater burden in terms of costs and much higher debt loads once they have completed a program. For many post-secondary institutions the deregulation of tuition fees meant that students now shoulder between 25 percent and 30 percent of the cost of their education, up from about 18 percent to 20 percent at the start of the decade.
At TRU the shift has been even more dramatic. In 2011 tuition fees account for over 40 percent of the institution's revenues. In 2001 that number was closer to 20 percent, so it has now doubled in ten years — the proportion that students pay towards their education, as opposed to the government funding.
Over the same decade we haven't seen any corresponding increase in the wages or incomes of students or their families, an outcome that is consistent with the rise in student debt that we have seen during this period. Our faculty association shares the concerns of many student organizations within our post-secondary institutions — that B.C. needs to address the affordability problem.
A year ago this committee recommended that the government look at mechanisms to lower the cost of student debt by lowering the interest rate charged on that debt and developing a system of needs-based student grants.
Unfortunately, the government didn't implement those recommendations. But that shouldn't discourage this committee and the members on this committee from advancing those recommendations again this year.
The committee should also recommend that from a funding perspective, it's time to make a serious and deliberate commitment to improve the operating grants that post-secondary institutions receive. A first step in that direction would be to recommend changes that would prevent the erosion of current per-student grants by the effects of inflation.
Another consideration would be to consult with post-secondary stakeholders on how best to revise the funding formula for post-secondary institutions. That formula doesn't always capture the true costs of operating programs, especially from institutions like ours that have a number of satellite programs in various communities.
In summary, TRU will continue to play a critical role in the economic and social success of the region. However, we will underachieve on those important goals without better funding support from the province and improved affordability measures for our students. The public support for those measures is strong, and we hope this committee's report will provide the leadership to make those changes a reality in the February 2012 budget.
Thanks very much for the opportunity to speak before you, and I'll try to answer any questions you might have.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you. Have you done any costing on the cost of your proposals — what it would cost the provincial treasury to…?
J. Brown: I don't have any specific proposals that I'm asking you to do. What I'm suggesting is that ten years ago the ratio of funding that was provided by government to post-secondary education was a lot greater as a percentage. What we're saying is just that the government might want to take a look at trying to get back to previous levels or at least see that if we don't make any increases and we let inflation erode the real power of the government funding, then it's going to cause our institutions to suffer — and students.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks for the presentation — some very good information there. We were in Williams Lake earlier, a TRU catchment area, and a presenter had a point about local people for local jobs and the fact that — I think they said — in the forestry workforce 40 percent of the members had not completed high school graduation.
You mentioned adult learners. Would you have any recommendation around funding — for instance, to adult basic education programming?
J. Brown: Thanks for asking that question. I think it's a very important point that you've raised, because as we see the tuition fees and the burden of ever-increasing tuition fees put onto families, we see the very students you're talking about having fewer and fewer opportunities to go to university.
I just wanted to tell a quick story. Earlier this year I was able to attend the inception ceremony for our new chancellor, Wally Oppal. During his speech he was telling a story about his youth, and apparently, when he was young, his family was not very well-to-do. I think he was telling that his mother was in the cleaning business, and he lost his father at a young age, if I recall correctly.
He was saying he was extremely grateful for the opportunities that he's had, and that to provide funding for education keeps people off the streets and doing things that otherwise he would have to put them in jail for. So he was encouraging TRU to continue to seek opportunities for all students to go and improve their education.
I really appreciate that you asked that question. I think it's very important that we do find ways to fund people who might otherwise not have the means to attend university.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you, Jason. We really appreciate you coming out this afternoon.
J. Brown: Thank you for that opportunity. Have a nice afternoon.
R. Howard (Chair): Next up we have the Cement Association of Canada — David Hoff and Michael McSweeney. Or just Michael McSweeney.
M. McSweeney: David's parking. We thought we were on at 5:30.
R. Howard (Chair): We're not that far ahead of schedule, but we're a little ahead of schedule.
M. McSweeney: That's great.
R. Howard (Chair): Welcome. So you'll have 15 minutes. At about ten minutes I'll give you a little heads-up, and you can take some questions or just push right through if you like.
M. McSweeney: Great. Thank you very much, MLAs, for allowing us to present today. My name is Mike McSweeney. I'm president of the Cement Association of Canada. I really enjoy coming to Kamloops. Even though I live in Ottawa, I manage to visit this city three or four times a year. It really is the crossroads of the province, with its rivers, highways, railways and a never-ending flow of people, services and industry.
Lafarge Canada has a cement kiln here for that very reason, to serve the province from the centre and to serve its interior. The Kamloops plant is one of three cement plants we have in British Columbia. The other two are Lafarge's plant in Richmond, B.C., and a Lehigh Hanson's plant in Delta.
Unfortunately, I'm here to tell you today that after many decades of prosperity in British Columbia, the cement industry is struggling when it should not be. It is suffering primarily as a result of an unintended consequence of the carbon tax.
Don't get me wrong. The cement industry is very supportive of climate change. We've been working diligently with the climate action secretariat, Ministry of Environment and other ministries for over four years in trying to develop a system that allows the cement industry to provide well-paid jobs and remain competitive. At the same time, though, we understand that we have a role in reducing greenhouse gases.
From our perspective, the B.C. carbon tax was launched too quickly, without enough industry consultation and implemented without proper measures to protect domestic manufacturing industries and untaxed imports of cement. Who's paying the price for this? It's the B.C. families today.
While the situation is very serious for our industry today, I'm also here to say that I do bring good news. This is a problem that can be easily fixed by the Minister of Finance in the next budget.
After many meetings over the last four years with B.C. politicians — I think I've seen many of you around the table — and civil servants in attempting to make the carbon tax more fair, the B.C. industry, in consultation with the B.C. climate action secretariat, has developed a solution that will protect B.C. jobs, protect B.C. families, increase revenue for the B.C. government and protect the environment, all at the same time.
Let me remind you that cement is like flour, and concrete is like bread. Cement is a fine white or grey powder made from heating limestone in a rotary kiln at very high temperatures. Concrete is the hard substance that forms when the cement powder is mixed with water, sand and gravel and then allowed to set.
In B.C. cement is made from limestone quarried in Kamloops — right here — and on Texada Island, and heated with coal from the Kootenays and Tumbler Ridge. B.C. cement kilns manufacture a 98 percent made-in-B.C. product.
When we use coal to heat the limestone, we pay a carbon tax which will cost our industry next year $20 million a year. This is in addition to all the other normal taxes that our industry pays: corporate, sales, payroll, gasoline, municipal taxes, to name a few — and now, potentially, with the change to the PST.
B.C. cement industry is a manufacturing industry born out of mining. It makes strategic sense for B.C. to have a prosperous cement industry. It has the required minerals in plentiful supply. In contrast, Saskatchewan and Manitoba don't have that. They don't make their own cement. They have to import it from Alberta, B.C. or the U.S. at extra transportation costs and increased greenhouse gases.
Cement needs to be seen as a strategic commodity. It is easily shipped around the world. The key determining factors for the global price of cement powder are local labour standards, environmental regulations and transportation costs.
Before the carbon tax was instituted in 2008, most of the cement consumed in the province was made here in B.C. At that time imports of cement into British Columbia were only 4 percent.
Now, after three years of the carbon tax, cement imports into British Columbia have increased to an unprecedented 23 percent. Almost one in four tonnes of cement used in British Columbia comes from elsewhere. Why? Because imported cement is not subject to the carbon tax in British Columbia.
Foreign cement powder comes into British Columbia tax-free. So when cement is manufactured anywhere else in North America or in China, it has an advantage over the domestic products here in the B.C. market. They don't pay carbon tax on their fuel. They don't pay carbon tax on their transportation costs. They don't pay carbon tax on their cement when it lands here.
The situation is even more acute for Asian cement. No carbon tax is collected at their kilns or paid on the ship's fuel as it travels across the world's biggest ocean or upon arrival in B.C., a crossing that only causes more greenhouse gases that ultimately end up here in B.C.'s airshed.
Not surprisingly, since the B.C. government allows foreign-made products in the B.C. market tax-free, there is now less demand for our own locally produced cement. As a result, in 2011 B.C. kilns are running at only 50 to 70 percent capacity, which has meant rotating layoffs for hundreds of employees and/or termination or layoff notices to contractors.
Local mines, trucking lines and railways serving the kilns are also hurt. The negative impact runs in the tens of millions of dollars each year. It also has an impact on B.C. families, as they're the ones who bear the brunt of unemployment while others are employed making cement in the United States or in China.
The reality is especially frustrating for many of our west coast employees and contractors as Texada Island limestone is mined in Texada, put on barges and sent to the state of Washington, where it's transformed into cement in Washington and then shipped back into British Columbia carbon tax–free.
In addition, because 23 percent of the cement used in B.C. now doesn't pay the carbon tax, the system is actually costing the government in direct revenue that it could be getting. The trend line shows that as the carbon tax increases, the tax base it applies to will continue to decrease. It's a money-losing proposition for all involved.
So as currently designed, the B.C. carbon tax leads to a perverse outcome. The B.C. carbon tax is actually causing more greenhouse gases through the transportation sector, hurting families because of layoffs and actually leaving potential government revenues on the table.
B.C. is the only jurisdiction in North America with a carbon tax, and it appears to be the only jurisdiction in the world that applies higher environmental standards and taxes on domestic production than it does on foreign imports.
But the good news is that we have a solution to make the carbon tax fair — by making it smarter. The cement industry supports government policies to put a price on carbon combustion — don't get me wrong — but we expect it to be applied fairly, without providing a competitive advantage to foreign imports.
We've been recommending now for a few years that the B.C. government should apply the carbon tax at the point of sale to the concrete industry. This way, all cement in B.C. will pay the carbon tax. It will be fair because every cement producer, whether it's B.C., Alberta, state of Washington or China, will pay the B.C. carbon tax. This change will help families by saving jobs, increase B.C. government revenue and help reduce GHGs in the B.C. airshed.
The cement industry would continue to pay the carbon tax on the coal we burn, so we would be incented to reduce emissions, and an input tax credit system would ensure that B.C. production is not doubly taxed. Moving the carbon tax on cement to the point of sale is a simple idea that would protect B.C. families, recreate B.C. employment and increase B.C. government revenues, and it would reduce greenhouse gases. It's a winner, truly, all around.
This is not an anti-environment or an anti–carbon tax proposal. When you look at the famous environmental treaties, whether it's Copenhagen, Cancun or Kyoto, they all extensively discuss environmental, economic and job leakage and stress that barriers are essential to ensuring the integrity of climate change initiatives. The lesson is simple. If you want to institute high environmental standards, you must protect against leakage if you want the policies to be effective.
The B.C. carbon tax is not effective as it currently operates. It hurts families, it hurts jobs, it hurts government revenues, and it hurts the environment. What's needed is for you to make a recommendation to make the carbon tax smart, effective and fair.
What we need today is political will. Some of B.C.'s most senior, influential and experienced political leaders are sitting around the table today. We look forward to you considering our proposal to move the carbon tax to the point of sale to the concrete industry and hope that you will recommend this in your report to the minister.
I'd be pleased to answer any questions that you might have.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you, Michael.
P. Pimm: Well, thank you for that presentation. It's a concept that's near and dear to my heart as well.
You talked about $20 million in carbon tax. Is that in the B.C. portion?
M. McSweeney: Yes. It started at $5 a tonne. Next year it'll be $30 a tonne. That will cost the three cement plants in B.C. $20 million, which, by the way, is 6 percent of their profits — one tax, 6 percent of their profits.
P. Pimm: And that's just your cement plants.
M. McSweeney: Just the three. There are only three cement plants.
P. Pimm: Just three. Okay, I wanted to get that clear in my mind.
Can you explain a little bit more about your point-of-sale concepts? I don't quite have that clear.
M. McSweeney: Today we pay carbon tax on the coal we use to produce cement. But what's happening is because it's forcing the price of B.C. cement to increase, imported cement can come into Canada, either through Asia or the United States. They don't pay the carbon tax, so they don't have to pay that $30 a tonne on the coal, so their cement is much cheaper than B.C. cement.
In the last three years we've seen imports rise from 4 percent to 23 percent. Every month we see more imported cement from the United States and China coming into B.C. We have made many submissions to the Ministry of Finance, and today we estimate that if you moved the carbon tax to the concrete industry and then everybody who buys cement for use in British Columbia would pay the carbon tax, that would raise somewhere between $1 million and $1½ million a year for the B.C. treasury.
Now, $1 million and $1½ million may not sound like a lot, but as you go ministry by ministry, department by department, office by office and you start to find a million here and a million here, all of a sudden it does add up — and to the benefit of the families in British Columbia.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks for the presentation — and to see you again, as well, at the committee.
Other than the proposal you suggest, which seems to address pricing fairness, are there ways the provincial budget could be used to help encourage reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the industry?
M. McSweeney: Yes, by not taxing alternative and renewable fuels. For example, we once were able to use tires as a fuel rather than coal. When the carbon tax came in, all of a sudden the carbon tax then applied to tires. So all of a sudden we're paying carbon tax on an alternative fuel.
Many people think that using tires as a fuel will create more greenhouse gases. Actually, it doesn't. Coal is the worst greenhouse gas producer. Anything after coal is better. And when you use tires, it actually decreases NOx and SOx. But now today when we use tires, they are subject to the carbon tax.
So if you can look at not applying a carbon tax to alternative or renewable fuels, that would act as an incentive for the cement industry to go and find fuels, whether it's biomass or others: plastics, construction and demolition debris, the biosolids from Metro Vancouver or the capital regional district, the manure from the poultry industry — all of those things. If there were no carbon taxes on any of those inputs, that would incent us to reduce our reliance on coal.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you, gentlemen. We've run you out of time. Appreciate you taking the time to come out this afternoon and speak to us.
M. McSweeney: We're holding a cement lobby day in Victoria on October 19 over at the Grand Pacific at seven o'clock. Hopefully, your invitations will be in the mail, and hopefully, we'll see you there. Thanks a lot for the opportunity.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you very much.
Next up we have the Society for the Advancement of Non-coercive Education — Brenda Birch and David Gagnon. Welcome to you both. You will have 15 minutes. At about ten minutes I'll give you a heads-up. You can either stop around there for some questions, or you can take the whole 15 for yourself if you like — your choice.
B. Birch: Thank you. That's great.
R. Howard (Chair): You're welcome.
B. Birch: I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for being here to meet with all of these community groups to hear what we are interested in and doing all this consultation throughout B.C. We're here today to discuss a proposal to help schools transition to 21st century learning, specifically as presented in the Personalized Learning in B.C.: Interactive Discussion Guide created by the Ministry of Education.
We're also aware that the government of B.C. has given a clear mandate, through a number of avenues, for personalized learning. It's articulated well in the 2010 Speech from the Throne and also in the Premier's Technology Council document, A Vision for 21st Century Education. What we're here to do is talk a little bit about a proposal that we have to move this vision forward.
My name is Brenda Birch. As you know, I am vice-president of the board of the Society for the Advancement of Non-coercive Education. I have a degree in communications from Simon Fraser University.
I've spent about 20 years doing organizational change work in the area of leadership, team development, conflict resolution, mediation and diversity. I've spent about 15 years doing community development work and about 13 years working on educational change. That's my focus here today.
D. Gagnon: My name is David Gagnon. I've been a member of the Society for the Advancement of Non-coercive Education for many years, and in 2008 I served the society as the general coordinator for our conference that we held at UBC.
I've been a stage technician, I've been an event manager, and recently I was a sustainability and waste management manager for the city of Vancouver's cultural services department. I have managed successful political campaigns for a school trustee, and I've done work in a number of other fields. I've recently started a new job as a teaching assistant at Windsor House School.
I'll begin now by telling you a little bit about our society. SANE has been around for nearly 20 years, and we've been advancing inclusive, individualized education. When we talk about non-coercive education, we mean education that comes from a perspective of looking at a student's individual needs, not education that comes from a place of having predefined curriculum, teaching times, selected times and agendas for those students.
While traditional education focuses on transmitting knowledge to students, we believe that other aspects of knowledge are often left behind and equally important — knowledge such as entrepreneurship, social and environmental awareness and responsibility, communication, personal responsibility and shared leadership.
We're a community-based organization, and in 2008 we held the International Democratic Education Conference at UBC. We have also supported Windsor House students, parents and teachers to attend other education events and conferences in many different locations and countries.
We also support Windsor House School and its programs, because their proven school model brings together students, their families and the broader community in a collaborative setting that allows for deep exploration of individual interests.
We are excited to take this opportunity to let you know that we can further the Ministry of Education agenda and commitment to 21st century learning, and we ask that you choose to fund our proposed plan of action.
B. Birch: Thanks, David.
I'd just like to say that we are familiar with a variety of documents that have been written in this last couple of years, and they are listed in our presentation notes, so I won't go into all of them. But simply as a result of reading these and discussing them with our members — which include parents and teachers, students and academics — we have put together a plan of action, as I said, that we think will be very, very useful.
What you'll have noticed and may be confusing…. I'm going to just take a moment to say that the society that we talk about and that David and I are members of is a non-profit organization, a community-based group, and the Windsor House School is a program that we back and do programs for and that sort of thing.
It's really important to understand a little bit about Windsor House School because this is a school that has operated for about 40 years and has really demonstrated many of the principles of the personalized learning model that we're here today to promote and that the government is hoping to have become a reality — in the next few years, hopefully.
What I'd like to do is just talk a little bit about Windsor House School. David and I would like to talk a little bit about some of the stories. First of all, I'd like to say that our key recommendations are worthwhile to read, so you have that sense of it.
We recommend that our society use our depth of knowledge and experience in personalized learning to conduct a pilot project whereby self-identified elementary or secondary schools begin to incorporate aspects of personalized learning identified in the interactive discussion guide.
We recommend collaborating with all stakeholders — including students, teachers, parents, administrators, the BCTF and the Ministry of Education — to make a successful transition in these pilot schools. That's our main proposal. You've got a lot more detail within the document that we've handed to you, and we'll allow you to review that at another time.
D. Gagnon: To tell you a little bit more about Windsor House, the school is based on a founding principle of profound respect. That applies to all community members. It applies to parents, it applies to teachers, and it applies to every situation in which people interact with one another.
While democratic practice and democratic decision-making has been part of the school's process for more than 20 years, it wasn't an original mandate. The school was founded on parent participation and the profound respect which I mentioned.
For nearly 20 years Windsor House has operated with a democratic decision-making process. In this process all community members — be they students, parents or teachers — have a single vote in determining the sort of day-to-day reality and operation of the school. This is an almost unique feature in B.C., since I don't know of other schools that operate in a democratic fashion to this extent.
We've come to this philosophy because we believe that it creates a different kind of educational experience. Students are not only focusing on topics like mathematics, sciences and English, but throughout the process of governing their own school democratically, they're learning other skills. They come out of Windsor House prepared to participate in their own communities, in municipal or provincial government, in democratic process, in a way that students from the mainstream system are often not prepared to participate.
B. Birch: Sounds great. The other piece that we want to tell you a little bit about is some of the students that Windsor House serves, because sometimes people think that Windsor House School is an alternative program. In fact, it's not. It's a school that meets all of the mainstream students that any other school would serve.
One of the students, for instance, that we have…. Because of the personalized learning that we have incorporated, the student decided that he didn't want to take classes to learn to read. Although this may seem shocking, because it certainly did to his mother, he was very insistent that he could do it on his own. So the teachers got very creative about backing him to learn how to read on his own, without taking classes.
This student is very proficient in reading now and is actually working on scholarships to get into SFU. That's one of the kind of examples of a student that thrives at Windsor House, and this is a student that has no special needs.
The other kind of students do have special needs. We serve special needs children very well, because we have multi-age groupings as well. Lots of students that are older, who would normally be in classrooms isolated from each other…. The older students get to work with some of the younger students, and that can be a profound experience as well.
Particularly with the special needs children, that has been very useful because a lot of the students who have more capacity to teach some of the stuff they've learned can teach it to a fellow student, rather than a teacher. There are all sorts of stories like that, which exist at Windsor House.
R. Howard (Chair): I should let you know you're at about 11 minutes. We do have a few questions.
B. Birch: Yes, we wanted to finish there. Thank you so much. Any question, we'd be happy to entertain.
B. Ralston: I have a quick question. One, do you receive independent school funding from the ministry? Secondly, is this a school that runs on what I understood were Waldorf principles?
B. Birch: No, not Waldorf at all. And we are fully publicly funded and have been for about 35 years.
B. Ralston: So it's not an independent school?
B. Birch: It's not an independent school. We were part of the North Van district, and we're now part of the Gulf Islands district.
B. Ralston: Okay, I didn't understand that. Thank you.
J. Thornthwaite: Thank you very much for your presentation. Yes, I'm familiar with Windsor House.
I have a question about the pilot project. You said that it would cost approximately $746,000, and there would be three self-identified elementary or secondary schools. I'm wondering how you would identify those schools and if this amount of money is for one year, two years, three years? Or how would that money be spent over those years?
B. Birch: Great. That's a three-year project. We would identify the schools by going into all of the…. There are so many. All of your constituencies have a variety of excellent programs. We would go into schools that have already sort of shown an inclination towards personalized learning. They would fill out an application, and we would have them self-identify as being schools that…. So we'd go communicate throughout B.C.
J. Thornthwaite: How would you do that?
B. Birch: That would be figured out within…. I would like to use the same kind of communications systems that already exist within the Ministry of Education if that's possible, because it's way less expensive. But if there are other things that the Ministry — if we do get funded — wants to pursue, then we would do that too. There are lots of community groups and that sort of thing that we can get involved in.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you both very much for taking the time to visit with us this afternoon.
B. Birch: I appreciate your time.
R. Howard (Chair): Next up we have the Interior Indian Friendship Society — Geri Collins.
Hello, Geri. As you may know, you'll get 15 minutes. At about ten minutes I'll just give you a heads-up. You can either take some questions, or you can use all 15 for yourself if you like.
G. Collins: That's fine. It's interesting for me. I'm not used to being in a place where I meet the MLAs, and I don't know very many of them. Doug and Bill, I've met you both, but I don't believe I've met any of the rest of you. That's interesting.
R. Howard (Chair): Well, we've met now. We're off to a good start.
G. Collins: You were supposed to have our ED, Christopher Phillips, and he's down actually meeting with a couple of ministers in Vancouver on behalf of the friendship centre today. So you have me. I'm the president of the board of directors. As such, I don't necessarily have all the day-to-day information of the friendship centre. But I've been involved with the friendship centre for 32 of its almost 40 years in existence here in Kamloops.
One of the things about our friendship centre that is a little bit unique is the population — a mix of aboriginal people in Kamloops — in comparison to the rest of the province. I'm sure you're all aware that 3.8 percent of the overall population in B.C. is aboriginal. In Kamloops 7.9 percent are aboriginal. Normally, in most of B.C. 53 percent of native people live on reserve. In Kamloops we have 62 percent off reserve and 38 percent on reserve.
Myself, I'm a member of the Kamloops Indian band, and I actually do live on reserve. The friendship centres over the years have been extremely good to me. Along with being part of the friendship centre, my job is with an aboriginal Community Futures. We do business services and business loans to help our people get into business. That's a different story, so that's not what I'm here for today.
One of the things, and I guess one of my passions, is the fact that our people need some assistance in order to effectively be participants in what happens with mainstream society, and it's very difficult.
It's a real honour to come here today in front of you. Welcome to our region.
The friendship centre received federal funding originally from the Secretary of State, and then a few years ago they changed it to Heritage Canada. At one point in time, of the 102 friendship centres across Canada, there was $19½ million that was put out to the centres. There was a bit of a formula that allowed for how much each centre received of that as part of their core funding. Our friendship centre, based on the population and the size of the community, received what was supposed to pay for five full-time staff.
Since 1983 the money gradually started to drop, and it's now at $12½ million. There are still 102 centres in Canada. In B.C. there are 23. So out of that $12½ million, $3.1 million comes into B.C. Our centre receives $140,000 a year of that.
The staple money that we receive from the provincial government is for our program director. The program directors are responsible for some of the cultural activities, work with elders, work with our youth and to try and help them connect with their culture and their roots, because quite often in the urban population people don't have that. We now receive from the province $25,000 for that. You don't get a full-time staff member and the programs that go along with it for $25,000 a year. So it's very hard.
We've been lucky, though. We've got good staff, and we've been able to obtain services through other contracts. What I've included is just an outline of what we do.
Today we have 23 staff members. We receive some dollars from IHA, and we have an urban health centre. But what we get from IHA isn't necessarily the dollars. That's wrong. We get staff. We have a physician and some nursing staff.
But at the friendship center we have to cover all the operating costs ourselves for the health centre. It's quite heavily utilized because one of the criteria for using the urban health centre is that you don't have a family physician. So we don't limit it just to persons of aboriginal ancestry. Anyone that can come in and needs the service is able to access it. It's a cost to the friendship centre because we have to cover the operating costs, but the service is very much needed in the community.
We have a program from the Canadian Women's Foundation for young women, pre- and early teen girls, and that's about them learning who they are and being proud of who they are and some of the skills they need to function effectively as life goes on for them.
We have a contract with Service Canada for a homeless project, and that is for persons who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness. That's very heavily utilized. We have been able to put in a laundry room so that they can come in, and they've got a washer and dryer. They have showers so that they can clean themselves up and their clothing.
We also take some donations of clothing, so if they need to, they can pick stuff up. We're a little bit picky. It's not a dump-off joint. You know, we don't want things that wouldn't be useful, but if there are some good, useful things, we do pass it on to some of those people.
We have a luncheon every week for them, and we also have a monthly elders luncheon. Both are really quite well subscribed to. Lots of people come in and out.
At present we have two locations. We have one on Palm Street, which is our primary location, and there we do our elder services, some of our youth services. That's where the health unit is, and then the alcohol and drug services and some of the other things around that.
We also have a family centre on Parkcrest. That's where we do the services for children and families, young parents. It's really interesting, because we not only have single moms with children, but we also have single dads — quite a few of them. So we have a single moms session as well as a session for single dads.
We do have some computers for a computer centre. The province used to provide us with some money to do some literacy training using the computers. We don't have that anymore, but it's something that's very much needed.
The reason why we separated the two locations was because of the homeless project and a lot of the street people and that. We wanted to keep the children and the young families in a different environment. That property — there are two acres there. So there's a little bit of land, and they have gardens sometimes and different things. We have the Roots program and the Healthy Beginnings RN and some of our health programs there.
Last year, just to give you an idea of how the centre is utilized, we actually had served…. We keep stats because for most of the dollars we get, it's required that we keep statistics. We had 21,950 people come through the centre. That was individuals, not counting the actual numbers of services. That was how many different people accessed some of the programs and services.
R. Howard (Chair): Geri, just so you know, you're at about ten minutes, so you've got five left.
G. Collins: Yeah. I will be quiet in a couple of minutes here, then, and if you have any questions, I'll be happy to answer them.
I think there are a couple of things. People have the idea quite often that the native community sort of gets more than their share of dollars from government, and I wish that were true. It isn't. There's a significant difference in what the off reserve are able to access and what goes actually through the reserve communities.
Healthy Beginnings is one of the projects. That's strictly for on reserve. I know that provincial government entered into an agreement, and it’s a good program for the new relationship trust. That's strictly a resident, on-reserve program, so none of that money is accessible if you're off reserve or if you're not a resident First Nations of B.C.
There's quite a bit of difference between what we're able to get and not. I think there are several really significant needs. One of them is education. I'm thinking in terms of improving literacy opportunities.
Darn. I wasn't going to say this. The announcement made about increasing educational opportunities for international students — it bumps our students. It's very hard for not just my family but probably yours as well to get the classes they want when there is limited classroom space and it's taken over by people from outside of Canada.
I think I'd better stop, because I'm going to get myself in trouble. I've got a few soapboxes, and I don't want to get on them. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you. We have a few.
J. Thornthwaite: Thank you very much for your presentation. As a matter of fact, we did have the TRU people just moments ago, and I asked that specific question. The answer I got was that no, that's not the case and that the extra money that the international students do provide actually provides more opportunities for domestic kids.
I understand where your fears are. I know that there is a fear, not just with the aboriginal community but also for my own kids. But that was the answer that we got.
My question. I was looking through your stuff. Specifically, what are you asking from the Finance Committee?
G. Collins: I would like to see more recognition and thought given to providing some of the necessary supports for urban aboriginal peoples.
J. Thornthwaite: So those off reserve.
G. Collins: Yeah.
J. Thornthwaite: Right.
G. Collins: I know a lot of people say: "Well, you're off reserve, so you have access to all of the services that are available to any citizen." But that's not necessarily true. Culturally relevant services are extremely important, particularly when you're working with young people and young families — our elders as well. They're isolated. The home care isn't available to them, and that kind of thing. So a lot of times they're separated from their families and their communities, and they don't have access to having their needs met and the support they need to stay independent in their homes.
J. Thornthwaite: Thank you. I have another question, if there's room.
R. Howard (Chair): I'll come back to you, maybe.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks for the presentation, Geri. It wouldn't be normal if you weren't getting yourself in trouble. [Laughter.]
G. Collins: Thanks a lot, Doug.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): We've heard around the province about infrastructure being important to economic development and jobs, but we've also heard support services being important too. You target, you provide that to a disadvantaged segment of the population, people who want to participate — and that would be increase in productivity as well.
My question is: can you describe some of the efficiencies that the services you deliver through the friendship centre bring compared to other service deliverers, and not only just the services and how you deliver them, but also the fact that you can match up with federal funding if we provide more provincial funding?
G. Collins: We don't have much in terms of federal funding in order to be able to match. But one of the things, I think, is location. You're not paying the rents and the extra stuff. I think the skills and expertise of the staff….
Not everyone fully understands and comprehends the importance of being culturally sensitive when you're working with aboriginal people. Our people don't normally complain. If you ask them how they are, they'll say, "I'm not bad," or "I'm pretty good" — that kind of thing. So quite often you don't get a real handle on what's going on in their heads and that.
The other thing is, I think, you don't get the passion if you're not working with people who come from the same needs and that. One of the reasons why I personally am so committed to friendship centres, to our friendship centre, is…. You know, when I grew up I experienced a lot of difficulty. I went through the mainstream school system. I was one of two native students in the school system, and I always say: "He learned to drink, and I learned to fight." That kind of thing is still happening today.
You see a lot of things going on. You hear about youth gangs and that kind of thing. It's basically self-preservation. So having a place where we can support people to be proud of who they are and just stand up for what's right and the values that come with the culture, I think, is really good dollars spent. You get troubles if that doesn't happen.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you, Geri. We've run you right out of time. We appreciate you making the effort to come out this afternoon.
G. Collins: Thank you very much. I didn't have this all written down. I've got it half-written, so I will get it finished, and I will forward it. If you want to know how to spend your money really in detail, come back and ask me. I'll help you.
D. Hayer: You have a very detailed summary in here, which is very good.
R. Howard (Chair): Next up we have the Centre for Seniors Information — Brenda Prevost.
Welcome, Brenda. I think you know the drill. You've got 15 minutes. I'll give you a little heads-up around ten minutes. You can take some questions or go right through if you prefer.
B. Prevost: All right. Thank you very much.
Good evening, everyone. I appreciate the opportunity to be able to present to you this evening. It was kind of a whirlwind to get the presentation ready. We initially did not think we could present it. They found a cancellation yesterday, so it was a quick pull-together. You will be receiving as well — because we thought it was our only other alternative — an actual printed analysis and recommendation from our board of directors, from the Centre for Seniors Information.
A little bit of history. The Centre for Seniors Information was established — we are a non-profit charity, by the way — in 1997. We are primarily volunteer-driven. We provide a wide range of services for seniors in Kamloops and all of the surrounding district. Our programs are centred around elder abuse awareness, education, and advocacy for seniors as well as individuals who are experiencing difficulty in the community and that have a disability. We provide peer counselling, fraud awareness programs and education, grief support — just to name a few of some of the other services that are presented.
Today in this presentation I'd like to start out my recommendation by repeating a very well-known fact that applies to all situations but particularly, in my opinion, to the field of health care. That statement is that prevention is always better than cure. Today I'm here to talk specifically about non-medical home support services. These are services that are primarily focused on helping seniors and individuals with a disability stay safe and secure in their own homes.
Most seniors have not only the desire but the capability to live happily well-maintained lives with just a small amount of support around their home and their yard — services such as lawn mowing, shovelling snow in the wintertime, doing household work, cleaning eavestroughs, doing water shutoffs, home safety checks, etc. These are services that we have been providing for some time.
There seems, however, to be a persistent belief that the increasing size of our older population is putting such a huge burden on our health care system, even though there is an overwhelming amount of research, much of it evidence-based, which proves that this would not be the case with home support services in place.
In our next budget I would like to see recommended that at least 4 percent be specifically allocated to the development and delivery of what is currently commonly referred to as non-medical home support services.
The development of these support services will be cost-effective in a number of ways by helping to promote the safety and well-being of our seniors and following through with the provincial policy of creating age-friendly communities, and by providing work skills training to individuals who are experiencing barriers to employment, individuals who are frequently already receiving government support through income assistance and through employment insurance.
This model has worked very successfully in other provinces for many years. We have modelled some of those programs — in particular, the program in Calgary, which has been running for approximately 25 years. Reducing the incidence of injury due to slips or falls from an unsafe environment or attempting to complete tasks they are no longer able to achieve without creating injury is therefore reducing, in turn, the cost of acute care.
From my understanding, funding for these types of services is currently not associated with any specific ministry. It basically has no description or any recognition in any area of government and is not attached to any budget. There is a perception that non-medical home support should be funded in direct relation to the $17 billion health care budget.
In reality, it can be applied to any area, including education, social services and possibly to whatever the $10.74 billion is in the other category. I haven't been able to find out exactly what that breakdown is for.
We talked about seniors living healthy. In reality, not all seniors can afford to live healthy when it comes to these kinds of tasks. They simply can't afford the costs that are associated with having these services hired and brought into their homes.
What's needed to take advantage of the cost benefits associated with non-medical home support? Savings in one area of the health care system can then be applied to other areas of the system. For example, spend a little more on non-professional people to do housekeeping for seniors now, which will likely result in a lower bill for long-term care just a few years down the road.
I'd like to talk a little bit about the CSI program that we have operated. The CSI HOME program stands for Household and Outdoor Maintenance Employment. The Centre for Seniors Information has been lobbying since 2006 for non-medical home support services for low-, fixed-income seniors. The average income is under $12,000 annually for a single person who is involved in our programs.
A volunteer-driven program was initiated in 2007 and 2008 which had a poor success rate due to the lack of continuity in providing scheduling and advanced planning. It was determined that for a non-medical home support program to be successful, it required continuity and structure far beyond the good intentions of a volunteer-driven program.
CSI focused on successful programs in other provinces that had very good success rates. CSI held an informational symposium in March of 2009, which resulted in two years of funding that totalled close to $1 million. The funding covered wages, equipment, vehicles, supplies, program delivery, marketing and the creation of an extensive data base.
The CSI HOME program was very successful and grew quickly from 728 home visits in 2009 to over 18,000 home visits in 2010 and the first three months of 2011. All of the 32 employees hired into this program were unemployed and no longer qualified for employment insurance benefits, or they were individuals who could not find employment due to barriers such as lack of skills or experience.
CSI began lobbying the provincial government in the spring of 2010 in anticipation of our funding ending in the spring of 2011. Everyone we spoke to in government, including several ministers, agreed that this program is working and is in need and should be provided for the well-being of seniors to promote independence and to reduce the cost of health care due to injury from slips, falls, overexertion, isolation, loneliness, depression.
Seniors who age in place, in their own homes, are not dependent on long-term care or required to permanently enter complex seniors housing. In a recent study by the University of Victoria, Neena Chappell, Canada Research Chair in Gerontology, states that the persistent belief that the increasing size of our older population will overwhelm the health care system is not true. She states that it is a myth. The paper was recently published in the academic journal HealthcarePapers.
However, the funding has never developed for our CSI program. The program is currently closed. The equipment sits idle, and jobs have been taken away, even though there is overwhelming evidence that this kind of program works in the long term.
We ask to seriously consider putting a substantial amount of money, which could easily be 4 percent of the provincial funds, into providing this kind of support service across the province of B.C. We believe that it will make a significant difference in the reduction of acute care costs in health care, and we know that our local health care authority supports our mission in doing this.
We worked very closely with Interior Health in the time that we had this program in place. We did a lot of things for Interior Health and the occupational therapy recommendations, like installing grab bars, safety rails, looking at safety hazards in their homes.
We're aware of the fact there is also a program currently operating in B.C. that has been funded by the provincial government. It's called the CASI program.
The CASI program has been in place for, I believe, about a year. We are aware of it. However, we wanted to take the opportunity to talk about the CSI home program that we have had operating in Kamloops and to give you some information. Hopefully, you will see the benefit of this and continue to grow this kind of service for seniors not only in Kamloops and district but all over B.C.
R. Howard (Chair): Brenda, just so you know, you're about 11 minutes.
B. Prevost: Okay, thank you. I'm finished.
R. Howard (Chair): Questions from the committee?
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): I really look forward to the written material that you're speaking from to better understand the model that you've described. I'm sorry if I missed this. Did you say that after those two years of great success, the funding was discontinued in the spring of 2011?
B. Prevost: The funding was actually…. They've used the terminology that it was pilot funding, but we had been diligently looking for funding in government. Our MLA, Kevin Krueger — and Claude Richmond, at the time — identified some funding through the economic diversification moneys. They were specifically attached to the Ministry of Forests.
In the initial startup of our program we were required to hire unemployed forestry workers. That's what we did. Many of the individuals from the forestry community that no longer had EI…. They had exhausted all of their EI capabilities. We would employ them until they had enough hours that we could reinstate their EI, and they went on to additional training and programs.
Another area where we identified money was through the Ministry of Social Development. That was through the job creation program. We had individuals that were referred to us, and we screened them, from the work search centres. We provided them with on-the-job skills training. We developed modules of housekeeping manuals. We provided them training, first aid, and we had them work in seniors homes.
The program was an absolute huge success. It's incorrect to say that the funding was pulled away or discontinued. It simply ran out, because there wasn't any more funding in the economic diversification moneys.
We've lobbied and spoken with Minister de Jong, with Minister Coleman, with numerous ministers, trying to find a crossover between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development. We're really looking at health care dollars and lowering the cost of acute care dollars, but we're also looking at employment opportunities and providing job creation opportunities.
We believe that the money for this program does not have to be specifically attached to the health care dollars. We can look at moneys for this program from another ministry or perhaps more than one ministry — a partnership. We talk about partnerships all the time, so a partnership between the health authority and the Ministry of Social Development would be fantastic.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you very much for taking the time with us this afternoon.
Next up we have Thompson Rivers University, university and career preparation — Doug Knowles.
Hello, Doug. I think you know you've got 15 minutes. I'll give you a little heads-up around ten. You can take some questions or go straight through if you like.
D. Knowles: I'll probably take some questions.
I don't have anything prepared for you because I'm chronically unprepared. However, it's all kind of up here.
I work at this institution co-facilitating in a classroom that is quite unconventional. Thompson Rivers University has quite a strong commitment to providing opportunities for students who come from non-traditional populations.
Our classroom, in particular, is in the student development area. We're a non-academic classroom. Basically, we bring in students who are coming from Corrections, a lot of students who are coming from drug and alcohol addiction backgrounds and recovery centres and whatnot, and quite a number of students that are coming from psychiatric, psychological, therapeutic referrals from the community.
Also, something unique about Kamloops is that the community has a variety of agencies that are highly supportive of these populations in terms of providing safe and stable housing and other forms of life support. So what we have here is a really good setup for students who are coming from places that normally don't provide students. Quite often when they arrive in our classroom, they have really no idea that they're capable of being post-secondary students and there's a possibility of attaining diplomas or degrees. Much of the work we do in our classroom is to either convince or reveal to these individuals that in fact they can, and often do, become very successful out there.
What happens — this is going to start to sound like what Brenda was asking about a little while ago…. What I'm looking for is some sort of a sense of whether we would be able to put together something that's funded provincially now, mostly from the Attorney General area and the Health area, that would assist us in expediting students from around the province to start to take advantage of the program that we're in here and to take advantage of the support this particular institution provides. A lot of it is university preparation, which is upgrading — high school upgrading and so on.
What we do — my co-facilitator is in the room here — is basically on our own time we are out canvassing and looking and making connections and trying to provide access for these populations. We don't really have enough time to do the work, and I think probably what's going to happen…. Also, my co-facilitator is in the late stages of completing her education doctorate, and the research is on what happens in this classroom and what happens to students afterwards.
What we're hoping is that this idea might expand to other post-secondary institutions in the province, because I think we're kind of unique here as a holdover from the community college days. What I'm looking for is some idea of whether or not we might be able to see something from the provincial government that might be able to pull together these diverse areas, these diverse sources, and provide some sort of infrastructure so that individuals can be sort of collected and vetted somehow and then directed in a direction that's going to serve their purposes educationally and vocationally.
That's about all. I'm certainly prepared to answer questions. I'm better with questions than presentations, for sure.
R. Howard (Chair): Sounds good.
J. Thornthwaite: Thank you. I guess what I'm looking for, and perhaps others from the committee, is more information, specifically what you're asking for. If you are looking, for instance, for a pilot, then exactly how much money you suspect that's going to cost.
The other suggestion I might have is to go to some graduate student or even some project in another faculty and get the students to use what you do as an example and try to itemize how successful you've been in kind of an informal study for their thesis. It might be a suggestion.
For us, it would be good to have more information, if you could write something down before October 14.
D. Knowles: Okay, and submit that to you via electronic means or….
R. Howard (Chair): Either electronic or mail, by the 14th of October.
D. Knowles: Yeah, all right. I can certainly do that. I don't even know what I would be looking for. I would just sleep better tonight knowing that there would be some sort of support for this kind of proposal. It's partly because, sort of following what Brenda was saying before, the kind of work that we do…. Even though it costs a little bit of money up front, the savings are considerable.
If we're successful at keeping three guys a session out of provincial institutions every year — six guys a year…. You know, it's got to be $70,000 a year to keep people incarcerated. I think we're doing a little better than that. Economically, this certainly makes sense.
What I could do is just provide kind of a preliminary idea of what I see in terms of personnel. Yeah, I could certainly do that.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. We have another question.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks for taking time to come and present, because it increases our awareness level of the kind of programs going on that specifically target people who don't regularly participate in the economic system or in jobs that we normally see.
Are the people — I didn't quite get a sense — that are part of the program you're talking about released? Are they already out of correctional institutions?
D. Knowles: Yes, either freely released or probation/parole. Part of my recruitment is that I spent the afternoon in the local correctional centre again, just talking to people because they're going to get out. I tell you, the energy is just wonderful. You know, they're sitting and they're looking and just saying: "Give me some hope. Give me something I can do that doesn't get me back here."
Granted, every time I go up there, I talk to somebody I already know. But I often talk to people I don't know, and there are, anecdotally, success stories out there. It's what keeps me going to work.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Include some of those success stories in your written submission.
D. Knowles: Absolutely. Okay, sure.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent, Doug. Thank you very much. Appreciate you taking the time.
D. Knowles: Thanks for listening to me. Thanks for coming to town.
R. Howard (Chair): You bet.
Next up we have the Kamloops Homelessness Action Plan — Tangie Genshorek.
Welcome. As you know, you've got 15 minutes. I'll give you a little heads-up around ten.
T. Genshorek: Thanks for giving us an opportunity to engage in this process with you. I'm the coordinator of the Kamloops Homelessness Action Plan. We've got a five-year plan to end homelessness in Kamloops by 2015. It's based on similar initiatives that I'm sure you're all familiar with from Vancouver, Nanaimo and across Canada.
We've got a similar format to our plan as well. We look at the three areas of housing, support services and financial independence. The idea is that we create a holistic solution that will actually result in ending homelessness. While we've based this on similar plans from across Canada, it's become a local initiative through a stakeholder engagement process.
The United Way helped us over the course of a year to create the six goals that you have in front of you. The idea is that the community is continually engaged through the five years to ensure that the objectives developed under these goals meet community needs. I'm going to make some fairly brief and somewhat general recommendations under the three areas of housing, supports and financial independence.
I was thrilled to hear that the province is matching the federal contribution of $90 million to housing in the province of British Columbia over the next three years. I think that's a huge step, and I've also been very heartened by the progress that's been made over the last decade, especially improving access to shelter services and those services for the most street-entrenched. But I think we need to look now along the housing continuum.
Under the idea of housing, I'd like to make the recommendation that we begin to engage the private building sector in understanding what will make it easier for them to create affordable housing and rental units in particular.
We have a continuum. You move into the shelter. You move into transitional housing. Hopefully, some day you're on to permanent housing of your own. If you chose, you can move into home ownership. We need to ensure that there's a diverse range of housing all the way along the continuum.
Rental housing is a piece of that puzzle that has sort of fallen by the wayside. Developers are starting to look at townhomes and condos — a more sales-oriented model. To be honest, I'm not sure what will incite them to create rental units. I'd love to engage them in figuring that out and begin that process of creating more rental units.
We can't expect all people of low income to eventually move to home ownership. Some people will always stay in the rental stream, and by providing that, we also help the housing that's lower along the continuum or earlier along the continuum. The shelters and transitional housing could have more room if people have more rental housing to move into. So that's our ask on the housing portion of homelessness action.
Under supports, we'd like to consider some methods of creating multi-year funding. It would be impossible to create multi-year funding for all of the supports that are out there for the range of homeless individuals. Perhaps we could start to look at some of the supports that have a proven track record of results and efficiency, some supports that have gotten multi-year funding in the past.
I think this would be a great idea, to just start to fund them two or three years at a time. It's going to cut down on the provincial paperwork. It's going to cut their paperwork. It's going to create efficiencies on both sides.
That just also streamlines the process for the people involved. There's a lot less concern for the staff that work at that agency. There's a lot less concern for the people that receive those supports about whether they're going to have continued assistance, and that stability is so important when you're moving along that continuum to self-sufficiency.
That, in a nutshell, is the really general idea of how to increase support. It's to start to look at how we would create multi-year funding.
On the aspect of financial independence, I'd like to request that the province continue and maybe even consider to expand their funding to the program called Enterprising Non-Profits. This is a huge, huge victory as far as I can see.
If you're unfamiliar with what they do, they are helping create new industry that is neither non-profit nor for-profit. It's called blended value. What they do is provide workshops that help people begin to understand what their social enterprise might be, begin their feasibility studies, begin their business plan and create social enterprise.
They've helped people who are non-profits and people who are big business come to that blended-value solution that really starts to fill some voids in the economic system, creating jobs for people who really just don't fit the normal job schedules or the normal job requirements.
That program, I think, is worth continuing the funding there and expanding. I think it's an efficient use of provincial dollars and an efficient use of time. There are a lot of other partners involved because a lot of the private sector sees the value in that as well, so I think that's a pretty safe bet.
That's pretty much it. I'd like to just briefly put our support behind the recommendations that were put forward by the TRU Students Union, by the Interior Friendship Centre, the Centre for Seniors Information and Doug Knowles as well. This is all part of the holistic solution we like to work with — all of the agencies in town. We're a formal community partnership with our city, and we work on behalf of all of those concerns put forward.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you. We have a few questions.
B. Ralston: Thank you very much for your advocacy here. Just a few points of information. Can you give me an estimate of the number of homeless people in Kamloops and the region and your view as to the accuracy of your estimate?
T. Genshorek: Well, we do point-in-time counts here, as they do in Vancouver. Our last year's count was 103 people. It's a generally accepted practice that that can be extrapolated up to 2½ times, so we're looking at a range of between 100 and 300 people living on the street here in Kamloops.
We got to do another research project with SPARC-B.C. last year. They did 1,000 phone calls in Kamloops to try to estimate what the hidden homelessness population would be, and that number was 1,167 individuals over 2010. You know, statistics are hard to pin down, so there are some questions there.
I would estimate it would be 500 to 1,000 people couch-surfing, at least, in Kamloops over the year, so there's a lot more work to do to quantify those numbers of hidden homeless and the working poor.
There are also the statistics that come out from the Canadian Payroll Association — you know, numbers like 69 percent of Canadians living one cheque away from not making their mortgage, or 72 percent of single parents.
Those are our estimates. We're working with our brand-new Kamloops housing board to get some really firm numbers locally.
P. Pimm: Thank you for coming today. One of my questions was actually answered, and that's fine. But improved fairness — changing the laws and procedures…. What are you talking about there?
T. Genshorek: Well, we have a leadership council guiding the actions of the plan, so we have our MP, our MLAs, our chief and our mayor working together with all the other sectors in town to address issues exactly like this — issues of funding, issues of ongoing regulation.
We see the issues of homelessness as somewhat policy-driven. There are some things we can address over the long term that will result in reduced poverty and homelessness. It's a very big goal and long-term and complex.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Hi. Thanks for the presentation. I don't know if you have it or that you'll be able to provide it in written form, but perhaps you can expound on it a bit more — about what you could see that would be part of a budget that could increase or incent rental units being built. I know there's a spectrum in rental units as well. Do you have some suggestions of what could be recommended to the budget to do that?
T. Genshorek: We're working really closely with our city. They're doing a great job of reducing property taxes for people that are providing affordable housing, making it easier for them to look at those options.
I think lowering taxes for them and providing some employment incentives would be part of the solution. The employment incentives could also be geared towards hiring people that are often on the street. A lot of tradespeople that you see in low-skilled labour jobs could be employed in creating affordable housing.
D. Hayer: Thank you very much for a very good presentation, as were all of the presentations here today.
My question is: when you worked with the city, have you looked at having, maybe, bonus density or higher density when they're building the buildings so that they can provide low-income housing or sell the homes at lower than market value to the people who are under certain incomes?
For rental purposes or ownership purposes, they can give them higher density for building so that everybody wins out of it — the developer, the city, as well as the people at the lower income. Have you looked at those types of initiatives? What do you think of those initiatives?
T. Genshorek: Oh, absolutely. The city is very pro-density, and they have a density-bonusing structure. They've also got an affordable housing reserve fund which they've just reworked and came to us for some input on that as well. So I think the density bonusing is definitely an important aspect.
The other part of your question was about…. Sorry. Was that it?
D. Hayer: Yeah, but density that they can utilize to sell those units to low-income people — right? — or rent it to the people who might be on a low income.
T. Genshorek: Yeah, absolutely. I thought that you mentioned something about lowering the price of the units for sale, but yeah, the density bonus...
D. Hayer: They can put it on title.
T. Genshorek: …would do that. I see what you're saying. Yeah, absolutely. That's a huge part of it.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you, Tangie. Appreciate your coming out.
Now to the committee, our next presenter is not here. Shall we have a recess for ten minutes? Then we'll come back, and hopefully, if that presenter is not here, somebody else will be here.
The committee recessed from 6:19 p.m. to 6:41 p.m.
[R. Howard in the chair.]
R. Howard (Chair): We have up in front of us Legislated Into Poverty Society — Teal Quin and Gerry Goedhart.
Welcome. You have 15 minutes for the total presentation. At about ten I'll give you a heads-up, and you can stop for questions thereabouts, or you can keep going. Your choice. The floor is yours.
T. Quin: Thank you. We'd like to thank you for the invitation to present on behalf of those in receipt of provincial income assistance.
Our group is newly formed and comprised of individuals who receive their income through legislation. We came together on August 9 after I went to the local food bank with a petition to review the rates of income assistance in British Columbia. The increase in 2007 of $50 per month was the first and last increase since 1992. With MLAs receiving a 28.78 percent increase that year in salary, we feel that the marginalization of persons whose income is legislated is unacceptable. Our group is comprised of four people as a steering committee.
We have organized a rally for legislated poverty awareness. That rally will take place on September 30. We've received valuable help from volunteers, who have helped distribute flyers and connected with people in community groups. This initiative is by the people, for the people, in the spirit of community.
Currently our focus is on the income assistance legislation in British Columbia. Our aim is to create awareness surrounding income assistance rates and to educate the public on the challenges facing those whose income is facilitated either as an employable person or a person with disability status.
The current funding falls short of sustainable living. It creates added stress, which can precipitate health issues.
One of the most important elements that requires attention is the inadequate shelter rate. A single person, either employable or disabled, receives $375 per month for shelter. Housing rates have climbed in the recent past, but the funding amounts have not kept up. It is impossible to find suitable housing that is affordable and safe.
The public has a right to know that the living conditions of some of the most vulnerable are compromised. Landlords may escape repercussions by virtue of mental or physical challenges, and although the residential tenancy branch dispute resolution is available to resolve such matters, it may be viewed as intimidating and overwhelming.
Another consideration is that of support rates and their inadequacies. All too often people are having to decide whether they will have a roof over their head or food in their belly. Food banks have become the norm rather than the exception, and the clients that access them are not just from provincially legislated incomes but seniors as well.
The current support rate for an employable person is $235 per month, and a single person with disability, $531.42. It's easy to see that if a person has shelter, they are more likely to use their living allowance for their housing. Homelessness is occurring due to the likelihood of a person not being able to find affordable housing.
Wait-lists for affordable housing are lengthy, and at times that person will be on the list for years. This is unacceptable. Everyone should have the respect that comes from living in a stable environment.
It is time for those who are affected to speak up, and judging from the overwhelming support our group has received, from small business and private citizens alike, in a very short period of time, we are accomplishing the key objective of our rally, which is awareness.
Our recommendations would be that rates for shelter and living support are raised now rather than later and that the legislation is reviewed and implements an index to inflation. With the provincial MLAs' salaries tied to the consumer price index, as set out by the federal government, so too should the legislation for provincial assistance.
Furthermore, the payment of rent to landlords may be served better if minimum safety standards were implemented and applied throughout the province. Payments for rent should be direct to landlords. The logistics of this would be dependent on the government's abilities to regulate.
We would also recommend that the government could serve the interests of the public by entering into agreements with private enterprise to subsidize rental units on existing housing. By redirecting funds that are currently administered by the Social Development Ministry and extending the Housing Ministry responsibilities, cost-cutting measures would be beneficial. Provisions for tax incentives for private enterprise could be considered.
We recognize that the issues are complex, but the goals of eradicating the poverty that is created by underfunding of legislated incomes would reap many benefits over a short period of time.
I'd like to tender this by saying that the marginalization of persons on income assistance is an everyday fact and reality. In our own community the homeless are prevalent on our streets. They are often looked at and looked down at when really what they need is a hand up, not a handout.
We really need to reinforce that everyone have safe housing and support to afford food. There were, last Tuesday morning, 67 people in line at the food bank before 8 a.m. This, quite frankly, is unacceptable. The food banks are now operating more as a business than as a resource. It's unfortunate that we have come to accept that. But the stigma is still there.
We are still looked at as less-thans. For myself, with disability status, I have many people who look at me and say: "You're too well put together. You're too well spoken. What is wrong with you?" Well, what is wrong is that I have an invisible barrier, an invisible disability, as many do.
My education and my training have given me the ability to sit before you today, for me to step up and speak out, join others who are also legislated, and make it known to the government that we need to spend the money for social assistance, whether it be for disability or employable persons.
One of the key things that I would like to see, which has been resonated throughout the community by various leaders that I've spoken to, is that the exemption to employment benefits needs to be looked at for employable persons. No one can survive on $235 per month. Let's not kid ourselves.
That's means that if they have shelter, and they are getting $375 — and it must be spent on shelter — you know that that other $235 is going to shelter. Therefore, they are excluded at the grocery store lineup, and that it is a sad statement for democracy. That is not the way that we should be running ourselves.
I think it's important to create the ability to earn money with exemption rates. It has to be applied not just to persons with disabilities, but persons that are employable. With the job market being the way that it is, maybe they can find part-time employment, but they're going to be penalized as soon as they take that job. They will not have a hand up. Therefore, they will get stuck in a cycle of having a handout. That, quite frankly, is unacceptable.
We need to give ourselves the self-respect and integrity and dignity that we should all enjoy. I will conclude with that.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thank you for the presentation and the work that you're doing from August 9. Well, having the rally in place is a lot of work, which you've done in a short time. Congratulations on that, although I don't know if I should be congratulating you, because it's obviously pointing out a pretty sad state of affairs in the community — right?
Do you have a number that you would feel would be adequate or positive around what the people on income assistance can earn with exemption rates — $200 a month, $400 a month? Do you have a number in mind that would help us think about that?
T. Quin: I think right now the disability exemption is $500. I think that needs to be applied to the employable.
B. Ralston: You mentioned something about a direct payment to landlords of rent money. I wasn't quite sure…. Did you mean that by engaging them that way, then there would be some control on the part of the government of the standards and the quality of the rental accommodation? Is that what you meant?
T. Quin: Yeah. I, for four and a half years, resided in a fifth wheel, 33 feet long, with my common-law spouse. Four and a half years — winter, summer, spring and fall. I'll tell you that the first winter was cold.
Last year — my health has not been the best — I made the decision to move into town and take a small apartment; $550 a month was the rent. The kitchen light sparked when you turned it on. The gas stove had so many leaks in it that if I would have turned it on and turned on the light, I would have blown up half of Columbia Street.
I woke up to carpenter ants, mice, a hole in the ceiling, a rotting wall full of mould. I was there for two months. Just for my own sanity and my own well-being, I needed to leave that.
The $570 that a couple could receive for shelter was eaten up. I was forced to take some of my support money. My rent was $750 at the new place. I had $50 in utilities. I didn't have a phone. I didn't have cable. I couldn't afford it.
At the end of July I moved yet again, and the reason I moved was that the accommodation that I had was really inadequate for my lifestyle. My new rent is $700 a month. Then I make my utilities, and for the first time in five years, I have a telephone, and I have Internet. The only reason that I have those is so that I can do the work that I'm doing now.
Legislated Into Poverty Society is absolutely brand-new, and I'm not sure if there is any other group out there that will be run strictly by volunteers who are legislated into poverty. Those conveniences that most people enjoy are luxuries.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you both. We've run out of time here, so thank you again for coming out this evening.
Next up, we have AJ Aspinall. As you know, you have 15 minutes. At about ten minutes I'll give you a heads-up, and you can take some questions, or you can continue to use the time. The microphone is yours.
A. Aspinall: First of all, I'd like to welcome you to the territory of my neighbouring nation, the people of the Secwepemc. Thank you for this opportunity for speaking today. Wikpel'ks is my Indian name. My English name is Alana, or AJ Aspinall, and I've been a resident of the Nicola Valley in Merritt for 16 years. That's where my family comes from. I've also been a service provider in Merritt for over five. My education is a bachelor of social work.
I'm not going to inundate you with a bunch of charts and data that I'm sure that all of you are very well aware of. What I would like to speak to you about is the medicine wheel that I've asked to be distributed to you all.
The medicine wheel, as I understand it, is divided into four quadrants, and each of these quadrants must be equally as solid as they can. If you think about it in terms of a wheel, if part of that wheel is low or flat and it's not taken care of…. Continue to roll on it, and your vehicle that that wheel is on is going to start having problems, and it's going to start having problems in the other areas.
When I speak to you, I'm also speaking, like I said, from a social service perspective, and that's where I'm hoping to see more moneys from government being filtered into social service. A social service provided to the people — whether it's income assistance or counselling services available, addictions, all sorts of different areas — will have an impact on education.
It'll have an impact on education through children who are witnesses to abuse being able to go to school and able to focus on their education, being able to sit in class and not have behavioural issues with their fellow students or their classmates or their teachers.
It'll have an impact on the adults in the family, where those adults are able to deal with whatever issue they're dealing with so that they can go to school and can focus on their education and can go home and deal with their homework as well as their children's homework.
By dealing with their education, it'll have an impact on economic development. Those people, over the course of the years, will be able to move into positions in the economy and be gainfully employed and be able to focus on their job.
Of course, it will also impact health care, because as we all know, those that are dealing with issues of poverty, issues of mental wellness, issues of homelessness are all also dealing with issues around their health.
When I plead to you to please look at putting more money into the social services of our province, I'm asking this not of the people today but of our children, of our elders, of all of those who are part of our province. Like I say, it can be something in the housing industry. It could be something in the income areas, income assistance. It could be daycare.
Are we aware that there are no services funded for a man to receive counselling support at all in the province? As a counsellor in my previous position, I had to turn away five men. I could not offer them service.
I had to turn away five men who came to me with tears in their eyes asking for therapy, asking for counselling service, so that they could deal with their issues that they had had since childhood, so that they did not go into another relationship and cause abuse, so that they could be better parents to their children, so that they could be better sons to their parents.
Five men that I had to turn away. How many hundreds if not thousands of counsellors do we have across this province who have been in this same position? I would assume that at least one of you men sitting in front of me today may have been in that same position.
There are services to women who have experienced abuse at some point in their life. Stopping the Violence program funds those women. Children Who Witness Abuse — that funds all the children right up until they're 19. There are funds that are vetted through school boards and various organizations to offer extra support outside of the school district staff, to offer support to their students.
Some colleges and universities have their own supports as well. But those people who are not in school — the homeless, the couch surfers, the ones that are not employed or in school elsewhere — have no service available to them.
It broke my heart when I had to turn away those five men. It really did. If anybody comes to you and says, "I need help," saying "I need help" is one of the hardest things to do. And to say: "I'm sorry, I cannot help you because there are no funds to offer that support…."
As a human being, I was taught by my grandparents that when somebody asks for help, you offer it to them in any possible way you can. For me to have to turn away those five men was one of the most difficult things that I have done in my life.
I hope that our government will offer those supports to men and women and children and our elderly — anybody and everybody who wants to and needs to address their personal issues — so they can be gainfully employed, respectful members of our communities and will have the service available to them.
That's about all I have to say today. Thank you very much.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks very much for pointing out the linkages between all the elements on the diagram you've given us, especially pertinent as it is to social services. We've heard that as a theme throughout the presenters in different communities, notably rural communities, around if one part of this wheel is missing, then it's difficult to see development in any of the parts.
You mention you work for a service provider in Merritt. Are you willing to share which agency or organization that is?
A. Aspinall: I worked for two different service organizations in the Merritt area. One of them was Nicola Family Therapy, and the other one currently is Conayt Friendship Society. Like I say, I speak not just from their two perspectives.
Also, I'm First Nations. I'm from their community, and I see all sorts of…. I walk out my door, and I have transient people walking past my house every day.
If I were to be clearing house in spring and want to get rid of some things, all I need to do…. I don't even need to bring it down to the food bank. I don't need to bring it down to the thrift store. I don't need to call Big Brothers. I'll put it out on my street with a "Free" sign on it, and it disappears within about 12 hours.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you very much for speaking to us today, AJ.
Next up we have the Conayt Friendship Centre — George Girouard.
Welcome, George. I think you probably know the exercise. We'll give you 15 minutes, and I'll give you….
G. Girouard: I definitely do. I was here last year talking on behalf of the British Columbia Association of Friendship Centres, with a bit of a segue into what was transpiring within the Merritt friendship society.
What I want to do this time is just focus on the community of Merritt and the friendship society and what's transpiring within our environment. I think AJ kind of just scratched the surface of what's transpiring within our communities, our smaller communities that are in the outlying area.
We all know that resourcing for health care in the rural environments is diminishing. There are a lot of issues that are associated with that.
We all know that the social service sector has been impacted quite drastically and that there's a greater influx of people that are on social assistance and homeless and hungry in our communities.
We all know that economic development is a big issue, especially in the rural communities where there isn't a whole lot of economic development in forestry and mining, and all the sectors have had their impact on that.
We also know that if you're looking at a small community, there are a lot more dynamics at play there than there are in large communities. There's not as much there for any type of meaningful employment. There are a whole lot of social ills and issues that are prevalent in our communities, especially within our area.
We've got a lot of bands that are associated with our friendship society, and we find that as it is, if you're just talking about the Merritt community, you're getting almost to a Third World condition in some of those smaller communities like that.
You take that back to a microcosm of what's transpiring in our First Nations communities. That's even worse. Third World conditions have been prevalent in our communities for a long, long time, since reserves have been established.
What we're doing here at our friendship society, as we've seen that there are a large number of people that are coming in to our society…. Our numbers have increased. Our client bases have just almost doubled in some of our sectors. We have wait-lists for housing; we have wait-lists for clients coming in to see counsellors. The whole spectrum of the health situation there is quite a challenge.
We've been creative. We've been doing what we can with all of our community partners. We just established a partnership here with Thompson Rivers University to bring nursing to our community.
This is a first for British Columbia. It's a first for a university to even venture down this path with us as an organization, because what we're doing here is creating a network, a safety net, for our communities. We're bringing some health care into our communities that's really required.
We're all about growing. We're all about trying to meet the needs of our community and our community members at our friendship society. We've just recently established what we would call very, very good relationships with our bands to try and look at where we're going with our future for this community.
We're looking at cutting edge. We're not just looking at band-aid approaches for our development from our community's perspective. We're looking at cutting-edge development.
We are at a situation right now. I'm sure you've heard it all across British Columbia: critical stages for communities. We know that we can't continue with the status quo of just being the band-aid for our communities and our community members that come into our society. We have to look at more preventative processes.
We're taking what we would call quite a calculated risk to move forward with developing programs and services that are going to be upstream modelling. That means that we're coming back, and I mentioned this last year. I'm coming to government quickly here with a full-fledged plan on how we can move forward on what we can call elder care.
Within our community — and this is part of our relationship development — we just established a really strong relationship with the Nicola Valley elders association. This is a group of elders that are coming from all the bands and from within the Nicola Valley, and they've been established for 27 years, trying to get an elder-care home, an elder-care lodge, established in Merritt.
If you know anything about our people, in our communities our people are going external. You have to get transported out. And for our communities, which are impoverished as it is, to try and visit a family member, it's not like you've got the resources to jump in a car. You have to get a ride sometimes to go and see your parents who are shipped away. That's a real challenge for our people.
We're looking at establishing an elder-care lodge to meet and accommodate our needs for our community. Over the 27 years we've lost over 400 elders in our communities. This is their dream. This is their focus. This is their desire: to have something in our communities to be able to accommodate their needs. So we're moving in that stream.
We're also looking at family development. As you've heard throughout, probably, all your presentations, family development, what that means…. When we talk about upstream modelling and care, that's working with families before they get into a crisis situation. We've got that expertise. We've got that ability to try and keep families together.
If you know anything about the aboriginal community and aboriginal shelter and care, you've probably seen the stats. You're all in government. You've probably seen them ten, 25 times. If you know anything about the residential school impact, right now across Canada there are more aboriginal kids in care than there were at the height of residential schools. That's a crisis situation, but Canadians don't really acknowledge that.
We're sitting here saying that we're moving ahead. We're coming in. We're going to have some real good plans for you guys, and we want as much support as possible to move forward, because our families are important, our youth are important, our elders are important. We know that we have the solution for our own self-worth and our self-identity. That's what we're about.
We're moving forward with whole different initiatives. Like I said, from a government's perspective, come on board. Help us out to become a better community and a better nation of people.
Again, that's where I'm at. Like I said, we're coming on strong here, and this is going to come to the government. I'm asking you as a finance committee, when we do get there, to assist us.
We've got Thompson Rivers on side. We've got Nicola Valley Institute of Technology on side. We've got the education system in Merritt on side. They all see this as being the solution — part of the solution. It's not the ultimate solution, but it is moving upstream, and it's helping our people from a whole different perspective.
We'll have a process where our youth are looked after and they're administered properly. When we talk about the youth in care, when I bring these plans forward, what this is about is dealing with youth who are in care. When I say that our numbers are quite extreme…. Youth in care never, ever get to see their communities again. A lot of them didn't. They never get to know who their family members are.
We're looking at trying to establish a process where we can work with foster families that are coming into our environment and taking care of our kids, but to give them that knowledge and that expertise that is required to be able to look after them in a culturally sensitive way. We're looking at solutions, not just continuing to exacerbate the problems.
That's where we're at. That's where we're headed. Like I said, I'm coming, and I know all of our chiefs will be with us. We just hope that the government looks at it and says: "Hey, it's time to start some change in our communities."
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thanks, George.
P. Pimm: A couple of things. Thanks for your presentation.
With your friendship centre, is it strictly First Nations, or is everybody welcome in there? I know in my community, everybody is welcome in the friendship centre. They have great programs, and they do a great service to the community.
G. Girouard: Our friendship centre is open to everybody. We're building relationships with…. The whole community comes in. It's a whole different dynamic when we talk about where we're at with our friendship centre in the community of Merritt. We have everybody come in — all people from the whole community. And everybody's welcome.
P. Pimm: Right on.
The other thing that I wanted to talk…. You said something about nurses, and there's this program that you've got with Thompson Rivers University. Could you expand on that a little bit for me about what that is?
G. Girouard: Sure, I definitely can. We just implemented a nursing initiative with Thompson Rivers University here, where we're bringing nurses into our community to give them the cultural development that's required for them to be able to work appropriately with First Nations and aboriginal people. So it's a learning environment from both perspectives.
We have 15 nurses that are going to be coming from the nursing program here at TRU throughout the year. They're coming into our centre. They're coming into our communities. They're working with our community members, and they're gaining that cultural knowledge so that when they come to work in what we would call a hospital or any other tertiary centre, they're going to have a lot more knowledge and awareness of what aboriginal people are about.
This has never happened anywhere in British Columbia. It's a cutting-edge process, and we're happy to be the leaders in that perspective because that's how you're going to create change. It's not going to be about us coming in and demanding stuff. It's working with others to make things happen.
R. Howard (Chair): Good stuff.
M. Elmore: Thanks for your presentation. You're very passionate. That also comes through. Also, congratulations on your collaboration and your ability to network and bring support on through elders and the chiefs and the nations. That's also necessary in terms of making changes.
The question is with regards to your partnership with TRU. So it's the nursing program? Are there other aspects of that, as well, looking to engage aboriginals in education?
G. Girouard: When we talk about what we're coming to government for, we're looking at roughly a $12 million investment. Thompson Rivers University is going to bring in their trades departments, their chef departments and everything else, and they're actually going to assist us with helping to develop this whole process.
They know that we can't stay status quo when it comes down to dealing with our people. We've got to start looking outside of the box and developing things that will help to benefit the community and in general.
As I put it to the community members, I'm not even going to be here when the change really starts to occur. If this program, this development, can prevent kids five or ten years down the road from entering into foster care or being apprehended or anything along that line because we strengthened their families, that's a success. Total success.
That means that there are less numbers that are going to be impacting within the social service realm, and it's empowering the people so that the people have what we feel is probably lacking in our community — that self-belief.
R. Howard (Chair): Well, that's excellent. As has been said, your passion and commitment shine through. We've run out of time, but thank you very much for coming forward today.
Next up we have Western Canada Theatre, Kamloops Art Gallery and Kamloops Symphony — Lori Marchand, Jann Bailey and Kathy Humphreys.
As you know, you'll have 15 minutes. I'll give you a heads-up around ten minutes, and you can either take some questions, or you can keep going. Your choice.
J. Bailey: I thought we had three times that, because there are three of us, three organizations.
R. Howard (Chair): That would be great, but we have a flight to catch. The mike is yours. Thank you.
K. Humphreys: Ladies and gentlemen of the Finance Committee, welcome to Kamloops. We are very proud to welcome you to a community that has been called a mecca for the arts. Our objective in speaking to you today is to ensure that adequate funding is in place to keep it that way.
I'm Kathy Humphreys, general manager of the Kamloops Symphony Society. Joining me for this presentation are Jann Bailey, executive director of the Kamloops Art Gallery, and Lori Marchand, general manager of the Western Canada Theatre Society.
We work together in many regards, including joint fundraising for our respective endowment funds, fundraising for our operating budgets through the Mayor's Gala for the Arts and securing arts funding for our community, but primarily on providing Kamloops and region, an area approximately 150 kilometres in diameter, access to the best in visual and performing arts.
The city of Kamloops is a fantastic partner in this and understands the benefits we offer to the community, including economic investment, jobs both in the arts and in associated tourism industries and film.
We believe that British Columbians understand and value the important role of our sector in sustaining and enhancing our economy, particularly with respect to creating the healthy communities and families that provide the basis for job creation and economic development. We are an integral part of the fabric that draws economic opportunities to our province and to our region and, once located here, encourages them to stay.
L. Marchand: There are clear links between the quality of life within a community and its arts and cultural programs. They build important social connections and contribute to civic pride.
By participating in or enjoying art classes, parades, festivals, art and history museums, theatres and symphony orchestras, community members of all ages and diverse backgrounds strengthen their relationships with one another through shared experiences. The spinoff is a healthy, safe community with robust economic development, community-wide participation and family cohesion.
By nurturing creativity and fostering enjoyment and appreciation of artistic accomplishments, we develop a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us. We extend our capacity to be thoughtful and compassionate, encourage imagination and critical thinking, and contribute to healthy, vibrant and economically sound communities.
Additionally, there are sound economic statistics, and I'm sure you've heard this from our counterparts around the province. According to employment statistics for B.C., the information, culture and recreation sector employs more than 2.5 times the number of British Columbians than are employed in forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas combined.
The direct impact of arts and culture on Canada's GDP is more than $40 billion, and B.C., Ontario and Quebec are the three main provinces contributing to this growth. Our sector makes a significant contribution to the B.C. economy, and many of us have raised our families on modest incomes from this sector.
Moreover, government contributions to the arts are a very good investment. Our organizations work hard to make a little go a long way, and provide services to our communities that are highly valued by both individuals and corporations. We are masters at matching investment.
When provincial funding, government funding, which is one of our most trusted and reliable sources historically, is in jeopardy, there is no doubt that it has a negative impact on investment from other areas.
J. Bailey: Our organizations also work with the tourism industry to enhance their efforts to attract visitors. The proliferation of music, theatre, art and other festivals in B.C. would not be possible without artists, obviously.
Virtually every event — from small, community-based celebrations to the opening ceremonies and other arts-based festivities that form a part of major international events like the 2010 Olympics — recognizes the importance of arts and culture.
The basis for these artists can be found in the ongoing work of organizations like ours throughout the province. We bring joy to people's lives by enriching the experiences available to them. We educate young people, who will become the artists, performers and creative thinkers we need for a successful future in all areas of the economy. We help businesses in our communities attract the highly educated and skilled professionals they need to support their own growth, development and job creation.
L. Marchand: We're here before you today because we are concerned. We are concerned about the depth of the cuts, both to the core funding provided through the B.C. Arts Council and to the funding provided through the gaming branch. We fear that the cuts have reached a point where there is damage to critical infrastructure — infrastructure provided by organizations such as ours that has taken decades to build. There are many artists and arts organizations that depend upon the facilities and expertise we provide in this region. There are educational programs, tourism initiatives, employment recruitment programs, university recruitment programs and simply the beauty and health of our communities that are at stake.
J. Bailey: We respectfully request the following: to reinstate funding to the British Columbia Arts Council, at least to the 2008-2009 levels if not higher, and restore gaming grants to the 2008 levels. These funds are so critical to the core operations of arts organizations throughout the province, perhaps even more so here in the Interior.
We request a clear, articulated process to access funds through gaming and timely allocations of funding to allow us to plan. We encourage a strong consideration of the reinstatement of multi-year grants to both reduce bureaucracy and to, again, facilitate strong planning.
In closing, we would like to thank you for coming to Kamloops. We hope that you'll come back and enjoy some of the cultural amenities, like many other visitors to our community. We thank you for your work on behalf of British Columbians and for your committee's previous recommendations that have encouraged the government to adopt the recommendations that we make here today. We believe that with adequate investment, the arts can continue to contribute greatly to a vibrant future for all British Columbians. Thank you very much.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you for that. We have some questions.
D. Hayer: Thank you very much for your presentation. It was a very good presentation. My question: did you make an input to Skip Triplett? He was looking at what to do with gaming, how it should be done, any guidelines and also the funding stability, etc.
J. Bailey: Yes, we did, and we did as a threesome as well. We saved everybody's time. Then each of us probably e-mailed Skip at least 20 more times with goodies that he brought up.
K. Humphreys: We sent all of our recommendations, all of our suggestions, all of our concerns.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks for the presentation. Congratulations on working in such a collaborative manner. I recall your presentation from 2009 when we were in Kamloops.
K. Humphreys: We don't look any older, do we?
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): That was going to be my line. You made an impression in 2009, so congratulations again.
You described some dire circumstances in 2009, especially in losing the expertise and the ability to build up your organizations like you have over a number of years — then what happened in 2009 with the cuts. Describe what's happened in the last couple of years in that regard.
L. Marchand: We will each have to answer because we've each dealt with it in a different way.
K. Humphreys: I have to tell you I appreciate the fact that the committee recommended that arts funding be maintained. I'm very sad that the government of that time decided not to do that. Since then, honestly, things have gone from bad to worse.
We've been labelled — I guess you would call it — as adult arts organizations and told that we're no longer eligible for gaming funding, which at one time, at least in the case of the Kamloops Symphony, was a far larger vehicle for support of our organization than the B.C. Arts Council was, unfortunately. Arts Council funding was not increasing — really minimally every few years — so there was really no help for our growth there.
Gaming funding wasn't really increasing that much either, but at least it was a sort of stable ongoing source that we thought we could count on. In fact, we were often directed: "You know, you can apply for more money; you're not at the maximum. Go to gaming."
At this point for this current fiscal year that we are in…. The performing arts organizations' fiscal years run from July 1 to June 30, so we're in our current year. Our concert season is about to start. We've lost about $66,000 in gaming funding because the gaming branch has said they only want to give funding for youth programs. Those youth programs are not performances. They're youth participating in performances or something along those lines.
The other part of it is that at the same time, our B.C. Arts Council funding was reduced last year and has been reduced again this year.
So 21 years ago I started with the Kamloops Symphony. Our B.C. government, B.C. Arts Council grant was $25,000. This year our B.C. Arts Council grant is — I forget the exact number — under $30,000.
I have, actually, in my briefcase, which I left over there, historical funding levels from the B.C. Arts Council and the gaming branch and our budget over the last 16 years, which is what I was able to go back over fairly quickly. We're down to total government funding now, from both sources, of 4.3 percent of our budget. Sixteen years ago it was 33 percent of our budget.
You know, our budget in that time frame has grown from the $200,000-some-odd range to $875,000 now. So a cut of $70,000 is almost 10 percent of our budget.
L. Marchand: The other impact has just been the timeliness of when we find out that we don't have the funding.
Last year, in particular, was very challenging. For Western Canada Theatre, we…. I think all three of us were maybe on the multi-year. We did retain our gaming funding until last year. But the B.C. Arts Council money came in first at almost half of what our traditional level had been. We got notice that that had been bumped up, and then another notice that we could apply for four separate programs.
So between September and December we'd each written four more applications for funding instead of doing the work we need to do to ensure that we're bringing the performances to our community.
Just a note about the youth aspect of the gaming. We all do youth programs. We all offer opportunities not just to sit and watch performances, but hands-on opportunities through schools and other opportunities.
You can see it really clearly in our region — the performance aspect and the access to a beautiful theatre in this region. You go an hour and a half outside, and those children, particularly in schools, don't have access. You go into one of our performances, typically talking to young people about how to behave in performance, and it's: "So how many of you have been to one of our performances before?" The majority of the kids — their hands will go up. There'll be the section where I know the kids have come in, say, from Salmon Arm, and the hands are down. It's a section you can see in the audience.
So that access is the first step. We're not in Vancouver. We are the access.
K. Humphreys: We are it. There isn't any other.
L. Marchand: And if we're not here, the facilities aren't there. The expertise isn't there. Our gaming loss this year was $70,000, and we did learn that in August.
J. Bailey: I'm probably the oldest one at the table. I've been in my job at the Kamloops Arts Gallery for 25 years and in the field for 38 years. I have to say this is the worst I've seen it.
The Kamloops Art Gallery, like the theatre and the symphony, is the only professional gallery in the region. When we started to sit down to prepare our presentation for Skip, we realized that between the three organizations, we were down $174,000 or $176,000 a year into this community. That spins off a whole lot of things as well, not just to our organizations.
In our particular case at the gallery, we've lost just about $50,000. Again, as Lori said, that comes very late, so it's hard to make it up. We've had to reduce staff. I had to do my very first layoff in my job history, and that was extremely difficult. We've had to cut programs and reduce exhibitions, acquisitions and publications, which, for a professional public art gallery, are three of the four criteria required to get our Canada Council funding at the federal level.
Because of our good track record, we're hoping that they will continue to fund us and not let us just fall off the radar because we're not even now meeting the mandate of receiving our federal funds.
I'd like to point out that the Canada Council has been very good to us over the years, and in 2005 the Kamloops Art Gallery was wildly selected among all Canadian art institutions, along with the Belkin Art Gallery at UBC, to coordinate and to curate the exhibition for Canada at the Venice Biennale. That's no small feat for a small art gallery.
Now we're looking at them, saying: "God, please forgive us for a few years. We're doing our best." They were well aware of the cuts to B.C. through the Arts Council and gaming. They said: "Try not to cut into your core activity, so that once funding is reinstated, you can come back quickly." Well, that's long past, and frankly….
R. Howard (Chair): I'm sorry. I'm going to have to just…. If you could wrap it up, we're out of time.
J. Bailey: Yes. We're now working on our 2012 budget, and we cannot make it balance.
R. Howard (Chair): I thank all three of you. You certainly are a dynamic partnership between the three of you, and I'm sure you'll be successful. I appreciate very much your taking the time and coming forward this afternoon.
K. Humphreys: Thank you very much for the opportunity.
L. Marchand: Thank you again for taking on the work.
J. Bailey: I'm sorry you have to leave so early. Take care. Good travels.
R. Howard (Chair): It's been good so far.
Next up, we have Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality — Mayor Al Raine. Welcome, Mayor. Good evening.
A. Raine: Thank you. Good evening. I guess I should have learned now that I shouldn't be the last speaker on a long day when everyone's tired, but I'll try to make this….
R. Howard (Chair): You know you've got 15 minutes. You've been sitting there for a while. I'll give you a heads-up at ten.
A. Raine: A year ago we were here before the committee and chatting about HST on recreational properties and the fact that there was no threshold exemption. That was adding about $68,000 onto the cost of recreational real estate just to deal with the exemption factor.
Kind of looking at it, I see the unintended consequences of this policy are very clear today. We really have no revenues, no taxes coming in, because the resort development side of the business has ground to a standstill. There seemed to be a lot of political support for full HST on recreational properties.
I think that was based on the fact that you felt that people that could buy a second home could afford to pay the taxes, but the reality of it is that — just as it was reported recently in the media — about 23 percent of all U.S. real estate purchases in the past year were done by Canadians. You know, Canadians felt that it was the moment to buy a recreational property in the U.S. because there was good value.
It really brings us home to the fact that we are competing in a global economy. If our product isn't competitive, Canadians will go elsewhere, and those who were buying recreational properties in British Columbia also look to other places. I mean, people do look to where they get the best value.
I don't want to beat a dead horse, because the HST is gone. I'm just kind of pointing out that sometimes I think we have tax policies that we don't think all the way through to the end to see what that's actually going to do to a market. I probably shouldn't have mentioned HST at all, but I would like to remind the committee that in this transition period, it is important to have some transitional rules. There are consumers out there that are going to hold back on purchases where that purchase is going to be cheaper once the new taxes are in effect.
I'm sure I'm not the first one to remind you of that, but I would urge you to, certainly, encourage the government to look at transitional rules. At this point our economy is so fragile that I don't think we can afford to really have people waiting with their investments.
I would like to really support the government on the job creation program. I certainly hope that everyone will be pushing hard for job creation. It's critical in rural British Columbia.
The tourism industry is a true barometer of the health of the economy. As people's wallets shrink, they cut down on their discretionary income spending. Their discretionary spending is the first area of saving money. Their holidays get shorter, they even stop taking short getaways, and they have fewer restaurant meals. Certainly, the resort industry in British Columbia, to prosper, needs a healthy economy, so we would like to encourage you in that area.
I would like to take a few moments just to walk you through the state of tourism in quick graph format. I think you all have that before you. The size of the tourism industry is pretty simple, but in the Thompson-Okanagan area — $1.73 billion in spending. If you look at graph 2, you can see that the Thompson-Okanagan area has had the fastest growth since 2001.
On the third graph is the tourism industry in terms of labour force, and you can see that it is up there with major industries in the province.
Then on the fourth graph, just an analysis of the visits to the province for the Thompson-Okanagan region, you can see that about 77 percent of the visits to the Thompson-Okanagan are from the province of British Columbia. Then Washington State is 50 percent of the U.S. visitors. Then the U.K., Germany and Australia — over 50 percent of the offshore visitors.
On the next graph. There is a graph showing what is motivating people to come to British Columbia. We can see clearly that the U.S., U.K., Germany, Netherlands, Australia and the rest of overseas are coming in the blue graph. The blue graph says they are coming for leisure tourism.
In the next graphs you can see that the Thompson-Okanagan is much smaller than the Vancouver coast mountain region. But interestingly enough, the overseas visitors make up a larger portion of visits to the Thompson-Okanagan than the U.S. visitors — different than the rest of British Columbia.
The next graph shows that one of the issues we do have in tourism is seasonality. The biggest part of the tourism business comes in July and August, which is when most British Columbians are travelling and taking holidays. One of the strengths of resorts like Sun Peaks and the other winter resorts in the province is that we're actually bringing tourists to British Columbia in a season that is normally very slow for tourism.
On the last graphs, just a series of graphs from Sun Peaks, you can see on the pie chart there that 51 percent of the summer visits in 2010 were non-Canadian. You can see, on the summer nights in occupancy, what happened in 2009-2010. There was a severe drop-off in room nights sold in the resorts as a result of the recession.
Then the winter nights' occupancy reflects that same thing: the last three years, certainly, a slowdown in occupancy. There is a graph on winter tourism. It just shows that year by year we've had, with the exception of December last year, a steady, small decline. The last graph shows the winter visitors, and 26 percent of the winter visitors to Sun Peaks are, again, international visitors.
I hope that has helped just give you a short kind of snapshot of where the tourism industry is. Often the tourism industry isn't really considered to be part of the mainstream economy. We certainly think it is. It does play a big role in attracting foreign currency to our country. It's an industry that employs thousands of Canadians, and the recreational side of tourism certainly has healthy benefits for society. The rural communities really depend on tourism in the regions.
British Columbia is blessed with great lakes, oceans, mountains, and we provide world-class, supernatural scenery. Thousands of people who are employed in the industry are providing special experiences for our guests.
Over the past few years the tourism industry has declined, as we became less competitive in the tougher economy. But as the global economy rebounds, I'm very confident that tourism will bounce back even stronger. We will adjust to the new Canadian dollar. We are doing that. It's going to take some time. But we are hopeful that the government will keep track of the hotel tax dollars and continue to set aside dollars generated by tourism for reinvestment in the marketing of B.C.'s image.
You may not all be aware of the resort initiatives program, but that's a program where a portion of the hotel tax generated in resorts comes back to the resorts and can be used in the resorts for building tourism attractions. We certainly hope that that program will continue when we change back to accommodation tax as opposed to HST. That program has been in place for quite a few years.
Finally, I'd like to thank the Chair for his continued campaign on the air industry competitiveness situation. Probably the biggest drawback to international tourism is the competitive situation on airfares. It's so much cheaper to fly across the U.S. to go to a U.S. ski resort as opposed to flying into Canada. In some cases it's nearly double the price.
That issue is very important. We understand that it is a federal-provincial issue and very complicated, but we appreciate your support and certainly hope that the government will keep pushing in that direction.
B. Bennett: Hello, Al.
A. Raine: How are you doing?
B. Bennett: Pretty good.
We've had 15 presentations here since four o'clock this afternoon, 12 of which were seeking support from the taxpayer — some very good ideas, some heartfelt expressions of need. You're here, I think, offering government an opportunity to generate some of the revenue that we need to use to pay for the things that our citizens need and want.
I'm curious to have you flesh out the first piece that you talked about, the HST over the next 18 months, particularly as it relates to your probably mostly Alberta market — second home sales. From what I understand, from where I come from, basically, the market is dead right now, and the Albertans are just not going to buy until the extra 7 percent is off.
A. Raine: Yeah, I don't have any quick answers. I can tell you, and I meant to mention, that I'm not so sure that HST was the main reason why our construction development side of the industry really just came to a standstill.
Obviously, the economy and the Canadian dollar are major factors. I guess my surprise was that when the economy is tanking and the dollar is increasing 30 percent or 35 percent against our American friends, that's when the government chose to put on the biggest tax on the industry.
I think it's still a few years away before the economy bounces back enough that the real estate…. The development side of the industry is going to bounce back, but my hope is that when that does happen, we will have taxation policies that are more welcoming of that type of investment. At this point we've basically almost turned our noses up to that kind of investment with our policies.
I think we're going to have to adjust, but I think that adjustment is a couple of years away. It's hard to say.
P. Pimm: Well, thank you. These are good numbers. I'm very interested in this stuff.
I think you hit it on the nail when you said that the American dollar is causing a lot of grief. I do know from folks in my area that they're buying in Phoenix and all over the place in big ways.
How long do you think before that is going to revert back? What's it going to take in the U.S.? What's going to have to happen down there to get that back to our area?
A. Raine: Well, a lot of things. I guess I, for one, don't believe that the Canadian dollar is going to drop a lot. So we're not going back to that 65- or 70-cent dollar where Canada looked very attractive if you were an American buyer. I don't think that's in the cards.
Certainly, I think it takes a rebound in the U.S. I mean, not only are we dealing with all these currency issues, but we had real estate in the United States just tank. Canadians looked at it and said: "There's a real bargain. That can't stay down there forever." So I guess the first step is American real estate prices bouncing back. Then we can, perhaps, get into a more competitive environment. Again, that's several years away.
The positive side of all of that is we might have been just on the overbuilding side. I think we can say golf courses and ski resorts might have been, in that boom period, going faster than there was market out there. So we do have a couple of years to adjust. I mean, that's the positive side, but there's no doubt there are going to have to be some fundamental changes to the economy before we bounce back.
R. Howard (Chair): Al, can I ask you: do you have a view on Tourism B.C. — on the rethink there and whether it should be industry-led? Have you plugged into that thinking?
A. Raine: Yeah. I'm one of those ones that are more pragmatic. We made the decision. We're going down a more government road. As long as the politics kind of stays out of that, and we make bright, smart decisions, it doesn't really matter. I think industry can adjust to the circumstances.
There were some advantages to having the private sector side influence that. But quite frankly, I think it did get a little bit out of control. Somebody had to…. Maybe we didn't have to throw it all out, but we had to probably make some changes.
R. Howard (Chair): Okay, thank you. I think we've run out of time here. Great presentation. Thanks for coming out.
A. Raine: Thanks for all your effort.
R. Howard (Chair): You're welcome. So that does us for this evening. We will adjourn and reconvene tomorrow at nine o'clock in Courtenay.
The committee adjourned at 7:53 p.m.
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